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Building a Career in Software: A Comprehensive Guide to Success in the Software Industry

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Software engineering education has a universities and bootcamps teach aspiring engineers to write code, but they leave graduates to teach themselves the countless supporting tools required to thrive in real software companies. Building a Career in Software is the solution, a comprehensive guide to the essential skills that instructors don't need and professionals never think to landing jobs, choosing teams and projects, asking good questions, running meetings, going on-call, debugging production problems, technical writing, making the most of a mentor, and much more. In over a decade building software at companies such as Apple and Uber, Daniel Heller has mentored and managed tens of engineers from a variety of training backgrounds, and those engineers inspired this book with their hundreds of questions about career issues and day-to-day problems. Designed for either random access or cover-to-cover reading, it offers concise treatments of virtually every non-technical challenge you will face in the first five years of your career―as well as a selection of industry-focused technical topics rarely covered in training. Whatever your education or technical specialty, Building a Career in Software can save you years of trial and error and help you succeed as a real-world software professional.
What You Will Learn
Who This Book is For
Software engineers either early in their careers or about to transition to the professional world; that is, all graduates of computer science or software engineering university programs and all software engineering boot camp participants.

256 pages, Paperback

Published September 27, 2020

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About the author

Daniel Heller

24 books2 followers

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5 stars
53 (51%)
4 stars
28 (27%)
3 stars
17 (16%)
2 stars
5 (4%)
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0 (0%)
Displaying 1 - 18 of 18 reviews
Profile Image for Michael Koltsov.
93 reviews54 followers
November 2, 2020
Frankly, I'd never stumble upon this book if it wasn't recommended to me by my boss and he's learned about it as its author is his former colleague.

I really like the simplicity of this book as it aims to teach new engineers the very basics of what it takes to become successful. Though I need to argue that some of the approaches that the author talks about are controversial. Nevertheless, as the author is an accomplished individual I don't mind that he forces the reader to look at the software world from his perspective.

I wish I had this book when I was a fresh grad, it'd have made my career advance much faster and with much less bumps. Although I don't mind learning from own experience. However, I won't mind to be taught on someone else's mistakes.

This was supposed to be a soft-skills book, but surprisingly I learned a few technical tricks from it as well.

My score is 5/5 Every developer should read this book.
Profile Image for Julia.
284 reviews14 followers
October 6, 2021
Solid collection of practical advice, tips, and strategies for working in software development. It feels funny to be reading a book about how to write an email, but also there are a lot of random useful things to know about the workforce that someone has to teach you! (I actually used his "introductions" email template shortly after finishing the book and it was very helpful.) I thought that parts two and three — day to day life in the office and communication — were the most applicable to me.
Profile Image for Omnia Mohyee.
247 reviews6 followers
October 3, 2021
I was about to write it’s a comprehensive guide to navigate through your day to day work in the software industry, but that’s its title and it’s a well chosen one! Great one, wouldn’t recommend it to be read from cover to cover but you can go back to it from time to time to check what it says regarding some aspect.
Profile Image for Max Darling.
64 reviews
February 10, 2022
Insanely useful as a new software engineer. Reading this felt a lot like having a trusted mentor brain-dump all their best career advice. Plenty of illuminating and highly-relevant anecdotes, too (book came out Dec 2020).

My biggest "aha!" was a tip on initiative:
"The most common misconception in software is that there are grown-ups out there who are on top of things. Own your team’s and company’s mission. Don’t wait to be told; think about what needs doing and do it or advocate for it."

In my first couple of months on the job I'd read code/documentation that appeared sketchy or out of date, but I'd ultimately suppress my doubts, thinking other more-experienced engineers had surely encountered this by now and decided to leave it alone for some good reason. After reading this tip I reconsidered my deference and started to call out the sketchy things I came across day to day. Sure enough, colleagues were not aware of the problems and would thank me sincerely for identifying them...before invariably hurrying back to their own piles of work due later that week. It turns out it's not all "grown-ups" out there, after all. I've started to take more matters into my own hands in the short time since this realization, and it's been tremendously refreshing.
Profile Image for Camal.
17 reviews
December 28, 2020
tldr; This is a good book for scratching the surface of a lot of subject but without going any deeper. The title "Soft Skill" by John Sonmez is more comprehensive.

After finishing the book from Daniel Heller, I have a lot of good ideas to improve my current career path and know some gaps to fill deliberately in the next year. The author has a lot of knowledge and sometimes the text is very dense or it is just subjective opinions. Some parts were irrelevant to me due to I am not a US citizen.

The book gives you a lot of useful information and templates for example for e-mails or commit messages. Looking back the book "Soft Skill" from John Sonmez went further, even talked about finance, relationships and everything around us. So if I need to pick, I would go with Johns book.
Profile Image for Panashe M..
97 reviews19 followers
January 23, 2021
A really good guide to advancing in a software career. Draws back the curtain on how senior engineers approach their craft. This book particularly shines in its discussion of soft skills - leadership, setting an example, effective communication, project management, and so on.

