The 10X Programmer

Is there such a thing as a 10x programmer? It’s an interesting idea, and one that is discussed from a few perspectives in this Q&A. There’s some talk about how to define “x” as well as the idea that the environment and project might make a big difference in productivity. Certainly the baseline of the staff measured makes a difference. If most of your programmers aren’t very productive, then a more talented developer might easily outperform the average by a factor of 10. Depending on how you measure productivity.

I wonder, though, is there a 10x DBA or database developer? What would that look like? If we examined the effectiveness of a DBA managing systems, I have seen DBAs that managed 10x the absolute number of databases and instances. Working inefficiently, connecting the individual systems to apply updates or check statuses could easily make you ten times less efficient then the DBA making use of scripting and the ability to apply changes across many systems, not to mention managing them for issues.

In terms of database development, if we have some programmers that can produce code using 10x less resources than others, I’d consider that a 10x programmer. Given the state of questions I see asked on SQLServerCentral and other sites, it definitely seems that there are plenty of developers being paid to produce poorly written T-SQL code. We don’t have great definitions of how we can measure productivity, but there is plenty of code posted that can be dramatically optimized. It’s the rare week that I don’t see someone noting they’ve reduced the runtime of some code from hours to minutes. Isn’t that 10x more productive?

Ultimately one of the amazing things about software is that we aren’t bound to a particular structure once it’s created and used. We can quickly, and easily, change the way the code is built so that it works differently, does more, runs efficiently, or really anything we want. Of course, testing that the code produces the desired effects and deploying that to different environments in a way that minimally impacts clients is a challenge, but a challenge many in our industry work on constantly, seeking improvement.

I think there are definitely 10x programmers, but that really depends on your situation and how you utilize the people working for you.

Steve Jones

The Voice of the DBA Podcast

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About way0utwest

Editor, SQLServerCentral
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2 Responses to The 10X Programmer

  1. This also depends heavily on how you define “Productive”. We have this talk in some of our classes. When one of us comes home from a FT job and says, “Man, I must have set up 8 new users on all the production boxes today. And I spent the afternoon troubleshooting replication.” The other one of us says, “Oh, so not a very productive day?”
    “Nope. Just buys.”


    • way0utwest says:

      Certainly productivity is subjective. I think the 10x thing is in relation to an individual environment. Can you hire someone that is 10x the productivity of someone else, if not the average.


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