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Being Geek: The Software Developer's Career Handbook


   As a software engineer, you recognize at some point that there's much more to your career than dealing with code. Is it time to become a manager? Tell your boss he’s a jerk? Join that startup? Author Michael Lopp recalls his … see full wiki

Author: Michael Lopp
Genre: Careers & Business Life
Publisher: O'Reilly Media
Date Published: July 27, 2010
1 review about Being Geek: The Software Developer's Career...

Perfect for the techno-geek who doesn't quite understand how companies operate...

  • Aug 24, 2010

I had the pleasure of reviewing the manuscript of Being Geek: The Software Developer's Career Handbook by Michael Lopp when it was still in the development stage.  To put it simply, I was really impressed.  I'm not a regular reader of Rands In Repose, so I hadn't seen most of the material before.  It didn't take long before I saw the value in what he wrote, and started thinking of names of people who needed to read this when it was published.

Section 1 - A Career Playbook: How To Win; A List of Three; The Itch; The Sanity Check; The Nerves; The Button; The Business
Section 2 - Deconstructing Management: The Culture Chart; Managing Managers; The Issue with the Doof; The Leaper; The Enemy; The Impossible; Knee Jerks; A Deep Breath; Gaming the System; Managing Werewolves; BAB; Your People; Wanted; The Toxic Paradox; The Pond
Section 3 - Your Daily Toolkit: The Nerd Handbook; The Taste of the Day; The Trickle List; The Crisis and the Creative; The Foamy Rules for Rabid Tools; Up to Nothing; How to Not Throw Up; Out Loud; Bits, Features, and Truth; The Reveal
Section 4 - Your Next Gig: The Screw-Me Scenario; No Surprises; A Deliberate Career; The Curse of the Silicon Valley; A Disclosure; Mind the Gap; The Exodus; Bad News About Your Bright Future; Hurry; The Rules of Back Alley Bridge

The author sets out to help the technologist, one who wonders why the world of people doesn’t run with the same rules and precision as computers, navigate through the real world of how life works in an organization.  Rather than approach the subject with a slick methodology meant to be understood by business people, he cuts to the core of the topics using language and stories that any geek would understand.  And that’s the value here… the techie will say “YES! I struggle/deal with that exact same problem” as the author has been there, done that, and thinks the same way they do.  It’s written in a no-nonsense, no-bs style which is just what most techies want.

It seems like too many books on managing and surviving in a corporate environment assume a certain type of personality that is closer to the average office worker than the hard-core technologist.  Or books that *do* focus on organizational skills for technology workers seem to take a process approach or methodology, thinking that a set of rules to follow will work all the time.  The author here assumes that the real world is messy, nothing fits into neat boxes, and the techno-geek is a different animal.  As such, his advice is much more realistic than most other books that attempt to cover this topic in some way, shape, or form.

This is targeted squarely at the person for whom technology is a passion, not just a job that is 9 to 5.  These people are comfortable with other geeks or on their own digging into a problem, but they don’t easily or readily grasp the intricacies and realities of social interaction or corporate politics and gamesmanship.  They need someone to explain what’s going on, why things work that way, and how they can figure out the rules so they have some shot at surviving long enough to do what they love to do… build things.

I also appreciate that he tries to cover the entire scope of a person’s stay with a company or organization.  From being hired to leaving for the next gig, from trying to relate to management to standing in front of a group making an important presentation, this book gives you three to six pages on various topics, easily digested when you need to get a reality check in a given situation.

I’ve seen too many people who were technically brilliant, but that you didn’t want to let out of a locked room because you knew they’d get eaten alive in the real world.  Being Geek gives them a fighting chance to adapt if they care to do so.

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Perfect for the techno-geek who doesn't quite understand how companies operate...

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