Software engineering moves fast. The tech industry moves just as quickly. As a result, engineers worldwide are continually tasked with refining old and developing new skills. Despite the fact that this call to action takes place worldwide, it is not universal.
A common issue among software engineers is the phenomenon of 1×10 years of experience; gaining 1 year of experience 10 times. When a workplace environment’s demands of an engineer fail to match the level of the demands of the industry as a whole, the engineer falls behind. This can happen even when the engineer is continually improving.
Engineers experience 1×10 when they fall behind their industry. Oftentimes they find themselves looking for a similar position at a new company and discover that they perform very poorly in the interview. Feedback along the lines of, “We expected you to know more, given you have 10 years of experience,” is common.
This phenomenon is particularly noticeable at small companies; especially non-software-focused companies. An engineer might comprise an entire team by themselves. While they may need to go out and solve new problems every day that teach them something new, the lack of mentorship and lack of focus on software becomes noticeable, and they don’t benefit from the collective momentum that bigger companies provide.
Large tech companies, such as Google and Facebook, iterate quickly, and have teams of talented engineers continually improving each other every day. While larger companies may have flaws that are unique to themselves and inherent in the nature of being large, these companies design their culture specifically to prevent 1×10 from occurring. These companies assign mentors to junior engineers to ensure that the juniors keep learning and eventually come to mentor engineers themselves.
But why does this matter? If an engineer is successful at their job, does it matter if they keep up with the rapid developments of the software industry and tech as a whole? If someone wants to be the best engineer they can be, they don’t want something as trivial as workplace opportunities limiting them. That’s why engineers who are motivated towards being the best they can be gravitate towards the titans of industry, and why small companies have trouble attracting the most talented engineers. There are exceptions of course, but the fear of 1×10 is too powerful for many developers to overlook.