Writing We seek definition

The Software Developer’s Career Handbook

I am delighted to announce The Software Developer’s Career Handbook has been published. I call it the Bird Book because, well, there’s a bird on the cover.

The Bird Book is the second edition of Being Geek. The absence of the words “being” and “geek” in the title hints that something is up. Reading the entire book is a requirement for revising an edition. During this process, I discovered there was a lot to like. In particular, the first chapter has a five-line declaration that explains how I think… all the time:

We seek definition to understand
the system so that we can discern
the rules so that we
know what to do next so that
we win.

Every word in that 26-word run-on sentence is chosen carefully. Same with the italics. And the line breaks. These words describe a virtual machine constantly running in my head. What does it mean? How does it fit into my model of how it works? How must I update my understanding to predict this in the future because I need to win?

You can understand why I didn’t like the first edition using those five lines. It’s right there in the first line: definition. It muddied the system of understanding I wanted to provide. If you purchased and read the first edition (thank you), you quickly realized that I wasn’t writing about geeks; I was writing about software developers. I realized this when I discovered I could replace every occurrence of “geek” with “engineer”, and it was better writing.

Here’s the rest surgery I performed:

  1. I added eight new chapters to the book, bringing us to a healthy 48 chapters. For those of you who purchased the atomic version of this book, you’ll enjoy the heft of holding this book. I know I do.
  2. I edited the hell out of all existing chapters. The best example is “The Business”, which must address companies’ new compensation strategies and cooling start-up marketing. Other chapters received less attention, but all were modernized.
  3. I removed two chapters from the book. They were no longer relevant or straight up didn’t make sense. Sorry.
  4. There’s a new cover with a bird on it. I love the bird and the color scheme, but will miss the Being Geek cover. Those sneakers tucked between the black business shoes will always be a favorite.

The Yellow Book, the Bird Book, and the Bee Book. They have names, but I always think about how the covers make me feel. The Yellow Book’s cover has evolved from frenetic scribbles and scratches to a more calm and professional vibe. Don’t worry; the pen is coming back in the next edition. The most recent book, the Bee Book, delivers a classic O’Reilly cover. Simple, clean, and an animal to convey… a hint of the theme. We repeated this vibe for the reboot of Being Geek.

The trilogy documents different parts of my leadership career. The Yellow Book continues to capture my thoughts on becoming a leader. The most recent book, The Bee Book, focuses more on senior leadership. This book, The Bird Book, documents the struggles with the job of middle management. These leaders are the connective tissue that holds the company together. They do this not with fancy titles but with the satisfaction of building the product with their hands. They do this in the middle. At a distance, with influence, partial information, intuition, and an evolving sense of strategy.

I document more of the story of how this edition started in the preface, but I want to thank the Rands Leadership Slack for reminding me of the good writing in this book. If you hadn’t asked, there wouldn’t be a new edition.

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2 Responses

  1. I’m confused – you say “This book, The Bird Book, documents the struggles with the job of middle management.” but the description on amazon and even the title of the book seem to imply that it is aimed at software developers?

    Is this intended for a more or less senior audience than ‘Managing Humans’?