Tahir Shahzad

Product Manager | Web Developer | AI Enthusiast

The Alpha-Beta Dynamics

Some time ago, I watched the series Teen Wolf, and it struck a chord with me as I’ve spent a considerable amount of time in leadership roles, building teams around ideas, enabling people, and supporting communities. This experience has taught me valuable lessons about team dynamics, particularly the interplay between different types of leaders and followers.

I often watch videos on leadership and draw inspiration from the genius minds of various fields like Steve Jobs, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Simon Sinek. Their insights have shaped my understanding of effective leadership. Recently, a particular thought clicked in my mind: a squad of betas will never welcome an alpha. This concept resonates deeply within organizational structures and team dynamics.

When companies hire new individuals, there is often resistance from existing team members. This resistance doesn’t necessarily stem from the newcomer’s lack of preparation or suitability but from the inherent challenge that betas face in keeping pace with an alpha. As Simon Sinek wisely puts it, “Leadership is not about being in charge. It is about taking care of those in your charge.” This suggests that an alpha’s arrival can disrupt the status quo, challenging the betas to elevate their game or risk falling behind.

In Teen Wolf, Scott McCall’s journey from a regular high school student to an alpha werewolf is a perfect example. Initially, Scott struggles with his new role, facing resistance from others who question his leadership. However, over time, he proves his worth through his actions and the way he cares for his pack, ultimately earning their respect and loyalty. This mirrors the real-world scenario where an effective leader must demonstrate their capabilities and earn the trust of their team.

Similarly, a squad of alphas will never settle for anything less than an alpha. They wouldn’t want to bear unnecessary delays due to a beta in the team. Steve Jobs once said, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” This reflects the idea that alphas seek peers who match their drive and capability, fostering an environment where high achievers can thrive without being held back.

To be a part of a team of alphas, one needs to shadow an alpha and, when the time comes, prove that they are an alpha. This involves learning from the best, understanding the nuances of leadership, and stepping up when the opportunity arises. Neil deGrasse Tyson, an advocate for continuous learning, says, “No one is dumb who is curious. The people who don’t ask questions remain clueless throughout their lives.” This curiosity and willingness to learn from an alpha are crucial steps in transitioning from a beta to an alpha.

In a development team, both alphas and betas play important roles. Alphas drive innovation and push boundaries, while betas provide stability and support. Effective teams recognize and balance these dynamics, leveraging the strengths of each member to achieve collective success.

In conclusion, the dynamics of leadership and team composition are complex but essential for organizational growth. Drawing lessons from Teen Wolf and the wisdom of great leaders, it becomes clear that both alphas and betas have their place. By fostering an environment of mutual respect and continuous learning, teams can navigate these dynamics successfully and achieve great things together.

The Myth of 10,000 Hours: What It Really Takes to Master a Skill in Tech

You’ve probably heard that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become a master at something. This idea, popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers. We have seen athletes, artist, scientist, leaders, educationists and many more people who are master at their skill. sounds simple: target 10,000 hours, and you’ll be an expert. But real-life experience tells a different story.

Have you ever realized how much is 10,000 hours? Apparently it looks like indefinite time frame but when I calculated for a person with full time job, I was surprised. If a person have full-time job, working 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, with around 25 days off each year, that person will hit 10,000-hour mark in five years and a few months. Either see yourself with 5 years of experience or look around people having decades of experiences in their skills. How many of them look like master of their skill? I was also analyzing people with 2-3 years of experiences in their skill and sadly it doesn’t look like they are on a road to mastery.

In fact, not all experiences are equal. Repeating the same work year after year doesn’t mean you’re getting experience and on a road to mastery. It’s like they say, “Ten years of experience can either be ten years of growth or one year of experience repeated ten times.” This is especially true in the tech industry, where things change so fast that you can quickly fall behind if you don’t keep up.

