Book Review: The Passionate Programmer written by Chad Fowler

I just happened to get to know about this book while browsing through the books on Flipkart and the book immediately caught my attention. So here’s my review of the book:

First things first

  • Really cool cover page of the book – [I know Chad Fowler's musical interest has some role to play in the designing of the cover page]
  • 200 odd pages book- So you don’t feel its overdose of information
  • Short chapters, lighter book. Each chapter followed by Act it! which guides you on how to implement the ideas explained.
  • Nice and legible font used for the content.

Introduction

  • Author speaks about Why the book was written- Really inspiring stuff there.
  • Few aspects are highlighted just to give the reader an idea of what to expect in the next 200 odd pages. This will boost your urge to complete the book in one sitting.

Just for the curious readers: The author tells about fighting the fear of failure and also owning one’s career growth just as a company owns its products and inspiring from this the book has been divided into 5 parts:

  • Choosing market
  • Investing in your product
  • Executing
  • Marketing yourself
  • And Keeping the edge
  • This sets the tone for the rest of the book

Choosing the market

Author tries to address about:

  • You were fascinated by that technology but didn’t try to read about it because it wasnt used at work?
  • Influenced by your parents urge to play safe with the job even if you didn’t like it.
  • You are not so excited to go to work and look for reasons to stay back home
  • Still stuck with old technologies and not sure what to decide to learn
  • Worried of losing your job to someone else
  • Why should you care about the business domain you are working on.

In short, this section is all about preparing your self for the change by identifying your current situation, assessing your interests, choosing or short listing the technologies you are planning to learn. Also there are 2 beautiful and inspiring case studies to help you get upbeat.

Investing in Your Product

Various lessons learnt in this section:

  • Importance of learning to do things rather than getting it done from someone else
  • Understanding the business working
  • Importance of getting mentored by more experienced people- I really support this, i have seen how things change when you are mentored or interact with someone more experienced than you.
  • Sharing improves one’s knowledge and so its useful to find someone whom you can mentor- The author has given few suggestions on how one can become a mentor.
  • Importance of practice. Coming out of the comfort zone and trying out new technologies, different paradigms.
  • Not depending on proprietary technologies and instead adopt open source community driven technologies.

At times participating in Forum discussions can help you a lot in Finding a mentor and being a mentor. Also I would encourage participating in the open source communities and try reading the code and writing patches (This is something I didn’t do and I would encourage people to practice this right from their under-graduate studies).

Executing

Important section and explains how one can start executing the ideas and plans formulated in the previous 2 sections. Various strategies highlighted for executing ideas and plans are:

  • Not procrastinating the work, doing it right now
  • Monitoring the daily tasks performed
  • Trying to predict the requirements or tasks – this is a tough activity but with practice one should become fairly good.
  • Not trying to day dream about your promotions, hike or trying to target next levels without justifying the current position.
  • Identifying the value added to the company
  • Not fearing failure, taking risks and learning from failures. Keeping calm during tough situations.
  • Judging one’s ability before taking up tasks- taking up all the tasks is not good and denying all the tasks is also not good.

Marketing

Its not enough to just analyze, invest and execute the plans, gain more expertise in different technical areas, but what’s more important is how you present/market yourself. The author tries to:

  • Explain the need for presenting your skills.
  • Throw light on how you can get under the focus of your teammates and manager- “Out of sight is out of mind” so one has to avoid that.
  • Explain the importance of writing articles, speaking at conferences and also going to the extent of authoring books on your favorite technologies.
  • Suggests to participate in open source technologies- write code, try to gain visibility in the community
  • Setup a blog- and start writing, sharing your ideas, learning. But don’t try to make a fool of yourself in the process.

Maintaining the Edge

“Its easier to get to the top, but its difficult to stay there”- this section is written keeping this in mind.

  • Keeping updated about the technologies – what’s promising, what’s going to be stale.
  • Trying to incrementally change – keep getting better each day
  • Planning the career – Being agile, welcome changes and adapt.

Final thoughts

  • Must read book for any software developer
  • Explained the ideas through sensible analogy
  • Provides tips to actually implement the discussed idea.
  • Simple language, short chapters

Reference: Book Review: The Passionate Programmer written by Chad Fowler from our JCG partner Mohamed at the “Experiences Unlimited” blog.

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