The reality and misconception of 10x engineers posted on 16 March 2024

The common description of a 10x engineer is one that’s extremely efficient, that can produce ten times more work than a normal engineer – these exist in specific areas. For example I would expect an engineer that specialized in JVM performance to be 10 times (if not more) more efficient than me when it comes to debugging such performance issues (since I have neither the knowledge nor the tools at my disposal).

I think it’s more interesting to define these 10x engineers through their impact instead. This is possible as soon as you work in large engineering organizations. For example if an engineer makes 100 engineers 10% more efficient (e.g. by making the dev loop 10% faster), their net impact is the same as hiring 10 engineers, so they technically have ten times the impact of one engineer.

There are engineers that are paid 10 times more than others, and while it might be an effect of the job market, I think these are mostly paid a lot because of their impact through other engineers – not because of their actual code/design throughput.

The most important part of this post is that 10x engineers aren’t isolated engineers. They aren’t your selfish engineer hiding in a dark room writing code. They are the ones that share their knowledge, promote better tools and up-level their whole engineering org. They are the ones you should work and learn from – and my experience is that they’ll happily help you grow.

Have you met such engineers? How was your experience working with them?

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