Let’s try to be critical, incisive… It’s also good but not critical to widen the perspective.
–5) instrumentation for GTD. This is the #1 most valuable skill for GTD, not necessarily to move up to leadership.
–7) Some (not “top top”) geeks can quickly pick up enough details of a new “tool” and use it to get things done (often not perfectly). I had this advantage in my youth. I might have it still.
eg: git, IDE, tibrv,
eg: Venkat, Avichal
–8) Some (not top top) geeks have rare knowledge of advanced/obscure topics like concurrency, memory mgmt, templates, elegant SQL joins, arcane language rules…, but the difference here is — the knowledge is needed only for interviews.
eg: IV questions at many HFT
eg: most threading questions
–9) Some successful geeks have good local system knowledge. See post on Helicopter view.
Prime eg: Yang.
–1) Some top geeks (+ open source heroes) can quickly create a complete non-trivial software, often single-handedly.
* probably the hardest achievement. These are the doers not just thinkers and dreamers.
* productivity is often 100X a regular developer
–2) [G] Some top geeks are experts on google-style algorithm challenges.
* This domain takes at least a few months (possibly years) of practice. Without this mileage, you won’t be there.
* similar to mathematical talent — somewhat innate
–3) [G] Some top geeks can optimize performance in a demanding system. A specialist knowledge.
eg: the Russian Sybase guru in PWM CT
eg: facebook memory allocator?
I feel this skill is overrated. Not much business value and impact in most cases.
–4) Some top geeks are experts at system (including compiler) internals i.e. under the hood + debugging, but not obscure low level details
* can uncover the “why” no one else can. Widely valuable.
** the very deep “why” is sometimes not that critical. In many real projects we don’t need to uncover the why if we can circumvent (find a workaround), including a rewrite
** in rare cases, we have no choice but find the “why”, but if the team doesn’t have expertise, they still would find some inferior solution or just live with the problem.
[G=needed only at largest websites like Google, but many other employers pose these questions too.]