About three years ago, I made the move from software engineer to engineering manager when an internal role came up at the company I was working for at the time. It was a bit more money, which was very tempting at the time, so I applied without giving it too much thought to be perfectly honest. Before that point I had not thought about managing people, I am incredibly shy and like to keep myself to myself if possible, and thought generally I wouldn’t make a particularly strong leader! I was delighted to be given the role, but also incredibly overwhelmed, to begin with, because I didn’t know the first thing about managing teams.
Without a mentor figure, I turned to books for guidance and discovered straight away some incredibly valuable information. The more I read, the more I understood how much more experienced leaders handled certain situations in a range of companies and the better I got at my job. With software engineering, I always found that you could read technical books but the knowledge would not be particularly useful until you used what you had learned in anger or a real codebase. With leadership books, however, I felt every scrap of information I was absorbing had a place in day to day work life.
Even now, with a few years of practical experience, learning about different leadership styles in different industries, in different cultures, both in the present day as well as the past, is something I find incredibly valuable.
I admit I don’t read many fiction books these days! Probably my favourite is *The Road* by Cormac McCarthy, I am generally a fan of anything apocalyptic or dystopian. Also, I am very fond of the Millenium Series (the first three anyway) and these books played a big part in influencing me to go down the route of software engineering, originally I wanted to work in pen-testing and ethical hacking. I haven’t seen the film for any of them, nor do I want to. My favourite non-fiction book is Digital Minimalism.
The obvious choice would be a technical book, there are many great ones out there, but I believe the most valuable book for many software engineers would be *How to win friends and influence people* by Dale Carnegie.
I say this because technical ability only makes up a part of what the role of a software engineer does. Many folks will be graduating from Computer Science degrees without ever needing to have interacted with a customer or a client, and it can be a long learning process if you haven’t been exposed to that scenario. Whether it’s communicating with product owners, stakeholders, clients (which nearly every software developer will have to do at some point) communication ability plays a vital role in being a good engineer. How to win friends is a classic, and is chock full of valuable nuggets of wisdom to make you a better people person.
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