Doris Fullgrabe



Doris Fullgrabe
Doris Fullgrabe

Ruth: Tell me more about becoming a Myers Briggs trainer? How did you first learn about Myers Briggs and what made you want to become a master in the field?

Doris: I learned about personality type assessments during my HR Management studies at uni in Scotland in 1997 and took my first assessment for an executive assistant position in Barcelona in 2005, so I’ve been intrigued by their insights and potential for over 20 years.

That being said, it wasn’t until I’d been working as a cross-cultural trainer that I realized people are more complex than just being influenced by where they were brought up! Hofstede called cultural preferences the “software of the mind,” so I guess you could call personality type preferences your motherboard.

I wanted to learn more about both aspects to be better able to support my clients’ journeys. I got certified and received my Master Practitioner level in 2010.

Ruth: So working as a Myers-Briggs practitioner wasn’t your first job? 

Doris: No, my first job ever was baby-sitting! I was selling strawberries for a summer to pay for my driver’s license and after graduating high school I did an apprenticeship to become a Foreign Language Secretary.

During that 3-year program, I did a rotation through the HR department which I loved, so I decided to go to uni and study it. Germany didn’t have a ready-made program that was HR-specific at the time, so I went to Scotland instead. There, I tended bar during the semester and worked in recruitment and telemarketing during the summer holidays to pay for my tuition. Then, my first job out of uni was at a recruitment company in London. That didn’t last very long though so I moved to Barcelona and went back to being an executive assistant for about 4 years.

At that point I met a nice young man and moved to the Canary Islands with him to figure out next steps. I wasn’t exactly sure what to do then we moved to Mexico for his work but I didn’t have a work permit, so I did a long-distance study program to become a Myers-Briggs coach.

Ruth: What did you enjoy the most about that work? How can discovering your Myers-Briggs type be a helpful tool in people’s careers or daily lives?

Doris: I loved seeing people’s eyes light up. Having been an expat myself for over 20 years now, being married to a man who is very different from me both culturally and personality-wise, it feels amazing to be able to share stories and normalize those challenges and tell people: “it’s ok, what you’re going through is normal!”

There’s such a shared humanity in empathizing and giving people permission to be themselves. The way I use MBTI® and the way I believe it was intended to be used, seeing as it’s based on Carl Jung’s work, is that it’s a tool for self awareness and development. Knowing I can empower others and help them save some time and resources by avoiding the mistakes I made was just so gratifying!

The thing to bear in mind is “type” is never an excuse or a limitation. I get so frustrated with companies who ask me to “test” people and then recommend jobs for them! Yes, certain type preferences self-select into certain careers because the natural aptitude helps them excel, but it doesn’t mean everyone with those type preferences has the same life experiences or interests.

The MBTI® doesn’t measure aptitude, it looks at how we use our brains. 

Ruth: Having worked in many different countries, have you found the Myers-Briggs’ dichotomies to be true? How does culture affect the expression of these traits?

Doris: I actually did some independent qualitative (interview-based) research where about 60 people responded to a questionnaire and I had conversations with some of them. I wrote an article about one German ENTJ’s experience living in South Korea and how appreciating personality type and cultural differences helped her on a subsequent assignment in the US.

In a nutshell, I find that while we come into the world with a predisposition to use our brains a certain way, as stipulated by Jung’s work and later made recognizable with the MBTI® tool, when and where we grow up, the societal norms, the cultural programming, all of that influences how we express our type preferences.

For example a person with introversion preferences in the USA will be accustomed to networking and speaking up at work because the United States as a culture skews heavily towards extraversion while we, as humans, adapt to our surroundings. At least if we want to be effective, that is!

Ruth: So now we come to calligraphy… how did you discover that?!

Doris: We moved from Dallas to New York in 2013 and once I was settled in, I worked on transferring my coaching practice from there to here.

