Posted On: Friday, 21 May 2010 by Rajiv Popat

I'm sitting smack across the table as Jane, a very talented young and budding programmer, tells me her side of the story. For the last three months she has been a part of the product team and she has been fixing bugs which involve changing the captions of labels on screen.

I cringe.

There are more than one things in this discussion that worry me. The first is that her talents and her abilities are getting utterly wasted in the organization. Secondly, it also means that more sooner than later she would be sick of working and she would start looking for a change. All of this worries me as I listen to her, but what worries me the most is the thought that her team lead is an Alpha-Geek who is refusing to breed more Alpha-Geeks.

And he is violating the pact.

Yes, that pact.

He is solving the most complicated, challenging and some of the most interesting problems himself.

He is not, 'teaching the young'.

Every once in a while, I come across super-alpha-geeks, sometimes even good ones, who prefer to solve the hardest of the problems themselves, instead of letting others in their team solve it and helping them with the problems. Strike a conversation with them and most of them will offer you arguments on the lines of:

  1. It's easier to do things myself than to explain and delegate things to someone else.
  2. Most programmers in my team are not good enough.
  3. I took it up myself because it was critical for the success of the project.

Hidden behind the layers of excuses, lie the bitter facts. The real reason why most alpha-geeks who like to control the most-critical items in the project and do these themselves, can be one or more of the following:

  1. The Alpha-Geek has serious insecurity issues and feels threatened by people in his team.
  2. The Alpha-Geek thinks of his team as a bunch of incompetent, inefficient idiots who are either not talented enough, fast enough or both.
  3. The Alpha-Geek is a control freak and wants total control over the project.

The next time you see the scrum back-log and you start picking up the most complicated items, question yourself, if you are just acting like a selfish insecure jerk or are you helping other programmers transform themselves into alpha-geeks and become critical members in the team.

Give them the most complicated, difficult and challenging items, help them expand their zone of comfort slowly and help them turn into true alpha-geeks over time, because that is what true alpha-geeks do. They breed more alpha-geeks.

I wish you good luck.

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