Books - 2021Q2

The non-fiction books I read in April - June 2021 with some brief review.

  1. Influencer: The Power to Change Anything by Kerry Patterson and others
  2. Necessary But Not Sufficient: A Theory Of Constraints Business Novel by Eliyahu M. Goldratt, Carol A. Ptak
  3. The Manager's Path: A Guide for Tech Leaders Navigating Growth and Change by Camille Fournier
  4. System Design Interview – An Insider's Guide by Alex Xu
  5. Inspired: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love by Marty Cagan

Influencer: The Power to Change Anything

Kerry Patterson and others

What

...if you want to change the world, you eventually need to change how people behave. And if you want to change how they behave, you have to first change how they think.

The book by the same author as Crucial Conversations. He talks about the framework for changing basically anything that people do by following three main steps:
1. Identify the behaviors to change.
2. Identify barriers to the desired behaviors.
3. Make it easy and worth it for people to do the right thing.

The author explains steps with entertaining anecdotes and goes fairly deep into the six sources of influence - some intuitive and conventional, some were new to me.

Rating ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆

Who should read it

Anyone who is interested in leading a positive change or in understanding persuasion and influence mechanisms a bit better.

Necessary But Not Sufficient: A Theory Of Constraints Business Novel

Eliyahu M. Goldratt, Carol A. Ptak

What

What is the bottom-line impact of this change?

The book is a fun fictional read on enterprise software development in the 1990s and the Theory of Constraints (TOC). It is about an ERP product company that is reaching market exhaustion. They figure out that there is a need to rethink their product and sales strategy and focus on the "bottom-line" value delivering rather than on technology for the pure sake of technology.

Everything is judged by the impact on the bottom line, short-term as well as long-term. And to hell with local optima.

Rating ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Who should read it

As I learned now, this book is not the first one in the series on the TOC and one should start with The Goal. Nevertheless, I would still recommend it to anyone who is interested in the Theory of Constraints, especially how it can be applied in software engineering, similar to Agile and Lean. Besides, the book teleports you back to the 1990s :)

The Manager's Path: A Guide for Tech Leaders Navigating Growth and Change

Camille Fournier

What

The author explores and talks about the variety of topics that engineering management deals with, from setting expectations, giving feedback, debugging dysfunctionality to leading managers, and building culture. There is no deep dive on any of the topics, however, the book serves well as a Management 101.

Humans, by and large, feel good when they set small goals and meet them regularly.

Each chapter ends with sets of questions in "Assessing Your Own Experience". The questions there are very useful cause they help to pause and reflect.

Rating ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Who should read it

I do not think that this is a book only for managers, it's for anyone in any engineering organization who wants to understand how to work with folks at all levels.

System Design Interview – An Insider's Guide

Alex Xu

What

The book is one of the best preparation guides for the standard system design interviews. It gives the framework on how to go through the interview:

1. Understand the problem and establish the design scope.
2. Propose high-level design and get buy-in.
3. Design deep dive.
4. Wrap up.

and highlights the most important point that is often overlooked:

Many think that system design interview is all about a person's technical design skills. It is much more than that. An effective system design interview gives strong signals about a person's ability to collaborate, to work under pressure, and to resolve ambiguity constructively. The ability to ask good questions is also an essential skill, and many interviewers specifically look for this skill.

There are 12 specific design cases that cover most of the technologies, patterns, and approaches. Each of the chapters has a lot of references to the resources to dive in.

Rating ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Who should read it

I believe with this book alone and with some practice (e.g. at https://www.pramp.com) an engineer of any level can prepare for the system design interview. I do not think that it's enough for the FAANG companies, but for the average ones - you should be covered.

Inspired: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love

Marty Cagan

What

This book is a good read on Product Management and all topics around it. It is complementary to the books on Agile methodologies and discusses how Agile can be practiced in a meaningful way. The names of the parts of the book are telling, skipping the first one:

Part 2: The Right People
Part 3: The Right Product
Part 4: The Right Process
Part 5: The Right Culture

The author makes sure that the discussed approaches can be applied universally, to start-ups or corporates, consumer devices to software as a service, etc. The principles that the author advocating for are:

1. Risks are tackled up front, rather than at the end.
2. Products are defined and designed collaboratively, rather than sequentially.
3. It's all about solving problems, not implementing features. It's all about business results.

Rating ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Who should read it

If are working on a product it's a must-read for you. There are a lot of things that will be known to you, some things that you will strongly disagree with, but I am sure everyone has something to learn from this book and get inspired :)