10 Career Related Books for Software Engineering Individual Contributors

Published on Sep 5, 2021

5 min read

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At a recent 1:1 career conversation, someone asked me if I had recommendations on career-related books for engineers. A good list of books for managers is here.

Here are some that I found, from new books to timeless classics. Let me know if there are some good ones that I missed.

Table of Contents


Unwritten Laws of Engineering


The Unwritten Laws of Engineering by W. J. King was first published in 1944 as three articles in Mechanical Engineering magazine. The book has been TIMELESS ADVICE FOR ENGINEERS ever since, becoming a classic of engineering literature. The book is a collection of engineering maxims and guidelines rather than hard and fast rules. However, some of the book’s main themes include the importance of experience, the need for clear communication, and the value of working as part of a team.

The Effective Engineer: How to Leverage Your Efforts In Software Engineering to Make a Disproportionate and Meaningful Impact

The Effective Engineer is a book designed specifically for today’s software engineers. It’s based on interviews with engineering leaders at top tech companies and packed with hundreds of techniques to accelerate your career. It covers topics such as how to be an effective communicator, work effectively in teams, manage your time, and continuously improve your skills.


The Senior Software Engineer: 11 Practices of an Effective Technical Leader 


A software engineer can use these 11 basic principles to become a more effective contributor and team member. Personal techniques for addressing problems and adding new features are included, as well as writing, interviewing, and time management suggestions, as well as guidance for launching new projects, presenting technical arguments, and leading a team.

Staff Engineer: Leadership beyond the management track


At most technology companies, you’ll reach senior software engineer, the career level for software engineers, in five to eight years. This is also when many engineers have an opportunity to move into engineering management. What if you want to advance your career without becoming an engineering manager? The Staff Engineer is your guide to building your career towards a Staff engineering role, receiving the title, and succeeding within the role. This book is the only one that touches on this topic that I’m aware of.

Talking with Tech Leads: From Novices to Practitioners


From tech leads, a book for tech leads. In Talking with Tech Leads learn how over 35 tech leads strike a careful balance between technical and non-technical worlds. Learn about the difficulties that a tech lead experiences and how to overcome them. The lessons they have to teach you might surprise you!

The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering


The Mythical Man-Month is one of the most significant and timeless publications on software project management. Fred Brooks provides insight for anyone managing challenging projects with a mix of software engineering facts and thought-provoking perspectives. Brooks has revisited his original ideas and added new insights and guidance, both for readers who are already familiar with his work and for readers who are discovering it for the first time, 20 years after it was first published.

Help Your Boss Help You: Convert Conflict Into Opportunities


As an engineer, you are concerned about executing your job correctly and the quality of your work is important to you. Your employer is concerned with making money, and your manager is often judged. While those objectives often coincide, conflict is unavoidable due to the disparity in priorities. This book will help you take tangible actions to establish a positive working connection with your manager that benefits both of you!

Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well


We understand the importance of feedback for good relationships and professional progress, but we dread it and ignore it frequently. Thank you for the Feedback is the first book to tackle this issue head-on. It explains why receiving criticism is so important but so difficult. It provides a robust foundation for dealing with life’s blizzard of off-hand remarks, annual reviews, and unsolicited advice with curiosity and compassion. Stone and Heen argue that we’ve got it backward. The book is destined to become a classic in leadership, organizational behavior, and education.

Joel on Software: And on Diverse and Occasionally Related Matters That Will Prove of Interest to Software Developers, Designers, and Managers, and to Those Who, Whether by Good Fortune or Ill Luck, Work with Them in Some Capacity


Joel Spolsky established www.joelonsoftware.com in March 2000 to provide advice on how to improve the programming industry. These observations were based on years of personal experience for Spolsky, the co-founder of Fog Creek Software. What was the outcome just a few years later? Spolsky’s technical expertise, biting wit, and exceptional writing abilities have earned him the title of programming guru! In addition, his blog with 1,000+ articles became well-known in the programming community, having been linked to over 600 websites and translated into over thirty languages. A classic, Joel on Software covers every facet of software development.

The Pragmatic Programmer: your journey to mastery, 20th Anniversary Edition


The Pragmatic Programmer, by Dave Thomas and Andy Hunt, re-examines what it means to be a modern programmer. This classic book is a collection of tips for improving the development process more pragmatically than a comprehensive theory. It is used in some university courses as a textbook.

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