I was visiting some of our museums in Berlin today where they have exhibitions about ancient Greece, ancient Rome and ancient Egyt. They have large impressive statues of Greek gods, goddesses, heroes and heroines. As you know a Greek hero like Perseus or Herakles is the offspring of a god and a human. The picture on the left from the Old Museum in Berlin shows a statue of Herakles.

10x engineers are sometimes worshipped like Greek heros, because they seem to have superpowers and can surmount insurmountable obstacles. They are allegedly 10x as productive as peers. Where do these superpowers come from? For the Ruby developer they come from the power and simplicity of Ruby, but also from the countless Ruby gems, libraries and frameworks the open source community has written. There is a gem for file attachments, another for pagination, one for testing, etc. For the Python engineer the superpowers come from Python packages like Pandas and NumPy, or engines like Spark. For the JS developer they come from NodeJS packages like Lodash or Karma.

In other words the 10x engineer is able to do the work of 100 engineers because hundreds of engineers offer their code for use. He can use their collective work by including their gems, packages and libraries. The superpowers come from the community of open source developers. Thus the 10x engineer is an engineer who is able to summon the power of a larger group. The product is the offspring of a large group of open source developers and the individual which bundles and combines their efforts.

Is a hero therefore simply a human who has the power of a larger group? If we praise 10x engineers for their success, are we giving enough credit to those behind the scenes who made it possible? As I tried to say before, if you have illusions of grandeur and think you have accomplished so much more than others, it is most likely because you are standing on the shoulders of many others.