09 March 2015

Soft Skills - Book Review

Programmers are not machines that just write code. We have feeling and emotions as well! ;)

We all need to learn a lot of new things, sharpen the saw, focus, make good choices about our career path, and simply, have fun.

While most books describe the technical side of coding, not many address the psychological/business/economic side of our profession. In this niche one great book has recently appeared, it’s called “Soft Skills”. The book is written by John Sonmez from simpleprogrammer.com

Is this book worth reading?

The structure

There are 71 chapters grouped into 7 parts:

  1. Career
  2. Marketing Yourself
  3. Learning
  4. Productivity
  5. Financial
  6. Fitness
  7. Spirit

Plus three nice bonus Appendices at the end.

You might be surprised by the number of chapters. But actually, little chapters make the book very easy to read. You don't need lot of time for that. Have 5 minutes? Just open one chapter and you can easily absorb it. The order is also not that important. This reminds me of a similar approach from "The Passionate Programmer". Very practical.

What I like

I was amazed by the approach that the author shows throughout the book. He presents realistic ideas instead of those nice and cheap talks from many books about motivation… Sonmez writes that if you want to succeed you need to work hard, there aren’t so many shortcuts.

We all spend some time doing nothing, browsing the Net instead of doing actual work, make mistakes about our career… or we are too optimistic about starting our own company/startup and quickly realise it was a mistake. In the book I could find several good ideas on how to fight all of those problems. You might have heard it somewhere else, but here you have this unique, practical approach added.

Some example chapters that I especially like:

  • Quit your job: maybe it’s not a good idea to just go to your boss and resign. Maybe it’s better to do it gradually? Create a side project and spend several hours each day…
  • Chapters about the learning process.
  • How to efficiently use the Pomodoro technique.
  • Chapters about marketing yourself. I don't think many people pay real attention to this. Having a blog is a very good idea in fact. So at least, I think, I am doing the right thing at the moment :)
  • How to motivate when you work from home
  • Personal story of the author. His success was not that obvious and easy; he worked hard to achieve his current comfortable state.

What I don't like

Hard to tell exactly :)

This is not a technical book, so I cannot write that ABC chapter is completely wrong or in XYZ there is no logic… The book describes ‘soft’ ideas that might work for you or not. You can also disagree with some part of the content. There are several chapters that I skipped, was not interested in or simply do not like, but it might be completely different for you.

Summary

My final mark: 4.5/5

This is a great and easy to read book. Implementing all the ideas might not be that simple, but the book has a lot of positive energy that can really help and motivate. What’s unique about this book is that instead of showing only nice and idealistic motives, it presents a realistic, practical and sometimes even painful side of (programmer) work.

You can put this book along such great books like, "The Passionate Programmer", "The Pragmatic Programmer" , "Pragmatic Thinking and Learning"

Pros:

  • Great chapter about quitting your job!
  • Honest descriptions
  • Realistic approach towards life
  • Compact, easy-to-read-and-understand chapters
  • Skills that were described are proven and used extensively by the author
  • Ideas can be applied beyond the programming profession.
  • I like appendices!

Cons:

  • Depending on your previous knowledge, some chapters might sound too easy, too basic or shallow. Or you can simply disagree.

And BTW: look at Soft Skills's Amazon Site , currently, more than 99% of reviews (above 120 reviews) give five stars!. All of those reviews cannot be wrong ;)

Your turn:

Have you read this book?

What is your opinion about it?

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