Job skills for geeks. Dr. Peter Grogono’s review

September 16, 2010

Dr. Grogono is a professor of Computer Science at Concordia University.  Recipient of the Engineering and Computer Science Faculty Teaching Excellence Award, 1998, and the Concordia University President’s Award for Teaching Excellence, 2007. He authored several books about programming. I recently came across his review of “Making it Big in Software”, and thought it was worth sharing.  Like most of the reviewers, Peter gave the book 5 stars, but unlike the others, Peter has been around longer, and seen more of our industry’s history.

Rating: ***** (5 stars!) 

I didn’t have great expectations for this book. Since I’m approaching retirement at the end of a mostly academic life, it’s a bit late to think about making a professional career in software. But it was cheap enough to consider and expensive enough to bring me up to the “free shipping” point, so I got it anyway.

And it far exceeded my expectations! The chapters cover topics that are relevant to jobs in many areas (dealing with people, leadership, growth, advancement, time management, zen (!), …). Although similar material is presented in many other books, Lightstone’s versions are interesting, original, and spiced with personal anecdotes. Not only will his book will help me to answer students’ career advice questions, but I can also tell them to get it.

There is more. The book contains 17 interviews with people who have made signficant contributions to the industry in one way or another. Many of the names are well-known (Wozniak, Stroustrup, Stallman, Torvalds, …), others less so. But they all have something interesting to say. Every interviewee answers the same questions. This is both good and bad: bad in that the answers occasionally seem a little forced, good in that we get to compare different points of view on specific topics. It’s very tempting to peek ahead: what is Wozniak’s pet peeve?

If you are starting a career in software, this book will be useful. If you are in mid-career, you will probably pick up a few tips. If, like me, you are near the end, it’s fun to compare experiences: been there, done that! Recommended.

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