A few years ago, right about the time I learned my job was to be outsourced, I remember seeing a book in the bookstore titled My Job Went to India. I assumed it was a parody of sorts and decided to resist the urge to pick it up.
It wasn’t until I read the introduction to The Passionate Programmer by Chad Fowler, that I realized it was the second edition of that same book, which had been subtitled “52 Ways to Save Your Job.” The title change is a good one, as it does a much better job of crystallizing the goal of this book.
The focus of The Passionate Programmer is how to have an exceptional career as a developer. It is written as several short essays on specific tips for creating a career in programming you can be passionate about, each followed by one or more specific suggestions for activities to follow through on what you’ve just read. In essence, this is What Color Is Your Parachute? for people who already know they want to be programmers.
While the driving force may be passion, the topics are very pragmatic. Fowler suggests you choose your market, invest in your product, execute on your plans, and market yourself. This follows from the major thesis, that you must treat your career as a product in and of itself. The passion comes from the desire to create a great product, and do what is necessary to make that product, ultimately yourself, successful.
An important point that’s treated as a side note – you have to want to be a great programmer. If you find that’s not what you want, maybe you should find a career you can be passionate about.
Fowler provides a road map for how to create a career you love on a daily basis while moving towards a future you are excited about. The topics range from how to find enjoyment in the drudge tasks you may hate, how to keep from falling behind the technology curve, how to decide when to take career risks, and how to become truly remarkable (not just good).
Most of the “Act On It” tasks are highly relevant and useful. Now that I have read the entire book, I plan to review the chapters that feel the most relevant and focus on one or two of the tasks a week.
While much of the advice provided the The Passionate Programmer is not new, I think this is a great resource for anybody who wants to have a career as a software developer that excites and inspires. Software is a great industry, full of brilliant people and complex problems to solve. That’s why I got into it. This book provides concrete ways I can keep that passion alive.