Review: The Passionate Programmer

Chad Fowler's book is all about building a successful career in software development.  When I read that sentence, 2 questions immediately come to mind: what's in it for me (as a developer)? and what's in it for me (as a business owner/manager/project manager/etc)?  Well the answer to the first question is pretty obvious: what I get out of a successful career is happiness, money, purpose, etc.  What does my employeer get out of it?  Well, a happy, motivated, driven developer.  Why does that matter?  Happy, motivated people produce more and better work.  So now we have covered the most rudimentary of why, let's look at how this book helps.

There are 5 sections in the book:
  • Choosing your market
  • Investing in your product
  • Executing
  • Marketing... not just for suits
  • Maintaining your edge

Choosing your market talks to the importance of being aware of what you do and how it related to the larger picture.  Are you .NET developer?  Why?  Why aren't you a Ruby developer?  Or a Java developer?  Or a COBOL developer?  Or a DBA?  Did you make a conscious decision to go into this area or did it just happen?  Are you in control of the direction of your career?  Are you specialized?  Will that help you or hurt you in the short term?  Medium term? Long term?  Make sure that you know what path you are on, why you are on it and how you will change if that path disappears.

Investing in your product is about improving in the areas you have chosen.  Learn continuously from those around you.  Help those you can.  Read, study, practice.

Executing is make yourself indispensable (not because no one can do what you do, but because you are constantly bringing so much new value to the team/project.)  Executing is also being honest: working hard and saying "No" when the answer really is "no."

Marketing is about managing perceptions because they really do matter.  Make sure people around you know who you are, what you do and why that matters.  Become a brand.  Get your name known on not just in your company, but in the industry.

Maintaining your edge is a pretty obvious need.  You have to always be improving because the industry is always moving and if you stand still, you will be left behind.

The 53 short essays in this book will help you focus on what you need to do to have an exceptional career that takes you where YOU want to go.  I was pleasantly surprised at how many of the recommendations I am already following.  I was also amazed at how much work I still have ahead of me.  This book can be very useful in providing you with a direction and a starting point.  Each essay has an Act On It section that gives you specific advice on how to improve your career right now.


  1. Just finished the book yesterday.
    I really like the examples he uses to validate some of his views. I'm so glad I read it at a time when my career was going nowhere and I was struggling with finding joy in the art of developing solutions to problems.

    very good investment.


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