The Dangers Associated with Believing in the “10x Developer” Myth

When it comes to what defines a skilled software developer, there is no universally accepted answer. However, hiring experts widely believe that a developer’s capability should not be solely based on technical proficiency. Rather, it is the amalgamation of their intellectual aptitude and emotional intelligence that can significantly impact the development team, instead of their ability to churn out large amounts of code within a stipulated timeframe.

A group of prominent engineering leaders gathered at the San Diego 7CTOs event to explore the idea of a “10x Developer”. The distinguished panel comprised April Wensel, the mastermind behind Compassionate Coding; Chris Nikkel, GoDaddy’s Director of Development; and Manijeh Noori, The Zebra’s Director of Engineering. Alexa Scordato, Vice President of Marketing at Works, moderated the discussion. The panel emphasized that the “10x Developer” myth should be dispelled and they shared numerous valuable insights on this topic.

What attributes define a successful programmer, especially a 10x programmer, and is this designation even valid?

Despite corporate claims of having “world-class developers” or hiring the “best full-stack engineers”, there is no unified definition of what qualifies as a capable programmer. To emphasize this point, Alexa encouraged the attendees to share their own perceptions of a successful developer during the discussion.

According to Manijeh and her team, effective problem-solving isn’t only about possessing knowledge on specific tools, languages, or structures, but also entails being able to think creatively and devise innovative answers. Furthermore, strong communication abilities coupled with empathy are crucial to achieve this objective, as they encourage the team to work together and understand each other.

Chris maintains that a “good developer” must possess three fundamental qualities, namely enthusiasm, team chemistry, and mutual understanding. Those who display passion for technology and their work overall exhibit enthusiasm for the industry. Besides, having strong team chemistry is vital as it enables each member to make unique contributions to the team. Finally, Chris seeks developers who can grow in their careers while also benefiting the team.

April pointed out that having a hierarchical system in the workplace may not always be necessary. She thinks that too much importance is accorded to competition, and instead, we should work with individuals who possess passion for the project and have something vital to offer for its success. April suggests that working in an environment that fosters collective efforts and values unique contributions can be more advantageous.

Best Practices to Ensure a Fair Recruitment Process

Both April and Manijeh share a common prerequisite in their recruitment process: they mandate that potential employees have Github or Stack Overflow profiles. This requirement may reinforce the notion that a programmer’s success is only possible with an extensive portfolio of personal projects. However, it overlooks the fact that many other types of programmers can be equally successful without these profiles.

MJ has pointed out that The Zebra does not make it mandatory for applicants to have a degree in Computer Science, as half of the company’s engineers hold degrees from other disciplines. This reveals that the company places value on diverse educational backgrounds for its engineering positions and is not confined to conventional Computer Science qualifications.

April proposes that instead of solely focusing on a candidate’s “cultural fit,” it is equally important to consider their potential as a “culture add” when making hiring decisions. She advises employers to re-examine their rationale if they reject a prospective candidate, as bringing in someone who can challenge current team members and aid the team in achieving greater success may be advantageous.

Incorporating Dispersed Teams

While discussing the difficulty of forming a united and communicative team, even when all members are in the same workspace, we recognized the additional level of complexity that emerges when some members work remotely. Therefore, it is essential to devise the most suitable approach to manage this circumstance and guarantee that communication and collaboration are efficient.

MJ and Chris both agreed that video recordings should be utilized. Despite initial doubts from MJ’s team about having daily stand-ups via video, MJ believed that this was the only way to ensure that all team members, regardless of their location, were given equal treatment. Consequently, she always has a face-to-face interaction with remote developers before any collaboration begins.

During April’s discussion, she stresses the significance of efficient communication and the necessity to guarantee that every team member is listened to and comprehended. She notes that developers may have a tendency to use sarcasm, and highlights how difficult it is to detect sarcasm in written correspondence in contrast to verbal communication. Therefore, she recommends being extra vigilant about the language employed while communicating through email, Slack, or any other written platform, to ensure that all parties have a shared understanding.

According to HackerRank’s research, employers give top priority to problem-solving abilities when hiring developers. Similar findings were shared by engineering leaders who suggested that successful teams were formed by selecting candidates with a combination of strong problem-solving skills and collaborative, enthusiastic, and compassionate coding abilities. While the concept of the “best” developer is subjective, problem-solving remains an indispensable competence for any software engineer.

Looking to hire skilled and empathetic developers for your team? Reach out to Works today!

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