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I've seen my FAANG division manager use brilliant loners quite effectively by requiring them to be remote. They don't join meetings or really check in with anyone but every six months they pop up and say "I re-architected System X and now it can handle 10,000x as much traffic" or something like that.

That sounds like a nightmare. How did they handle things like being on call? Was the loner responsible for their genius 24/7?

No, basically the group managers assigned the “architecture astronaut” tasks to these brilliant loners. They would figure out the answer and then be assigned to a team to onboard them basically, they’d come into the office for a week or two to do design reviews, go back to being remote to get the stuff into production, and then the full crew would own the service and the loner would go to the next thing.

Interesting. How did the team feel about being maintenance people? I think I'd have found it a bit demoralising if someone gets parachuted in to work on the - I assuming - interesting stuff.

The team didn't become maintenance people. Basically the architecture astronaut did the first 6 months of 2-3 year projects. And everyone knew that they were geniuses, maybe there was a little grumbling but people got on board.

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