The 10,000 hour rule doesn’t make you a coding expert, but it’s a good start

This one article was originally published on .cult by Luis Minvielle.sect is a Berlin-based developer community platform. We write about all things career, create original documentaries and share countless other untold stories from developers around the world.

If you’re a Bootcamp student learning the basics that make code work, how long does it take to become a master of software programming? In his bestseller Outliers (2008), Canadian author Malcolm Gladwell presented the famous 10,000 hour rule – a rule of thumb to determine how much time a person needs to practice before becoming an expert and a successful person in a particular field.

According to Gladwell’s argument, The Beatles became a successful live band because of their residence in Hamburg in the early 1960s, where they amassed some ten thousand hours of live play by performing loud songs on the city’s nightclub circuit.

Bill Gates also became a magician-coder — one of the fifty greatest programmers of his time in the world — because he first invested 10,000 hours in getting his code effective, snappy, and error-free. He did that at a young age – as a teenager, he slipped into his high school computer lab and learned the basics and insights of programming on his own. By the time he founded Microsoft, Bill Gates was a just-starting businessman, but an expert, 10k-certified developer.

The rule’s alluring simplicity—and Gladwell’s tendency to summarize complex topics in easy-to-follow mantras—have made it an enduring standard for learning and being successful. Even Paul McCartney made his appearance and said there is “a lot of truth in it”.

If we take advantage of Mr. Gladwell’s research and apply the rule to a programmer’s career, we may have an easy way to understand how long it would take to become a mastercoder – and it could also turn out to be a cheat sheet to understand when to ask for a raise as a mid-level developer.

From boot camp to master

For this exercise, let’s pretend the 10,000 hour rule is incredibly accurate (spoiler alert: reportedly, it’s not† Let’s also pretend you signed up for an intensive, full-time bootcamp to become a data scientist, like Le Wagon in Berlin† This means that by the time you have completed the course you will have practiced for approximately 350 hours – a significant 3.5% of the final grade.

But that’s just the beginning. in 2020, 79% of boot camp graduates have found a job in the six months following completion of the course. And a job — or maybe a high school computer lab — might be the best place to practice your coding skills.

So, being an expert coder must go a long way, but for how long? Taking into account a 350-hour head start and a (pessimistic) six-month gap scenario, you can make the calculations right away.

If you got a job as a data scientist in a company and you coded and honed your skills eight hours a day, five days a week, you’d hit 10,000 hours in… about five years and one half. Not a cakewalk, but not the longest distance either!

I am a 3840 hour engineer and I deserve a raise

No, please don’t tell your boss that. But since salaries are often defined using a loosely defined number system, hitting 3,840 hours as a programmer can mean you’re ready to request an increase in your monthly income.

How many things could you do in 3,840 hours? For starters, you could watch The Matrix Resurrections over 1,500 times, or watch replays of each Champions League final nearly 40 times. Most importantly, if you’ve accomplished 3,840 hours as a programmer, you’ve invested at least two years practicing, working, and honing your programming languages, and the industry recognizes your improvement.

By then you will no longer be a junior engineer – feel free to call yourself a mid-level engineer. as we have mentioned beforehaving 2-3 years of experience as a programmer means you can aim for a salary of around $80-90k (in the US).

The 10,000-hour rule makes it incredibly easy to calculate how far you’ve come in two years: Since we’re talking 3,840 hours over a 10,000-hour target, we’d say that by the time you hit more than a third of If you have traveled the expected path to mastery, you are already a mid-level engineer.

The milestone of a senior engineer

Being a senior engineer means you can be an expert and a novice at the same time: seniors are expected to explore new programming languages ​​or concepts without scruples. It could also mean your LinkedIn inbox is exploding by the hours: in the US, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost 98% of senior software engineers are employed.

In fact, 37% of senior software engineers typically only stay with the same company for one or two years. The statistics reflect the high demand the market has – in both the private and public sectors – for all-round, experienced software developers. If you are a senior level engineer, chances are you will land dozens of jobs within a year.

And how long does one have to program before becoming a senior software engineer? Research centers seem to agree on the number of years it takes: you become a senior if you have been a programmer for at least five years.

Yes: five years, as much as it would take to meet the 10,000-hour target. Mr. Gladwell’s rule neatly conforms to industry standards. Gladwell’s bold take is that so much practice doesn’t just make expertise possible: he claims that practice will also lead to success.

So, according to him, if you program like a beast for five years, you’ll probably rack up ten thousand hours of “flight time” — and you’re set to be successful. If anything, your salary should be about $110k by then, or even more if you work in Silicon Valley.


The beauty of Gladwell’s 10,000-Hour Rule is that it perfectly matches a programming career: if we follow the rule blindly, it takes the same amount of time to become an expert data scientist, an expert web page developer, or an expert ninja programmer. time, which is about five years. The industry seems to be responding to this coincidence by awarding better salaries over time – and as your expertise expands.

Of course, professional careers come with ups and downs. You might only spend three hours a day programming, which would bring the goal of 10,000 hours to almost ten years. You can also invest time in a passion project and collect that amount sooner than in five years.

Still, the alternative to this analysis is that you’re still five years away from what most HR teams would call “Senior.” And if the theory is correct, then you are also only five years away from professional success.

Shreya Christina
Shreya has been with for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider team, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

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