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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Book Review - New Programmer's Survival Manual

Disclaimer: I was part of the tech review team of this book and received a copy of it for free. There was no obligation to review it, however.

I don't consider myself a "new" programmer anymore. I've seen my share of projects and technologies. Given this I'm probably not in the exact target market of the book. Nevertheless I managed to glean a few things from here and there.

In this review I hope to highlight the good parts of the book and help you decide whether or not to pick this puppy up. As mentioned in the disclaimer I was a part of the tech review team of the book. Big thanks to Josh and The Pragmatic Programmers for allowing that! It was a nice learning experience.

Overall I was happy with the resulting book. It's one of those books I wish every newcomer to the field would read early on. That's when it provides the most value. Read on for more impressions.

The Review

"New Programmer's Survival Manual" by Josh Carter is aimed specifically for people new to the profession. It expects you are headed towards a cubicle farm or a similar environment. It has less to offer self-employed people such as me due to this.

The book has been split in a few distinct parts: professional programming, people skills, the corporate world and looking forward. Each of these parts contains a set of tips that provide some basic information and concrete actions you can perform. Furthermore tips are ranked using belts. This makes it easier to classify the level of information. Some of it has been aimed clearly towards beginners while some of it is more advanced.

I think this kind of structure provides a balanced view on the profession. Given the broad scope it's understandable things are not always covered in extreme detail. Thankfully there are a bunch of references here and there that make it easier to delve further.

I liked the conversational tone of the author. Some anecdotes from other sources spiced it up nicely. I have to admit this isn't one of those books I chomped in one go. Nevertheless it kept me piqued enough to go back at it to see what's in store.

I'm not entirely sure if I agree with the stereotypical structure of a company provided by the book. At least here in Europe new forms of organization have become popular. These days cross-functional teams are increasingly common. It would have been nice if the book had elaborated a bit more on this. The view it provides serves as a some kind of starting point.

There were some "americanisms" around as well but that's a common complaint with tech books. There's not much that can be done for that I guess. Oh well. At least you learn something about the culture while reading these books. :)


I guess the big question is should you read it. That really depends. If you are new to the craft and wish to get a head start on your career, definitely! The book has less to offer for experienced peeps but can possibly provide some new ideas or at least fortify the existing ones you are aware of.