Essential Reading for Software Engineering Managers

2016, Sep 13    

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I started trying to read more a couple years ago, and this year I’ve been knocking out some of the most popular engineering management books out there. Since a lot of new and aspiring software managers ask me about this, I figured I would go ahead and put together a list of some of my favorite books for software engineering managers.

Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams by Tom DeMarco

The nice thing about software is that it is predictable. Computers do what you expect them to every single time, but figuring out how to make people work together is a lifelong exercise. Peopleware has helped me on my journey to figuring that out. I wrote a more detailed review of Peopleware back in 2015. Click here for more.

Building Great Software Engineering Teams by Josh Tyler

“The challenge of scaling up a team can be intimidating…Josh Tyler has spent nearly a decade building teams in high-growth startups [most recently at Course Hero]…He draws on this experience to outline specific, detailed solutions augmented by instructive stories.”

The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement by Eliyahu M. Goldratt

“The Goal is a gripping, fast-paced business novel about overcoming the barriers to making money. You will learn the fundamentals of identifying and solving the problems created by constraints. From the moment you finish the book you will be able to start successfully addressing chronic productivity and quality problems.”

The Mythical Man-Month by Frederick P. Brooks Jr.

“Few books on software project management have been as influential and timeless as The Mythical Man-Month. With a blend of software engineering facts and thought-provoking opinions, Fred Brooks offers insight for anyone managing complex projects.”

Startup Engineering Management by Piaw Na

This book covers a variety of engineering topics for managers including:

  • Why a manager should consider doing management work.
  • How a manager should put together his team.
  • The important things to consider when interacting with engineers.
  • How to hire top engineers for your startup.
  • How to pick engineering leaders.
  • How to define processes and when don’t you need them.

The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande

“The volume and complexity of knowledge today has exceeded our ability as individuals to properly deliver it to people—consistently, correctly, safely. We train longer, specialize more, use ever-advancing technologies, and still we fail. Atul Gawande makes a compelling argument that we can do better, using the simplest of methods: the checklist.”

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

“This grandfather of all people-skills books was first published in 1937. It was an overnight hit, eventually selling 15 million copies. How to Win Friends and Influence People is just as useful today as it was when it was first published, because Dale Carnegie had an understanding of human nature that will never be outdated.”

Good reads

Most of these were really good books, but they just don’t relate quite as directly to engineering management. Still worth looking into if you’re interested in software engineering, startups, leadership, and other related topics.

Next on my list

I’ll try to remember to update these as I read through them, but here are some of the books next on my reading list:

If you have other books that I should put on my reading list, let me hear about them on Twitter.