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 own make-or-break moments with Silicon Valley giants such as Apple, Netscape, and Symantec in Being Geek—an insightful and entertaining book that will help you make better career decisions.
With more than 40 standalone stories, Lopp walks through a complete job life cycle, starting with the job interview and ending with the realization that it might be time to find another gig. Many books teach you how to interview for a job or how to manage a project successfully, but only this book helps you handle the baffling circumstances you may encounter throughout your career.
Decide what you're worth with the chapter on "The Business"
Determine the nature of the miracle your CEO wants with "The Impossible"
Give effective presentations with "How Not to Throw Up"
Handle liars and people with devious agendas with "Managing Werewolves"
Realize when you should be looking for a new gig with "The Itch"
Review By: Robert Watkins 11/28/2011
When looking for a book, I typically look for a very specific technical topic. Being Geek caught my eye because it talked about something I have not thought about in any structured way, my career.
Michael Lopp has a strong background at all levels of organizations that produce software. Besides being successful in his technical work, he’s committed a huge amount of his brain power to how teams work and how to understand his career. In this book, he’s taken some of the content from his blog (randsinrepose.com), added to it, and structured it around tips for establishing a career in software development.
I should warn you that his style and language are very raw. If you look beyond his idiosyncratic style, you will be rewarded with valuable insight on starting a career, enjoying a career, and looking for warning signs within your career. He even includes a section for your significant other to read that tries to explain why you are the way you are.
In one chapter I enjoyed, titled “The Foamy Rules for Rabid Tools,” Lopp writes about how there are so many trees on his property that he has not one but three different sizes of chainsaws. Conversely, his brother-in-law lives on a property with very few trees. One day, his brother-in-law needed to cut down a couple trees on his property. All he had to use was a handsaw. Within a minute of working up a sweat, the brother-in-law realized that this was going to be a hard job. Along comes the author with the smallest chainsaw, and they make short order of the work.
Given that story, how do you think about the tools in your own toolset? Are you rabidly devoted to them? Do they meet your needs on a daily basis? Are there other tools that you need on an infrequent basis? Do you have access to the tools you need infrequently? You need to know the answers to these questions.
The chapters are generally self-contained, so you can skip if you'd like or you can read straight through. Anyone from an intern to a manager on a team that produces software will find lots of excellent information and advice in Being Geek.