Discussion on: Have you ever worked with an engineer who never leveled up?

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Peter Ellis

To be honest, I don't really like the terminology, as it implies some kind of gamification which work shouldn't really be in my opinion. But that's probably for another discussion. :)

But of course I know the phenomenon and I've seen it happen in many different ways.

I worked with people who were simply not cut out to be a developer. They hated every second of the job and were really difficult to work with. I always wondered why they were doing it in the first place.

Then there were those who reached the end of their abilities. Maybe not the absolute end, just a point where it took tremendous effort to learn more stuff. They were much easier to work with but you had to account for extra time to explain problems and be aware of their limits. The main problem here was when management weren't aware of this and lumped everyone in their charts as 1 developer-month.

The third category were the 9-to-5 developers. They came surprisingly often with maths PhDs and were undeniably clever but they had no motivation to do anything beyond the bare minimum. At first I found this irritating but once I got used to it, they were one of the best co-workers to have around: they were very reliable in their output and fun company.

And I'd add a tentative fourth subgroup too: those who at some point realised their calling was elsewhere. They'd go on to become middle management or project managers, architects or something even less technical. My experience in dealing with them post-transfer is that they were generally competent in their new jobs and their ability to switch perspective to see the dev team's view served them very well.

All in all, I think it's perfectly fine for people to approach their work however they want so long as they deliver what is expected of them. Whether it's financially worth it for a company is another matter but I'm not the guy making THOSE decisions.

I would however gently ask people in group 1 to try to find a more fulfilling job, for their own sake really.