Software Engineering - Career Building, Professionalism and Inspiration Books

Technical knowledge alone won’t get you very far. To get anything meaningful done, you will need to work with lots of people from many different backgrounds, each having their own agenda and incentives, sometimes not even knowing (or caring) about how software development works.

Also no career comes without its ups and downs. Every now and then you might find yourself demotivated, or lacking inspiration to get creative work done. As a professional, it is your responsibility to ensure that you work output is of high quality, reliable and effective while coordinating with everyone else, no matter if you feel like it or not.

And since software development is a team sport, inspiring and influencing others is key to becoming a force multiplier and making an impact, therefore good communication and other soft skills are imperative to your growth.

In this collection you will find the books that forged me from a laborer into a professional.

Laborers are hired to take direction. Professionals are hired to ensure that the direction chosen makes sense. – Robert C. Martin

Full disclosure: the following are Amazon affiliate links. Using them to purchase a book won’t cost you extra, but will help me buy more books.

Anastasios Piotopoulos
Written by Tasos Piotopoulos
Software Engineer, M.Sc.

Soft Skills: The software developer's life manual

An excellent book from a fantastic author, which became an instant classic the moment it hit the shelves.

John Sonmez does a great job in providing quality advice and unique insights on numerous topics such as career development, personal branding, learning, productivity, finance, even fitness and psychology. It is broken down into many small chapters, which make it easier to read and digest.

I was totally amazed by Soft Skills. It gave me a fresh perspective on professionalism and life in general, and encouraged me to become a better version of myself while thriving as a programmer.

If you have already read and enjoyed Soft Skills, make sure to check out John’s newest hit, The Complete Software Developer’s Career Guide.

The Clean Coder: A Code of Conduct for Professional Programmers (Robert C. Martin)

In this book, legendary software expert Robert C. Martin (Uncle Bob) offers a comprehensive code of conduct for professional programmers, which includes disciplines, techniques, tools and practices of true software craftsmanship. It’s not about code, but rather about the appropriate state of mind to produce high-quality code.

The wisdom contained within those pages has emerged through decades of real-world work experience, not in some vacuum. Of course you don’t have to agree with everything in the book, but I guarantee that this will be one of the most useful reads you will ever come across as a software professional.

Practices of an Agile Developer: Working in the Real World (Pragmatic Bookshelf) (Pragmatic Programmers)

Dr Venkat Subramaniam is a role model for me. I’ve had the privilege to discuss with him face to face for a few hours, something that made a huge impact to how I perceive and approach my career. That was even before I read this book.

Along with Andy Hunt, co-author of The Pragmatic Programmer (Amazon affiliate link), Venkat delivers an effective high-level overview of the mindset an agile developer should have.

In software development, the devil is in the details. The desire of customers to have exactly what they want and as soon as possible, has lead to many misconceptions about the software industry. This book will arm you with valuable knowledge on how to work around such issues and improve the situation of your products and teams.

As one lamp serves to dispel a thousand years of darkness, so one flash of wisdom destroys ten thousand years of ignorance. – Hui-Neng

The Complete Software Developer's Career Guide

I’ve been following John Sonmez’s work for quite some time now, and he never ceases to amaze me. This book is no exception.

Technical knowledge alone is not enough for having a successful and fulfilling career, so this book touches pretty much every aspect of a developer’s life except actual programming. John’s engaging words will help you create a career roadmap, including solid advice on how to plan and execute.

It is a massive 796 pages-long book, comprized of bite-sized chapters that are easy to read and pleasant to digest. If you enjoyed his other masterpiece, Soft Skills, you will love this one as it’s an extensive deep dive into even more soft skill topics.

I’m confident that you will find value in this book regardless of your level of experience. Whether you are just starting or you are a veteran programmer, there will be lots of good information to build your future decisions upon. It’s also one of the best gifts you can make to a fellow programmer.

97 Things Every Programmer Should Know

This is a great collection of tips from a wide range of industry professionals, including Michael Feathers, Pete Goodliffe and Diomidis Spinellis. It provides practical knowledge and principles that can be applied to all types of software projects.

A great advantage of this book is that each chapter is autonomous and relatively short (1-2 pages long), so it’s convenient to read between pomodoro sessions during the day.

Steal Like An Artist

OK, this book is not actually about stealing but rather finding inspiration and fuel creativity. I’ve read Steal like an artist more than three times so far, each of them in one hit. It’s short and perfect.

Software development is a highly creative process. Sometimes that creativity is greatly impaired by stress, lack of self-confidence, deadlines or extremely demanding bosses/clients. The truth is that nobody is able to force creativity, but they can certainly invite it, and that’s the whole essence of this book.

Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered

Austin Kleon never disappoints. His first book, Steal like an artist, is one of the biggest sources of inspiration I’ve ever come across. It was only natural that his next book would also a blast, and this time is about sharing the results of your inspiration with the world.

We love our work, we’re passionate about it, but it’s often the case that people around us don’t know or understand exactly what that is. This book will help you tell your story, get your message across and get discovered. Don’t wait any longer, show your work!

Keep Going

After “Steal like an Artist” and “Show your Work”, “Keep Going” completes the perfect book trio.

Joyful, brilliant and full of energy, this book will help you boosting your creativity whether the times are good or bad. It feels like having a coffee with a good friend and leaving with a sweet state of mind.

Although if you have already read any of Austin’s other books, you don’t even need to read this description to get convinced.

The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment's Notice

You go to work each day tasked with (1) inventing brilliant solutions that (2) meet specific objectives by (3) defined deadlines. If you do this successfully you get to keep your job. If you don’t, you get to work on your resume. The moment you exchange your creative efforts for money, you enter a world where you will have to be brilliant at a moment’s notice. (no pressure, right?)

Spot on, Todd Henry!

Designing and creating software is a highly creative process, one that makes us squeeze our brain on a daily basis. The big question is, is it possible that you can stay creative at a sustainable pace? As it turns out, creativity is a muscle, hence the more you train it the best it performs. Left untrained for long and you can find yourself struggling.

This book is a great tune-up between the two halves of the brain, can make a big difference on how you deal with your day to day work, and can also help you formulate habits that keep your creativity muscle alive and kicking.

On Writing Well, 30th Anniversary Edition: An Informal Guide to Writing Nonfiction

This book was recommended to me by Dr. Venkat Subramaniam for whom I have the utmost respect. He recommended that I read it “a few times”, so that’s what I did. And I am going to read it a few times more.

You might not be interested into writing a book or a blog yourself, so you may think this book isn’t relevant. Think again!

Working in the tech industry means that you are constantly expected to write; from documentation and proposals, to tons of emails.

And because your career progression is directly affected from how well you can communicate and influence others, this book can be a powerful weapon in your professional arsenal.

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

This book was recommended by John Papa during an interview he gave me at the Voxxed Days Athens conference.

More often than not we attempt to explain something to others, but instead of getting to the point, we sometimes give long intros and take our time. By the time we reach to the juicy bits, we have lost our audience’s attention.

The book is all about getting an idea across in a short and concise fashion, in a way that will quickly capture - and resonate with - your target audience. In the era of extremely short attention spans, this technique can be a game changer for your career.

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