Survey: Getting to 10x — What do the Best Developers Have in Common?

Rock Climber — Harsh1.0 (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

A preponderance of research suggests that there is an order of magnitude difference in productivity between developers. To quote Steve McConnell (author, “Code Complete”):

The general finding that “There are order-of-magnitude differences among programmers” has been confirmed by many other studies of professional programmers (Curtis 1981, Mills 1983, DeMarco and Lister 1985, Curtis et al. 1986, Card 1987, Boehm and Papaccio 1988, Valett and McGarry 1989, Boehm et al 2000).

Likewise, there are similarly large differences between the performances of different teams — and on teams that practice code review and encourage mentorship, one great developer can lift the whole team’s productivity.

Knowing the huge range in productivity between different developers, the next question in my mind is, can we all learn from the best, and improve our own performance, and if so, how?

Measuring Developer Productivity

In my opinion, there is only 1 valid measure of developer productivity: Peer assessment.

Tracking the number of story points a developer contributes is ridiculously flawed for lots of reasons. Developer productivity isn’t about how much code they write, or how many tickets they close — it’s also about solving the right problems, improving dev team process, and helping the rest of the team stay on track, writing more maintainable code, and a thousand other things.

The best developers are often the ones closing the fewest tickets and delivering the fewest story points, and possibly the fewest lines of code — but maybe the code they do deliver saves the rest of the team from solving the same problems over and over again in a bunch of different ways.

At the end of the day, most software is a team effort, and if you want to know who the best players on the team are, you should probably start by asking the team.

We’re asking the team: You.

What do Great Developers Have in Common?

What it is that the best developers have in common? Are they traits that the rest of us can emulate?

To find out, we’re conducting a survey.

It should only take a few minutes to complete, and the results could help us shed some light on what it takes to be a 10x developer.

Click through, select your answers, and click done.

That’s it!

Next Steps

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Eric Elliott is the author of “Programming JavaScript Applications” (O’Reilly), and “Learn JavaScript with Eric Elliott”. He has contributed to software experiences for Adobe Systems, Zumba Fitness, The Wall Street Journal, ESPN, BBC, and top recording artists including Usher, Frank Ocean, Metallica, and many more.

He spends most of his time in the San Francisco Bay Area with the most beautiful woman in the world.