How To Be A 10x Developer

Apr 25, 2020

Within programmer culture, there exists the legend of the 10x software developer: an engineer so effective that he or she single-handedly has the output of ten "normal" engineers. A developer with this level of expertise can move mountains and ship projects that would fail in the hands of an average team. These developers are the heroes of their organizations, and companies fight each other to recruit and retain this level of talent.

While the 10x concept is sometimes scrutinized by the software community, I personally do believe some people simply are more effective than others, perhaps even an order of magnitude so. I've been able to work with some truly talented people in my time as a software engineer, and there are even a few that I would include within that 10x category.

However, there is a certain stereotype that comes along with the 10x label, as it usually conjures an image of a young hacker who can get in the flow and write an entire MVP overnight or solve a seemingly impossible bug in a matter of minutes (maybe without even looking at the code).

While that skillset is one way to be a difference maker, one thing I learned over the course of my career is that I don't think I could ever be "that guy." I'm simply not the type who can pull an all nighter, and although I'd like to think of myself as a good problem solver, some of the arcane intricacies of coding don't always come to me easily without study and practice.

I don't think that I should resign myself to just being a 1x developer, since there is a way for any engineer (or product owner, designer, etc.) to 10x their value: help make everyone else on the team and in the organization more efficient. Every time you unblock a teammate or go out of your way to collaborate on a better solution is just as good as if you'd cowboy'd up and did it all yourself. If you can help some teammates unlock 1.5x their potential and improve efficiency across the org by just a small percentage per person, congrats, you are a 10x developer!

Obviously improving efficiency of others takes a lot of hard work and perseverance, certainly more than just being naturally gifted. For those who love programming, it is also likely less fulfilling in the short term than banging out a bunch of code yourself. However, being a force multiplier through helping teammates and coworkers is the most practical and reliable way to become a 10x developer, and it's something I strive towards every day.



Return to Blog