As he’s chatting with some students after class, they ask him which language or technology they can learn so that they don’t have to learn anything else once they get their degree.
This blew me away on several levels: (1) These are university students participating in a largely optional learning activity (college) and they are already trying to figure out how to stop learning?! That doesn’t bode well for their lives in general, much less their future as software developers, (2) They are studying a technology field and are old enough and smart enough to get into college, yet they’ve missed the fact that technology has done nothing but change their entire lives? There’s a chance that some of the specific technologies they learn in college won’t even be relevant by the time they graduate, (3) They think they’d actually want the job they are describing. [That last one is wrapped up with some personal bias, for sure -- I can’t imagine any period in my career where I would have been happy doing just that thing for the remainder of it.]
Yet, somehow I fear I may be the odd one here. One of my favorite interview questions (sorry, no bizarre thought puzzles like “how do they make M&Ms”) was “What was the last book you read and what magazines do you read regularly?” I rarely got a decent answer. Often I’d get quizzical looks and would have to eventually follow up with “Software development is a rapidly changing field. You’d like to come work for us as a software developer. I’m trying to figure out how you go about keeping up with change and staying abreast of new technologies and practices.” Unfortunately, they often now understood my question and still had nothing satisfying to say.
BUT, here’s the answer that I hated the most: “Yeah, you’re right, doing that’s a good idea but my company doesn’t pay for books or magazine subscriptions.” So you know it’s a good idea, that it would be valuable to you as a software developer and by extension make you more valuable as an employee, but unless someone else pays for the book or magazine subscription, you’re not going to do it? [imagine several more paragraphs of crazed ranting here -- it’s harder than I thought to not include them]
I’m afraid to ask this question any more. It’s so easy to follow folks on Twitter or Google+ or read their blogs or get entirely free magazines sent to you in email or buy even cheaper e-book versions of books that the interviewee’s quizzical stare would cause me to tilt.
To help fight this phenomenon I will occasionally curate a useful set of links or list of books that I personally find valuable. If you know of equally good or better books or links, please post in the comments -- I can’t read everything and I won’t post about something I haven’t actually read or used and found value in.
Getting StartED with Dojo by Kyle D. Hayes with Peter Higgins. A gentle yet useful introduction, nicely organized and presented.
Dojo: The Definitive Guide by Matthew A. Russell. As I searched for a really good Dojo book, this one kept appearing at the top of people's lists. While based largely on dojo 1.1, it focuses on fundamental aspects of Dojo that I expect remain the same today. I understood things after reading this that I only thought I understood before reading it.
Agile and Scrum
Implementing Lean Software Development: From Concept to Cash by Mary and Tom Poppendieck. This book "made it click" for me, providing a vivid description of how you can deliver high quality software of value to the customer while eliminating waste and constantly improving your team.
Succeeding with Agile: Software Development Using Scrum by Mike Cohn. I very much enjoy Mike's writing style and I give this book an edge over Ken Schwaber's original treatment, but either will suffice.
Agile Estimating and Planning by Mike Cohn. If you want to really understand how Story Points are meant to work and how Agile Planning seeks to mitigate risk, this is the book. If you're more into Cliff Notes, Mike provides lots of useful material at his web site: http://www.mountaingoatsoftware.com
I personally have a Safari Books Online (http://safaribooksonline.com/Corporate/Index/) Individual subscription. For $23 a month I can read any book I want, up to 10 at a time on my personal "bookshelf". You also earn credits that allow you to download books permanently to your computer, often in a variety of formats (PDF, .mobi, .apk, etc.)