They focus on the Mythical Engineer’s individual contributions, missing the bigger contributions one can have on the organization. It’s not necessarily that the Mythical Engineer produces 10x more code, solves 10x more complex problems or develops 10x simpler solutions that make him (and I use this pronoun generically) a 10x engineer.
I’ve worked with some of the most effective people you can imagine–ones I would choose over 10 average developers–and they all elevate their team to greater heights. They are the pioneers of the team. They demonstrate what is possible, act as role models for junior developers to aspire to, and mentor and teach others to achieve more. These people bring out the best in others–they are the enablers. They are much more than the code they produce.
The posts hint that the focus on individual contributions is misleading. “It over-focuses on the role of the individual and individual contribution in success,” said one. “If you insist on calling someone a rockstar, they are likely the team’s teacher and mentor,” said the other. Yet they fail to acknowledge that taking the full value into consideration, these people aren’t as mythical as they think:
The technology industry is full of memes, mythologies and metaphors that give us tools to communicate, to structure the world, to enforce our values, to shape our work and construct the way we see ourselves and our industry. “10x engineer” is one of those mythologies.
The author further suggests some destructive consequences of perpetuating this myth:
In the individual’s desire to live up to the “10x” mythology, or the culture’s expectations that individuals be extreme performers, workers may succumb to a variety of destructive tendencies including drug use, workaholism, heroism and alcoholism.
But that need not be the case. Instead of chasing an unrealistic myth, if one realizes the breadth of means of creating value, he can reach for a healthier, more constructive state. 10x engineers don’t seek to fill out some template from a myth. They aren’t defined by a percentile on an one-dimensional scale. There isn’t a curve.
10x engineers are out there. Look beyond just their code, and maybe you will have an opportunity to work with and learn from one.