Books for software engineers and managers

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Books to Prevent Burnout in High Performance Engineering  Teams

by Brian

Engineering Manager,
Tech Lead


To play the game of engineering manager, you must accept two rules.

The first rule is that every feature is already late, even if development just started. The customer wanted it weeks ago.

The second rule is that production efficiency must always increase. This is obvious if you accept the first rule.

If you accept these rules and your development team’s production throughput is high, you’re lucky. You have an ambitious crew and strong engineering culture.

But this is a double-edged sword. Your team’s productivity comes with the risk of burnout.

These books helped me think about burnout within my own high performance engineering team – both identifying burnout and taking action to prevent it.


Getting Past Burnout, Busywork, and the Myth of Total  Efficiency

by Tom DeMarco


Recommended: 8 / 10

Some people see this book title and think it’s about Slack the SaaS company. But this book is actually about adding slack to your software development timelines and production systems.

Slack makes the counterintuitive claim that 100% utilization is actually a bad thing for production throughput. On the surface, this claim was hard to expect. Isn’t our goal 100% utilization? Isn’t that the hallmark of efficiency?

But thanks to this book I started seeing all the little problems caused by an environment without slack, especially the possibility of burning out my engineers.

See top ideas from Slack

It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy At  Work

by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hanson, Founders of Basecamp

It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy At Work

Recommended: 6 / 10

From the team behind Basecamp, It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy At Work is a quick read and brings a few catchphrases that will stick in your mind.

My favorite is that calmness requires owning your own time. That’s actually the essence of slack – having some control over your own time.

See top ideas from It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy At Work


Productive Projects and  Teams

by Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister


Recommended: 10 / 10

We all know the advice to get out of peoples’ way and let them do the work. But these platitudes aren’t helpful for engineering managers under a constant time crunch. Peopleware tells you how to make work possible by getting out of the way.

I review my notes on Peopleware every 6 to 12 months – that’s how important this book is to managing software teams.

See top ideas from Peopleware

The Mythical Man  Month

Essays on Software  Engineering

by Fred P. Brooks, Jr.

The Mythical Man Month

Recommended: 9 / 10

Everyone knows you can’t make a baby in one month with nine women – thanks to The Mythical Man Month. But this book has more advice than Brooks’ Law.

The Mythical Man Month will help engineering managers and leaders identify the technical constraints slowing their team down and causing heartburn among their engineers – problems that aren’t obvious on the surface because they live at the intersection of team culture, talent, and code.

See top ideas from The Mythical Man Month


Breaking Up the Boys Club of Silicon  Valley

by Emily Chang, Journalist; Anchor and Executive Producer of Bloomberg  Technology


Recommended: 8 / 10

You might wonder why Brotopia is on this list. Isn’t Brotopia about women in technology? Absolutely.

Women in tech experience much higher churn rates than men and smart engineering managers will investigate why so they can prevent it.

That’s where Brotopia comes in, surfacing factors that cause women to feel burnout and to leave tech, citing both quantitative and qualitative data that I otherwise wouldn’t have exposure to.

See top ideas from Brotopia

Books to Prevent Burnout in High Performance Engineering Teams