What is a 10X Engineer? The Truth You Need to Know!

What is a 10x engineer? Picture an engineer who generates a staggering ten times more value than the average engineer in the same field.

But, hold up! These 10x engineers aren’t doing ten times the work. They may only do a tenth of the work of an average engineer, but they manage to create a mind-blowing ten times the value! That’s the golden nugget you need to remember!

Now, I know there’s plenty of debate about what even qualifies someone as a 10x engineer. Plus, there’s a whole crowd that believes the entire 10x engineer concept is bullshit. They argue it’s a colossal myth cooked up by the elite to mold engineers into a specific working mold.

So where do I stand in this whirlwind of opinions?

I wholeheartedly believe 10x engineers are the real deal, no doubt about it. Heck, I’m even convinced 1000x engineers exist! These are the cream of the crop, the engineers who drive innovation and make things happen like it’s no big deal!

Just to clarify, a 10x engineer isn’t a superior human being compared to an average engineer. And a 10x engineer isn’t necessarily some arrogant know-it-all either. Rather, 10x engineers are just incredibly gifted. They spot solutions where others only see roadblocks.

So, buckle up, and let’s dive deeper into the fascinating world of 10x engineers!

What is a 10x engineer?

10x engineer versus average engineers

As I mentioned earlier, 10x engineers pack the punch of 10 average engineers combined. But, what’s even more impressive is their extraordinary cognitive prowess that leaves an average engineer in the dust.

Arthur Schopenhauer’s quote perfectly encapsulates this remarkable ability:

“Talent hits a target no one else can hit; genius hits a target no one else can see.”

To kick things off, let’s first paint a picture of an average engineer 20 years out of school. Here are some common traits I’ve stitched together after being around countless engineers:

  • Grasps the basic concepts of their engineering trade, but doesn’t quite master the intricate details.
  • Boasts a solid background in math, but can’t handle twisted unconventional math problems.
  • Produces excellent work, as long as it resembles projects their office has already tackled.
  • Clocks in at 8 and checks out at 5 every day, never spending an extra minute at the office.
  • Doesn’t bother to expand their learning beyond the workplace.

Now, most people can slog through college and become engineers. But that doesn’t necessarily make you a top-notch engineer, let alone a 10x engineer.

Take basketball, for example. You could become a pretty impressive high school player if you start training at, say, age 5. But that doesn’t guarantee you’ll play college basketball, and the NBA would be a distant dream.

Meanwhile, someone who starts playing basketball at 16 could end up on an NBA roster. It’s like a brilliant high school dropout outperforming engineers with PhDs. Some people just have that elusive “it” factor.

Bottom line, there are levels to everything in life, and the engineering profession is no exception. Some engineers are like the Michael Jordan of their field, while others struggle to make even a 2-foot shot.

A 10x engineer’s ability to solve a challenging problem

Imagine a complex problem that demands some seriously out-of-the-box thinking. You could lock 10 average engineers in a room for all eternity, and they might never crack it.

Worse still, they could concoct a shoddy solution that ends up causing more problems than it solves.

But a 10x engineer? They’ll come up with a brilliant solution in a heartbeat! Then, they’ll hand it off to the average engineers to execute.

With a clear roadmap to a solution, design implementation becomes a breeze. 10x engineers craft exceptional game plans for average engineers, because let’s face it, not every engineer can experience those groundbreaking eureka moments.

While it might sound harsh, talent and abilities are not distributed equally. And guess what? That’s perfectly okay. Each person shines in their own unique area of expertise.

My experience with a 10x engineer

10x engineer solving the impossible

I once had the privilege of working with someone who many would call a 10x engineer. This guy oozed brilliance effortlessly as if it were second nature.

Boasting a photographic memory, he’d instantly answer any question thrown at him, always providing a profound explanation of the “why.”

What truly fascinated me, though, were his problem-solving abilities. Whenever a new challenge arose, he’d fall silent, shut his eyes, and tilt his head back.

I could practically feel the gears turning in his mind as he created a mental image of the problem, meticulously piecing everything together. Then, in no time, he’d grab a piece of paper and start sketching with laser-like focus. It was a sight to behold.

Initially, the sketch seemed like a jumble of lines and numbers, but soon enough, he’d hand it over with the solution clearly outlined.

Driven by curiosity, I asked him about his problem-solving process. He modestly explained that he visualized entire problems down to the tiniest detail in his mind, equations and all. Every variable in the equation would stare back at him, vivid and clear.

In his mind, he’d assign a value to a variable and observe its effect on the others. The 3D visualization of the problem would then morph and change accordingly. What amazed me even more was how he incorporated all engineering disciplines into his visualizations, not just electrical – the field in which he held a degree.

Observing the 10x engineer outperforming average engineers

We were tasked with reviewing a design for a colossal power project in the Bay Area, which was anything but simple. Understandably, the project progressed at a snail’s pace, given the hundreds of millions of dollars at stake. Plus, a bad design could be a disaster waiting to happen, putting lives at risk.

Several engineering firms had already tried to tackle this problem, and city engineers had spent countless hours reviewing the proposed solutions. Despite more than seven years of redesign efforts, no solution had gained unanimous approval. But now, it was our turn to take the reins.

I remember going to a bunch of meetings where at least 20 engineers were present. Who knows how many had been in the mix before we joined the party? I’ll never forget our first meeting when our 10x engineer said with a confident grin,

“I think I know what’s wrong with their solutions. It’s a tough nut to crack, but I’ve got it.”

My jaw dropped, but I knew he wasn’t bluffing.

Over the next couple of weeks, he mulled over the problem, letting all the information simmer in his mind. Soon, he had sketched out a completely new solution and prepared a thorough 30-page document explaining every detail. He presented his idea to the city engineers and the other consulting engineers.

It took a bit of sweet-talking to get everyone on board, partly because he had to point out why the original designs were doomed to fail. Honestly, it took longer than it should have, mostly because of bruised egos. No one wanted to admit their designs were duds, and I couldn’t blame them. They’d poured years of sweat and tears into their work, and now it was all just scrap paper. But, as the saying goes, you can’t argue with the facts.

After much deliberation, everyone finally agreed with the 10x engineer. In the process, he averted a disastrous design failure. In this case alone, I’d say this 10x engineer was more like a 1000x engineer. He quickly fixed a design that had left over a hundred engineers scratching their heads for years, coming up with a sleek, budget-friendly, and workable solution—a solution that might never have seen the light of day without him.

“What is a 10x engineer?” wrap up

Now, you might wanna argue that 10x engineers are just a myth. But that tells me a couple of things.

First, you haven’t been around enough engineers to witness the range of abilities. Second, you’ve never crossed paths with a mind-blowing, next-level engineer.

10x engineers pull off feats that almost no one else can. It’s all about working smarter, not harder. Picture 20,000 of the toughest guys hauling blocks to build the Great Pyramid of Giza. I’d bet my bottom dollar that without a few genius engineers, the Great Pyramid would’ve never come to be.

To wrap it up, we need both everyday engineers and 10x engineers in this world. But without 10x engineers, innovation would hit a brick wall, and tricky problems would stay unsolved. And I’m dead sure about that.

As a parting thought, remember that with the right training, you can level up your skills. Maybe you won’t morph into a 10x engineer, but you can definitely jump from a 1x engineer to a 2x engineer.

How do you define a 10x engineer? What are your thoughts on 10x engineers, and do you believe they exist?


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