Nate Meyvis

A note on 10x engineering

A note on 10x engineering

Taylor argues that, whereas "10x engineers may be mythical, -10x engineers exist." The form of argument is: it's pretty easy to waste ten engineers' worth of time and effort. He gives a long list of ways to do this.

It's a good argument, and it shows more than Taylor makes explicit. If he's right that there are so many dimensions of impact along which engineers can be much better and worse than each other, then I think you have to believe one of two things:

  1. Most or all of these dimensions have unbounded downside but fairly low ceilings, or
  2. The best engineers really are vastly better than average ones, because they can be better along many high-impact axes--or at least a few.

Moreover, Taylor barely discusses system design and architecture, and then only to discuss the costs of truly bad and sloppy planning. I'd also emphasize that the difference between mediocre and good system design is very large.

So: I don't know how sincere Taylor was when he said that 10x engineers are mythical, but it's very hard both to accept his argument for the existence of -10x engineers and to deny that 10x engineers exist.

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Published 2023-04-01.