I believe software development is a fantastic job. It’s always challenging, accessible to anyone, and generates good revenues. There are several books dealing with “how you can be a successful developer”, but very few give life advices. Soft Skills by John Sonmez is one of them.
The book talks a lot about “success”, but unfortunately the author never defines what it means for him. I won’t speak for him, but for me success is the ability to choose if I want to work, and on what I work if I decide to do so.
Soft Skills really helps me to be more successful, according to this definition.
Honestly I was sceptical at first. This guy is going to tell me what to eat and it’s supposed to make me a better programmer ? But I missed the point : It doesn’t explain how technically to be a better programmer, we have plenty of books for that. Instead it proposes a series of practical advices to improve your career, your finances, your body and even your spirit.
For example, the author describes the main possible paths : Employee vs Freelance vs Startup, trying to show pros and cons in each case.
I found good advice for hacking the interview : the best way to get a job ? Don’t look for a job, make the job look for you. The point is : research the Company you want to work for, engage conversation with people working there (social networks are awesome). Be the guy they already know instead of the guy who needs a job.
I also enjoy (and applied almost immediately) the part explaining how to write a resume. Writing a good resume is not a required skill to be successful, but having a good resume is useful to have the job you like. Solve the problem by hiring a Professional CV writer, and save time for more interesting stuff.
As a freelancer, I was particularly interested in this chapter.
We often assume that if we’re good, success will follow. It does not work that way, you need to be good, and you need to be known for what you are good at.
I found useful advice about blogging for example. You wonder how to have a successful blog? The short answer is: write on it, consistently. You certainly won’t write a piece of art each time, but if you’re consistent you’ll build up an audience pretty quickly. And by writing a lot, you help yourself think, thus improve.
Our job requires us to always learn. Better find an effective way to do it. This chapter has advices on how to find a mentor, how to learn and how to teach by breaking your goal in small goals.
The author presents a method with different steps roughly from being a total beginner to teaching to other people. I haven’t tried it yet but I like the structured approach for learning about anything.
Again I quickly applied most advices in this chapter.
It includes using Pomodoros to manage my time. True multitasking : which means for example listening for a talk or a podcast during a run, or use my commute time to write blog article (MS Word on Smartphone is not that bad).
Another thing I directly applied from this book is setting objectives. My current weekly objectives are : at least one Pomodoro to answer a Stackoverflow question, and at least 4 Pomodoros to write blog articles.
I especially like the chapter explaining how much it costs you to passively watch stupid TV show.
Financial, fitness and spirit
Do you ever realize that you are virtually not free until you can choose to work or not? It was a bit of a shock for me, but I now think it’s quite true. If you want a decent life, you are forced to work. If you want to have the choice to work or not (and keep your lifestyle), you need to create passive incomes.
Even if you don’t want this choice, it’s good to realize that retirement is not the only path.
About fitness and spirit I won’t go too far, but the chapters are really worth it. Whether you are absolutely allergic to sport, or you already do gym every day, you will find useful stuff. You’ll better understand how calories work, and how your spirit can influence your behaviour.
Why I recommend that book
Because it’s not a magic formula. It’s really pragmatic and realist. A good summary could be: if you want to be a good developer, you need to have good professional habits. If you want to be a successful developer able to choose if and on what you want to work, you need to have good life habits.
It’s not easy, it requires hard work and this book may be really helpful to find these good habits.
Thanks to Jean Helou and John Sonmez for the review.
Special thanks to Christophe Fernandez for recommending me this book.