Reed Hastings, co-founder, chairman, and co-CEO of Netflix is famous for his generous payment to developers – amongst others. He simply argues that paying twice the amount of money other companies in the industry are willing to pay for a developer, generates 10 times the output. That’s doing smart business. And, love him or hate him, the success of his business pays testament to his vision.
Over the years, I’ve learned a thing or two on how to be most effective as a developer. Today I’m asking: How to become a 10x developer too?
How to become a 10x developer too?
As a developer, it’s easy to get distracted. Meetings and social interactions can consume a lot of your time, and are not always as effective as you would like. I’m not going to argue here, although the Covid-19 lockdowns make a lot of people long back to those times. However, I am going to argue that being effective in the time you’ve left to actually do your work is even more important, and it is something that’s entirely up to you yourself. Now, be honest, are you as effective in managing your time as you would like to be? Or do you find yourself distracted by the information at your fingertips. After all, there’s no end to the distractions out there. For instance, the discussions taking place in Slack channels, Stackoverflow or Teams, definitely interesting, but how much is really valuable? Experimenting with new tools to play around with. There’s always newer ones and better ones to be found. But how much of it proves to be really useful?
I hear you saying “But I can only learn whether it’s actually valuable after I’ve already spent my time, right?”. And of course you’re right. There’s always the odd chance of finding something valuable out there. However, what you should be looking for, is how to maximize your chances of finding something truly valuable. Read on.
Back in the days, people used to visit libraries to find books. Some people spent hours browsing everything of interest, before finally deciding what book to read. Others were much more strategic in their approach. They came prepared, and already knew what they were looking for. Typically, they used their network to get recommendations. And every now and then they made room for a little experiment of their own – feeding back their findings to their network. Care to guess which group was acting more effectively?
The ’T’ in ten percent
Knowing what you’re looking for sounds simple, right? Actually, this is where it gets complicated, but there are good practices to follow. Perhaps you’ve heard about people having a ’T-Profile’. People with broad field of general knowledge paired with a narrow focus on specialistic knowledge and experience. It is the latter that makes you special, and particularly valuable; however, without the first you’ll risk ending on an island where very few people will actually understand the value you bring. Having only general knowledge, on the other hand, will make you easily replaceable. You risk being treated as a disposable resource.
Perhaps there is a deeper reason why the phrase “ten percent” starts and ends in the letter ’T’. At the very least, that will make this practice easy to remember.
Find your purpose
Being smart at knowing what you’re looking for starts with knowing your own profile. What is it where you want to excel in, and what is the surrounding force field you have to know your way around. Say, for instance, your strength is in cryptography. You’ve taken classes on the topic during your study, you like the complexity of it, and if there’s one Nobel price you would dream of getting one time, it would be with an unbreakable algorithm making the web a safer place for all. These are the books you want to read, the conferences you want to visit, and if you’re any good, write books about and give your own talks about. It is also the user groups you actively follow and contribute to. That would be time well spent. It’s one way of peers getting to know you. It’s a way to take the lead.
By the way, if you don’t feel a burning passion about anything work related, you’re far from alone. Don’t feel guilty. You just haven’t found your true love yet. That shouldn’t keep you back from dating, though. Look around. There must be somebody whose job you’d rather have than your own. A role model, perhaps. Even an amalgam of multiple people is fine. What communities are they investing most of their time in? Why wouldn’t you join them there? Most people are very friendly if you show an interest in their passion. You can simply ask them what it is that makes them so passionate. Their perspective might even spark a fire in you.
Know your trade
Aside from your core area of interest, there are still many things to worry about. Security and privacy more in general, going with encryption, and perhaps security in Kubernetes, if that’s what’s hot around you. But also Identity and Access Management, API Management and Proxies. The friends and family of your date, so to say. But these are not the topics to invest most of your time in. Being smart in your career means using your network, rather than forming your own opinion, when it comes to side topics. It is harvesting from those communities, without prior investments. Don’t feel onerous about it. You do your bit in your core communities.
This is also the area where having certifications doesn’t hurt. It helps you blend in and not becoming a loner. It proves you’ve gained a common understanding about a topic. You understand it’s lingo. You know the basics. It doesn’t prove experience, though, let alone expertise. In other words, it teaches you what other people are already doing. It spreads an established way of working that doesn’t differentiate yourself from others. Since your teacher already masters the topic, it doesn’t get you ahead of the curve.
It’s not a bad thing, yet I know from experience you can learn so much more by actually being the teacher. Being able to explain it and help others to understand it will help you to really get on top of it. That’s what you should definitely consider for your core area of expertise. And just like writers should keep reading, teachers should keep learning.
As a developer, and even more so if you’re becoming a full stack developer, you’ll often feel burdened by a lot of work that doesn’t really add value. It’s not only about following standards and guidelines, proper test procedures, documentation and what have you, it is also about configuring, sizing and tuning your products, analyzing errors, and connecting to streams and services that you interact with. And the more you have to care about, the more effort is involved in simply keeping everything up to date. It’s a real drag.
Here’s the golden tip. Invest in an outer architecture that takes away these burdens. Embrace middleware, frameworks, tooling that enhances your productivity. Use industry standards when possible. It’s easier than you might think. There’s lot’s around for you to simply adopt. So, be strategic. Do what others are doing. Cloud providers, for instance. And with integration in mind, Connext Platform would be an excellent choice. It’s perhaps the richest outer architecture you can find. It’s always up to date, and it’s always improving. It also means not doing things that others are doing already.
Less is more
The corresponding don’t is about doing things yourself that are outside your core area of interest. Don’t set out to build your own frameworks, let alone languages (however challenging this might be). Don’t develop your own on-prem cloud with your own selection of tools. Please do not even think of trying to build your own API Gateway on top of your own encryption protocol, there are tried and battle-tested products around which you can chose from to simply extend.
Connext Platform will actually help you keeping ahead of the curve. We’re continuously investing in enhancing Connext Platform to enable further performance enhancements. With Connext Platform, you enter a community of high-performance developers who know their frameworks, know their tooling and know the vital importance of your outer architecture and how to make best use of it. It’s a push rather than a drag. In fact, we think of it as the best kind of steroids a developer can wish for. And perfectly legal too.
Performing 10x better by doing less, that’s the magic.
Developers wake up!
Performing at 10x is just the start. If you’re ready for it, you can gain at least another order of magnitude if you take charge of your team. Imagine if you can help them all become 10x developers. Igniting a surge in developer productivity and happiness at the same time. If you take away the burdens that drag them back, you’ll be amazed on the appreciation you’ll receive. You can become the role model others take inspiration from. The standard you set can become the norm. 10x goes viral. And you’re leading the way.
This comes with a warning. You’ve probably heard this one before. But it is an important one. It says: Please, don’t lose touch with your practice. In my experience, and I’m far from alone here, practicing leaders are the most effective of all. They have the clout to make at least ten people ten times more effective. That makes 10x 10x in job performance. The performance level Netflix pursues. But once they neglect their core area of interest, their magic quickly fades.
You can indeed survive on muscle mass you’ve built in the past for some length of time. However, it will quickly degrade once you stop practicing. You risk ending up as a disposable resource after all. Here’s how to avoid this. Keep your contributions to your core network going. Blog. Publish. Talk. It will help you stay relevant, and keep growing. And, who knows, perhaps mr. Hastings will be lucky enough to hire you one day.
Learn how the developers of brainbay are performing with Connext Platform.