Why Just Clocking Hours Isn’t Enough

Just working a lot doesn’t make you an expert. Psychologists like K. Anders Ericsson talk about something called “deliberate practice.” This means constantly challenging yourself, getting feedback, and always trying to improve. If you’re just doing the same tasks over and over without pushing yourself, you’re not going to get better.

The Fast-Changing World of Tech

The tech industry changes rapidly. What was cutting-edge a few years ago might be old news now. If you’re a developer who hasn’t learned anything new in the past five years, you might not be much better than you were when you started. But if you’re always learning new things, experimenting with new tools, and trying out the latest technologies, you’re much more likely to become an expert.

Break the Loop

It’s easy to get stuck in a loop. My bills are being paid, why should I invest money or time in learning something? why should I kill my peace and try something new. Growth isn’t about today, it is preparing for tomorrow. To truly grow, you need to break this loop. Step out of your comfort zone and try new things. Take on projects that challenge you and push your limits. Breaking the loop of repetitive tasks will lead to real learning and growth.

How to Really Master Your Craft

  • Keep Learning: Always look for new things to learn. Take courses, read books, and work on new projects.
  • Practice With Purpose: Don’t just do your job—try to get better at it. Challenge yourself and ask for feedback.
  • Stay Flexible: Keep up with the latest trends and technologies. Don’t get stuck doing the same old thing.
  • Connect With Others: Join professional communities, attend meetups, and find mentors. Learn from others and share what you know.

In the end, the 10,000-hour rule is just a guideline. To truly master something, especially in tech, you need to do more than just put in the time. You need to keep learning, stay adaptable, break the loop of repetitive tasks and always strive to improve.

The Tech Alchemist: A Decade of Transformation

After a couple of internships and overcoming numerous hardships, I officially started my professional journey on July 1, 2014. Over this decade, I’ve been all about pushing boundaries and reaching new heights, never settling for anything easy or monotonous.

Whenever a skill or role became too comfortable, I pushed my boundaries further. During this journey, there were skills I wanted to master but couldn’t due to other priorities. For instance, there was a time I aimed to excel in frontend frameworks like Angular, React.js, and Node.js, and another period when I wanted to dive into AWS, DevOps, and solution architecture. I’ve come to understand that it’s okay to achieve excellence in some areas while just scratching the surface of others.

To summarize:

I began my career as a web developer at Evamp & Saanga. My role involved transforming PSDs into cross-browser compatible, responsive, W3C-compliant static pages using custom HTML, CSS, and jQuery. I loved the work, but I always wanted to do more.

I then started my Masters at NUST and switched jobs simultaneously. Despite my hard work, I wasn’t settled and left the company in six months. Around the same time, I was called back to Evamp & Saanga for another role.

After my first three years in web development, I did some freelancing and online jobs temporarily. Alongside, I joined Quaid-i-Azam University as a visiting faculty member and conducted research for my Masters at NUST, specializing in computer vision and machine learning.

With my experience in web development and higher education in ML, I joined STech.ai as a Machine Learning Engineer. Being part of a startup, I had to wear multiple hats, which kept me engaged and advancing in my career. I also served as Team Lead Web, developing web portals for AI applications. Later, I became a Technical Project Manager, focusing on leadership skills, client management, and project management. After five years, I bid farewell to STech.ai.

As a freelancer, I joined Toptal as talent. At Toptal, I had the opportunity to work and collaborate with international clients, polish my leadership skills, and tackle complex projects.

I also started learning about product management, agile methodologies, and leadership. A year ago, I joined Now Software as a Product Owner. This role brought a new level of challenges, requiring stakeholder management and technical knowledge.

When I began my career, information was not easily accessible, and finding mentors was challenging. To facilitate the next generations, I contributed to community building. Notably, I helped establish the QAU CS Alumni Network, organizing talks, quarterly meetups, and annual events to bridge the gap between academia and industry. I also participated in WordPress meetups in Islamabad & Rawalpindi and WordCamps, a community of generous people who love to give back, share knowledge, and help others. Additionally, I was active in the Toptal Pakistan community, a group of skilled professionals working on amazing projects worldwide.