#30: The Exceptional Books, Articles, Videos, and Communities That Made Me a Better Engineering Leader

Hey friend,

I rarely share links in this newsletter because these letters are not for link curation; I aim to plant ideas, and the rest is for you to learn because everybody’s learning method varies. However, it doesn’t mean that I won’t share any resources. Today, I will share what changed my perspective, helped me grow into engineering management, and still helps me grow as a software engineering leader.

On another note, this is one of the ways for me to appreciate folks who produced these resources. Creating something is extremely difficult; creating something that helps people in their lives is unique. I hope at least one of these resources will benefit you as well.

The list seems long, but bear in mind that studying them took me years. Also, I only recommend the best resources that I’ve devoured and helped me.

On this journey, I recognized that when you grow as a person, you—naturally—grow as an engineer. How you consume the information and interpret it defines your wisdom. For leaders’ growth, not everything should be related to software engineering.

Let’s start with my boosts in life—the fundamentals.

Learning How to Learn

While I was studying Deep Learning Specialization on Coursera, I realized that my learning method is not that great. I often forgot things and had to study from scratch. This course taught me the fundamentals of learning methods. Although I still don’t follow the exact same method all the time, I changed my learning strategy to a more effective one.

How to Read a Book

Many people learn how to read in school. I learned it from my uncle—who was a teacher—before school. But nobody taught me how to read a book. Teachers and the education system force us to read books, and every single time, they want us to read cover to cover. When I realized that not every book is worth spending extensive energy on, I looked for what I could do to get the most out of a book if it doesn’t worth reading its 800 pages. And I found How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler. A book about reading a book. How meta. And how amazing it is. (I hopefully will share my notes from the book later) The book is not an easy read (it was first published in 1940!, updated in 1972), and in case you want to grasp the main idea, FS.Blog’s guide is great.

How to Speak

When I wrote about speaking, writing, and ideas, I was studying to improve my speaking skills. As a leader—and a podcast host—speaking is a fundamental skill that I want to enhance. In this MIT lecture on speaking, Patrick Winston said, “Your success in life will be determined largely by your ability to speak, your ability to write, and the quality of your ideas. In that order.” 💯 I won’t say more. Watch the 1-hour long lecture.

Non-Violent Communication by Dr. Rosenberg

As a leader (people manager or staff+ engineer), empathy is one of the central skills. It’s the force within you. Unlike the Star Wars universe, it’s a skill you can learn. If you want to lead people, you have to understand their needs. You have to ask the right questions to persuade them. This book teaches to see a person thoroughly. Even Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella gifted this book to every member of his senior leadership team when he became the CEO. Well, I agree with Satya that every leader has to read this book.

FS.Blog Membership

When I discovered The Knowledge Project Podcast’s interviews with outlandish guests, I was hooked. I dove into the whole archive (over 100+ episodes) and took many notes, and pondered on many quotes. Then I took a look at their website. I found a fantastic community and even more high-quality resources. Their content helps me make better decisions and improve my life and personality. You don’t need to become a member; their free newsletter and podcast are already gems.

Now onto some engineering-specific resources.

The Engineer/Manager Pendulum

This article changed my perspective on management AND engineering. Before I decided to become a manager, I ALWAYS believed that if I switch to management, I cannot return to engineering. That’s why the decision was tough for me because I enjoy both sides. Now, I know that I want to stay in the pendulum. A few years of people management and a few years of engineering will—probably—be the way I will work. At last, that’s what I think now.

Rands Leadership Slack

Over 20000 people get together in hundreds of channels and help each other out. This leadership Slack—which is focused on engineering leadership—is a fantastic resource for me to learn from others. I also ask my questions, get help, and help others. It’s free, and the community is impressive. I love their safe environment and excellent level of moderation.

Gergely Orosz’s Blog

I’ve read many articles Gergely wrote on his blog, and I’m also a subscriber to his newsletter. His writing gives great insights into the industry and leadership. Especially these ones were beneficial to me: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 also his book was a great read.

Fundamentals of Software Architecture Book

I started reading this book with a book club at work. Although I couldn’t join every session in the book club, this book made its place in my library, and I often reopen and (re)read some chapters frequently. It also helped me record the two most popular episodes (1, 2) in my podcast. It’s an excellent must-have book that supports me in understanding how to approach architecture and the differences between various software architecture styles.

That’s all for resources. But I think there are a few more things worth mentioning; things that made me a better engineer and leader: reading documentation when I have problems, taking long walks during the day to think about certain things, meditation, and countless other books (to name a few more: Deep Work, Atomic Habits, Designing Data-Intensive Applications, Radical Candor, Thanks for the Feedback, Writing to Learn) and blog articles I’ve read.

Last but not least, whatever I wrote, talked about, and people whom I had a conversation with made me better at my job and in my life. I appreciate every single guest on my podcast and every person I had a conversation with, and I’m grateful that they made me a better person, engineer, and leader.

What's the best resource you have ever read/watched/listened to? Let me know your suggestions.

@candosten

P.S. Managing up is difficult but it sets you apart from the crowd in your growth.


A Quote I'm Pondering

"Childhood is when you keep gaining, old age is when you keep losing."
— Ursula K. Le Guin

Updates from The Last Two Weeks

I published a book note and a podcast episode.

📚 Think Again Book Summary, Review, and Notes

Recently, in a book club at work, we have read Think Again by The New York Times Bestselling Author Adam Grant. I wrote down my summary, notes, and review. Curious about my rating? (Spoiler: 7/10)

Writing book notes help me grasp the idea in the books better. There will be more and more book notes coming.

🎙 How to Present Solutions as Software Engineers [Software World Ep. #28]

Different groups of people demand various details when listening to your solutions. The details you’ll show to a software engineer differs from the level of detail you will show to your product manager, and it will be completely different when you want to present to a C-level.

I've realized many engineers struggle to communicate their work at different levels. Even the most experienced en­gineers have difficulty presenting their ideas or their achievements. In the latest episode of Software World, I talked about how to present your solutions and create the most profound impact on your audience. I shared what I've learned and honed with feedback over the years.


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May 3, 2022
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