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Mike Riley

Dr. Dobb's Bloggers

Making it Big in Software Book Review

March 30, 2010

After reviewing the less than stellar 97 Things Every Programmer Should Know, I was skeptical about reviewing yet another book that interviewed developers for their professional wisdom. However, unlike 97 Things, Making it Big in Software takes a different approach with a much more recognizable cast. Is it worth your while? Read on to find out.Unlike the overpriced '97 Things', 'Making it Big' is sold at lower cost and has a higher page count. More importantly, the people interviewed in the book are rock stars of the computer software industry. People like Steve Wozniak, Linus Torvalds, Bjarne Stroustrup, Ray Tomlinson and Robert Kahn are just a few of the names lucky author Sam Lightstone somehow managed to interview for the book. Given the high profile of these characters, pages could have been wasted on praise for these noteworthy figures. Instead, the author asks many of the same insightful questions I would have asked these legendary people and collected meaningful responses. In addition to having access to such recognizable powerhouse personalities, the author brings his own street cred to the conversations. Sam works for IBM's Software Group, is the founder of the IEEE Data Engineering Workgroup on Self Managing Databases Systems and has worked on software projects big and small.

Each chapter in the book follows the formula of the author presenting a 3-4 page essay on topics ranging from work ethic and team-building to customer management and work-life issues. These write-ups are followed by an interview with one of the 17 people highlighted in the book. Similar questions are asked of each person, such as what first ignited their passion in the software development profession, how do they manage work-life balance, what do they predict the software landscape will look like in 10 to 15 years, and so on. While Google is the company that gets the most ink (two of the interviewees are Googlers, and their services are mentioned by name by others in the book), Microsoft, Adobe, IBM and Oracle receive an ample amount of representation in the pages as well.

Having heard several of these people speak at conferences or interviewed on technology podcasts, their voices have been accurately captured in print. Ego flexing does exist for some of the multi-degreed and/or CEO-types, but a majority of the participants remain humbly self-deprecating. All of them emphasize the importance of loving your work, working harder than anyone else you know and knowing how to effectively communicate your ideas to a cohesive group ready to help make your vision a reality.

The author accurately concludes that the road to software development career success is attained by following mythologist Joseph Campbell's advice to "Follow your bliss". Journalist Bill Moyers asked Mr. Campbell over 20 years ago, "What happens when you follow your bliss?" Joe stated the obvious - "You come to bliss." For me, reading this book was a blissful experience from cover to cover.

Title: Making it Big in Software: Get the Job. Work the Org. Become Great. Author: Sam Lightstone Publisher: Prentice Hall ISBN: 978-0-13-705967-6 Pages: 456 Price: $24.99 US

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