posted on September 28, 2020
As of 2020, software development is considered a very lucrative career option. You write code, help build products that solves problems (for the most part), and get a sweet little paycheck at the end of the month. What's not to like?
Accordingly, most of the advice that I've come across on the Internet is focused on how to improve your software development skills. Things like how to write better code, which technologies to learn to "future-proof" your career, what clean code looks like, and stuff like that.
There's no doubt that learning these technical skills is an extremely important part of your job. However, focusing only on technical skills ignores a large part of what might make or break your career - soft skills.
Soft skills, if you're not familiar with the term, is a slightly "meta" aspect of your career. They include things like how to negotiate for a better paycheck, how to improve your communication skills, how to go about targeting that promotion you've always wanted, and so on.
In the next section, I would like to recommend three books that I've personally read cover to cover and found them to be quite helpful in my own career. There are important nuggets of information in each one of these books that I tend to go back to every now and then.
Note: Amazon links below are affiliate links.
If at any point of time you've thought about joining a startup or building one of your own, this book as an absolute must read.
"Hello Startup", like it suggests in the name itself, is a "Hello World" tutorial for building companies. The range of topics that this book covers is massive. From talking about how to write and think of code in a startup context, to things like marketing, sales, data analytics, this book covers a lot of ground.
I found this book quite relatable because it's written from a software developer's perspective. As a developer, I've often wanted to learn more about the "non-coding" aspects of a business. I believe that learning more about how businesses work outside of your $EDITOR can help you a lot in your professional life. However, the signal/noise ratio of such resources on the Internet is quite low. So it was quite refreshing to read this book and learn more about such topics in a way that aligns with how software developers tend to think.
The premise of this book can be summarize in one word: Leverage.
In this book the author proposes that as a software developer, if there were one (and only one) metric you could focus on, it should be defining how much value you produce compared to how much time you invest. And this specific ratio (value produced per unit of time invested) is defined as Leverage. The higher your leverage is, the more valuable you'll be to your company.
"The Effective Engineer" explores this topic in quite a lot of detail. The author presents not only personal experiences, but also anecdotes and stories from interviewing hundreds of engineers and managers at top tech companies of today including Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and many more.
There are times when you come across a concept that's so simple and so obvious, that it makes you think "why did I not know about this before". For me, reading this book and learning about Leverage was one of those times. And the author's treatment of the subject makes for an excellent read.
Since reading this book, I've been consistently trying to factor leverage into every single decision I take at my workplace. And I'm sure that after you've read this book, you'll do too.
This book goes really into the meta aspect of improving your life as a software developer.
As developers, we tend to focus mostly on writing code, solving technical problems, basically everything that has to do with the programming side of things. This book doesn't talk about those topics, but instead chooses to focus on things like personal finance, fitness, investing, better communication, even relationships. And since the author has a software development background, the treatment of these topics is quite relatable.
One of the interesting things about this book is that if you check its Goodreads or Amazon page, you'll find that people have wildly different opinions on this book. The reviews are mostly either 5-stars or 1/2-stars. In that sense, I do think that this book can be a bit polarising.
In any case, I personally like it very much and tend to recommend it quite often.