Thursday, June 07, 2007

Strengths and Weaknesses

Recent runs of "5 things you probably don't know about me" got me thinking about what I know about me. As it often goes with these things, I ran off on a tangent. This led me back to a question I was asked in a job interview a little over 10 years ago:
What is your greatest strength, and what is you greatest weakness?

This wasn't the last time I was asked this question in an interview, but I always remember that first time.

At the time, I thought that my greatest strength was my ability to learn quickly. Unfortunately, at that age I didn't have a clear idea of my greatest weakness. This was rightly pointed out as being a weakness in itself.

In more recent times, I've learned more about what I'm good at, and what I'm not. But it's only recently that I worked out that I have one set of overriding characteristics, and this is the source of pretty much all my strengths, and my weaknesses. It's a shame that I can't see myself answering this kind of question in an interview ever again.
  • I believe I'm very good at solving problems I can concentrate on, particularly when they have technical solutions. When given a chance, I can see the details very well. This is the engineer in me.
  • At the other end of the scale, I'm pretty good at seeing the bigger picture, and how lots of seemingly unrelated things can fit into it. Given the time to look at something properly, I have pretty good vision.
  • Conversely, I am terrible at having to keep both perspectives in mind at the same time.


Rather than listing things out, what I described above comes down to one real attribute. I have an addictive personality, and I use it pretty well. Whenever I set my mind to something, I enjoy sticking at it until I do well at it (that goes for exercise as well - ask David about me and weights training). It's this that works for me, and against me.

This is the reason why I claimed I could "learn quickly" when I was younger. It's also why I can solve tough problems, or see how to put things together in new ways. I just need that initial interest to get me into it, and I'll stick at it until it's done.

However, if I'm not given the chance to really concentrate on something, then what was my strength works against me. Rather than concentrating on any one thing, I spread my efforts and my productivity goes down. So not being allowed concentrate on just a few things is where I'm weakest.

Day to Day

So why am I thinking about this? Well I'm in a startup, with few resources. That means that I'm working on several products, plus I'm having to help determine their direction and where they fit in. This plays to my weaknesses, and it's driving me nuts. There are so many things that need my complete concentration, and I just need some time to focus on a few of them. In particular I want to apply significant effort to several areas in Mulgara.

At least it's helped me work out what I'm good at, and why.

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