Category: productivity

Achieve Peak Performance: AI Tools for Developers to Unlock Their Potential

Achieve Peak Performance: AI Tools for Developers to Unlock Their Potential

You were scrolling through Twitter or your favourite SubReditt on the latest tech trend and a sudden feeling of FOMO creeps in. You’re not alone.

While the notion of a “10x developer” has traditionally been considered aspirational, the emergence of AI-powered tools is levelling the playing field, empowering developers to achieve remarkable productivity gains. While there might be 1000s of possible “AI tools”, I’ll restrict to tools which could yield a direct productivity boost to a developer’s day-to-day work as well as the outcome.

1. AI Pair-Developer / Code Assistants

Sourcegraph Cody & Github Copilot — Read, write and understand code

If you have used GitHub Copilot. Think of a Cody as a Turbocharger for Copilot. If you have not used Copilot, you should first try it. Either of these can understand your entire codebase, code graphs, and documentation and help you write efficient code, write unit tests, and document the codebase for you.

While the claim of a 10x speed increase is not substantiated, it shows clear intent to improve productivity drastically. However, it’s in beta, and the tool acknowledges that it’s not always correct, though they’re making rapid improvements. Yes, GitHub Copilot X is there — but then, your organisation needs to be on the Enterprise plan or you might have to add an additional $10-20 per user per month, and Cody is already here.

2. AI Code reviews – Offload the often mundane task of code reviews

While CodeRabbit and DeepCode (now acquired by Snyk) are some of the trailblazers in this space, I have not had the opportunity to work with either of them for any stretch of time. If you know about their relative strengths or benefits, please add a comment, and I will incorporate it.
The tool I use most regularly is called Robin-AI-Reviewer, from the good folks at Integral Healthcare (funded by Haystack). My reasoning is two-fold, It is open-source and if it is good enough for HIPPA-compliant app development and certification assessment, it’s a good starting point.

3. AI Test writing – Delegate the task of writing tests to AI- CodiumAI

CodiumAI serves as an AI test-writing assistant. It analyses your code, docstrings, and comments to suggest tests intelligently. CodiumAI addresses a critical aspect of software development that often consumes valuable time: testing. While numerous tools prioritize code writing and optimization, ensuring code functionality is equally vital. CodiumAI seamlessly fills this gap, and its intelligent test generation capability can substantially enhance development efficiency and maintain superior code quality.

4. AI Documentation Assistant — Get AI to write docs for you

This is a no-brainer, who loves writing code walkthroughs and docs? No? Didn’t think so! Mintlify serves as your team’s technical writer. It reads and interprets your code, turning it into a clear, readable document. By all accounts, it is a definite must.

Disclaimer: I have not personally used this and have been mostly able to get this done with Cody, itself. And then, I am no longer doing the primary documentation as my main responsibility.

5. AI Comment Assistant – Readable AI — Never write comments again

Readable AI automates the process of generating comments for your source code. It’s compatible with several popular IDEs, like VSCode, Visual Studio, IntelliJ, and PyCharm, and it can read most languages.

6. AI Tech Debt Assistant – is an automated technical debt management tool. Its prime function is auto-generating pull requests that manage code migrations and dependency upgrades. Grit is in beta and available for free till beta moves to RC1. But it actually has about 50+ pattern libraries and it is growing.

I absolutely love it and Grit alleviates a significant portion of the manual work involved in managing migrations and dependency upgrades. They say it 10x’s the refactoring and migration process. I’d say at 33% of what they say, It will still be 300% of what productivity increases. And it is a considerable gain. If you’re an Engineering Leader and you have a “Budget” for 1 tool only, It should be this!

7. AI Pull Request Assistant – An “AI” powered DIff tool

What The Diff AI is an AI-powered code review tool. It writes pull request descriptions, scrutinises pull requests, identifies potential risks, and more. What The Diff claims to be able to significantly speed up development timelines and improve code quality in the long run. It could take a great deal of pain out of the process.

Disclaimer: I have not personally used this

8. AI-driven residential Wizard – Adrenaline AI — Explain it to me

Adrenaline AI helps you understand your codebase. The tool leverages static analysis, vector search, and advanced language models to clarify how features function and explain anything about it to you. The thing I like about this tool very much is, it can be leveraged to automate the “How tos” for your software engineering teams!

9. AI collaboration companion for software projects

Stepsize AI by Stepsize is an AI companion for software projects. It seamlessly integrates with tools like Slack, Jira, and GitHub, providing insightful overviews of your activities and offering strategic suggestions.