I got a few clients, in fact, I worked with Tattly and Creative Mornings team in December of that year. We stayed in touch and that’s how I found the co-working space I’m in now.

The transition made me realize the New York hustle is a lot more severe than I’d been used to and frankly comfortable with, so I became burnt out and depressed and had to take a sabbatical.

During that time, I did some therapy, walked through Central Park a lot and I knew I needed a new hobby, so I went online and stumbled across this thing called “lettering“. I’d always liked pens and paper and writing, so it was super easy and fun to get started. I’d spend hours doodling away and having so much fun, I decided that’s how I want to spend all my days.

Ruth: Seems like a bold leap of faith going from something so scientific to something so creative…walk me through what it was like to make that transition?

Doris: Leap of insanity more like! I have no graphic design degree. I was always told I wasn’t creative, didn’t really have good grades in art class in school etc. etc. So here I am in my 40s and at first, I was convinced I was just a walking talking midlife crisis! But frankly I’ve got to a point where my reaction to that is: “so what?!”

The transition hasn’t been super smooth in that I have a lot of hang ups and self-doubt about my talent. There’s a definite feeling of imposter syndrome happening in my head. At the same time, I know I had the same feeling starting with MBTI® at first and that over time and with learning and practice those negative voices go away and are replaced with actual experience.

I’m curious enough to continue down this path. So I’ve approached this decision like I did the other career changes before: read a lot, learned a lot, practiced a lot… make a lot of mistakes. Find people who know what they’re doing, hang out with them, and ask a bunch of nerdy questions.

Ruth: Walk me through a typical day or week with your work: what does it entail, who do you work with?

Doris: A typical day is getting to the office around 9.30, making a cup of tea, and catching up with the friends here. Then I check my Skillshare class to see if any students have submitted projects and want feedback. Then I check my e-mail, take a moment to scroll through Instagram and Twitter and respond to any comments I got.

I try to spend at least 30 minutes doodling and writing and lettering. Sometimes that’s Pod Save The World, sometimes that’s Your Creative Push, and sometimes it’s just whatever Apple Music has on its Latin Pop channel!

If I have any commissions or client work, I do that of course, and I have a blog post describing my creative process on my blog: I’m also currently thinking about a new Skillshare class, so I’m doing some work around typography and learning some font making applications that I’ll be sharing soon.

Ruth: What’s surprised you the most about being an expert calligrapher?

Doris: How joyful and meditative it is to just sit and draw!

Calligraphy means working with a dip pen and ink so you only get one shot but there’s sketching beforehand you can do to make sure all the flourishes go where they’re supposed to, so there’s also an element of repetition and refinement in there. I’m surprising myself in being outside my comfort zone in terms of the required process. That being said, from an MBTI® perspective, it’s totally in keeping with what Jung called the “individuation process” where we purposefully seek new experiences as we grow older that enable us to expand our repertoire and flex into our different functions.

In my case, that’s “Extraverted Sensing” from a Myers-Briggs perspective, which is all about experiencing the current moment with all the senses. So being creative fits in there, as does being more physically active and working out. Something else I’ve been doing a little more than I used to. 

Ruth: You’re also a teacher, how did you draw on your previous experience as a Myers Briggs coach to set up your courses?

Doris: Teaching something as tactical as calligraphy means you have to show it and do it yourself. 

We all have different ways we learn best, and from giving workshops I know those people who need to get their hands active are the first ones to check out if you don’t put them to work immediately. As a result I always try to keep a balance between actually “doing stuff” and providing background information for those who want to “know” before they “do”.

Ruth: Your work recently won an industry award in the United States. How did that make you feel? How did calligraphy come into play in the project?

Doris: It felt amazing! This was for the Holiday Cheer Christmas card my friend Amy designed for her client and she asked me to do a bit of spot calligraphy and lettering to compliment her design.

