How do you spot a 10x engineer?

Lines of code on a screen with dark ground

How do you spot a 10x engineer?

Founders if you ever come across this rare breed of engineers, grab them. If you have a 10x engineer as part of your first few engineers, you increase the odds of your startup success significantly. OK, here is a tough question.

1. 10x engineers hate meetings.

They think it is a waste of time and obvious things are being discussed. They attend meetings because the manager has called for a "Staff meeting" to discuss the features and status.

2. Timings in the office for 10x engineers is highly irregular.

They tend to work when very few folks are around. If there is a crowd or all-hands meeting, they are not visible. Most of them are late-night coders and come late to the office.

3. 10x engineers laptop screen background color is typically black (they always change defaults).

Their keyboard keys such as i, f, x are usually worn out than of a, s, and e (email senders).

4. 10x engineers know every line of the code that has gone into production.

If a QA or support folks alert an issue, they know precisely where the fault (or bug) is and can fix the same in hours vs days.

5. Most of the 10x engineers are full-stack engineers.

For them code is code, they don't care whether it is front-end, back-end, API, database, serverless, etc. I have rarely seen them doing UI work.

6. 10x engineers can convert "thought" into "code" in their mind and write it in an iterative fashion.

Given a product feature, they can write that entire feature in one or two sittings of 4 to 6 hours with a caffeinated drink without distraction.

7. 10x engineers rarely look at help documentation of classes or methods.

They know it in memory and can recall from memory. They write code at the same ease as writing English. No breaks, no pauce, just type.

8. 10x engineers are always learning new frameworks, languages ahead of everyone in the company.

They are not afraid of anything new. If there is something new (e.g. blockchain) they gobble up, setup, experiment before anyone is getting started.

9. 10x engineers are poor mentors as they can't teach others on what to do OR parcel the work.

They always think "It takes too long to teach or discuss with others, I would rather do it myself." They are also poor interviewers.

10. 10x engineers don't hack things.

They write quality code and know exactly how the code has to evolve, and have a mental model of overall code structure. They write at most one design document, and the rest is in the code.

11. 10x engineers rarely job hunt or move out of the company.

They move out because you make their life miserable with the process, meetings, training, and other non-value-added activities. If you come across them, hold on to them. Celebrate them.

The text (part 1) above is a summary of two funny threads on Twitter from Shekhar Kirani (@skirani) and @VCStarterkit, which stereotypically take two classic examples from the start-up scene for a ride. The fullstack programmer, as well as the classic representative from the U.S. American venture capital.

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