Charity Majors @mipsytipsy CTO @honeycombio, ex-Parse, Facebook, Linden Lab; cowrote Database Reliability Engineering; loves whiskey, rainbows. I test in production and so do you. 🌈🖤 Jul. 18, 2019 2 min read

There's been so much beating up on people who are powerful coders in this thread, that I actually feel moved to stand up for them, lol.

Having a power coder or two on your team is a PHENOMENAL asset. Holy shit.

The problem is with the label. Power coders are not 10x engineers.

So can we start calling them power coders, to recognize and value what they bring to a team, without explicitly devaluing everybody else's contributions? Can this be a thing?

A 10x engineer, as many have correctly pointed out, is someone who makes the *team* 10x more productive.

Because the team is what allows the org to abstract away all the little SPOFs we call "humans" and deliver large quantities of progress, reliably, week after week.

If the team is the racing car, a power coder is like those tanks of nitrous oxide that provide bursts of power in a given direction.

Calling them a 10x engineer is mistaking the fuel for the entire jalopy.

Also, a burst of fuel is worse than useless if your nose isn't pointed in the right direction, or if the rest of the... enginey parts... aren't around to translate code into business value.

(Somebody stop me before my car metaphors exceed my knowledge of cars... Oops too late)

It can be incredibly hard to spot a 10x engineer, or a 10x manager, not least because every human is so darn unique.

A 10x Googler is in no way guaranteed to be a 10x startup engineer or manager, they are extremely different skill sets.

Nobody is a 10x'er in every context. It depends on the work you're doing, the people you're doing it with, the point in your career, how much autonomy or management you have, and a thousand other things.

Including, sure, your personal facility with programming languages.

So why do VCs love this myth so much, and why is it always the raw coding they zero in on?

Well mostly because it's the one thing they can't do. It's mysterious. The raw act of creation, sprung forth like Athena from your brain (that's how programming works, right?)

Except no. It's not how programming works at all. Building systems out of code is very much a team sport. Anyone who knows anything about resiliency knows that.

And anyone who knows anything about storytelling knows how much we crave a protagonist.

All this tells us is that raising money is more about storytelling than engineering. Animal spirits 🤷‍♀️

You can follow @mipsytipsy.


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