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Being Geek: The Software Developer's Career Handbook

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  1,046 ratings  ·  117 reviews
As a software engineer, you recognize at some point that there's much more to your career than dealing with code. Is it time to become a manager? Tell your boss he’s a jerk? Join that startup? Author Michael Lopp recalls his own make-or-break moments with Silicon Valley giants such as Apple, Netscape, and Symantec in Being Geek -- an insightful and entertaining book that w ...more
Paperback, 318 pages
Published August 10th 2010 by O'Reilly Media (first published July 1st 2010)
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A. Jesse
Sep 29, 2010 rated it it was ok
A supposed career handbook, with little relevance to my career. The author has worked at large corporations (including Netscape) and small startups, but his idea of a startup is 80 employees. That's my idea of a large company. He also assumes a kind of corporate culture that I hope is obsolete: The kind where you have a week to prepare for the Big Meeting, the kind where you live and die by PowerPoint. In my career, I never see slides.

Lopp advises the reader on job-searching, but it's a style of
Feb 04, 2014 rated it it was ok
Seriously underwhelming at best; offensive at worst.

This is a collection of blog entries, loosely edited into a book. Emphasis on the "loosely." Lopp says that the goals of the book (it has goals?) are to improve the reader's improvisational skills (presumably as regards career curveballs) and to define one's career strategy. Those would have been great, and I picked up this book sort of hoping for exactly that. He delivers on neither, though -- those are pretty lofty goals for something written
Jul 31, 2014 rated it it was ok
Meh. I'm probably not the audience for this book, since (a) I'm not in Silicon Valley, (b) I'm a remote (to use the author's term, and (c) I'm in the final 7-15 years of my career arc. However, I've been a reasonably successful software developer for 31 years, and there was absolutely nothing in this book that surprised me, or made me think "wow, if only I had known that 20-30 years ago, my career would have been totally different."

Plus...I know this is a book that grew out of blog posts, but it
Mahmoud Tantawy
Sep 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
a very very interesting book for Geeks and alike personalities, it can be boring sometimes, but this is only when it is discussing situations one didn't face yet, but over all it is a very important read for all of us geeks!

i really did enjoy reading it & i totally recommend it to everyone, and for parts where it feels boring, just skim it and keep the book near so that you can return to it when needed ... you will need it, as it discusses all phases of a geek's life/career.
Kevin O'Donnell
Jul 02, 2013 rated it it was ok
Poorly edited, rehashed blog posts written in a trying-too-hard-to-be-colloquial-and-"with-it" style, containing only modest and superficial insights, a strong tendency to simplify and categorize people and situations in a gross, reductionist, nearly dehumanizing manner, and backed by a philosophy reliant upon cynical gamesmanship and distrust. In short: all the worst aspects of capitalism in a quick read! I'm more interested in transcending the workaday, growth-worshipping business life than be ...more
Daniel R.
Sep 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This book contains many astute observations about the life of a software developer combined with practical advice about how to approach your career. The book touches on aspects like interviewing for a job, office politics, transitioning to new responsibilities like becoming a manager, how to manage your time, dealing with crises, and thinking about when it's time to find a new job. I found the book did a great job of helping me think about the three questions it lays out at the beginning: What a ...more
I have been reading Michael's blog, Rands in Repose for years. Andy and I discussed the latest ones over lunch.

Most if not all chapters come from blog posts usually come with additional polishing. For example, one of my favorites, The Nerd Handbook, is converted from a blog post to Chapter 23 with an introduction on how it should be handed to someone who needs to understand people like me plus an introduction for the recipient.

The best of: Chapter 8: The Culture Chart - "Culture is the unde
Mar 05, 2015 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: pretty much nobody
This book feels like a lot of other books by bloggers-cum-authors; just a string of blog posts, and really better in small doses.

I also can't say I've worked in any environments where his advice would apply. And, encouraging pigeonholing people as certain "types" is not a way to get along in the work place. That's just going to give you tunnel vision and shut you down.

The real reason I quit reading this book halfway through had its seeds in the introduction: "For much of this book, my prototypic
Jan 31, 2011 rated it liked it
I didn't learn much new stuff, but it's a good read if you are wondering what managers in software companies do all day or if you haven't thought your “career” would be in five years.

As most of Lopp's books this one is also a bit scattered, but there are enough fun bits and the books is quick enough to read so hat you give it a try.
Matt Grommes
Aug 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Excellent handbook for engineers. Not all of the material will be relevant at any one time but if you keep the book around to refer back to it'll pay dividends. ...more
Carl Christian
Sep 10, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm starting my work-log right now. No more three paragraph end of the year reviews. ...more
Apr 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
"Being Geek" is an extremely honest book about author's thoughts on technology career. It starts with who we are, to what we do, to how we do it, and end with "what's next" (trust your gut and charge forward).

Several takeaways I have from the book:

1. Prepare for the unexpected: things can do wrong will do wrong. What distinguishes a competent engineer is his ability to face the unexpected.

2. Be efficient. If we are more efficient, then we have more time to enjoy what we love to do. Therefore, to
Oscar Barlow
Dec 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Read this book in a bit of a rush as I was trying to meet a promise I made to myself to read 12 books in 2018, and I was running late. But I think that's fine - of all the books you could read in a rush this is a pretty good choice. It's a series of blog posts that have been edited together with some bridging content here and there.

