The good and the bad of 10x, rockstar, superstar, or 100x developers

The good and the bad of 10x, rockstar, superstar, or 100x developers


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When employing developers, as a company you will always strive to get the best. There has never been a more significant trend to employ senior developers with great experience who could lead projects and teams like they’re a piece of cake. Finding that unicorn of a developer is like finding the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Terms like 10x developer, rockstar, superstar, and 100x developers are used to describe them. 

It sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Having one of those on your team can be extremely rewarding and beneficial. Imagine having someone who can code ten times more efficiently than others and can deliver spectacular results. But, is it really all that great to build up a team of just 10x or superstar developers? Or could some of them become downfalls of projects and teams?

What is a 10x, rockstar, superstar, or 100x developer?

A 10x developer is a developer who can deliver results and perform tasks 10 times more quickly and efficiently than the rest of the developers with the same level of expertise. Or their work is 10 times more impactful and beneficial to businesses. 

There has been a rise of the term 100x developer where such developers can perform tasks more efficiently, but they also bring a new depth to understanding the business domain and concepts. They are not focused solely on creating the code faster, but they try to bring in the value of understanding business requirements as well. They turn towards solving problems and realizing which features can they executed better. 
Essentially, these types of developers are the top performers in teams and are extremely valuable to have. It’s no wonder other terms for them are rockstar or superstar. The level of their productivity surpasses the one of their peers.

What exactly do 10x or superstar developers bring to the table?

Besides developing the software faster, these developers can offer guidance in making less expert developers become better at what they do. It’s not only about coding more quickly, it’s about teaching other developers how to think beyond the code and with users in mind. 

These types of developers are often self-reliant. That means that they don’t necessarily ask for help or guidance on projects. They know their tasks and execute them efficiently and often faster. Also, as mentioned before, they are business-oriented not only by trying to understand the business domain of the project but the company they work for as well. They want to be included in business workings, like organization and fostering excellent team culture.

This in turn drives them towards innovation and they always seek better and more optimal approaches to solving problems or doing something more efficiently. They will have a different outlook on the issues at hand and a different mindset. All of this can lead to them being skilled in working with clients in terms of negotiating the project scope and which features are necessary, which ones are just nice-to-haves, and which ones are completely unnecessary. This means that the project will be better handled and more under control.

When are those types of developers less wanted?

Like with everything in business, not everything shines bright and gold all the time. Even these types of developers, have their faults and can cause trouble. 

A lot of the time, being treated as a rockstar or superstar, can give developers certain freedom to act out. Getting a bit self-conceited can be extremely bad for team morale. There are countless stories where 10x developers considered other developers lacking in skills and knowledge and they outright verbalized it. 

Next, they would take on bigger chunks of the project or even the whole project and fully take over the development. You might think that’s not that bad, but they often get lost in their own code, which usually leads to delays in development and bad code. If such developer takes on too much responsibility, they could omit to do other things besides coding. They could forget to document things, make notes, code reviews, and other things, because they will exclude other team members from the project. 

Someone taking over a big project and not letting anyone else influence the development process is counterproductive and will lead to delivering a not-so-quality solution, if so. If other developers are not included in code writing, it could be hard for anyone else to come on board and make sense of the code. This in turn creates legacy code, which we all know is not such a fun thing to have. All sorts of dependencies will arise from these dealings. 

How to turn these types of developers into your asset?

Yes, there are two outcomes of having 10x developers. On the one hand, you have terrific and productive team members, and on the other, you have so-called “divas”. So how do you make sure that 10x or even 100x are nurtured and a great asset for your company, rather than someone thinking they are superior to everyone else? Because even when such developer performs well and is not hard to handle, how do you keep them in your company?

Foster a culture of knowledge sharing

Before employing 10x or other developers, make sure to introduce them to the team culture and emphasize knowledge sharing. It should be encouraged across all teams that teamwork and collaboration are essential in delivering exceptional products. When you have help and insights from others, that’s when developers will grow and you can ensure the continuous growth of their quality.

Don’t overlook soft skills

Soft skills are as much as important as technical skills, maybe even more. Having a developer who does not play well with others is not a good tactic. If someone is a great developer and has exceptional skills, you’d want him to share the knowledge with others. Listening, empathy, and great communication skills are harder to learn or obtain than technical skills. Let’s face it, if you have a team that gets on well, then you know they’ll collaborate and there will be no space for creating “divas”. 

Learn how 10x, superstar, and 100x developers work

Getting to know how your best developers work is a great way to learn their process and try to apply it to other inner workings of your company. Or you can share the same practices with other developers so they can also grow to become better and more productive. Getting into the minds of superstars could also help you anticipate how they will behave in the future. You’ll also learn how not to overbear them and lead them to burnout. You have to know where their limit is. 

Share the superstar mindset

Encouraging a culture where people will strive to be better and to develop their skills, is the way how you’ll share the superstar mindset. Since they are focused on getting better, more skilled, faster, and more efficient, such qualities should be communicated to the rest of the team, no matter the role. The environment needs to be set up that way so each member feels supported and validated on their journey to grow. Also, add benefits to increase the want for growth. They can stimulate work engagement and innovation.

Focus on creating value across teams and not just projects

Many companies have a focus only on delivering projects on time and with specific standards. That’s all great, but the main objective should be creating value across teams. Each project should be an opportunity to learn. It should also be an opportunity for individuals to take more initiative and charge, or to step up with newfound skills or domain knowledge. The point is that if the team grows and becomes cohesive, the quality of projects will grow in line with that. 

What’s the verdict?

Having extremely expert and productive developers as your team members can be beneficial. It can be great for the team’s efficiency and quality. The only issues arise when such developers lack soft skills or are not in tune with the company culture. Even if you have people who are that exceptional, you shouldn’t treat them as someone superior to others. They are all equal. You don’t want to put yourself in a situation where certain people are disrespectful towards others. 

So, it’s quite a balancing act. On the one hand, you want to do everything to keep these kinds of developers in your company, and on the other you need to establish boundaries and rules on behavior. What’s the point of having great developers if their self-centeredness could lead to delays in projects or non-quality code?! 

There are many stories where these developers took on whole projects and wouldn’t allow others to come on. This led to delays in projects, no documentation, and overly complex code. 

So, it’s up to you and your rules and culture to prevent such things from happening.

Remember, fostering a positive and collaborative culture is the way to balance people, and their expertise, and strive for growth. 

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