It does have some weaknesses: there's a lot of repetition around many of the core principles, and the section on software design is somewhat superficial (see The Art of Unix Programming or A Philosophy of Software Design for more on that topic).
Profile Image for Trung.
169 reviews1 follower
March 12, 2023
It is an exceptional resource for anyone aspiring to pursue a career in the software industry. One aspect of the book that I found particularly useful was the author's inclusion of email templates and concrete examples on how to communicate effectively in various situations.

The section on mentoring was the highlight of the book for me. Daniel provides practical advice on how to identify the right mentee, establish trust and communication, and provide feedback and guidance to help them grow professionally.

I truly enjoy reading a lot of comprehensive summaries related to a tech career.

November 7, 2021
The book is a short summary of everything what software engineer from Silicon Valley type of company should know. Not everyone is working on a such type of company and multiple of us already have some experience.

It is good and bad at the same time. Often it is very abstract and not deep, barely scratches the surface of particular topics. The book might be 5/5 for new grads who do not have experience yet. For everyone else I would recommend other books which covers particular topics deeper. Such books can be "On Writing Well" by William Zinsser on written communication, "Crusial Conversations" by Kerry Patterson on communication, "Site Reliability Engineering" book from Google covers operations and even "The Pragmatic Programmer" is a much stronger book to form a view how software should be created. The truth is that if you want to get into SWE you will need to collect that knowledge from other sources anyway because Daniel's book won't give you enough information.

Why I have read the book? I know Daniel as a great software engineer. And it was interesting for me to read more about his experience and opinion. It is more like a collection of blog posts. Some are boring (e.g. Chapter about CLI tools is literally just a list of tools), but some are quite interesting.
Profile Image for Joe Devine.
4 reviews
April 8, 2023
The content is pretty good. I just think the title is misrepresentative. It is by no means a “comprehensive” guide for building careers in the software industry. Especially since its shortest chapters are the only ones truly specific to the industry. That said, most of the content could be useful for someone who has never had a professional job of any kind before. As most of the content covered here is more focused on how to be a decent human when working in an office with other humans. A lot of it seems like common sense, but I’m coming at it after having worked in the industry for about a decade. It’s hard to know how much that affected my opinion. I would instead recommend reading Code Complete 2 (or Uncle Bob’s books) for more comprehensive industry specific advice, How to Win Friends and Influence People for how to interact with others in the office, and maybe just a couple blog posts if you need help writing effective emails or technical questions. However, this is a far shorter alternative if need something to digest quick. They really should have used the word condensed instead of comprehensive in the subtitle.
Profile Image for Ignas.
117 reviews13 followers
February 12, 2021
I am lucky that I am working with Daniel in the same company and had a chance to coloborate on some projects. You can definitely learn a lot from him.

This book is a really good summary / overview of what it is like to be a software engineer and what skills you have to learn and master to be a good one.

It is not going too deep in the details but you will have a better idea what you might be missing.

Worth to read for every student who wants to become an engineer, junior engineer. Even if you are a professional it is still worth to skim through to refresh your knowledge or remember what is important.
Profile Image for Rob.
19 reviews
June 23, 2022
This is a solid book for beginner software engineers. Covers a lot of important professional skills that I haven't seen in similar books. This book is like having a really good mentor. Lots of very practical advice.

Most of the book relates to non-tech skills, like managing projects, working with others, and writing emails. There's also some coverage of job search skills (writing CVs, interviews) and technical skills (coding, debugging, designing reliable systems).
Profile Image for Andrea Carlevato.
81 reviews7 followers
January 31, 2021
A sharp, on-point, no-nonsense field manual for software engineers. You can tell how much Dan wrote it from a position of deep hands-on knowledge and tried experience. No fillers here, nothing academic. If you are in software, you should just read this.
3 reviews1 follower
May 31, 2021
I would recommend this book to all software developers who aim to grow at a software company. The book contains a wide variety of topics described in a simplistic manner that is easy to reason about, and I think you’d find value in reading this book regardless of your position.
Profile Image for Young Lin.
9 reviews1 follower
February 28, 2021
Very quality resource for anyone in software engineering. Found the soft skills portion and the reminiscing of the author's personal experiences especially refreshing
14 reviews
March 9, 2022
Between “it was ok” and “liked it”. Not much new information and 2/3 is a bit boring.
5 reviews
August 11, 2022
Too much useful information and explanations. I found it a bit boring. Looks like a school book or study book. But it is a good choice to keep it as a handbook during your career, specially when you are a beginner and don't have enough experience with a real software companies.
Profile Image for Brian Cham.
548 reviews44 followers
May 7, 2023
Seems to fit what I have experienced first-hand as a software engineer. I gave it four stars because it's very useful for someone about to graduate university and is not sure how the industry differs. I wish I had read this years ago! However, it doesn't have much application for workers with some experience and I don't think I learned much new.
Displaying 1 - 18 of 18 reviews

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