Who Is a 10x Developer and How to Become One?

Increase your own and your team's productivity
February 2022
Who Is a 10x Developer and How to Become One?

Who of us doesn’t want to be productive and attain all the set goals without fail? Yet unfortunately, the life of most developers is not devoid of struggling. On some days, it’s fairly easy to stay in the flow and solve problems in a blink of an eye. And on others, it’s only possible to slowly drag behind and see no accomplishments at all.

That’s why any professional who remains consistently efficient and always manages to produce high-quality code evokes so much admiration. The question is: do such super-productive professionals even exist, and is it possible to become one of them?

The highly debated concept of a 10x developer can help uncover this mystery. Let’s explore what it means to be a 10x developer and what kind of sorcery you have to resort to in order to become a 10x developer yourself.

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10x Developer Defined

A 10x developer (aka 10x programmer / 10x engineer) is a professional who is 10 times more productive than other developers with an equal level of expertise in the field. That is to say, a 10x developer completes 10 times more tasks and writes 10 times better code than any other competent member of their team working in the same conditions.

Does it sound like some superhuman stuff that’s beyond belief? Let’s delve a bit deeper into this matter.

10x Developers: Myth or Reality?

Personal productivity always depends on a context

When you’re full of energy, when your process is distraction-free, and you’re attending to some familiar tasks that require no additional expertise, you are likely to show much better results in a shorter timespan than when writing an offbeat chunk of code in an utterly exhausted state of mind and stressful workplace conditions.

And as long as the way we see, feel and measure productivity varies greatly from one occasion to another, the concept of a 10x developer remains open to interpretation too.

This is one of the main reasons why so many people doubt the very existence of 10x developers – after all, it’s not so hard to be 10 or even 100 times more productive in an environment that sets you for greater success and fits you much better than others. But can you consider yourself a 10x developer in a situation like this? Not really.

Natural talents are the force to be reckoned with

Regardless of all the controversies surrounding the concept of a 10x developer, one thing is certain: extraordinary software engineers and programmers do walk on this planet. They come up with fresher ideas than anyone else. They always show remarkable performance results and never fail to do their thing right.

Yet can we regard talents like these as 10x developers? Opinions on this matter are divided too.

According to Justin Etheredge, the co-founder of Simple Thread, the brightest of software engineers we know today have nothing to do with 10x programmers. The superior intelligence, deep competence and unique perspectives of such people like John Carmack or James Gosling make them an exception from the rule. You can’t imagine these luminaries working in a regular workplace environment, in an average software development team – they simply can’t be a part of this world:

“… you don’t just go out and hire these folks. And even if you could, they aren’t going to work on your software. They work in a very focused area, and won’t have any interest in working on your software unless your interests perfectly align. If John Carmack was dropped into the average web development project, he wouldn’t be very happy or effective, and all of his knowledge around shadow volumes and binary space partitioning would be more of a hindrance than an asset.” – Justin Etheredge, The 10x Programmer Myth

An experienced programmer, Jeffrey Bakker, shares a different point of view, though.

Based on his experience of working with a beyond-talented software engineer, extraordinary professionals (aka 10x developers) can surely be involved with regular software engineering teams. And besides that, they can elevate those teams and help them excel.

The 10x developer that Jeffrey refers to in his article for Level Up Coding was comfortable with taking on the job that everyone else was afraid of. He managed to present high-quality results fast. And more importantly, Jeffrey’s stellar colleague never bragged about his talents, although his exceptional skills and advanced knowledge were kind of obvious to everyone:

“… his sense of what’s normal for a modern software shop was based on experience that was years ahead of ours and yet to be practiced at our company …” – Jeffrey Bakker, Top lessons learned from working with a 10x developer

So, what does it tell us about 10x developers?

No matter if you believe in them or not, super-efficient and extra-productive developers do exist. A portion of their abilities may be attributed to natural talents and inclinations.

However, can any talent really shine without the right approach to work?

There are many effective productivity-boosting methods and principles that can help any developer become more accomplished in everything they do. Now, let’s have a closer look at the three main of them.

How to Become 10x More Productive as a Developer?

1.    Keep learning

Excellent performance stems from confidence in your skills, and the latter originates from profound knowledge and mastery. Thus, in order to do your job well and fast, it’s important to get a knack for as many nuances involved in software design, development and programming as possible.

In addition to that, it’s more than useful to explore beyond the limits of your job – with broader knowledge, you can get a more objective perspective on things and sharpen your approach to problem-solving.

2.    Be a team player

Even if you are 10 times more competent than your teammates, the last thing you wanna do is criticize and judge them for their shortfalls.

Don’t forget that being ahead of less experienced programmers doesn’t really make you a 10x developer. You can see yourself as one merely in comparison to equally skilled colleagues. So, if you’d like to prove yourself as a 10x developer, it makes much more sense to help your underperforming team members become better by sharing your knowledge and expertise with them.

Besides, when you always find fault with others and never fail to praise yourself, you harm team morale and prepare the ground for conflict. Such behaviors not only indicate your poor work ethic but also make it harder for anyone in the workplace to be truly efficient and productive.

3.    Optimize your work processes

Efficiency is what allows us to yield excellent work results without any waste of resources. And in order to be efficient, you need to focus on the right things, minimize distractions and implement effective practices and tools:

  • Find out what slows you down – This can include anything from unclear software specifications and poor team communication to zero motivation and developer burnout. Scrutinize your current work process and environment to see how efficient and engaging they are. Then, try to eliminate or replace as many productivity-killing factors and activities as possible.
  • Take your time and energy under control – These are the two pillars of anyone’s productivity. If you have no idea how to distribute your time well or use your mental and physical resources to your advantage, it’s much more challenging to attain success in any sphere of life. So, be sure to learn a thing or two about time management and pay enough attention to your overall well-being and peak productivity hours. As a result, you will be able to get more stuff done every day without exhausting yourself unnecessarily.
  • Learn shortcuts – They speed up the coding process by helping you navigate through large volumes of code with greater ease.
  • Use productivity-boosting tools – It goes without saying that up-to-date lint tools, git hooks, changelogs and other software for the automated development process must make up the basic work arsenal of every esteemed programmer. However, it shouldn’t be limited to them. Effective tools for 1) team collaboration, 2) project management and 3) time tracking are a must-have for 10x developers too.

A perfect example of software that combines all three of these essential productivity-boosting features (and more) is actiTIME:

  • It includes straightforward manual-entry timesheets and automatic one-click timers that make it easy to track your working hours and see how efficient you are from day to day.
  • It lets you organize tasks in a convenient format and monitor project progress via the Kanban board and multiple handy reports.
  • It allows you to share important work-related information with your colleagues through task and timesheet comments.
  • And above all that, actiTIME can be integrated with developers’ most favorite tools, including GitLab, GitHub and Jira.

You can check out actiTIME and experience all its benefits firsthand during a free 30-day trial. Click here to sign up and give it a go.

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