10x developers really exist

Screencast of hacker typer

Since the original 1968 article, “*Exploratory experimental studies comparing online and offline programming performance”*, there has been a lot of debate around the figure of the 10x developer. We’re talking about engineers who are an order of magnitude “better” than their peers by whatever measure.

These engineers exist, but not in the way most people describe them.

Typically, the stories describe them as those who:

Unfortunately, there are a few shortcomings. These two posts describe them eloquently, give them a read.

We can summarise these damaging traits as follows:

Linus Torvalds’ “abrasive” behavior comes to mind. Cassidy also characterises the 10x developer quite effectively.

It doesn’t sound like a massive win for a development team to have such an individual in their ranks. So… how come I think the 10x developer actually exists?

Developers who scale themselves by making everyone in the team better often become 10x developers. Their traits and behaviors are quite different from those traditionally attributed to the classical 10x developer.

Building software products is a deeply collaborative activity. Team performance grows exponentially when your developers have a strong technical foundation, are excellent collaborators, and trust each other. No lone wolf wonder-genius can scale themselves to that level by hacking away in a cave. It’s just impossible.

Engineering leaders play a key role in fostering a culture where these traits are celebrated and become part of the core expectations of all developers in the team. It is essential the incentive system is aligned with the kind of team you want to build. When lone wolves who routinely work evenings and weekends are the ones getting pay raises and promotions, you will get a burnt-out team who don’t trust each other. When you make a habit of giving shout-outs and promotions to folks who helped the collective improve, you will reap the benefits tenfold.

10x developers really exist, they make everyone else in the team better.

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