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Team Geek: A Software Developer's Guide to Working Well with Others

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As a software engineer, you're great with computer languages, compilers, debuggers, and algorithms. And in a perfect world, those who produce the best code are the most successful. But in our perfectly messy world, success also depends on how you work with people to get your job done.

In this highly entertaining book, Brian Fitzpatrick and Ben Collins-Sussman cover basic patterns and anti-patterns for working with other people, teams, and users while trying to develop software. It's valuable information from two respected software engineers whose popular video series, "Working with Poisonous People," has attracted hundreds of thousands of viewers.

You'll learn how to deal with imperfect people--those irrational and unpredictable beings--in the course of your work. And you'll discover why playing well with others is at least as important as having great technical skills. By internalizing the techniques in this book, you'll get more software written, be more influential, be happier in your career.

191 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2012

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Brian W. Fitzpatrick

7 books12 followers

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5 stars
354 (29%)
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526 (44%)
3 stars
245 (20%)
2 stars
52 (4%)
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14 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 132 reviews
Profile Image for Mark Gibaud.
9 reviews2 followers
March 20, 2014
I was actually very disappointed with this. A lot of the information is pretty much common sense to anybody that has worked with any group of people in their lives, ie. Don't be a dick. The advice is very generic and I expected more insightful stuff from Googlers. Furthermore, the authors are rampantly guilty of using 2000 words when 200 would do. There is a lot of fluff in this book - I started skipping sentences and then paragraphs and then pages! Overall sorely disappointed. Johanna Rothman's Behind Closed Doors is one example of a much better management/team player book.
Profile Image for Rob.
Author 2 books383 followers
October 19, 2014
People are basically a giant pile of intermittent bugs.

With this simple humorous statement, Fitz and Ben [1] perfectly capture the attitude that leads us to need a book like Team Geek (O'Reilly 2012). It's not the only reason we need a book like this, but it's an important one, considering our target audience: otherwise high-functioning engineers that need a little help figuring out how to navigate the apparently volatile social landscape. And why seek that help? Because those soft-skills are critical to building and maintaining high-performance software teams. [2] As Fitz and Ben say right up front:

The basic idea of this book is simple: writing software is a team sport, and we posit that the human factors involved have as much influence on the outcome as the technical factors.

And you know exactly who they're talking about. The inexperienced know-it-all. The taciturn jerk. The well-intentioned sadist. The sonorous martyr. The filibustering perfectionist. The mincing apologist. The cast of characters that make up the team that hopefully are not also breaking the team. They're out there. Your eyes just darted back to the one that makes your life hell, didn't you? [3]

Well, Fitz and Ben want to help. They want to help you cope with those people, to help avoid being one those people, and to help you become a leader [4] within your cohort, because ultimately that's the skill that you really need to grow. (And yes, they acknowledge that you may not agree with them on that point--but you'll concede it by the end.)

The book can be partitioned into two basic sections: the first half is reflective and inward-looking, while the second half looks outward and discusses how to manage the relationships around you. They talk you through some introspection ("even if you are a genius, it turns out that that’s not enough"); through how to be part of an "awesome" team, and how to maintain the health of such a team; and through the patterns and anti-patterns of great leaders in software engineering. Once they have you reasonably well-acquainted with yourself and how you affect your teams, then they move on to the external factors. They talk through dealing with "poisonous people"; through how to "manage up" and manipulate the organization; and through building a rapport with your community of users/consumers.

Now you probably guessed (and correctly) that this book is full of witticisms and aphorisms, witty anecdotes and pithy sayings and other street office folklore. These are the axioms and fables that we've heard a million times, right? These are the slogans and myths that shape our view of the world. (You may find yourself saying: "But I already read about this in The Art of Agile Development !") But they're wise (Fitz and Ben) and throughout the text they acknowledge these facts. They acknowledge that we have heard "this" before, or that we already have an ingrained doubt about "that". Fitz and Ben know that we're not stupid--and that's why we wind up trusting them. When they tell us that good ideas come from frequent face-to-face collaboration, they also acknowledge that you (like me) are probably an introvert that also needs to retreat afterward to the environment where you work best. [5] When they talk about why it's essential to evolve yourself into a leader, they acknowledge why you would be hesitant to take on such a role. [6] And when they talk about "managing upward" and "manipulating your organization", they acknowledge that this can be risky, and why you might not be so eager to take those risks, and also that sometimes it's simply not worth expending the political capital.

So is it all witticisms and aphorisms? Well... mostly. Fitz and Ben have a lot of good anecdotes to tell here, and because they're writing very specifically for software engineers, it's a very earnest text. It's conversational. It's like sitting down to have a couple of beers with them and letting them set you straight on a few things. (Because let's face it: if you're reading this book, you want to be set straight on a few things.) It probably won't change your life, but it might help give you that slight course-correction or attitude adjustment that you need. (Because let's face it: if you're reading this book, you want a slight course-correction or attitude adjustment.) And if you ask me, that alone makes the book worth the price of admission.


[1] Our authors-slash-narrators-slash-mentors are actually Brian W. Fitzpatrick and Ben Collins-Sussman. But they refer to themselves as "Fitz and Ben" throughout the text--so they're Fitz and Ben here, too.

[2] Hopefully you didn't need them to tell you this. Though it was probably one of those things that you knew already, but had been vehemently denying.

[3] It was the sonorous martyr, wasn't it?

[4] Though not necessarily a manager; they're very clear about that distinction.

[5] They cite Susan Cain's [title:Quiet] as essential reading. And I know that that is essential reading for introverts, so I've got that much more trust for Fitz and Ben. (My review is here on my blog.)

[6] Again, they make a distinction between a "leader" and a "manager". They even go so far as to joke that they've marked the "manager" as @Deprecated.


Full disclosure: I received an electronic copy from the publisher in exchange for writing a review.
Profile Image for Pedro Almeida.
21 reviews2 followers
April 17, 2017
Easy to read book. It's amazing how hard is to see the lack of HTR (humility, trust and respect) we have when working in software development industry.
Recommended to egocentric developers!
Profile Image for Anton Antonov.
198 reviews54 followers
September 16, 2018
Team Geek is a perfect read for every software engineer, no matter whether working in a big or small company.

The book revolves around authors’ careers as a software developers and later as a team leads/managers. As the authors’ careers, the book also progresses from team work to managing people (a lot on that).

People may disagree with this book’s title since it says it’s focused on a software developer’s point of view, but actually focus a lot more on managers, but is that a bad thing?

All employed software developers have someone responsible for managing them. Understanding that person’s job and the meaning behind his/hers actions will help you build a better relationship with your manager and ease the work.

Also, you’ll be a much more responsible team member if you can micromanage yourself and not make that your manager’s job. I mean, everybody hates being extensively micromanaged by others or doing that to others. And people working in smaller companies can’t have the luxury of someone watching over your back all the time, so being a manager to yourself is a win-win situation.

The Humility-Respect-Trust mantra is something we all know well, but the situations described through the chapters, make us give it all a second thought. Ben and Brian have faced more than most people have/will. Learning from their experience is a sure way to make the right call in more situations.

So, do yourself, your team, your manager, a favor and read Team Geek by Brian W. Fitzpatrick, Ben Collins-Sussman.

P.S The authors may have advertised Google a bit too much :D
Profile Image for Leonid.
194 reviews17 followers
November 5, 2020
The book is ok, though pretty basic, advices can be summed up as "don't be an asshole".
Book concentrates on "strategy", that is quite obvious, without saying almost anything about tactics, which is actually hard part - and very nuanced, so you can't really give an advice for every possible situation.
On the positive side - it's easy to read, and can be read in a day or two, so you won't get bored.
126 reviews3 followers
December 8, 2018
Office politics 101 for geeks
Profile Image for Pawel Dolega.
79 reviews6 followers
January 11, 2015
As many reviewers already mentioned - this is a fair book for entry level management / team lead role. Actually more for the latter.

Although it's targeted for people working in any kind of organization (big or small) I actually think it's more meaningful for people working in medium / larger organizations (still people working in smaller organizations or involved, say, in open source project should find it useful).

For anyone having at least some experience with working with people (especially as a leader) lots of advises will be obvious and basically common sense. Still if nothing else, this book may used as a nice reminder - personally I need to remind myself (refresh the cache ?) about some things from time to time.

Overall I liked the writing style (which is informal) and the clear message. Also size of the book seems to be *appropriate* - I didn't feel lots of repetitiveness and even obvious advises weren't boring (and IMHO this is very common in books covering so called soft skills).

Why 3 stars ? Basically there is nothing mind bending in this book or no really novel ideas. As the name of 3 star rating implies - "I liked it" but nothing more. Recommended book if you want to read something lightweight and fun in the category of management / leadership / general cooperation with people.
Profile Image for evan.
324 reviews4 followers
December 20, 2014
This would be a good first book on management for developers. After managing for the last 4 years or so, I didn't find the book particularly interesting or new; I often found it a little too proud of itself. I read this part of a manager book club at work; I enjoyed the conversation that came out of having read the book more than the book itself.

The ideas that did resonate with me from the book that were either things I had distinctly thought of, or that were a good reminder:
- ask my reports "what can I do for you me?"
- ask my reports "what do you need from me?"
- my main job is to clear obstacles from my reports so they can get work done faster. This means not knowing answers is ok, but knowing who does know the answer is vital.
Author 2 books109 followers
June 1, 2016
Неплохая книга, но в ней, все же, достаточно много банальностей.

Ключевая книги заключается в том, что в основе любых отношений должны лежать три принципа - скромности, доверия и уважения, и что их наличие позволит устранить конфликты, сделать дружную команду, получить отличный продукт и удовлетворенных пользователей.

И хотя мысль верная, она, кажется, несколько наивной и идеалистичной. В книге есть советы о том, как бороться со сложными коллегами, о том, каким должен быть "правильный" менеджер, и о многом другом.

Книга будет интересной, но ставить ее в один ряд с Peopleware рука не поднимится ну не как.
Profile Image for Martin.
89 reviews60 followers
September 30, 2016
Despite previous comments that the things in this book are pretty much common sense, I think there's a lot of valuable information on communication here - one has to realise that a lot of programmers are socially awkward to begin with, and not everybody reads self-help and communication books. So, more books like this are needed. That being said, the rules in this book could apply to any kind communication, not just the software-related one.
The only downside I found was that some themes were overdeveloped in comparison to others.
Profile Image for Marco Emmanuel Patiño Acosta.
11 reviews1 follower
February 23, 2013
This was a book I needed to read earlier. It was a great book with lots of advises, dos and don'ts for effective communication and collaboration. it has also a lot of examples I could relate to and advises to handle situations that worked in Google, SVN and other teams. Finally the great surprise was the final list with reference books to read more about the subject. I recommend this book a lot.
Profile Image for Ho Vu.
2 reviews1 follower
March 28, 2013
This is a very useful book for software engineers regardless of their positions. In fact the HRT(humility, respect, truth) principal described in the book is applicable to any team. The book is written in very clear simple language backed with many humorous stories that make it a quick and enjoyable read.
Profile Image for Roman.
135 reviews80 followers
October 10, 2013
The central theme of this book is HRT (Human, Respect and Trust) principle applied to all areas of geek's life - co-working with people, communication with users, leading people, dealing with boss etc. Geeks are really good in communication with machines but fail in face of communication with other people. This book helps understand it and gives you good tips&thoughts.
Profile Image for huydx.
33 reviews12 followers
July 6, 2014
A very thoughtful book. From two famous developers who work for google, and also authors from famous open source called SVN. They really know how to work in team, and to build a great team in depth. This book can be summarized into 3 words: humility, respect and trust, which are three virtues you should have to work good in team. Highly recommended for any software developer.
Profile Image for Srđan.
17 reviews7 followers
November 29, 2014
I would recommend this book to any developer or development manager. It provides both high level ideas and detailed examples of communication and behavior in development teams that make a healthy culture. Even if some of these ideas seem like common sense, or you're already aware of them, it's good to remind yourself about them and assess how successful are you in implementing them.
Profile Image for Niclas.
46 reviews
October 16, 2015
If you work in the software industry, you should read this book. It has clear, concise and actionable tips on working well as a team member or leader of an engineering team and also describes how to fit into the larger puzzle of a software org.
21 reviews2 followers
July 23, 2013
الكتاب رائع في استعراضه لكيفية التفاعل مع الآخرين ضمن بيئة العمل و اتخاذ القرار المناسب
يجب أن يقرأه كل من لديه اهتمام بتحسين عمله الجماعي .. و مهندسو البرمجيات بالأخص !
Profile Image for Tomas Janousek.
15 reviews11 followers
August 11, 2013
Mandatory reading for everyone in the software industry.

(I would've given it 5 stars had the authors not mentioned the Linux kernel community as a bad example.)
Profile Image for Brett.
Author 2 books26 followers
November 28, 2016
The first chapter of this book is worth a read. The rest is meh.
Profile Image for Anton Onyshchenko.
4 reviews2 followers
November 12, 2018
The book is short (which is good), but full with some good advices which are applicable in any kind of human relationship.
Profile Image for Stephen Mullins.
134 reviews1 follower
October 17, 2018
This is a short but impactful book describing effective software engineering people skills. Most of this aligns to the culture at my current company (Signal) which is awesome. I wish I had read this much earlier in my career as it would have helped me better understand what kind of culture to establish within a team.

While the book is filled with software engineering anecdotes, there is a certain universal message and appeal for the contents in this book. You'll also find a breadcrumb trail of other great books to read too such as Peopleware and Paradox of Choice.

If you're a seasoned and considerate software engineer working within a great culture, you may still appreciate this book as I did for nothing else than to see a bunch of cultural elements written down on paper. If you are earlier in your career or unhappy with the culture of your team you may find this book really insightful for how bright things can be.
Profile Image for Andrew Montalenti.
17 reviews1 follower
October 22, 2019
Good book for senior engineers reflecting on management

- Good book for senior engineers who need to better understand the human factor of software.
- Well-described in the book itself as “Peopleware, but for individual contributors”.
- Not particularly intellectual or rigorous, so it’s a light read, and practical.
- Managers won’t learn much about the blocking and tackling of management practice here. That’s covered in other books, like “An Elegant Puzzle” and “Making Things Happen”. Instead, “Team Geek” will mainly help build empathy with the skeptical position of most talented engineers vis-a-vis management.
Profile Image for Mina.
1,013 reviews120 followers
March 7, 2019
Management in a nutshell for all geeks everywhere. Really.

Do you feel like management/leadership are buzzwords associated with someone stealing time for The Art of [insert what makes you happy, here] with endless meetings?

Do you get a cramp in the glutes when someone speaks about “team culture”?

Here’s a compact version of management know-how for science types everywhere. It’s just a different type of programming language. Really. Ignore the C++ chapter and geeks can finally understand what this is all about.

All geeks - everywhere:

Geeks in accounting
Geeks in investing
Geeks in business
Geeks in consulting
Geeks in banking

And, of course

Geeks in software

Would recommend.
Profile Image for Omelian Levkovych.
75 reviews10 followers
May 19, 2022
It probably most valuable for the newcomers into industry. Sadly, some advices are pretty trivial and idk why, but part of the book is literally the 'Software Engineering at Google', or vice verca. I am still going throw the SE at Google and can't really tell whether it worth reading one after another.

Meanwhile, I give it so high points because of some advices that I haven't seen in any other book(s) and some topics I haven't considered before e.g., bad/good managers, bad organizations and some tips on how to play politics in the company.

Conclusion: good read
Profile Image for Cliff Chew.
121 reviews8 followers
October 20, 2020
This is a short book, and the messaging from within is yet so crucial. This book should be for anyone who wants to work in a team, as it provides very useful suggestions on how to approach the role of organising people's efforts towards achieving a reasonably large objective.

The hard part I would say, is to practice what the book has advocated, because dealing with humans are the harder aspects of software development.
Profile Image for Paula.
40 reviews1 follower
January 15, 2021
- the language was simple and the tone used was friendly, so it was easy to read and understand
- the scenarios for the points presented were sufficient and relatable
- relating to the examples made me think of my own work experiences

No cons, this is my first non technical software development book and it made me remember that I should always interact with HRT — humility, respect, and trust.
Profile Image for Abhijith.
3 reviews4 followers
June 9, 2018
This book is a good guide on the dynamics of a high functioning software development team - how individuals are supposed to work together to make great software. What works, what does not and so on. The chapters follow an ordering of stuff to be applied at the level of individual->team->organization->users. [Kinda like those books on networking where they deal with each layer of the stack :-)]
January 29, 2019
I found this book as an amazing resource of inspiration and new ideas. HRT principle is the key in figuring out in-depth problem into company, team and human-to-human relationship. I recommend this book to everyone who either considering moving to leading position and to anyone who want to advance their career or rethink current state of being inside an organisation, life, etc.
9 reviews
June 23, 2020
Software Engineering is a team sports! HRT -- Humble, Respect, Trust.. Let's Quote Hamming -" It was that little extra work that later paid off for me. By realizing you have to use the system and studying how to get the system to do your work, you learn how to adapt the systems to your desires.". research is a team sports, too. (maybe?)
Profile Image for Farid Bekran.
30 reviews1 follower
January 18, 2021
I think the Humility, Respect, and Trust principle introduced in the book are the cornerstones of an effective team.
The book contains examples of the real-world which makes it easier to absorb the principles.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 132 reviews

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