Making It Big In Software - The Book Review

Published on Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I’ve included below my review of the book “Making It Big In Software: Get the Job, Work the Org, Become Great”. I diligently read this book from cover to cover and just couldn’t seem to like it. It became pretty monotonous after a while to go through what felt like a very academic handling of what could have been a very interesting topic. This is in stark contrast to the other book I’m reading now, “Delivering Happiness” by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, which is a pragmatic blow-by-blow tale of how someone actually made it big by leveraging technology. My review:

Making it Big in Software Book

I really wanted to like Sam Lightstone’s book “Making It Big In Software” and read it cover-to-cover, at some times forcing myself to read on. There are some good points in the book, which at its best represents a blend between the interviewing style of “Founders at Work” and the pragmatic advice of “Career Warfare”. Unfortunately, the book is at its best far too infrequently to make it a recommended read.

Aside from really lacking any really original advice or insights that are fairly common knowledge to folks who have spent a couple of years in the software industry, there are several other reasons I probably won’t be referring back to this book very frequently:

  • The questions were pretty much the same for every interview. That’s great for statistical comparability but really didn’t do much to draw out the stories from the interviewees. At one point, I found myself thumbing to the end of each interview to find out if the “Do you think graduate degrees are professionally valuable?” question was going to be asked again.
  • An earlier reviewer pointed out the value in the use of personas to illustrate examples. Done correctly, I agree that this is a very powerful technique. However, the software development antics of Moe, Larry, and Curly in this book seemed less like personas and more like an attempt to compensate for the lack of more illustrative examples.
  • Lots of borrowed material. Much of it from the standard software journeyman’s body of knowledge and some of it from popular authors such as Steven Covey, who seems to be a personal favorite of the author.
  • A chapter on compensation with salary ranges? C’mon, really? Aside from immediately dating the book, this is information that clearly could have been put out on a website and updated periodically so that the reference doesn’t get immediately stale.

This book may be of slightly more value (3 stars) to someone new to the field of software. I hope I’m not being unduly harsh but I find it hard to see how folks who have been around in the industry for 5 – 10 years can rate this book with 4 or 5 starts.