Book Review: Being Geek

A down-to-earth career handbook for developers

Mike Riley

August 24, 2010

3 Min Read
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Whether you have just entered the IT job market or are a seasoned professional, the continuing commitment you must make to your career is essential. Such practices sharpen the saw and prepare for unforeseen circumstances in the job market. Although plenty of books on seeking, interviewing, and landing that ideal job fill the shelves of bookstores, only a handful focus exclusively on the nuances of the software engineering profession. Being Geek is one such title.bei

Author Michael Lopp narrates his stories in a tell-it-like-it-is style, complete with occasional f-bombs to strongly emphasize an assertion. While I found such open and loose dialog refreshing, those uncomfortable with profanity peppering a career book should consider yourselves warned. This expressive language might not be justified if it were not for the author's own serious geek street cred, given his self-admitted three-year-itch software engineering stints at well-known Silicon Valley tech companies like Apple, Borland, and Netscape.

Along with his "let's be frank" bar talk, the author injects memorable words of wisdom such as "The amount of infrastructure between you and your next gig is impressive," and a few editing word processing auto-replace errors such as "Is it what you what to do?" This gives the work a bit of stream of consciousness blog writing that even I find myself guilty of at times.

The first few chapters progress from thinking about finding a new job to making the decision to do so to targeting the next landing site, interviewing, and negotiating the employment terms. Part 2 focuses on the business of management from both sides. Understanding the company culture, steering clear of the "doofs," dealing with "leapers," managing "werewolves," and recognizing "the toxic paradox" are just some of the twists on traditional business books. The principles are generally the same, but the lingo and context are optimized for the technical mind ready to flip the bozo bit on management and co-workers at any time.

The third part on "Your Daily Toolkit" was the section I found most unique compared to other career books. Here, the author covers "advanced nerd tweakage," "the taste of the day," "trickle creation," "foamy rules for rabid tools," "an essential exercise in inactivity," "not throwing up is a two-phase process," giving presentations, and "the holy sh*t event horizon" (I told you there was some colorful language in the book).

One of the most refreshingly honest chapters in the book was the last, chapter 40, titled "Bad News About Your Bright Future." Instead of the trite riding off happily into the employed sunset found in so many other career books, Michael once again paints a more realistic picture of the software engineer's world. His "uncomfortable ending" may strike some as cynical, but as those who have lived in the ever-changing job situations of the early 21st century know, that's life in today's world. Deal with it successfully, and you will have a more fulfilling and professional working experience.

In summary, Being Geek is a book for those seeking to refine their careers and find their work worth waking up for each day. In addition to this book, I also highly recommend a complementary title by Andy Lester called Land the Tech Job You Love. Combined, these two books cover the landscape of considerations and possibilities of thriving as fulfilled software professionals in today's economic reality.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Price: $24.99

Mike Riley ([email protected]) is an advanced computing professional specializing in emerging technologies and new development trends. He is also a contributing editor for DevProConnections.

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