Workology Personality Types: The Number Cruncher

Filed Under Collaboration

Julie Gerstein

January 31, 2013

Making the most of your work day can be a challenge. Mindjet’s Workology series will help you work smarter and more effectively with your workmates by introducing you to—and providing keys to working with—some common personality types found in any office.

Focused and analytical, but also surprisingly creative, the Number Cruncher gets data, and sees a world of possibilities and opportunities in the complexities most of us don’t understand. Enter Ravi Iyer, the principal data scientist at Ranker, a web platform for making lists and ranking items.

Iyer loves data, and relishes the opportunity to approach information in new ways. But perhaps because of his dual interest in numbers and psychology, he’s not what one might typically imagine when one thinks of a Number Cruncher. “When you pursue a PhD in psychology, you work with a lot of data. There are some people in psychology who feel that the only way to know about people is through data, and I’m not one of those people. I would say both ways are valid ways,” explains Iyer.

“I appreciate the value of data, but I have a more pragmatic approach: it’s not an end; it’s a means.” And the end result? A new story about the world, insists Iyer. “It’s a way to explore and say things about the world that I care about.”

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Number Crunchers, like the data they work with, pride themselves on objectivity, says Myers-Briggs Type Indicator expert Christine Damrose-Mahlmann. Because they’re often ISTJs (Introverted Sensing Thinking Judging) they’re “very fair-minded,” says Damrose-Mahlmann, and “very focused.”

While they’re naturally inclined toward rigidity and structure, Number Crunchers may benefit from expanding their horizons by cultivating their intuitive and creative sides. Iyer believes that’s what’s helped him achieve success. “I think it helps to be open to new experiences and to pursue more creative things.” For Iyer, that means publishing in academia and playing the guitar.

And while Damrose-Mahlmann feels that ISTJs work best alone, their data still has to somehow be relatable to the rest of the world. Iyer insists that “crunching” is foremost about making numbers more accessible. “I don’t like it when people in the data community make things overly complex in order to seem more expert,” insists Iyer. “I think that’s counterproductive to the overall goal of answering questions accurately. It makes it hard for people to tell what’s really helpful and what’s hype.”

The specialist knowledge Number Crunchers impart, and the single-mindedness with which they attack data, aligns them with the Specialist personality, according to the Belbin Self-Perception Inventory, which organizes individuals into team roles based on their strengths. Specialists pride themselves on being hard-working, dedicated, and self-motivated, though they can at times have tunnel vision. That’s why they value Generals, who deftly see the big picture, and enjoy collaborating with others who share their intellectual curiosity. But they may bristle at Dreamers, whose failure to generate objective, concrete plans rile Number Crunchers’ sensibilities.

For Iyer, crunching data is a natural fit. It affords him the intellectual and creative freedom to generate new ideas and constructs, and satisfies his intellectual curiosity. After all, “Data doesn’t speak for itself. You need to know what questions to ask it and how to interpret it.” And that makes data science a very creative field, insists Iyer — “If you’re doing it right.”