The tool uses a complex AI agent architecture, providing long-term “memory” and a deep understanding of the context of your projects.

10. AI-Driven Dev Metrics Collection –

While strictly speaking, not an AI-driven “assistant” to an average developer, I feel it is nevertheless a good tool for the Engineering org and Engineering leaders to keep track and make course corrections. It provides a Cockpit/Dashboard of all the metrics that matter.

Hivel is built by an awesome team of devs and led by Sudheer

If You Can Do Your Job From Home, Be Scared. Be Very Scared!

If You Can Do Your Job From Home, Be Scared. Be Very Scared!

Sometimes, It seems like most people have added “Remote Work” to a long list of taboo topics that no one should discuss at work. Topics like Religion, Politics, Sexual Orientation, Medical Issues, etc.

Most people know that remote work is a horrible idea for organisations of any size, but they are afraid to call it out because they don’t want to appear out of touch with their employees/colleagues. Others are afraid to be viewed as hostile figures who wish to create tension with employees or be perceived as a manager who doesn’t trust their employees.

So, employers stay silent, and now everyone thinks remote work is the best business idea of the last 200 years.

Most of these shenanigans use personal anecdotes to defend the benefit of remote work. They say they are more productive at home, with fewer distractions and more time for daily (personal) chores. I do not agree or disagree with that statement completely, as it could be dependent on specific roles.

When Remote Work Could be Beneficial:

If you are an individual contributor and mostly work without the need to collaborate in real time, you can be productive in remote work. For example, If you are a finance analyst who dives through ledgers, borough thru tonnes of CSVs and crunch numbers all day, you may be more productive in Home.

When Remote work could be less than Optimal

If you are a creative or knowledge worker (Designer/Developer), chances are you’d NEED to collaborate with, break down/delegate, get feedback etc. In these roles, it will be almost impossible to get a calendar from 6 different people to drive consensus. Whereas if all of your stakeholders are in the office, it is a mere “Shout” or “Wave” and 3 mins conversation following it.

Google has officially changed its mind about remote work

Google leadership publicly admitted that remote work no longer works for them, and that’s the reason they want all of their employees back behind their desks.

Last week, Fiona Cicconi, Google’s chief people officer, wrote an email to the entire company stating, “Going forward, we’ll consider new remote work requests by exception only.” This is horrible news for employees and some companies who believe that remote work is the greatest idea since the invention of the internet.

Let me declutter the above statement for you.

Google is the biggest tech company in the world that created 100s of resources and tools to enable employees to work remotely, admitting defeat.

Despite the release of many communications tools that enabled workers across the globe and all industries to work remotely, it is finally saying that remote work doesn’t work. Let that sink in. Google’s remote employees are unhappy, but Google’s leadership rarely pay attention to the feeling of their employees (after Larry left Alphabet inc). They only pay attention to the stock price and what is recommended at the shareholder’s meeting.

Google is not alone. Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon also laid off most remote employees.

Remote work destroyed the most profitable industry

As you have seen above, Google leadership is no longer willing to offer their employees 100% remote jobs. They want their employees in the office and productive.

You might ask, why is this happening?

It is happening because you witnessed the destruction of the Tech industry in the last two years. The tech industry crumbled because most Leaders were afraid to tell their remote employees to come to the office, so they did the next best thing: they lost money and laid remote employees off (mostly).

According to the Layoffs tracker, more than 200,000 people were laid off in 2023, and over 164,000 employees were laid off in 2022. This is a clear message to anyone who works in the tech industry, stop working remotely or start interviewing soon.

This is exactly what the most innovative CEO in the world did when he bought Twitter.

When Elon Musk bought Twitter, he found the company in tatters. Musk gave them the same two options he gave his Tesla employees, “If you do not return to the office, you cannot remain at the company. End of story.”

That was the end of the story for many of Twitter’s employees, Musk fired anyone who refused to show up at the office, and his company is more productive and innovative than ever.

Musk ended remote work at Twitter, and most people hated him.

Not every executive had the guts to do what Elon Musk did, but now most wish they did because every company needs to lay off their unproductive employees.

  1. Remote employees are less visible. When it comes to your value to your company, you have to be visible. If you think visibility is not important, ask Kayne West.
  2. Remote employees don’t have a strong connection to other employees or their companies. Relationships are extremely important. I established my professional credibility and earned my colleagues’ respect by connecting with them face-to-face, not through a computer screen.
  3. Remote employees are less invested in their work or career. Since most employer link visibility and ability together, I understand why more than 3000 HR managers believe that.

