"Software Developmers Career Guide and Soft Skills" book notes

Published at 2023-07-17T04:56:20+03:00

These notes are of two books by "John Sommez" I found helpful. I also added some of my own keypoints to it. These notes are mainly for my own use, but you might find them helpful, too.

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Always learn new things

When you learn something new, e.g. a programming language, first gather an overview, learn from multiple sources, play around and learn by doing and not consuming and form your own questions. Don't read too much upfront. A large amount of time is spent in learning technical skills which were never use. You want to have a practical set of skills you are actually using. You need to know 20 percent to get out 80 percent of the results.

Fake it until you make it. But be honest about your abilities or lack of. There is however only time between now and until you make it. Refer to your abilities to learn.

Boot camps: The advantage of a boot camp is to pragmatically learn things fast. We almost always overestimate what we can do in a day. Especially during boot camps. Connect to others during the boot camps

Set goals

Your own goals are important but the manager also looks at how the team performs and how someone can help the team perform better. Check whether you are on track with your goals every 2 weeks in order to avoid surprises for the annual review. Make concrete goals for next review. Track and document your progress. Invest in your education. Make your goals known. If you want something, then ask for it. Nobody but you knows what you want.


That's a trap: If you have to rate yourself, that's a trap. That never works in an unbiased way. Rate yourself always the best way but rate your weakest part as high as possible minus one point. Rate yourself as good as you can otherwise. Nobody is putting for fun a gun on his own head.


The most valuable employees are the ones who make themselves obsolete and automate all away. Keep a safety net of 3 to 6 months of finances. Safe at least 10 percent of your earnings. Also, if you make money it does not mean that you have to spent more money. Is a new car better than a used car which both can bring you from A to B? Liability vs assets.

Finish things

Hard work is necessary for accomplish results. However, work smarter not harder. Furthermore, working smart is not a substitute for working hard. Work both, hard and smart.

Hard vs fun: Both engage the brain (video games vs work). Some work is hard and other is easy. Hard work is boring. The harsh truth is you have to put in hard and boring work in order to accomplish and be successful. Work won't be always boring though, as joy will follow with mastery.

Defeat is finally give up. Failure is the road to success, embrace it. Failure does not define you but how you respond to it. Events don't make your unhappy, but how you react to events do.

Expand the empire

The larger your empire is, the larger your circle of influence is. The larger the circle of influence is, the more opportunities you have.

Become visible, keep track that you accomplishments. E.g. write a weekly summary. Do presentations, be seen. Learn new things and share your learnings. Be the problem solver and not the blamer.

Be pragmatic and also manage your time

Make use of time boxing via the Pomodoro technique: Set a target of rounds and track the rounds. That give you exact focused work time. That's really the trick. For example set a goal of 6 daily pomodores.

You should feel good of the work done even if you don't finished the task. You will feel good about pomodoro wise even you don't finish the task on hand yet. Helps you to enjoy time off more. Working longer may not sell anything.

The quota system

Defined quota of things done. E.g. N runs per week or M Blog posts per month or O pomodoros per week. This helps with consistency. Truly commit to these quotas. Failure is not an option. Start with small commitments. Don't commit to something you can't fulfill otherwise you set yourself up for failure.

Don't waste time

The biggest time waster is TV watching. The TV is programming you. It's insane that Americans watch so much TV as they work full time. Schedule one show at a time and watch it when you want to watch it. Most movies are crap anyways. The good movies will come to you as people will talk about them.


Try to have as many good habits as possible. Start with easy habits, and make them a little bit more challenging over time. Set ankers and rewards. Over time the routines will become habits naturally.

Habit stacking is effective, which is combining multiple habits at the same time. For example you can workout on a circular trainer while while watching a learning video on O'Reilly Safari Online while getting closer to your weekly step goal.

Work-life balance

Avoid overwork hours. That's not as beneficial as you might think and comes only with very small rewards. Invest rather in yourself and not in your employer.

Use your most productive hours to work on you. Make that your priority. Take care of yourself a priority (E.g. do workouts or learn a new language). You can always workout 2 or 1 hour per day, but will you pay the price?

