Blog about software development


The rock star programmer problem

29 Jan 2023 - by 'Maurits van der Schee'

Do you have a colleague that you look up to? That knows everything about the topic you would love to know more about? That always has an answer to any question you ask? Still you are not learning from this person, because this person is sitting on knowledge. Likes to do things alone. Never documents properly and is too busy to explain things, but complains about lack of help. Do you recognize this? It is the narcissistic programmer a.k.a. the rock-star programmer.

Most people say it is the person to go to for difficult problems. Unfortunately not for the right reasons, but it is true. This is not a 10x programmer. This is not a positive trait. This person is of not much use to a software team. Actually this person may be bringing negative value and you might be better off without. This person undermines team spirit and team responsibility. But it takes courage to acknowledge this (and act on it).

Can this person change or improve? Yes, but it requires retrospection and courage to acknowledge your own shortcomings. It requires a strong character and not dwelling in a misplaced feeling of importance. Yes, the company should let this person go. It will be a though decision, but it is the right thing. Even for the person it will be better.

It must be done. Steer for change and positive team behavior. It won't be easy. Managers tend to rely only on technical knowledge (no matter how it is achieved or protected). We all need to ask for this to stop. We must put an end on the abuse. The negativity that makes us feel worthless and misunderstood. Only a collective action in acknowledging this misbehavior can have a positive outcome.

Bottom line is that programmer productivity can be measured by two things: A) how effective somebody can implement code B) how effective somebody can collaborate. Unless you are building, maintaining and supporting the software on your own, you need to be adequate in both areas. If you are not than you are not productive or even counter productive.

Don't feel insecure of a lack of knowledge that you can't acquire. Keep trying as hard as you can, but at the same time work to weed out the people that feed their self-esteem with knowledge that they don't share. The great people are the ones that take pride in letting their colleagues grow.

Happy coding!

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