Thursday, 31 March 2016

Book Review: The Software Craftsman: Professionalism, Pragmatism, Pride


There were a few things that made me read this: 
  • I saw it lying on my dev managers desk
  • We have a coach from the company that the author co-founded in our place at the moment
  • I was cynical about the software craftsman idea and thought it was about self-serving, elitist and pumped up self publicists
I'm not a soppy or effusive person, but I have to say this book really resonated with me and, like a really good rally call,  made me feel positive about my current position and how to sustain and develop my career further and just how I might achieve this. The thing is, I knew most of this already but just hadn't bundled the virtues, thoughts and values that are described, under a particular banner. 

The Software Craftsman Manifesto

It actually exists!  A set of values to which a software craftsman can hang their hat.  Now, like the author says, there are people who don't like to call themselves craftsman and I am one of them, but the ideas of professionalism, adding value and trying to do a good job are things I already embody and value in my peers. Its good to see that in the UK there is a large community of people who are interested in the same things, the LSCC being one of these groups.  I need to get to one of these groups locally, any of these in Brum? 

Not about TDD or XP

The book isnt about TDD or XP necessarily but they are advocated as, currently, the best ways of helping produce quality and valuable software.   In fact it is mentioned an awful lot  - but you will need to buy a different book for advice on specific technical practices.

What to do

I, like the author, often hear that people say that the company they are working at is not investing in them and propelling them forward in their career.  Sandro pulls no punches in saying that this responsibility is left squarely at your own feet, which I completely agree with.  Professionals in other industries have to stay current and continue a life long journey of mastery why should devs be any different.  

From reading books to attending meetups to pet projects to blogging,  a number of strategies are discussed to help you help yourself.  

This is probably obvious to most people, but doing it is different from talking or knowing about what you need to do. In the first part of my career -  after leaving Uni - I didn't invest enough time in learning  new stuff and keeping up to date with what is current - its a lot easier now and I'm lazy - but I'd be further ahead if I'd maintained my out of work learning after Uni. Don't get me wrong, I was still working hard and wasn't a 9 to 5'er but my working life may have been a bit easier if I'd supplemented it with stuff I'd learnt so that I could lead and not just be lead

Identifying your peers

There's a great section on the different types of personality traits of people you will work with from the "fanboy" to the "irrational" to the "cynic".  Discussing how to deal with different people and knowing that other people have identified them, certainly makes you realise that you weren't the only frustrated person.    There is some great advice about being humble and open to ideas, which is a quality some peers lack and hopefully when they read his hallowed words they will reflect and be a bit more open.   Also "fanyboys'" should take stock and just "chill the fuck out".  Yes, I'm sure the tech you learnt about last night is great I just don't want it rammed down my throat - again....

Interviewing/Being interviewed/Career choice

Yeah , tips on interviewing may seem a bit out of place but good advice on interviewing your prospective employers is indispensable.  Also, advice on owning your career and knowing what you want and when you want it vindicates some of the choices you have had to make where more money was necessary or opting for a slightly less hectic pace when building a family. 


I'm certain I've missed some pivotal parts of the book out of the review, my short term memory is terrible (and I promise to pay them their dues next time I pick up the book)  but I am left in no doubt that this is an excellent book, if you are disillusioned it may reignite you hunger, if you are looking at what you need to do to help you progress, it has sage advice.  I'd almost label it a developers self-help book,  I certainly wouldn't have bought it, if it had a self-help title but it makes me think I might read a few more of these if it gives you a spring in your step.  Or is that just because its Spring? Enjoy. 

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