Sorry these first posts aren’t more in depth technically, but I’m still trying to get a feel for this blogging thing. It’s one thing to say: “You should have a blog, Sign up for a hosting service. Pick a domain name. Install WordPress. Start blogging.” It’s quite another thing to actually do it. Not that it isn’t worthwhile. I wouldn’t be doing this if I thought that. It’s just that in addition to putting all that great content out there, there is still some housekeeping work that has to be done, especially when you are just starting out. For instance: What theme should I use? Where should I put the information I want to share? How do I put in a link so users can subscribe to updates? The theme I picked, doesn’t have LinkedIn in the list of social networking icons. How do I add it? I know Google, Bing, and I will figure it out in the end, but it takes time.
In the meantime, I do love to read (My Mom once said, she thought I would never get my nose out of a book, long enough to amount to anything. Thanks Mom! Love you!), so I thought I would review a couple books I’ve read recently that specifically apply to the careers and skills of SW developers.
First up: John Sonmez’s new book Soft Skills: The software developer’s life manual Published in December 2014, anyone who followed John knew the book was coming long before that. I signed up for a preliminary eBook copy, and I’m proud to say, I was the first one to leave a review on Amazon (US that is).
The book is big, about 500 pages long, and divided into 7 Sections:
- Marketing Yourself
It is further divided into 71 short chapters, each one only a few pages long. The effect is that the book is an easy read, yet there is still quite a bit of information packed into it.
A lot of the advice contained within is what you have come to expect from a book of this type, especially when it comes to managing your career, keeping up with technology, and being productive, but John goes further. The section on marketing yourself for instance. I have never in my career thought about marketing myself, but it is key to differentiating yourself and your skills from the rest of the herd. Getting control of your finances can lead you to something more than the Monday through Friday, commute to your 9 to 5 office job, if that’s what you want. A financial cushion can let you take risks you would never attempt, when you have to live paycheck to paycheck. Let’s face it, most of us desk jockeys, do not take fitness very seriously, but that too is key. What good is a sharp mind, when you don’t take care of the rest of your body? Finally Spirit, the mind – body connection. Your thoughts, your attitude can make or break your career. You have to learn to control them.
There is a lot of good advice in this book, all in one place, and I will definitely be going back to this well many more times.
Next: Michael Lopp’s book Being Geek: The Software Developer’s Career Handbook Published July of 2010, this makes it a generation older than John’s Soft Skills book, in technology time. Just by coincidence, I came across it in my local public library not long after I finished John’s book.
This book is about 300 pages long, and divided into 4 sections:
- A Career Playbook
- Deconstructing Management
- Your Daily Toolkit
- Your Next Gig
Again, it is further subdivided into 32 chapters of 5 to 10 pages apiece, which also makes for an easy read, but there is still plenty of meat here.
To me this book has an esoteric feel to it. What is going on in the mind of a developer. Dealing with different personality types. Managing your manager. Becoming a manager. Anecdotes to illustrate points. How do you know when it’s time to leave. Reading company politics. All this and a lot more. This is definitely a reread.
A unique feature, that I don’t recall seeing in any other book of this genre, is Chapter 23 “The Nerd Handbook”. This chapter is not for you. It is for your “supporting cast”. Your friends, your family, your significant other. You are supposed to give this chapter to them, to read. It purports to explain how your nerd mind works. What makes you tick. Why you have a great sense of humor. I don’t agree with all of the author’s thoughts, but kudos for trying to to reach out to normal people. And no, I did not give it to my wife to read.
As an aside, I found a note in this library book, with an email address, asking fellow local geeks to reach out. The note was on a narrow strip of paper tucked up close to the spine. Unless you actually read the book you might not have noticed it. Very clever I thought, so I sent an email to that address. Alas, no response yet, and no way to tell how long that note was in there, or who wrote it.
So what’s my conclusion? They’re both great books. I would not have wasted time and space mentioning them here, if I didn’t think so. I know it’s a cliche, but I could have really used this information 30 years ago. Of course, my immature self would not have taken the advice to heart if they did exist back then. If I had to draw a line between them I would say Being Geek leans more toward how SW developers fit into an organization and relate to management and their peers, while Soft Skills leans more toward personal skill development. They actually complement each other.
So read them, but don’t forget to get your nose out of the books long enough to amount to something.
How about you? What book or books have you found most helpful, for your SW career development?