Mental health

Become the person you want to become (your self image). Program your brain unconsciously. Don't become the person other people want you to be. Embrace yourself, you are you.

In most cases burnout is just an illusion. If you don't have motivation push through the wall. People usually don't pass the wall as they feel they are burned out. After pushing through the wall you will have the most fun, for example you will be able playing the guitar greatly.

Physical health

Utilise a standing desk and treadmill (you could walk and type at the same time). Increase the incline in order to burn more calories. Even on the standing desk you burn more calories than sitting. When you use pomodoro then you can use the small breaks for push-ups (maybe won't do as good when you are in a fasted state).

Intermittent fasting is an effective method to maintain weight and health. But it does not mean that you can only eat junk food in the feeding windows. Also, diet and nutrition is the most important for health and fitness. They make it also easier to stay focused and positive.

No drama

Avoid drama at work. Where are humans there is drama. You can decide where to spent your energy in. But don't avoid conflict. Conflict is healthy in any kind of relationship. Be tactful and state your opinion. The goal is to find the best solution to the problem.

Don't worry about other people what they do and don't do. You only worry about you. Shut up and get your own things done. But you could help to inspire a not working colleague.

You have to learn how to work in a team. Be honest but tactful. It's not too be the loudest but about selling your ideas. Don't argue otherwise you won't sell anything. Be persuasive by finding the common ground. Or lead the colleagues to your idea and don't sell it upfront. Communicate clearly.

Personal brand

Market yourself

Have a blog. Schedule your posts. Consistency beats every other factor. E.g. post once a month a new post. Find your voice, you don't have to sound academic. Keep writing, if you keep it long enough the rewards will be coming. Your own blog can take 5 years to take off. Most people give up too soon.


Ask people so they talk about themselves. They are not really interested in you. Use meetup.com to find groups you are interested and build up the network over time. Don't drink on social networking events even when others do. Talking to other people at events only has upsides. Just saying "hi" and introducing yourself is enough. What worse can happen? If the person rejects you so what, life goes on. Ask open questions and no "yes" and "no" questions. E.g.: "What is your story, why are you here?".

Public speaking

Before your talk go on stage 10 minutes in advance. Introduce yourself to the front row people. During the talk they will smile at you and encourage you during your talk.

Just do it. Just go to conferences. Even if you are not speaking. Sell your boss what you would learn and "this and that" and you would present the learnings to the team afterwards.

New job

For the interview

If you are specialized then there is a better chance to get a fitting job. No one will hire a general lawyer if there are specialized lawyers available. Even if you are specialized, you will have a wide range of skills (T-shape knowledge).

Find the right type of company

Not all companies are equal. They have individual cultures and guidelines.

Work in a tech. company if you want to work on/with cutting edge technologies.

Apply for the new job

Get a professional resume writer. Get referrals of writers and get samples from there. Get sufficient with algorithm and data structures interview questions. Cracking the coding interview book and blog

Invest in your dress code as appearance masters. It does make sense to invest in your style. You could even hire a professional stylist (not my personal way though).


Leaving the old job

When leaving a job make a clean and non personal as possible. Never complain and never explain. Don't worry about abandonment of the team. Everybody is replacement and you make a business decision. Don't threaten to quit as you are replaceable.

Other things


Unit testing Vs regression testing: Unit tests test the smallest possible unit and get rewritten if the unit gets changed. It's like programming against a specification n. Regression tests test whether the software still works after the change. Now you know more than most software engineers.

Books to read

E-Mail your comments to paul@nospam.buetow.org :-)

Other book notes of mine are:

2023-03-16 "The Pragmatic Programmer" book notes
2023-04-01 "Never split the difference" book notes
2023-05-06 "The Obstacle is the Way" book notes
2023-07-17 "Software Developmers Career Guide and Soft Skills" book notes (You are currently reading this)
2023-11-11 "Mind Management" book notes
2024-05-01 "Slow Productivity" book notes
2024-07-07 "The Stoic Challenge" book notes

More books and other resources I found useful.
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