About a week ago I completed listening the audio book Soft Skills: The software developer’s life manual by John Sonmez. I purchased this audio book due to the many great reviews, and also the credibility of John Sonmez who regularly posts fairly interesting content on both his blog and youtube channel. I hoped that the audio book could give me a good overview of what non-technical skills and habits a software developer should strive to have in order to produce the best results possible. Fortunately this is for the most part what I got out of the book.
If I was to choose one word to describe this book it would be breadth. The book covers a wide variety of topics, stretching all the way from blogging to stoicism to stock options. This is a great thing for anybody getting started on their career(like me) since it provides a perspective on the many different opportunities that exist.
A large part of the book is dedicated to topics pertaining to making the right software career decisions. A lot of concepts are borrowed from other “self-help” books, however, John does a good job of putting them in a context that is more specific to software developers. Topics such as freelancing, blogging, working remotely, and managing job offers are all covered and explained on a high level.
Rather than giving a specific set of steps to finding a job or getting a raise, the book focuses on more broad concepts such as self-marketing and productivity. These lead to finding better jobs anyway, and are beneficial in many other ways. Some of the self-marketing techniques described are different than what you’re taught in school such as creating an e-mail list, and providing value through blog comments.
Productivity methods were mentioned all throughout the book, my favorite being the pomadoro technique. The technique is described in detail, John gives his specific way of using this technique to achieve high levels of productivity. This technique I found myself using almost immediately after I read the chapter, and I definitely recommend for anyone reading this to at least google what it is.
The last few chapters of the book are very “self-helpy”, they focus on philosophy, spirituality, and general well-being. I found everything to be described quite well, most concepts seemed to have been borrowed directly from other books. These chapters are a good introduction into these topics, and may be an eye opener for anyone who hasn’t heard of them.
Due to the vast amount of topics covered, majority aren’t covered in detail. This is a reasonable trade-off, and isn’t quite that bad since John provides resources throughout the book for where more information is available. The vastness also makes it likely that you’re probably already very familiar with some of the topics, in which case I recommend skipping the chapters.
Overall I enjoyed this audio book. I could relate to almost every topic covered, and each concept was explained from experience which gave the information more value. The book has the feel of a conversation making it easy to understand without intense focus. I’d definitely recommend this to any software developer in the beginning stages of their career. One thing to note is that the audio quality is not quite up to par with what you’re normally used to when purchasing on audible.