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The “10X Developer” Is a Myth - Here’s Why

So I’ll just come out and say it… The idea of a 10X developer is a myth and a totally unrealistic expectation to apply to yourself (if you are a developer) or to your hiring practices (if you are a hiring manager).

The idea of the 10X developer (or 10X engineer if you prefer the fancier title) comes from the idea that there are devs out there that outperform their counterparts at an extreme rate. Now, while there are certainly devs out there that are highly efficient, this is just not the same as the expectations being set when devs (maybe you) are trying to perform at their best.

So, how did we get here? I think the issue with the term “10X developer” it that is leads people to believe that they need to be superior at every topic and also sets up this idea that writing code or working for a company is some sort of cruel competition where you need to scale your output to an unhealthy (mental and physical) level.

Now I’m not saying that being an excellent developer in your field is impossible. There are tons of normal people out there with normal lives who totally kick ass at specific fields of software or web development and just for the sake of an example, let’s talk about me personally.

I’ve spent my entire working career in web development and specifically enjoy the fields of development pipeline efficiency, solutions architecture and root cause analysis. I take pride in my ability to look at a development workflow and squeeze every last second of inefficiency out of the process. When things fail (because they always do), i enjoy digging in and finding the common factors which lead to quickly identifying root cause and developing a fix.

At this point I’d be willing to say that if someone looked at me in that specific space they might make the mistake of calling me a 10X dev. And they would be wrong. Here’s why:

  1. Am I 10X at actually fixing that bug - probably not
  2. Am I 10X at writing the code that eventually produced that bug - nope
  3. Am I 10x at hiding in a closet and just writing code - no way - the opposite actually
  4. Am I 10X at literally any other subject in the dev space? ha, no - I’m OK at many things and consider myself an eclectic dev but not specifically 10X at these other topics

So I think you see the problem here. The term 10X set some unreasonably high standards while painting a picture of the person sitting in a dark corner wearing a hoodie and just hammering away at the keyboard solving all the worlds problems.

This only exists in movies folks!

Ok, so 10X devs don’t exist - what can you do to become the best dev you can be?

Why, I’m glad you asked! (LOL), let me tell you…

Pick a niche

Back in the day when I started coding, people would say “you’re into computers” an I would need to explain that i am actually a web developer, which at the time was pretty specific. Nowadays just saying “developer” or “software engineer” is not specific enough. If you want to become really good at something you need to be more specific. Take some time and find the niche that you really enjoy doing and try to become an expert in that space.

Give yourself the right environment

Nobody can get any work done if they are constantly distracted. Just setting up your work environment to best fit your needs will help immensely when it comes to your productivity and efficiency.

Be a lifetime learner

Nobody in this industry is ever “Done” learning. The moment you think you’ve learned everything everything about a topic is the moment your career stalls. Always be aiming to learn more and honing your skills in your niche.

Help (teach) others

Teaching others is the untold secret to mastery of a topic. Even if you aren’t an expert, taking some time to explain something to someone else will help your brain process the information in a different way that helps you retain the information and apply it to different scenarios. Being an export in a topic means that you need to be able to see a problem and recall a previous time when you saw something similar. Explaining those situations to others not only helps them but it helps you too.

Stay Humble

Seriously! there is nothing worse than a big headed know-it-all. in the words of Neil deGrasse Tyson “One of the great challenges in life is knowing enough about a subject to think you’re right, but not enough about the subject to know you’re wrong."

Always be prepared to be wrong and never approach a situation with the assumption that your must be right. Sure, you can feel confident in your words, but alway be prepared to not be the smartest person in the room. You are lucky if you aren’t.

Alright, i think I’ll leave it here on this topic. Until next time, happy coding.