The Passionate Programmer

Chad Fowler

Publisher

The Pragmatic Bookshelf

ISBN

978-1-93435-634-0

RRP

£18.50

Reviewed by

Simon Clarke, CEng FBCS CITP

Score

9 out of 10

The Passionate ProgrammerThe aim of this book is to show how to build a ‘remarkable’ career as a software developer. It does this through a series of essays. These give advice, describe disciplines and approaches. The book should interest both developers and software managers. Fowler is an experienced software developer and manager, working both in the USA and India.

The premise of the book is to help you organise your career as if you were developing a product or service. The structure of book follows this idea and has five sections. The first section ‘Choosing your market’ describes how to pick a technology area. Should you be a specialist or a generalist? Do you stick with a popular or emerging technology?

The next section ‘Investing in your product’ covers how to build up your knowledge, mentoring and understanding the business side. The third section ‘Executing’ covers personal productivity and developmental issues. The fourth section ‘Marketing - not just for suits’ is about how to promote yourself. The last section ‘Maintaining your edge’ describes how to keep your career sustainable.

The format of the book works well. It consists of 53 short (two to three page) self-contained essays. They are easy to read and provocative. I didn't always agree with the author, but they were well worth reading. In an earlier career, Fowler was a jazz musician and he draws interesting parallels between the life of a freelance musician and that of a contemporary software developer.

One important topic that Fowler describes well in several essays is offshore development: how to work with it and around it. Fowler speaks with some experience as he moved from the USA and spent 18 months setting up a software development centre in India. He has many insightful and surprising observations.

If I had a criticism of this book, it would be that the some of the advice is generic and sometimes impractical. The main gap I could find is that there is no mention of setting up a software business.

This is an enjoyable and well-produced guide to realistic careers in software development. Given the level of insight, the book is good value for money. I highly recommend it.

Further information: The Pragmatic Bookshelf

November 2009