Soft Skills

I promise this will be a book review of ”Soft Skills” by John Sonmez, but first I must tell you a story.


””Soft

Story

I just had completed reading the printed version of another physical book (pBook). Now I wanted to have it both in my bookshelf as well as on my computer, so I went to the Manning site to download the eBook version (it was included for free). I signed up and downloaded, nothing in particular about that. After a couple of days I received a newsletter which talked about MEAP (Manning Early Access Program), how you can provide feedback during the writing process of a book.

One of my goals in life is to write a book. As I’m no author and I know next to nothing about writing I must learn how. Surely I’ve been writing tons of source code and numerous documents during my professional career, but I recon that is nothing like writing a book. I needed to ”get into the world of book writing” and I figured that getting one step closer to that would be to get involved in a MEAP.

I browsed through the list of books currently in MEAP, and I immediately was drawn to ”Soft Skills – The software developer’s life manual”. I bought it and downloaded the first section ”Career”. I started reading and was super excited, this is really good stuff that can help me! Since John Sonmez is doing the same ”book journey” that I also would like to do, I thought I should try to contact him. Being a shy Swede I didn’t really know how to go about doing that, or what I ”could bring to the table”. I thought for days, then I decided to give up. But for some reason, my urge in getting closer to my goal was stronger. I gave it a try, and this is the actual conversation.


””Conversation””

Wow! I was astonished by John’s kindness and willingness to help me (reading on in ”Soft Skills” I better understand why, but we leave that for later). End of story, let’s focus on the book.

Content

The book is divided into seven sections and they are:

  • Career
  • Marketing yourself
  • Learning
  • Productivity
  • Financial
  • Fitness
  • Spirit

With between 7-17 chapters in each section, a total of 71 all in all. The chapters are short and to the point (5-10 pages each), and most of them can be read individually, i.e. you can read the book from cover to cover, or jump to the parts you are interested in and continue on from there.

The ”Career” section is, that you can imagine, useful tips on how to setup career goals, gain people skills, write a good resume and pass the interview. But it’s also about what different type of options you have (employee, independent consultant, or entrepreneur) and how to think if you want to switch.

Section 2, ”Marketing yourself” was a real eye opener for me personally. I never had thought about it in this way. I tried out some of the stuff mentioned, and it didn’t take long before I could see positive result! You have to read the section yourself to fully understand, but I can give you some quotes: ”marketing is a multiplier of talent”, ”a brand is a promise” and ”follower to fan”. In this section you can also find the advice that you should give away 90% of what you do for free (that personified John’s willingness to help me).

”Learning” is a very important section, given the ever evolving world we live in. I like the idea with the 10-step process for learning, though I haven’t had the time to try it out yet.

”Productivity” is another personal favorite of mine. Who don’t want to be productive? I really like chapter 37 – ”My Personal Productivity Plan”. It has a personal touch that I like, with great examples and pictures. The do’s and don’ts from chapter 41 about multi-tasking are also very good.

Section 5, ”Financial” has a very good tip on how to negotiate salary that is worth at least a 10% raise 🙂 I can’t leave this section without mentioning chapter 55 – ”Bonus: How I retired at 33”. It’s very personal, and really shows that a travel from A to B usually aren’t a straight line.

To become a good software developer, or any knowledge worker for that matter, your body has to be reasonably ”up to speed” with your brain. This is covered in the ”Fitness” section.  Maybe the most ”geek friendly” advice is the one about using a standing desk together with a treadmill.

Finally, section 7 is about ”Spirit”. Beforehand this was the least appealing section for me. But John does a good job not turning this into some spiritual mumbo jumbo.

Recommendation

When the book was released I got the full version and re-started my reading with the foreword by Uncle Bob. Then it all of a sudden clicked for me! This book is not about career, marketing yourself or fitness (well it is, but you understand what I mean). This book is about never giving up, to everyday make the version of yourself a little bit better than yesterday. I believe that this book will be a game changer for many software developers or  knowledge workers in general (most of its content are applicable to larger audience). At least it has been for me. I can truly recommend ”Soft Skills”, it’s personal kaizen!

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