Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Book Review: The Passionate Programmer

Chad Fowler's The Passionate Programmer is a book about happiness. It is about how to lead a successful happy career doing something that you really enjoy. Naturally it is geared toward software programmers but in reality many of the tips Fowler hands out could be applied to almost any career.

Fowler takes his experiences as a programmer first and a musician second and uses them to identify a set of 53 "tips" broken up into 5 main sections. These tips run the gamut from identifying a core technology or specialty to going out on your own as an independent.

At first glance much of Fowler's content could be pushed off as common sense, however in many cases the most obvious of concepts isnt readily apparent until it is brought to one's attention. The notion of treating one's career as a product is a popular notion that Fowler subscribes to and bases his advice on.

Fowler begins with "Choosing Your Market", a segment focused on identifying a technology or specialty that fits your career goals. He identifies criteria to consider when evaluating the investment required to become versed in a particular technology.

Next he lays out "Investing in Your Product." This section identifies how one can develop expertise in both the technologies they have chosen to specialize in as well as how to become a generally excellent programmer.

"Executing" is the next section of the book, which identifies how you can work to the best of your ability in your day to day tasks. A good percentage of this section is motivational in nature. Chapters like "How Good a Job Can I Do Today?" really seek to overcome the desire to stay in bed in the morning.

Fowler then covers "Marketing..." with tips about how to get your name out both within your current place of employment as well as the greater community.

Finally the book finishes with "Maintaining Your Edge" a call to action to not give up on the prior tips and to continue to treat your career as your product.

Overall the book is a fascinating read and well worth the investment for anyone who enjoys the "softer" side of software development. It serves as an excellent companion to The Pragmatic Programmer, a book with whom it shares some lineage by virtue of the publishing house.

On a school scale I would give The Passionate Programmer a solid B+. It was a good read, with some great information, but it isn't a book I would be compelled to buy as a gift or to put on a "required reading" list.

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