Quick Take on 10x Engineers

Just a quick thought on the 10x discussion.

My experience in professional software development still relatively brief. That said, I’ve already seen the ‘10;1’ productivity gap in real life.

However, it hasn’t revealed itself as one developer on a team who kicks ass and does the work of five other ordinary devs in terms of rough code output. Instead, the 10x engineers I’ve seen are the ones who get shit done when it needs to be done. They’re the superhero devs, the martyrs, the people who bend over backwards to ship code. They reach out across teams, coordinate with managers, product owners, release management, etc.

Obviously, that’s a huge red flag about working environment. There should be no need for a 10x engineer in an organization when everyone is empowered and supported. You shouldn’t need one person to be your savior in order to ship code. Any qualified dev off the street should be able to join your team and start shipping code.

To me, the 10x discussion is about startup founders & VC’s trying to make their money go a long way by finding that savior dev they can use to build an entire product by themselves. I believe those people exist, and are obviously valuable, but it’s not a sustainable way to build an organization or company. And, the 10x engineers aren’t going to be the same people to build out that organization.

Finding good engineers is obviously extremely important. How you do it is equally important. Don’t sacrifice a 5x engineer hoping for a 10x engineer, and make sure you can keep anyone you hire.