book review

Thoughts on Being Geek

Sitting on the plane travelling to Nova Scotia for the holidays, I read Being Geek: The Software Developer’s Career Handbook by Michael Lopp. I’ve wanted to read this for a while so I was happy to finally have some time to do so.

It was a very informative and funny book, especially for someone like me who has spent a long time working in the software and IT services industry. Some key points it covered:

  • You are responsible for your career. Don’t depend on your manager or HR. They are looking out for their own interests.
  • The importance of mentoring and having a career plan.
  • How to negotiate your salary and benefits for a new job, and how this calculation should be altered if you are looking to move to a start-up versus an established company.
  • Evaluating organizational culture outside the boundaries of hierarchy.  Where is the informal power  within an organization?
  •  I really liked the chapter entitled “Your People” on the art of networking and the importance of connecting with people in your community face-to-face and getting to know them better.  As I read this I thought, my people are the Eclipse family
  • Strategies for dealing with different types of managers and co-workers.
  • How to decide if you want to be a manager.
  • Dealing with a crisis situation such a major bug just before the ship date.
  • The downsides of working in our industry.

As an Eclipse committer, this quotation from the chapter on selecting the tools to use as a developer made me laugh.

“Yeah, I know all about the glory of integrated debugging, and I see all you Eclipse guys having a ball, but what I have found in many years of developing is that embracing fancy tools means tinkering with tools to get them to behave how you want.”

-Michael Lopp, Being Geek

There’s something to be said for simplicity.

My only criticism about this book is that the example software developers in the book were overwhelmingly male.  There were very few female software developers if any used to as characters in his stories. Legend has it that they do exist.  All the examples of women in the book seemed to be in product marketing or similar roles.

Anyways, if you are interested in a thought provoking book about strategies for managing your software career this is definitely a good one.

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