I didn’t even know there were awards for this kind of work since I’m still so new to the whole design industry and still don’t think of myself as a designer. But it’s awesome to come in kind of sideways and brush up with it, contributing what I can in terms of highlighting a word and having that little bit of writing pull the whole piece together.

Ruth: Is there anything you’ve learned by doing the courses that you wish you’d known or had applied as a Myers Briggs expert?

Doris: I guess there’s an opportunity to bring typography into typology but I’d have to ask CPP, the organization that holds all the licenses for the MBTI®.

People also keep suggesting I do something to combine MBTI® and calligraphy, like make a font each type would like or something like that but I’m not sure how I would even go about it.

I have an inkling of what might work but I’d have to think through applications first. 

Ruth: What gives you the most joy in your work day-to-day?

Doris: I was a student and secretary in my 20s, an executive coach and trainer in my 30s and now a letterer and calligrapher in my 40s. The thread that combines all my experiences and careers, the way I see it, is a love for people and communication.

With my ENFJ preferences, I find joy in hanging out, chatting, forging connections, and helping people get in touch with what moves them. I’m all about growth and development.

So if my lettering and calligraphy can inspire you to explore your own creativity, a quote or print I made is hanging on your wall and brightening your day or if I can help bring some of your own words to life like your wedding vows or beautifying the chalk board in your restaurant, that’s what brings me joy!


Adrienne: Myers-Briggs is about tendencies, but how do you respond to the questions when your mood/hormone levels can dictate everything?

Mood and hormone levels may dictate how our type expresses in certain contexts but that’s not what the MBTI® was built to ascertain. Everyone behaves a certain way in crisis or emergency situations, but the MBTI® is looking at how we energize, how we process information, how we make decisions, and how we prefer organize our lives in the day-to-day.

Jung stipulates that we come into the world with a predisposition to use our brains in a certain way. He identified eight mental functions, which everyone can access. The MBTI® helps explain the order in which we prefer to use those functions. There’s a dominant, an auxiliary, a tertiary, and a fourth, and then four “shadow” functions which we generally don’t have conscious access to.

In other words, the MBTI® is trying to get at your CORE self. You also have a developmental self, the part of you that is everything you’ve learned and that will change with things you might learn in the future. You also have a contextual self, the self that behaves differently according to the situation you’re in.

As we grow older, we develop and make experiences and it becomes easier to flex into the other preferences, but our PREFERENCES, the things that come most naturally and that energize and not drain us, they’ll remain somewhat constant no matter what the situation or physical state of being. 

Jeff: What was your first experience like – the first time you saw something that you fell in love with work-wise and thought: I want to learn that/do that?

I don’t know if it was one thing, and I don’t even remember the first artists I started following on Instagram… it was the feeling I got looking at a beautiful piece of writing and thinking, “wow, how did they do that?!”

It took me a while to figure out that whatever people post on Instagram probably isn’t the first thing they made. Instead the final photo is the result of a long process with lots of erasing and refining and maybe even starting over. So I don’t remember the first experience, but seeing a bunch of images at a time in my life when I was ready to put myself in the way of beauty did the trick!

Stella: What was the defining moment or thing that made you decide to take the leap of faith and become a full-time calligrapher?

I was sitting at my kitchen table doodling, and looked up out of my window on to the corner of 60th Street and 9th Avenue in Manhattan and realized that three hours had passed. I was feeling zen and peaceful. That’s when I knew I wanted to feel like this all day every day!

Mark: What’s the one thing you miss the most about your previous career?

Apart from seeing my clients’ eyes light up with insights and the paid trips to San Francisco, to be perfectly honest, I miss the money. I’m not at a level yet where I feel comfortable or have a client base that would give five figures for a logo project – but I’m working on it! And hey, my clients’ eyes still light up from my work, so that’s great.

Paul: What’s your favorite letter of the alphabet – or the one you loved so much it convinced you to change careers?!

My favorite letter is “D”… it has a straight side and a round side so there are a lot of opportunities for flourishes!

Thanks Doris!

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