I say that like it's a bad thing, but it's actually not. The author sets out his tests for if you need to make a career move in the second chapter. Firstly, are you g
Jan 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Is it a collection of blog articles: yes. Are the chapter titles too cute to find what topic it's on: of course. But is a apt description and frank discussion about what I do and what managers do: absolutely.

Having worked in the industry for a decade, moving from service desk to DBA to manager, from small SMB to global enterprise: this is a good read.

A speed read with some colorful language at times, but still worth reading. And then Googling for the original blogs and forwarding them to peers
William Yip
May 09, 2022 rated it really liked it
The author wrote sentences with missing words or incorrect or confusing wording. He dismissed videoconferencing, not knowing superior videoconferencing software has been created such as Zoom. I was disappointed that there wasn't more advice on software itself, most of the advice was about navigating interviews and corporate life. That said, the advice is useful especially the ones dealing with a company's collapse and transitioning to a manager. His point about the geek's instinct for systems th ...more
Mark Nenadov
Feb 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: programming, career
A free-flowing, animated, and spirited book that many will either love or hate. I think there is some great content here (I recognize it as a classic) but I find the tone and crassness off putting and grating at times. It also could have used a good deal of editing. Like many books assembled largely from blog posts, it suffers from a very choppy feel. That said, with some fortitude,there are some good insights to be gained from plowing through this hay ride.
Aiman Adlawan
Feb 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
I wanted to read something about software books and grab this one. The book has many interesting and practical views about software developer's "daily life". It is very interesting and funny specially if you can relate to the events that he writes.
Great read. Best for fresh grads and new to software devs.
Igor Soroka
Dec 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Great book which can be recommended for the experienced people. I mean that it would mostly help to the software engineers with 2-3 years of experience. The book can guide on the ways of the developing in terms of career.
Vladimir Rusinov
Jul 10, 2017 rated it it was ok
Lots of interesting thoughts, but not very well composed and written.
Nov 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Very casual write-up of how to drive a software engineer career into management. I didn't appreciate or like all the chapters, save for the last few management ones ...more
Jan 27, 2019 rated it liked it
It's more like a handbook for Software Developers who has walked into the land of the "Management". I found it an easy read, motivating in some parts and irrelevant in most others. ...more
Sep 20, 2019 added it
I really enjoyed seeing him speak in person last year, but this was a bit of a disappointment.
Nathan Wilder
Sep 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Pretty good career overview from the perspective of applicant, employee and manager.
May 08, 2011 rated it liked it
I finally finished Being Geek by Michael Loop. I started this book about 2 months or so ago. First off I got it on my Kindle and for some reason I couldn't get the page numbers to show up. The book is 300+ pages long, so it is pretty beefy. As you can see, I said "finally". That would infer that it took a really long time to read. In my mind, this book was not a quick read at all. However, that doesn't mean it was a bad book.

I don't remember exactly who recommended this book to me. I think I saw
Feb 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, career
Michael Lopp is the person behind the blog 'Rands in Repose', which explains the blog-like feel of this book. It may be presented as if it's a coherent guide to a career in the software industry. But it's clearly just an edited collection of articles on topics related to career, career management, and a management career. This is not really a weakness, but it's not always a strength, either. The book sometimes lacks flow.

A bigger weakness is that few of the articles really lead to any conclusion
Sep 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
Being Geek offers us geeks and nerds a one-stop location to figure out the best way to go about a career search. While it's geared more to specifically IT related positions, those of us with a geeky mindset will appreciate the insights and tips offered by Lopp.

In the introduction, Lopp states that the majority of concepts and chapters in the book were ones from his blog - Rands in Repose. I had never read the blog, so don't know how similar/different it is from that venue to the printed on paper
Jan 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I really enjoy Michael Lopp's writing. It makes me feel like the chaos of working with software is not an end-of-the-world experience, but the norm. And in that case, there's no need to fix it or escape from it, and the real solution is to learn to live within it. Hearing Lopp's stories of living within it are helpful, and give me an idea of what is, or may be, expected.

Lopp cuts through the nonsense and focuses on reality, and I respect that.

I am not at all sure that I share his view that a man
Ty Stone
Jan 29, 2013 rated it liked it
I think the author's description of this book holds - it is mean as much as a cover-to-cover read as it is a reference guide to return to again and again. It covers all of the basics required to work in development (as far as my own experience relates) and then some.

My biggest gripe with this book was that it sometimes didn't make sense. Certain chapters were clear and concise, for example the chapter outlining the author's method of organizing himself for the day. I cannot say the same about c
Sep 26, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: business, tech
Being Geek is an interesting read. Michael Lopp is able to capture that thought in your head and articulate it on paper. But that only works so many times.
Some of the chapters in this book are so good and so matching my experience that I wrote some notes on the side while reading the book. Other chapters, I don't even know what he's talking about.
Most chapters revolve around their title. The author sums up a certain situation - which is the center of this chapter - in the chapter title. To expla
Sep 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
Being Geek is a collection of Michael Loop's blog posts about a career in Software Development. I generally liked this book because it helped established some ideas about what it is like to have a job in software development. However, some of it I felt did not specifically apply to me in my current position at Microsoft. It explains how to deal with non-technical people/issues during your career. However, Microsoft is such a tech-orientated company and day-to-day I deal with tech orientated peop ...more
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