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Katie Paxson

When interviewing candidates for a VP of Engineering role, have you ever asked the question: “What’s the most difficult professional challenge you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?”

10 out of 10 times, the answer you’ll get is about a management challenge or personnel issue. There’s the productive developer who isn’t a team player. The principal who wants to grow, but doesn’t want to become a manager. The team that’s doubled or tripled in size overnight, but doesn’t have a standard onboarding process or way to effortlessly share and store knowledge.

It’s clear there’s more than just code that goes into software development and being a technical leader, but if that’s the case, why don’t more hiring assessments reflect that? Where’s the curriculum for becoming a developer that showcases the importance of both technical knowledge and people or “soft” skills?

There’s an age-old debate about the merits of being a 10x programmer, the type of developer who is 10 times more productive than his or her peers. More and more leaders are beginning to adopt and champion the new standard that a 10x developer isn’t about an individual’s productivity, but rather their ability to make 10 people around them better.

According to an ICIMS study, nearly 1 in 5 of recruiters for IT jobs think soft skills are more important than hard skills. Soft skills recruiters are looking for attributes like:

  • Problem-solving
  • Adaptability
  • Time Management
  • Organization
  • Oral Communication

Coincidentally, technical leaders want problem-solving skills too.

HackerRank’s 2018 Developer Skills Report interviewed over 39,000 developers and identified problem-solving skills — almost unanimously — as the most important qualification that employers look for, more than programming languages proficiency, debugging, and system design.

You don’t have to write perfectly architected code to multiply the impact you have on your team, company and code base by a factor of 10.

Alex Ross, VP of Product Strategy at Billtrust, a SaaS leader in integrated receivables, believes what makes a great developer is “attitude”. “It’s the ability to work on a new project with an open mind and look for solutions. From there, it’s the ability to adapt to new ways of solving problems – helping your team along the way.”

A 10x developer is the person on your team who thinks through solutions that no one else does, not just the person who writes the most lines of code. 10x developers start with why and understand the problem or market challenge inside and out.

When Alex interviews a developer, he’s always looking for one important attribute: “I look for a problem solver. Somebody who is looking to solve the current problem as well as looking to the future. A resume speaks for itself, but I want to work with a person that can communicate, collaborate, and is able to be positive.”

Camille Fournier, author of The Manager’s Path: A Guide for Tech Leaders Navigating Growth and Change, believes: “Software development is a team sport in most companies, and teams have to communicate effectively to get anything done.”

It’s time to think differently about who may be the 10x unicorn on your team. Look well beyond your codebase and identify the problem solver and team player who’s going to help make your whole team more collaborative and efficient.

Stay tuned for the next in Andela’s 10x Series…

Need to hire top developers? Reach out and let’s help you scale your team. Also, we are always hiring senior developers looking to advance their careers.

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About the Author

Katie Paxson

Growth + DevRel @Andela // @Cornell alum // fuelled by running, dogs, coffee, & puzzles.

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