Vivek Haldar

The 0.1x developer

One of the strongest myths in software is that of the 10x developer. The one who is 10 times more productive than the average developer. It keeps coming up again and again. I most recently saw a reference to it in Venkat’s Developeronomics piece1.

It is a fallacy. Not in the sense that certain developers aren’t 10 times as productive as the average, but in the way they achieve that productivity.

People often think that the 10x developer can churn out tons of code in short periods of time, or build massive systems from scratch. That might be true, but it is a side effect, not the root cause of their productivity. These days, if you auto complete 10 times in a decent Java IDE, you can end up with a few hundred lines of code. In fact, seasoned developers often look at a high rate of writing code with suspicion, because the number of bugs you write goes up with the number of lines of code you write23.

10x developers achieve their productivity by focusing on the 0.1x of the solution that will have the greatest impact. What makes them special is their ability to figure out what that one tenth is. And then blind out everything else. This usually requires a deep understanding not just of the technical aspects of the solution, but also the underlying business problems4.

So, recruiters should actually be looking for 0.1x developers, not 10x developers.