Welcome to the Timely Developer, a blog aimed at finding you the right resources for your current career situation. My goal is to read and review tech-related books, blogs and other resources so that I can help you decide if they are worth your time and money.
Who am I?
I’ll start by introducing myself and explaining why I think that this blog is necessary. My name is Flinn, and I live in Manchester, England. I work for a consultancy called ThoughtWorks and have been with the company for around a year and a half. In terms of my skill as a software developer, I consider myself to be competent. You can find out what I mean by this here.
Why am I here?
One thing you should know about me is that I’m a massive fan of reading. As a child I would obsessively read, sometimes powering through books in a day or two and moving on to the next. As a teenager I fell out of love with the hobby and switched to spending most of my free time playing video games or hanging out with friends. In recent years, however, and with my career just starting out, I have rediscovered the power of a great book.
Whether it’s listening to a sci-fi audiobook while I do chores, scrolling through a technical tome on my phone, or tapping my way towards the end of a self-help manual on my Kindle, I’m almost always looking for opportunities to fit in some reading. Over the past three years the number of books I’ve consumed has steadily increased, starting at 17 in 2017, 31 in 2018, and 40 in 2019. This year, my goal is to read 45 (feel free to follow my progress on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/45519898-flinn).
One thing you notice as you start to read more is that it’s not worth reading every book that you pick up. It doesn’t matter how many 5-star ratings it has on Amazon or Goodreads, it might just not float your boat. And that makes sense. We aren’t all the same person, and we are all entitled to our own tastes and opinions. We are all seeing life from a different perspective, and the context we find ourselves in will inevitably contribute to our enjoyment of a book.
The idea for this blog came out of this realization. I stopped reading several books in the past year because it dawned on me halfway through that I was either not enjoying the book, or I wasn’t getting out of it what I thought I would. Peruse any self-help article about reading and you’ll hear people tell you to never waste time on a book you don’t enjoy, and for the most part I agree.
This blog will ultimately be all about reading books and figuring out when they are likely to be most relevant to those of us working in the tech industry.
The wrong book
Let me start with an example of a book I just couldn’t bring myself to finish in the past year. If I’m being completely honest, I didn’t even make it halfway through. You’ve probably heard of it. It’s called The Mythical Man-Month, and it’s one of the most consistently recommended books on software that you’ll find on the internet.
I can’t confidently say that I thought the book was bad. I do remember finding a few interesting thoughts and ideas dotted throughout the part of the book that I did manage to get through, but none of what I read felt immediately applicable to me. In my ignorance and lack of clear direction, I had picked up a book I knew very little about because a top 10 list had recommended it as one that almost everyone in software either has read or should read.
It ended up just feeling pointless; I couldn’t really relate what I was reading to what I was finding myself doing at work. I was reading a book on software project management as a junior developer. The key thing was that it simply wasn’t the right time for me to read the book, and I lacked the experience to fully understand and appreciate the topics being discussed. I had picked the wrong book.
Picking the right thing
To use an analogy (and I’m terrible at analogies, so bear with me), it’s a little like buying a ten-year-old a car, instead of a bike. At least in the UK, ten-year-olds are not legally allowed to drive. So, buying a ten-year-old a car is a somewhat silly idea. That’s not to say that it would be completely useless; after all the ten-year-old might sit in the car for a little peace and quiet, say, or pretend to drive around for a little light entertainment.
A bike, on the other hand, is perfect for a ten-year-old. It might grant her the freedom to get around the area more easily to visit and play with friends. It might encourage her to get more exercise and keep healthy, or to cultivate a new talent. Regardless of its use, the bike is more relevant and immediately beneficial, while the car is practically useless.
For an adult who can drive, the car is a lot more useful. It allows for long-distance travel at much shorter time-spans than the bike, which they’ve long since grown out of. Thanks to their experience and increased responsibility, it makes sense that they should make use of a car.
My point is this: just as you would pick an appropriate gift for a ten-year-old child, so you should pick the right materials for your own growth. Choosing the right thing at the right time will maximize your return on investment. I have made the mistake of picking the wrong materials on several occasions, and I want to help you avoid making the same mistake.
You would be right to ask how I might possibly go about that. Like I said earlier, we all see things from a different perspective, and I am no different. I’m only at the start of my career, so who am I to comment on what someone five years my senior might benefit from? My focus will, for the time being, be on helping beginners in the field of software and technology. As I grow, so too will the perspectives and experience I am able to pull my advice from.
That’s not to say that I won’t give my opinion on whether a book would be suitable for the more experienced. While I can’t give an entirely honest outlook from different perspectives, I am going to attempt to put myself in others’ shoes by using the five Dreyfus model stages.