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Being Geek: The Software Developer's Career Handbook Paperback – August 13, 2010
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About the Author
Michael Lopp is a Silicon Valley-based engineering manager. When he's not worrying about staying relevant, he writes about pens, bridges, people, and werewolves at the popular weblog, Rands in Repose. Michael wrote a book called "Managing Humans" which explains that while you might be rewarded for what you produce, you will only be successful because of your people.
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The chapters are strongly influenced by posts on the blog. While the chapters are interesting of themselves, there is little coherence between chapters, and some of the chapter headings are not a good description of the contents.
Lopp's other book, "Managing Humans," may be a better choice for many readers. In that book, the chapters are more coherent, and the stories are more on-point.
This was an enjoyable, quick read, which is why I gave it 4 stars. I just think the other book is better, which is why I gave that one 5.
Everything is covered from how to set goals within your current gig and beyond, to how to interact with a notoriously hard to read brand of co-worker. It covers topics that one might think taboo to ask a boss; simultaneously answering those questions and making them seem less inappropriate to talk with a manager about (e.g. your life after your current company or what your next position within the company could be.)
Being Geek also brings into light the false assumption that developers should graduate into management. It points out what should be obvious but isn't: developers don't necessarily make good business liaisons. It goes on to elaborate on more "tech" geared career paths.
The abstract discussion of how geeks interact with themselves and business, what to look for and expect in these interactions, and what tools there are to facilitate these relationships is also very useful. As you learn from the book, geeks like to organize things into systems; even their relationships. Having the relationships I experience with my coworkers outlined provided a surprising amount of clarity and perspective to my own work environment.
The chapters can largely stand alone (I think the book is mostly an edited compilation of the author's blog) and make for an easily digestible "cover to cover" read that also can serve as a reference. At times the book became a little too "self-helpy" for my taste, but then again that's exactly what Being Geek is supposed to be.
Looking on my own experience in tech companies, I think that his advice is often spot-on. There have been times when I've read one of his blog posts after a difficult situation and found myself understanding it better. He's got a keen eye for detail and for understanding the nuances of geek behaviour, as well as all of the interacting forces that come into play when you're working for a big geek company. I've gone back to read half-remembered posts that I felt were pertinent to a given situation.
I found it amusing that Lopp says in his introduction that he's not writing a book that gives you ten steps for anything, or that will define the five characteristics of a top leader, but most of his essays are structured in just that form: distill a situation into some archetypes, identified by Capital Letters. For an occasional blog post, I don't mind this style; as a book, this structure got rather repetitive. While I love the blog, I found that I couldn't read the book for more than a half-hour without losing interest because the style just didn't work for an actual book.
Honestly, I was hoping for more. The blog is excellent. I hoped that a book would use the blog as a starting point and give more consideration, more depth. But it's not there. If, like me, you've been reading his blog for some time, I can't really recommend this book. You've read most of it before, albeit in a different order. The new pieces don't really add that much. If you're not a reader of his blog, this book is a good look at moving through your geek career. I'd recommend adding his blog to your reading list while you're at it.
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