07 August 2019

The 10X programmer

Can you call yourself a 10X programmer if you get work done ten times faster than other programmers or can do the work of 10 average programmers?
I don't think so.

There have been some discussions recently about 10X programmers, where some say it's a myth, some say it isn't, and some examine the logic of it. Even a CEO I knew, used to wish for a 10X programmer. He was completely bought into the concept, thinking that such programmers existed at top companies.

Here's my take on it:

Yes, there are programmers who can get work done faster than others.
Yes, there are programmers who are more expert at specific languages and skills than others.

But are any of the above programmers 10X? Nope! 

The measurement of 10X is not done based on how quickly a product was delivered with minimal errors.

10X is measured over a long duration based on:
  • Whether requirements have been understood, documented and verified with the customer.
  • Whether the software architecture and design patterns have been subject to peer-review from experienced people and is as future-proof as possible.
  • Whether the software language and tools have been chosen based on careful evaluation, as per the requirements and anticipated changes.
  • Whether version control, test-cases, bug-trackers, continuous integration and quality checks are performed.
  • Whether the programmer and the team share a good chemistry and fit well into company culture.
Face it. It only makes sense to measure 10X over a span of many years. A programmer who delivers poorly planned code quickly may seem like a hero initially, but when (s)he gets hit by a bus or when more members are added to a team or when the client requests more changes and the software suddenly requires a complete overhaul, that's when you realize that the initial 10X advantage you thought you got (even in a startup), is actually much more costly than if you had invested time in ensuring the bulleted points mentioned above were fulfilled.

I've seen plenty of programmers and companies getting stuck with trying to deliver quickly and then ending up wasting more than double that time making up for errors and unaccounted factors. Moreover, working overtime, trying to be 10X can also get people burnt out with severe health problems; some of which may be irreversible.

Don't go for a 10X programmer. Go for good planning, documentation, execution and teamwork. 
That's where the real 10X is.

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