10x engineers is a Silicon Valley term used to describe engineers that are ten times more productive than average. They can be from any of the usual IT categories; programmers, network engineers, sysadmins, etc. They are also sometimes called “rockstar”, “ninja”, “wizard”, “guru”, or “Brent”. The last name comes from a book called The Phoenix Project written by Gene Kim, George Spafford, and Kevin Behr which is a great read and I highly recommend, especially considering the sequel is due this fall.
Brent’s MO in The Phoenix Project is that he knew everything about everything. Everyone sought him out to get help and he always happily obliged. Being the most helpful person added tremendously to Brent’s workload and started slowing him down. Eventually he was a major bottleneck for both the Pheonix Project and day to day operations.
The other techs complained that Brent couldn’t explain what he was doing or create useful documentation or pass on his knowledge. A bigger underlying issue is the variety of skill levels: some are excellent teachers, others not so much. Brent might have been a poor teacher but he never had the time to consider teaching, documenting, or explaining because he was busy with work.
The Brents of the world get into this position because they aren’t afraid to take on new things and are happy to help. They are willing to go the necessary distance to get the problem solved. Normally this means quickly learning new subjects.
Fundamentally fixing Brent types means controlling how much work they take on. I bet you can name the Brent of your organization - just look for your problem solver. We need more Brents but how?
Be curious, always learning, and trying new things. Spend time outside your comfort zone.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes; someone who has never made a mistake is someone who has never done anything.
It’s fine to not know the answer, what’s important is being able to find the answer.
No matter what, just try.
Be skeptical of what you think you know.
Do these things and you can become Brent. More Brents equals fewer bottlenecks and far less individual stress. And that’s something we all benefit from.