How You Can Become a 1,000,000,000x Engineer

Why stop at 10? Here’s how a 1x engineer can improve by 99,999,999,900%

Daniel Colin James
Jul 22 · 5 min read

You might have heard about the rare “10x engineer” recently. But you probably haven’t heard of the even rarer 1,000,000,000x engineer (or 1Bx engineer for short).

Sometimes referred to as “unicorngineers,” this type of engineer will significantly increase a company’s odds of achieving implosive growth and unicorn status.

Here are some steps you need to take if you want to 1Bx your productivity as an engineer and become one.

1. Set your desktop wallpaper to pure blackness.

The best way to start your journey toward becoming a 1Bx engineer is by creating a daily reminder of your newfound focus on improving your output by 1Bx. You don’t need the distraction of a beautiful landscape with mountains to create great code. Delete it. Set your wallpaper to pure blackness and remove all icons.

2. Learn the shortcuts. Get rid of GUIs.

A 1Bx engineer finds the most efficient way to perform every action. If you want to join the three comma club, you need to optimize your workflows to remove all unnecessary graphical user interfaces. Create performant code through the command line, and forget about everything else.

A 1Bx engineer doesn’t need to search the internet for answers—they just need to search their mind. A 1Bx engineer doesn’t need an IDE—they can execute 25 actions flawlessly through the command line in the time it would take a regular 1x engineer to execute 1 action poorly with a GUI.

Almost every application on your computer is a barrier between you and a well-oiled, performant codebase that can reach billions of users. A 1Bx engineer’s computer looks like the sleek and incomprehensible control panel of an alien spaceship to a lesser engineer.

3. Remove all symbols from your keyboard.

One of the most telling signs of a 1Bx engineer is that their keyboard is completely devoid of symbols. Painted letters, numbers, and symbols on keyboards are the GUI of hardware. You don’t need them.

4. Throw out your mouse and disable your trackpad.

Another classic sign that you’re dealing with a 1Bx engineer is the lack of a mouse or a pointing device at their workstation. This rare breed of engineer sees mice and trackpads as unnecessary and inefficient toys designed to tempt their productive fingers away from the home row of the keyboard.

5. Don’t find the best solution. Find the most scalable solution.

1Bx engineers aren’t afraid to significantly increase the complexity of a codebase if it means the code will be 0.01% more efficient. Complex code that looks like spaghetti to anyone but a 1Bx engineer is their native language and they speak it fluently and navigate its complexity with ease.

While the designers and marketers are worrying about acquiring the first user, a 1Bx engineer is worrying about how smoothly the product will perform for the billionth user.

6. Relentlessly optimize your time.

Time spent away from the keyboard is time wasted. 1Bx engineers optimize their time for minimal distractions, and typically only come into the office when it will be minimally busy.

Seconds spent at the watercooler chatting about the weather are better spent improving the runtime of crucial algorithms and removing inefficiencies from the codebase.

Your team might try to keep you in the office at certain times or drag you to unnecessary meetings to “get everyone on the same page.” Don’t let them. Your page is a billion times better than theirs, and your time is worth a billion times more than anyone else’s.

7. Get in the 1Bx mindset.

Optimize your brain for delivering perfect code. Think through the problem deeply before writing out the code. Once you’re good enough at thinking through the code, you can type it out as you think it.

A 1Bx engineer is fluent in code and can code a solution at the same speed they can think of it. A 1Bx engineer is incapable of thinking in anything but code, and will probably be difficult to understand or talk to.

No documentation. No whiteboards. No breaks. No stopping. A 1Bx engineer’s brain and the code are one.

8. Don’t ask for help.

Every time you look at documentation or ask for help, you’re training your brain to rely on 1x engineers to help you. In order to become a 1Bx engineer, you need to rise above the need for help. Expand your mind to solve problems without reliance on others.

The teammates of a 1Bx engineer are their worst enemy, because they’re just going to slow them down. 1Bx engineers work 1Bx harder than 1x engineers, but they are also 1Bx harder to work with.

When you get stuck, simply refuse to accept that you are stuck. A 1Bx engineer doesn’t get stuck. They know the best way to solve the biggest problems and they solve them.

9. Don’t help others.

Mentoring is just a fancy name for “pretending you can’t do it better,” and any time spent not doing it better is a waste of the company’s resources.

A 1Bx engineer isn’t going to waste precious keystrokes typing obvious answers to frivolous questions sent over Slack or email. Every keystroke executed by a 1Bx engineer is optimized to improve not just the codebase, but the world.

10. Stop wasting time with unimportant things.

1Bx engineers don’t waste time smelling nice and keeping their hair pretty. They’re using that time to learn new frameworks and tools. In the time it takes a 1x engineer to fashionably style their hair and make sure they smell nice, a 1Bx engineer has already put kubernetes droplets on the blockchain.

If you master all of these steps, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a 1Bx engineer. Next week, I’ll tell you how to become a 1Tx engineer, but I’ll warn you right now, it’ll require a blindfold, a shock collar, and a lot of caffeine pills.

In case it isn’t obvious, this article is satire. I personally think the idea of a “10x engineer” is ridiculous and toxic, especially as described by some…

The 10x engineer discussion blew up on Twitter recently, and I thought “Why stop at 10?”

I won’t link to the original thread that made the topic explode recently, but if you search “10x engineer” on Twitter, you’ll find it.

Thank you for reading!

Forward Tick

The future happens one second at a time. We’re looking forward and reporting back.

Daniel Colin James

Written by

Editor in Chief of Forward Tick. Creator of Software Engineer & Writer. Obsessed with the future and endlessly curious. 🌐

Forward Tick

The future happens one second at a time. We’re looking forward and reporting back.

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