These reasons led Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, and Zoom to lay off their remote employees first. This is a horrible trend for people who want to work remotely, especially since most remote workers say it could take more than six months to find a new job

In conclusion, I’d like to recommend Richard Baldwin’s video

Is the myth of a “10X Developer” Real?

Is the myth of a “10X Developer” Real?

If you’re a software engineer, manager or leader, I am sure you have heard the term ‘10x developer’ used in discussions. It refers to developers who are purportedly 10 times more productive, or capable, than their peers, while it is a hotly contested category. Some refer to it very liberally, others deny that it even exists. In the last 40+ years, the ‘10X developer` has become a ‘Loch Ness` of the tech world, fueled by the hype associated with Silicon Valley.

I’m not about to delude myself into thinking that writing a blog on it to pass my verdict will put these theories to rest, but the question has gained enough traction that it deserves a little articulation. 

Do 10x developers really exist, and if so, how would we distinguish them?

Framing the Issue

All of us can acknowledge that the range of skills in most human activities can be extensive. A marathon runner can cover roughly 10 times the distance that an untrained person could, while a professional chef can cook a 5-course meal in 1/5th the time it takes an average person to do a 2-course meal.

Coding, which is a hugely complex field unencumbered by physical limitations, should naturally show differences in the skill that vary by orders of magnitude. Thus, if by 10x developer we simply mean a person whose skill level is in a different league compared to someone else, then clearly they exist. 

How could anyone argue otherwise?

Here’s the rub though, in the data-driven and lexically precise world of modern tech, that’s not what 10x developer means. Instead, a 10x developer is supposed to be someone who genuinely outperforms others by 10 times or more on some quantifiable scale. That ‘quantifiable scale’ is where the problems start.

Where did the term actually come from? Enter Coding War Games.

Coding War Games

Tom DeMarco and Tim Lister have conducted the “Coding War Games” since 1977. This is a public productivity survey in which teams of software implementors from different organizations compete to complete a series of benchmarks in minimal time with minimal defects. They’ve had over 600 developers participate. Its results are publicly available and is very informative, to say the least. Jeff Lester published a wonderful piece on the origins of the 10X developer here

The top findings from these are,

1, Get your working environment Right

The overriding observation from this study is that quiet, private, dedicated working space with fewer interruptions led to groups that performed significantly better.

2, Remove the Net Negative Producing Programmer

Some developers are “net negative producing programmers” (NNPP), that is they produce so many defects that removing them from the team increases productivity. This is the opposite of a 10X developer, these people are the ones that make the team productivity go from bad to worse.

The Problem with Measuring ‘Skill’

Even where skill can vary wildly, differences will not necessarily be quantifiable. A talented artist may know how to create a painting that teleports you to a whole other world compared to an average artiste who can transport you to the scene.

But the question is, can you attach numbers to that painting’s beauty?

The work of a developer isn’t nearly as abstract, but not all of it can be reduced to metrics either, and definitely not the programming skill itself.

A less glamorous approach may be to judge a 10x dev not in terms of skill but in terms of productivity. Someone who can write 500 lines of code when it takes others to write 50 would then fall in that category.

If you know anything about programming, however, you’ve probably already spotted the problem with this line of thinking. Longer code isn’t necessarily more efficient, and for most people there tends to be a positive correlation between how quickly one works and how many bugs one creates.

This is not to say that programmers can’t produce bug-free code much faster than their peers. Where this statement proves fallacious though, is in trying to peg that difference to a single metric. There are myriad factors at play that will affect a developer’s productivity outside of their skill, including their team and the environment they find themselves. In fact, depending on the situation, the 10x tag may be inaccurate because a developer could be programming well over 10 times as much as another and still produce 1/10th of the ‘Outcomes’!

What should be our conclusion? There can be no doubt that the field of programming has its own Mozarts and Vincent Van Goghs, and few would object if these people were described as being ‘orders of magnitude’ better than the rest. But it is important to recognize that this is only a figure of speech, and not something meant to be used according to its precise quantitative meaning.

I can’t presume to speak for the tech industry as a whole, but I for one have noticed a worrying tendency to read the expression ‘10x developer’ literally.

Ultimately this does more harm than good, as it spreads the myth that there is some universal metric whereby every programmer’s value can always be quantified. 

Important qualities like creativity, client focus and teamwork are entirely omitted in this way of thinking, which is why my final suggestion is to stop worrying about lofty 10x developers and whether you are, aren’t, or may or not become one. 

Simply focus on being the best developer you can be. That will always be enough.

References & Further Reading

Origin of a 10X developer