The 10X Engineer

In software engineering, and Silicon Valley culture, there are mythical figures, known as the 10X (Ten-ex) Engineers. Basically, it’s engineers that produce ten times the amount of working code as other engineers. The thing is, that kind of next-level efficiency compared to colleagues can only comes from working smarter, there isn’t 80 hours in a day after all.

This type of great performance isn’t limited to software engineering. In any branch of engineering, or even other creative endeavors, the right person with experience and a knack for a certain type of thinking can often solve problems in a fraction of the time taken by the less experienced.

The unfortunate problem is that most projects all contain many different aspects, so much so, that it’s likely that some part of it will be inefficient, even if a 10X engineer is on it. So what is a 10X engineer to do to keep their reputation?

Network.

For every struggle in your purview, there is someone who can solve it 10 times faster. When I was a consultant, people would call me with structural analysis problems they had been struggling with for hours, even days, and often they would be back on track in 15 minutes. It’s not possible to have that kind of efficiency with every topic, so to be an effective engineer, it’s necessary to go beyond technical ability and build a network.

The world is a big place, there is endless knowledge about manufacturing, software, physics, mathematics, etc. While it is possible to be a 10X engineer in a shallow base of knowledge, it isn’t possible to be a 10X engineer in a broad one.  An example would be, it’s possible to be a 10X engineer in software, however, it’s not possible to be a 10X engineer in building a space shuttle, though, it’s not like there is one guy doing that alone anyway, but the point is individuals are often tasked with scopes beyond their core knowledge base. When approaching those pieces outside the core competencies, that’s when having a network is the key to maintaining efficiency through this. Whether it’s people to bounce ideas off, or to get some consulting work done.

The trick is building the network before needing it, that way when the project crosses your desk, the people who need to be contacted are clearly in mind.

Building a network is like planting a tree, the best time to do it was 10 years ago, the second best time is now.