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Making it Big in Software: Get the Job. Work the Org. Become Great. Paperback – March 20, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

The Software Insider's Guide to Getting Hired and Getting to the Top!


Here's all the information you need to jumpstart your software career: the best ways to get hired, move up, and blaze your way to the top! The software business has radically changed, and this book reveals today's realities-everything your professors and corporate managers never told you. In his 20 years at IBM as a software architect, senior manager, and lead programmer, Sam Lightstone has briefed dozens of leading companies and universities on careers, new technology, and emerging areas of research. He currently works on one of the world's largest software development teams and spends a good part of his time recruiting and mentoring software engineers. This book shares all the lessons for success Sam has learned…plus powerful insights from 17 of the industry's biggest stars. Want to make it big in software? Start right here!


Discover how to

• Get your next job in software development

• Master the nontechnical skills crucial to your success

• “Work the org to move up rapidly

• Successfully manage your time, projects, and life

• Avoid “killer mistakes that could destroy your career

• Move up to “medium-shot, “big-shot, and finally, “visionary

• Launch your own winning software company


Exclusive interviews with

Steve Wozniak, Inventor, Apple computer

John Schwarz, CEO, Business Objects

James Gosling, Inventor, Java programming language

Marissa Mayer, Google VP, Search Products and User Experience

Jon Bentley, Author,Programming Pearls

Marc Benioff, CEO and founder,

Grady Booch, IBM Fellow and co-founder Rational Software

Bjarne Stroustrup, Inventor, C++ programming language

David Vaskevitch, Microsoft CTO

Linus Torvalds, Creator, Linux operating system kernel

Richard Stallman, Founder, Free software movement

Peter Norvig, Google's Director of Research

Mark Russinovich, Microsoft Fellow and Windows Architect

Tom Malloy, Adobe Chief Software Architect

Diane Greene, Co-founder and past CEO of VMware

Robert Kahn, Co-inventor, the Internet

Ray Tomlinson, Inventor, email


About the Author

Sam Lightstone is the creator of as well as Program Director and Senior Technical Staff Member with IBM’s Software Group, where he works for one of the world’s largest software engineering teams on product strategy and R&D. Sam is a sought-after public speaker, author, inventor, recruiter, and mentor. He has presented to dozens of Fortune 500 companies, industrial and scientific conferences, and major universities on topics related to careers, new technology, and emerging research needs. Sam has been quoted in eWeek, InformationWeek, InfoWorld, and the MIT Technology Review. His management career has spanned from small high-performance applied research teams up to large-scale projects with more than 200 staff across multiple geographies.


Sam is the founder of the IEEE Data Engineering Workgroup on Self Managing Database Systems and a member of the International Advisory Committee of the IEEE Computer Society Technical Committee on Autonomous and Autonomic Computing Systems. Sam is inventor and co-inventor of more than 30 patents and patents pending and author of several books and scientific papers. In 2003 he was awarded the title of IBM Master Inventor for his contributions to IBM’s patent portfolio and his sustained work mentoring software engineers about the process of invention. He has a Bachelor of Applied Science in Electrical Engineering from Queen’s University and a Master of Computer Science & Software Engineering from the University of Waterloo.



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Product Details

  • Paperback: 456 pages
  • Publisher: Prentice Hall; 1 edition (March 20, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0137059671
  • ISBN-13: 978-0137059676
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #760,097 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sam Lightstone is an IBM executive and IBM Master Inventor who has briefed dozens of leading companies and universities on technology careers, trends, and emerging areas of software research. A sought after public speaker, author, and prolific inventor, he currently works on product strategy and product architecture for one of the world's largest commercial software products and spends a good part of his professional time recruiting and mentoring software engineers.

You can learn more about Sam at his home page

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Reynold Xin on May 3, 2010
Format: Paperback
Countless books exist in the market about the software field, covering development techniques, engineering management, to marketing. However, I've yet to find one that gives a systematic overview of career development in the software business, and this is exactly what Sam's new book offers. In large organizations, individuals are often confined to the scope of their positions and this book can fill in the gap between what you do and what software business is all about.

For starters, Sam gives a very good overview of different positions and how each fits into the business structure (e.g. functional testing vs development vs marketing vs CTO vs CEO). He comments on the importance of time management (it's how much you spend on the important yet non-urgent tasks that matters). Later in the book, he writes about how to become great, and then visionary, laying out a "path" for those who are ambitious.

