Being a Bit Different

I’ve always felt a bit different.

Not enough to feel like I didn’t fit in, but enough to sense that other people probably saw the world a little differently to me.

Photo by Mulyadi on Unsplash

I’ve heard it said that 2% of all engineers are true “system thinkers”. I don’t know if that’s accurate, but empirically it sounds about right to me. Think about what this means. Engineers are already “system thinkers”, so what must it be like to be in the 2% of those?

I won’t go so far as to ascribe the talents of the (suspected) 2% exclusively to autistic traits or anything like that. But I do know these talents are often hidden, hard to explain, and hard for others to comprehend.

I’ve always worked a little differently to my fellow engineers, but I have used that to my advantage and been able to consistently deliver extremely good outcomes to my clients. And yet, I’ve really struggled to come up with a suitable brand and proposition for my company that encapsulates this [system thinking] approach.

I used to describe my work as “solving complex problems” or “T-shaped solutions” or “bridging the gap between IT and business”. All of these terms have been a marketing disaster and did nothing to bring interesting and relevant work to my door. Or any work at all for that matter.

Nowadays, I just call myself a “business analyst” or “software developer” or “consultant”, depending on what mental model the person I’m speaking to expects. None of these terms are particularly great nor accurately portray the value of what I do. But they do open the door for a conversation with a potential client.

I’ve learnt that the broader marketplace really isn’t aware of, or ready for, true system thinking approaches. Even in the engineering world itself. Probably some part of this is to do with managerial control structures within organisations. And yet whenever I have had the trust, freedom and flexibility to work in the only way I know, usually the outcome is really really good.

I’ve met many kindred spirits along the way, people who seem to see the world a bit differently but also in a similar way to myself. These are all the people that Frank Ray & Associates considers to be “Associates”, colleagues and (most importantly) long-term friends. I suspect a great many of them are also system thinkers.


A reader kindly pointed out the Architect (INTJ) personality type (which I can relate to), particularly, and I directly quote:

  • Architects question everything
  • They aren’t afraid to break the rules or risk disapproval
  • They bring a single-minded drive to their passion projects
  • This personality type comes with a strong independent streak
  • They tend to prioritize rationality and success over politeness and pleasantries
  • Architects may wonder if dealing with other people is even worth the frustration

Apparently, the Architect (INTJ) is also the rarest personality type – which rings true with much of what I wrote above.

Frank Ray

Frank Ray & Associates is a software engineering consultancy that builds high quality software for businesses.

We develop new applications, automate manual processes, integrate vendor packages, replace Excel workarounds, fix unreliable applications, retire end of life software and remove dependence on poor value suppliers.

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