Have you heard the myth of the 10x engineer?
The 10x engineer myth claims that engineers are “10x more effective than others.” These unicorn-status engineers are often typecast “brilliant jerks” who ignore meetings to rewrite entire systems in a few days or leave their teams out to dry.
The myth has become somewhat of a joke these days, but there remains some residue about this idea that to get ahead, you have to put yourself first. You are supposed to avoid humility and opt for a winner-takes-all approach.
And yet, many fantastic engineering leaders are humble. I think of people Scott Hanselman, Kelsey Hightower, or Kent C Dodds. People who have shaped our industry significantly through their accomplishments but are quick to take a humble stance, give credit to others, and adopt a posture of learning.
Why is there a disconnect here?
The reason is that we misunderstand (or potentially misapply) humility in our industry.
Being humble is not about a lack of advocacy for yourself or passing up credit for your accomplishments. Being humble doesn’t mean you’re a doormat, either.
Instead, humility is a posture. It’s about how you achieve your work, interact with your peers, and how you communicate your accomplishments.
Today, I want to make a case for why humility as an engineer is more beneficial than you think.
Let’s dive into a few ways in which humility instead of ego can help move your career forward rather than hinder it.
Talking about humility in a post is always a bit awkward. I’ll be upfront that while I aim to be like the engineer described below, in many ways, I’m still learning to adopt these behaviors, too.
Humble Engineers Embrace Learning
Humble engineers understand that there is always more to learn. They fully understand that there is too much in our industry to be an expert in everything. They are careful to avoid making claims on topics they know little about.
This posture allows humble engineers to avoid the pitfalls of ego in their work, ever searching for a better solution, a new perspective, and something else to learn. It…