The 5 characteristics of purple people - and why Datashift loves to have them

8 November 2021
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In the technology sector, purple people are a much sought-after profile. They’re the kind of people who are the perfect blend of business knowledge and technical skills. At Datashift, we keep our eye out for this type of “purple people”. But even more so, we look for the other kind; the kind that is described in the children’s book ‘The World Needs More Purple People’ by Kristen Bell. These purple people have a set of specific characteristics that make them really valuable in every organization.

1. Purple people ask really great questions

One of the questions raised in the children’s book is ‘how many dolphins live in outer space?’. It’s a funny question, but it’s also a really good one. What makes this question so great? Easy: the simple fact that it’s a question. Purple people love to ask questions, we love people who ask questions; Because asking questions makes a difference between a good consultant and a really good consultant. It’s how we know and understand what a client wants, what his actual needs are. How does this project fit in the company’s strategy? Who are the stakeholders? What needs to be done to make everyone happy at the end of the day?

At Datashift, we believe there is no such thing as a stupid question. People shouldn’t be afraid to ask anything, even if it might sound silly. We encourage everyone to ask the questions they need to ask in order to get a clear picture of the project or the client. Are you asking something that seems obvious to the other person? No need to feel embarrassed; at least now you have an insight into how this person thinks, what is obvious information to him, and you go from there. Whenever you ask something, it shows curiosity. Whenever you give someone room to ask something, you encourage critical thinking.

2. Purple people laugh. A lot.

Asking great questions will help you create better projects, but that doesn’t mean it should be all business and no fun. In fact, at Datashift we truly believe you need to throw a good vibe in the mix to create the best end result for everyone involved. And this good vibe for us means a lot of laughter. We don’t mind playing a prank on a colleague every now and then. Every Monday we plan a meeting and share our “hooray” and “curse” moments of the past week. You can no doubt imagine we hear some really funny situations people have found themselves in.

During our recent “Data trip” — a weekend where we got together with everyone at Datashift — we had organized a tropical party. So everyone was dressed according to the theme of the night, in tropical shirts and Hawaiian outfits. Everyone looked great, but it was also really funny to see people wear something completely different from their usual work attire. Do cracking jokes and wearing tropical shirts make such a difference then? Well, yes, it creates an open and safe work environment. People know we expect them to work hard, but we also expect them to have fun and enjoy themselves while doing their job. We take our jobs seriously, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously.

3. Purple people speak up

Everyone should be able to speak up, use their voice, without being afraid of the consequences when they do so. At Datashift, we always emphasize that everyone can share their opinions — always with the utmost respect for other people —, their ideas, doubts or feedback. We’ve created an informal work environment where people really appreciate each other’s input.

We have created a system with trainers (T1’s) and troopers. Everyone at Datashift has a T1, somebody they can share an idea with or ask questions. That doesn’t mean troopers can’t ask a question to anyone else, but having this designated person makes it easier for people, especially new employees, to speak up. People’s voices are important, it’s up to business leaders and managers to create an environment where listening to them is a habit.

4. Purple people work hard

When purple people do something, they give it their all, do their very best. They’re ambitious and set the bar a little higher every now and then. We love that mentality at Datashift! Don’t go for 80%, go for 100%. And when you take a break, give that your all, too. The line ‘work hard, play hard’ is a cliché and a little tacky perhaps, but the essence of it is so true: make sure when you go on a company trip it’s not just fun, but incredibly fun. And when you finish a project, it’s not just good, it’s really good.

Working hard is not a bad thing, by the way. People talk about how important a work/life balance is so you don’t get overworked. But to us, a good work/life balance is not leaving work at 5 pm every day to go home or do something else. A good balance is having a work environment where you work really hard some days or weeks and then at other times, when you need it, you can change things up a bit and slow down. Pick up the kids from school a little earlier, plan fewer deadlines or meetings, for example. At Datashift, we believe this kind of work mentality is much better for people in general. It gives employees freedom and possibilities and they’ll be happier for it.

5. Purple people are just themselves

Just be you. A line that sounds good for kids when they’re reading “The World Needs More Purple People”, but not less important for adults to hear as well. We have the tendency to try and fit the mould, to adapt to the people around us or to a certain work environment. But purple people don’t. And at Datashift, we like people to just be themselves. We like authentic people and can see it from afar when someone is not being himself. And sure, people always adapt a little to their environment; they behave this way when they’re with their friends and a different way when they’re with colleagues. Or they’ll show their best side when interviewing for a job. That’s human nature, of course. But you shouldn’t give up your own ideas, opinions or values to fit in. Having the confidence to just be you will offer so much more than trying to be somebody you’re not.

When we’re interviewing people, we look for these five characteristics. We look for the purple people. That doesn’t mean we expect interviewees to be a “finished product” and be already a pro in all five elements. As long as we notice that interviewees already have a bit of all five characteristics in them, we can help them develop their skills even further when they start working at Datashift. When we see curiosity, some critical thinking and eagerness to have fun; we’re pretty sure it’ll be a good fit.