Skip to main content

ESTJ Career Interview #1

Hi Sarah. Thanks for doing the interview. Before we begin, what is your background for identifying as ESTJ?

I've taken the official MBTI instrument at work and came out as ESTJ. I also took an instrument similar to the MBTI back when I was a student where I got ESTJ also. And of course, the two of us know each other and we've discussed my type on numerous occasions.

What is your education and what do you currently do?

I majored in economics and computer science, which was a Business School education. I almost chose to major only in economics, and become a pure academic economist, but in the end I went for something more applied. With the education I chose, I also ended up getting to explore my fascination with computers, which I am happy to have done.

I currently hold a position as an IT project manager at an internationally well-known firm. Since it is prestigious to work for that company, the years that I am spending there will look good on my resume, but the job itself is actually just so-so.

Describe your current job to us. What does being an IT project manager entail?

Basically, I am in charge of getting a host of tech-savvy people to design applications that management types who are not tech-savvy will actually value and use. These are relatively big projects and a lot of responsibility gets placed on my shoulders, both professionally and financially. Besides making sure that all deadlines are met, I am also responsible for ensuring that the projects stay within their allotted budgets.

So on the one hand, my job is about getting your typical corporate businessperson, who tends to do everything by the book, to change his ways and actually use the applications that my team and I produce. On the other hand, my job is about managing a team of coders and programmers in order to make sure that the applications they produce are developed in accordance with the overall plans of the firm, as laid out by the corporation's top executives.

You mentioned that the job was only so-so. How do you feel about being the central node in all of this?

I actually think it's quite annoying to constantly have to balance the priorities of the programmers with the priorities of the managers. It is especially hard to manage programmers - or at least my programmers - since they tend to act as if they are unable to think for themselves. They tend to do exactly what they are told without thinking of the bigger picture and how the thing they're doing at this very moment fits together in the wider scheme of things with the application that we need to develop. It's like they purposefully ignore their responsibility for coming up with something that gets us closer to the goal - as if they don't want to understand the purpose of the application that they're coding.

However, I also think the managers are annoying - not so much professionally, but personally. It seems like most of them have no interests or hobbies outside of the firm and its clients. They're just glad to be working for this prestigious company. Also, I don't appreciate their small talk. If the conversation starts to revolve around anything other than the company and its clients, they invariably start talking about what life was like as a student. I actually did great as a student, so it's not like I have something to hide. I just don't think it's that interesting to talk about my student days as the only kind of small talk besides the company and its clients.

On the face of it, your job would seem to be a dream job for many ESTJs. When you read the various MBTI career compendiums, that kind of job always comes up as a recommendation for ESTJs.

Yeah, but I feel like I'm actually working two jobs because I have to stay on top of the programmers all the time. I know it's a cliché that ESTJs want to manage people, but I actually find it dreary. I'm okay with taking a few years as a project manager in this prestigious firm, but something the job has taught me is that I don't want to be a project manager in the long run.

The project that I'm working on now is one that was handed over to me from someone who started it and then moved to another department. When he handed it over, he said that all the programming was done, that it already worked, and that I would just need to get the user interface to work in order to complete my assignment. Well, I checked it, and actually nothing worked - at all(or at least not according to the specifications). Quite outside of my career, that's kind of been the story of my life.

When I was in business school, I was put in a joint-exam group with three other students whom I ended up pulling through the exam because I was the only one who had a work ethic that was strong enough to actually do a good job. Privately, I share an apartment with my ESTP brother who makes his living as a visual artist and techno musician and who doesn't contribute his fair share towards the household duties. Just recently, we were supposed to paint our apartment and had agreed to split the work equally, but somehow I ended up painting all of it without him lifting a finger. My point is that if you recognize this pattern, you can count on the fact that it will also carry over to your professional life: If you do well and work hard at your job, others will free-ride on the effort that you've put in, which is why I don't want to be a project manager in the corporate world.

We're getting to what you want to do. But first, what is the worst job that you've ever had?

The worst job I ever had was back in business school, while I was still a student. I was singled out by the school's management because I was an exceptional student and they gave me a job where I had to organize activities for the professors. These activities were supposed to boost the school's value in the public eye. But unfortunately it did not work out that way. Basically, the professors were absent-minded slackers who left the responsibility for these activities to me. They were lethargic and showed no initiative in the meetings that I had with them. But then whenever I suggested a project (which was supposed to be their responsibility, not mine) they would suddenly come alive with a host of reservations and criticisms. They would bolt particularly violently if the activity got too applied and too concerned with real-world problems.

What can I say? I guess business school professors would rather write long theoretical papers about how to be an effective manager than risk the dread of having to provide actual advice or consulting services to real-world managers. It's like they're living in their own bubble which has lost all connection to the real world.

So in a way, you were the one teaching the professors and they were the naughty kids in class. I'm sure they would be embarrassed to read your depiction. Now tell us about your dream job.

Every single professor I have ever had at business school has had an unprofessional attitude or weak work ethic when it came to their teaching duties. Even the professors that were obviously bright and talented were so focused on publishing papers for peer-reviewed journals that they did not take their teaching responsibilities seriously. So at one point, I toyed with the idea of becoming a business school professor who did the inverse of what my own professors were doing; namely to take my teaching responsibilities seriously while largely ignoring the pressure to publish in journals that nobody reads anyway.

In the same vein, I have toyed with the idea of heightening the level of computer education that is provided to our young in the elementary school system. Everything I've ever seen on that front indicates that the mode and manner of IT education that we impart onto our young is absolutely horrible. It takes place at a shamefully low level.

I don't intend to become an elementary school teacher myself. Rather, I would like to function as an external consultant to the state; as someone who helps the board of education plan and strategize for how to raise the competence level of the elementary school teachers whose duty it is to instruct our young in the use of computers.

At one point, I even thought about teaming up with my visual artist and techno musician brother to produce a series of accessible videos aimed at teaching basic IT skills to elementary school students. Even if a teacher is absolutely incompetent, young people can still benefit from watching a well-produced video.

Failing that, I'd like to be an independent contractor, consulting on IT projects. My job would then consist of strategizing and conceptualizing IT projects and helping clients map out the process from idea to functional application. Unlike what I do now, though, I wouldn't want to micromanage the people involved in bringing the project to fruition. And although I know how to code, I don't want to be a programmer or somebody who writes code for a living.

Sarah, it's been a pleasure talking to you. Are there any final thoughts you'd like to add?

I suppose there is: A final thing which I've observed that I'm good at is keeping the budgets on my projects within their limits. Most of my colleagues tend to overrun the budget and shrug their shoulders as if the overrun was due to some force of nature that couldn't be avoided. But somehow that rarely happens to me. I think that one thing I do differently is that I am realistic about costs in advance: I do not underestimate how much things will cost or just assume that we can get a good price on the jobs we need done, just because it would be swell if we could get it. I'm all about realism. You get no wishful thinking with me.


ESTJ Career Interview #1 © Ryan Smith and IDR Labs International 2014.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and MBTI are trademarks of the MBTI Trust, Inc. is an independent research venture, which has no affiliation with the MBTI Trust, Inc.

Cover image in the article commissioned for this publication from artist Georgios Magkakis.


IDRlabs offers the following Career Interviews: