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The Effective Engineer: How to Leverage Your Efforts In Software Engineering to Make a Disproportionate and Meaningful Impact

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  1,318 ratings  ·  175 reviews
The most effective engineers — the ones who have risen to become distinguished engineers and leaders at their companies — can produce 10 times the impact of other engineers, but they're not working 10 times the hours.

They've internalized a mindset that took me years of trial and error to figure out. I'm going to share that mindset with you — along with hundreds of actionab
Paperback, 260 pages
Published March 19th 2015 by Effective Bookshelf
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Feb 20, 2016 rated it it was ok
Disappointing read for me. The author should have specifically called out the intended audience for this book (strictly suitable only to a complete newbie software engineer). As a result I had to wade through the lazy writing (reads like a series of bullet points with a smattering of routinely cited works - every business/tech book is referenced here once every couple of lines, is that really necessary? This often came across as filler material). $35 for a book that reads like a collection of bl ...more
Wojtek Ogrodowczyk
Sep 07, 2017 rated it liked it
I'm feeling ambivalent about this book.

On one hand, it starts with a revolutionary premise ("ha ha", laughed I in French) that _maybe_ working 60 hours a week is not the best way of getting things done. This is by all means a positive premise, especially in the toxic context of Silly Valley. Then he goes through a lot of different ways how we can make sure our time is spent in the best possible way. That is all cool.

However, this premise of not over-working is really tentative. The author doesn'
Feb 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: interest
Great book filled with career advice that I plan to take with me for a long time. I will probably find myself re-reading sections too. The author cites evidence for most everything he says, and can speak to all of the points made from personal experience. Five stars on content.
My only issue is that the writing style is a bit formulaic, i.e. introduce concept, cite personal experience, cite best practices at other companies. There is also a lot of repetition - some of the companies are re-introdu
Bjoern Rochel
Oct 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
Give this one out to all of your new engineers. It's a great writeup of modern engineering practices and ideas.

Beware: This book might be easily dismissed by hardcore techies as too fluffy and not technical enough. For people embracing a more holistic view on engineering it's great though. Fits perfectly in line with Goldratts and Gene Kim's books.
Jean Bahnik
Dec 07, 2015 rated it liked it
A few good pieces of advice here and there but could easily have been summed up in a blog post. Very autobiographical.
Jun 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Edmond Lau discusses techniques that can make both junior and senior engineers more effective in their work. This book focuses on software engineers but many of the principles outlined here can be applied to other engineering disciplines, professions, and life in general.

I think that every software engineer can benefit from reading this book. Emond Lau is a software engineer himself and shares many of the lessons he learned the hard way. I found it interesting to read about engineering practices
Goke Obasa
Jun 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I learnt a lot of things from this book, top on my list are
- Focus on high leverage tasks.
- Long hours don't make you an Effective Engineer.
- How important Estimation is when building products.
- Avoid one man teams.
- Automate mechanics.

This book is a great resource that every Software Engineer should read especially those that are just starting out.
Oct 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: programming
I read this book with a friend from work during a time when both of us were feeling rather cynical. Nevertheless, I think there are good and useful ideas in here, especially in the first few chapters for the non-senior individual contributor perspective. The glowing quotes from engineering management are there because yes, it paints a good portrait of effective engineering work, that they would want to have on their teams.

As an individual, though, the main thing to question is the extent to whic
Nov 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Some helpful pointers on leverage (impact / time unit) and prioritization, which is the part I personally felt the most beneficial. Another part I liked was on how to improve project estimation, which is typically pretty hard especially for bigger and longer-term projects: it's easy to be weeks or even months delayed! This book includes a set of general guidelines for being a more successful engineer, and covers many broad areas. It's a good guidebook for an overview and a quick course-check if ...more
Sep 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Reading this book is indeed a high-leverage activity which the author explains throughout the book.
Andreea Ratiu
Jul 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Where has this book been? I loved it!
It has great advice and principles for being a great engineer that don't have anything to do with designing systems and writing code - how to chose what to focus on, how to decide what projects to work on, the importance of investing in yourself, your tools and your colleagues.
Wasim Khan
Sep 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It's a kind of book which should be read at the earliest possible. The book delivers what the title proclaims and more - it's good for startups too. Read this book to find out -
- Importance and the process of hiring
- Importance of documentation, knowledge sharing and on boarding process for new hires
- Leverage activities - Doings tasks that result in proportionately high values
- Tasks prioritization and scheduling and procrastination
- Unit test and automation. And how companies are adopting aut
Dec 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
I've been reading this book for 3 years now and it had different values for different moments in my career. As a new grad (or as a junior software engineer), the first time I read this book, I saw it with a lot of great tips and started applying in my career. The second time I read this book I was a more senior engineer and had a lot of different experiences in my career.

Reading this book for the second time was like remembering good examples from my career and things I could apply in some momen
Arif Zaman
Jul 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
How many times as a software engineer you had to work 60 to 70 hours a week to meet a deadline, fighting some prod issue or facing some other urgent situations? But that doesn't sustain. As an engineer if you have to spend a lot of hours at work, sacrificing your life or family time, then you probably should rethink and figure out how you can balance. The answer is - be efficient. Instead of working more hours work more efficiently. Study also shows working more hours doesn't usually produce mor ...more
Jul 08, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: work
If you’ve been as lucky as I have been during my career, most things discussed in this book won’t wow you. For this reason, I can understand how someone wouldn’t consider this book revolutionary.

However, as experienced as you can be, this text touches on such important and critical points that remembering them becomes relevant regardless of your level of seniority. I would almost consider this book a mandatory reading for any engineer.

“The Effective Engine” book brings, not only great advices
Marcus Nordberg
Feb 18, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: work-related
Some great points brought up in this book. I think the book sometimes goes away from "The Effective Engeineer" and starts to focus on "The Effective Team" a little bit too much. Of course, it's hard to be an effective engineer without working in an effective engineer and there's only so much you can do on an individual level but most of the team stuff can be found in other books as well and aren't really unique. It's the parts on what you can do as an individual that makes this book stand out. ...more
Oct 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
If you're a seasoned software engineer, you might not find this book very useful. However, as a new grad software engineer, I personally found it helpful to read about using the leverage framework to make decisions at work and to evaluate engineering culture at a company.

As the Rumpelstiltskin principle states, once you have a name for something, you have power over it. This book highlighted different aspects of software development that I can pay more attention to when interacting with my more
An Nguyen
May 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The book inspires engineer to have better habits at working place. The illustrations for each principle are from stories of big companies make me convinced.
Chao Yang
Oct 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Use leverage as the key anchor to determine where to spend your time, the most finite and valuable asset
Amrullah Zunzunia
Apr 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: other
Much of what's written in this book is something you would have experienced yourself too, in your job as an engineer at a startup. But still there is enough advice on how to be an effective (and not just technically sound) engineer. Perils of accomplishing short term goals at the expense of long term ones is well illustrated throughout the book. A highly recommended read ...more
Jan 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
A good book that offers insightful and actionable advices. It touches upon best practices you need to know and offers a guiding framework for making everyday decision as an engineer in the software industry. Highly recommend it to people who are beginning their career or looking for tips to advance their technical career.
Sep 16, 2018 rated it liked it
I am a software engineer with about 1.5 years of experience, and my mentor thought this would be a good book for me to learn from as there is quite a drastic shift from being a computer science student in college to a software engineer in the industry.

This book was OK. I learned some new stuff from it, but that could be from my relative inexperience. (The book doesn't have a clear target on what the ideal audience should be)

It started off strong because it gave an interesting take on what "effec
Apr 15, 2018 rated it it was ok
I don't often finish a book with a feeling of distaste for the author. I'll admit…I don't really like this guy, or at least the way he comes across in the book. Does every self-help book have to be a self-promotion book too? I'm sorry but I just don't care that you shipped search suggestions in your first six months at Google, and I don't think that helps me be a more effective engineer. Whatever the author might say, this book really felt like something he wrote so that he could add it to his a ...more
Apr 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Sharon by: Veronica
I wish I had this book when I was starting out in the industry. Even with a few years of experience, I feel like I got a lot out of it, but mostly as a guide for reflecting on what I've learned through my own mistakes.

This book is structured like a pretty typical business book, but explains the concept of high-leverage activities with very specific explanations of what actual engineers have done at actual tech companies. The best part is that it summarizes enough things from general audience boo
Dushan Hanuska
Jan 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
It's a good book for every engineer who wants to improve. I found the beginning to be of most value to me. The rest of the book was more story telling of personal experiences of the author or material I was already familiar with. Last chapter about team's growth was also something very useful to know, yet not typically addressed or even discussed at companies.
Overall it's a great book that I will be recommending to my fellow engineers.
Feb 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: software
Nice and easy read. Useful for new guys. I guess the experienced guys would already know most of this.
Sendhilkumar Alalasundaram
Oct 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A comprehensive book that holds many key takeaways towards being an effective software engineer.

A must-read book for any software developer. I felt like being mentored by Edmond himself!

Along with Edmond's enriching experience at Google, quora, quip and Ooyala, I particularly enjoyed the references to the development of other startups like LinkedIn, Upstartle, Box, Zappos, Instagram, Pinterest etc.
Chun-Wei Liu
Apr 19, 2015 rated it liked it
"Time is our most finite asset, and leverage --- the value we produce per unit time --- allows us to direct our time toward what matters most."

The author illustrated the idea with many examples from tech companies in Bay Area. As a software engineer, reading this book before my daily work is cheerful.
Jun 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Although it is a technical book, I enjoyed the style, how it's written, and it hooked me to read through it. Overall, most of the insights are known, but it's nice to read them, with examples, in a single place. ...more
Colin King
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018-booklist
Absolutely packed with highly relevant information. Somewhat biased towards engineers at SaaS companies, however many of the lessons are widely applicable.

Certainly a great starting point for new engineers, but with lessons and anecdotes that experienced engineers could surely learn from.
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