To complement Sam's own experience, he also included 17 interviews with very well known people from the industry. Sam carefully handpicked 17 stars coming from different backgrounds: those with or without graduate degrees, those working for established companies or smaller shops (even Richard Stallman!). Throughout these interviews, the reader can find the key message that is played again, again, and again: there are many different paths to make it big, and it's all about loving and enjoying what you do.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By non-fiction reader on April 7, 2010
Format: Paperback
For those in need of inspiring advice and real-life stories, Making it Big in Software is a great read for these economic times. The gist of the book's message is "follow your passion," but Sam Lightstone's mini-essays at the beginning of each chapter remind readers of some business skills which will aid such a pursuit. This would be a great gift to anyone majoring in computer science or information systems... it's always helpful to hear from veteran's in the same field.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Martín Pérez on February 13, 2011
Format: Paperback
When I saw all the five star reviews I thought this book must be really good. When I saw all the people interviewed in the book I thought this book had to be great. Well, after reading I have to say that I was wrong.

The book is full of advice but most of it should be quite obvious to the average reader. Things like don't be evil, respect your coworkers, create a plan, consider changing jobs after few years, etc. All are common sense things that can be already found in tons of different books. Apart from that, I found the interviews quite disappointing. I enjoyed the first couple of interviews. Just enough to realize that all the interviews were sharing a good bunch of questions. Seriously, if you have the chance of interviewing such high profile people, why would you want to ask everyone their opinion about graduates or how they keep themselves up to date with technology? Come on! What would you expect them to answer? So, this book offers interviews with great people but the interviews themselves are repetitive and without any interesting content at all.

Don't get me wrong. The book probably has some value, but to just to recent graduates or just to all those people obsessed with grow in the corporate ladder.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Peter Grogono on June 28, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition
I didn't have great expectations for this book. Since I'm approaching retirement at the end of a mostly academic life, it's a bit late to think about making a professional career in software. But it was cheap enough to consider and expensive enough to bring me up to the "free shipping" point, so I got it anyway.

And it far exceeded my expectations! The chapters cover topics that are relevant to jobs in many areas (dealing with people, leadership, growth, advancement, time management, zen (!), ...). Although similar material is presented in many other books, Lightstone's versions are interesting, original, and spiced with personal anecdotes. Not only will his book will help me to answer students' career advice questions, but I can also tell them to get it.

There is more. The book contains 17 interviews with people who have made signficant contributions to the industry in one way or another. Many of the names are well-known (Wozniak, Stroustrup, Stallman, Torvalds, ...), others less so. But they all have something interesting to say. Every interviewee answers the same questions. This is both good and bad: bad in that the answers occasionally seem a little forced, good in that we get to compare different points of view on specific topics. It's very tempting to peek ahead: what is Wozniak's pet peeve?

If you are starting a career in software, this book will be useful. If you are in mid-career, you will probably pick up a few tips. If, like me, you are near the end, it's fun to compare experiences: been there, done that! Recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Robert A. Balfe on May 3, 2010
Format: Paperback
This book was captivating from the preface. I knew it would be a good read after the first chapter. This book is a must read for software professionals, students, and managers in the software industry.

The book gave some very interesting quotes from the industries most successful people. Chapter 2 has the "reality checks" section and it is something I can definitely relate with. The Lotus community is an interesting group where "compatibility" and "new" must coexist peacefully - so in short somethings get widely accepted while others fade away.

"Great innovations, brilliant new technology, and breakthrough ideas are truly great only if people use them and find them valuable."

If you are in school or nearing your degree completion Chapter 4 and Chapter 5 are absolute must reads. The chapter on resumes is critical to anyone applying or changing jobs and the following chapter (Chapter 5) is even more critical with the tips for the interview process. Great stuff!

By the time I got to Chapter 15 I realized this book was more than just "making it big in software". This book is a guide for making it big in any company!

The ending chapters are what I consider the areas where I have been personally focusing my career on for the past 5 years - Patents, Publishing, Presenting, etc. I do believe in the myself that I can in fact master any technology or new idea and I think that is important for longevity in this field. I started my blog to make my writing style better and in my own opinion at least I feel it has gotten a little better over the years.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who has a job!
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