Soft Skills: The Software Developer’s Life Manual – Book Review

In this article, I review one of my favorite books related to software development, which is Soft Skills: The Software Developer’s Life Manual by John Sonmez.

It’s my favorite because I’ve already read a lot of chapters from this book a year ago when I was in college doing my Computer Science degree. I always thought about software developers as nerds who are having very little social skills.

I remember my friend saying that I will also become a fat nerdy IT professional. The society has a bad perception of software developers and IT professionals. I also had a similar perspective, until I find John Sonmez on his YouTube channel called ‘Simple Programmer’.

Software developers can follow this guy as a great role model. Almost all of us are very good at technical skills. But most people find it difficult to do essential non-technical skills such as negotiation, building relationships, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, etc. John calls these essential skills as ‘Soft Skills’.

All the nerdy programmers think that it is the technical skills that matter the most. But it’s not. Yes, technical skills are pretty important, but soft skills are much more important in your career and life. Software development means more than just writing code.

You might be the best programmer in the world, but if nobody knows you, then what’s the point in having the technical skills? If you can’t use your skills to its maximum potential, it will be a waste. There are some important skills which you should know to get your name out there in the world.

For example, I’m not the greatest programmer out there, but at least you know me as you’re reading this review. There are a ton of great programmers, but nobody knows most of them.

John Sonmez tries to address all the areas in life, like health, fitness, spirituality, career, marketing, etc. This book will help you to improve all the areas in your life as a software developer. As the title of the book suggests, it’s a life manual for software developers.

If you’ve read my blog before, you might know that I’m a huge fan of John Sonmez. I look up to him as a role model. His YouTube videos are entertaining and informative, and I regularly watch them.

soft skills

So, I already have trust in this guy. That’s why I ordered his book ‘Soft Skills’ a year ago. I knew that if this guy comes up with a book, it will be a great book. And it exceeded my expectations. This book gave me the push to start a programming blog, and here I’m writing my 52nd article.

Even though this book is written for software developers, anybody can get value from this book. This book is more about your life. John gave a software developer’s touch to the book since he is (or was) a software developer.

Anyway, let’s have a look at the content of this book and see what’s inside. There are 7 completely unique sections in this book, each having many chapters. These sections and chapters will help you to expand your horizons and explore the unknown.

1. Career

The book starts with the career section, which is the most important for the software development audience. Whether you’re a working professional, or a freelancer, or a businessman, John covers all the aspects of your career.

He starts the section with people skills and interview skills. If you don’t have a job yet, this section will guide you step by step towards getting one. He also throws his viewpoints about corporate companies, professionalism, and your life in a cubicle.

Some people may not like the corporate job they’re doing (like me). The next chapters are for those who are planning to quit their job and going their own way. He gives a bunch of information on freelancing and working remotely as well. There is a small chapter on creating a startup too.

The best thing about this section is that it will change the way you see your career. John represents your career as a business. He encourages us to think about our career like a business. This way of looking at things will give you a wider and long-term perspective about your career.

The career section is filled with tips on how to be a professional. Uncle Bob (Robert C. Martin), who is the author of popular books like Clean Code and Clean Coder, has a great influence on John Sonmez and his thoughts about professionalism. Uncle Bob has written one of the forewords for this book (the other is written by Scott Hanselman).

2. Marketing Yourself

This section is all about branding and marketing yourself as a software developer. It is one of my favorite sections because this gave me a lot of opportunities. John talks a lot about building your own brand, and that’s what exactly I’ve done. I created this blog a year ago based on the advice that he has given in this section.

He emphasizes a lot on creating a wildly successful blog as it is so vital for software developers. Having a blog gave me many opportunities, especially it helped me crack an interview and land a job before I passed out of college.

He also has chapters on speaking skills, using social networks. He has a popular course marketing which is called How to Market Yourself as a Software Developer. He gives a summary of that big course in this section.

I’ve also written an article on marketing yourself as a programmer. If you’re interested, do check it out.

3. Learning

Learning is a pretty important factor in our career, and we never stop learning as software developers. So, learning how to learn is important. John Sonmez has a course on his website called 10 Steps to Learn Anything Quickly. It is a ten-step process that John has developed over time to learn anything efficiently.

He reveals these ten steps in this section. These steps will help you to be more organized and not get overwhelmed while learning.

Apart from the ten steps, the book talks about a few more important concepts, like finding a mentor and teaching. Teaching is pretty important as it will fill the gaps in your knowledge, and it will help you to organize what you’ve learned. Also, it will be helpful for someone else. The best thing is that you’ll also get paid for teaching if you do it the right way.

John also gives his thoughts on college degrees, coding bootcamps, and self-learning. Overall, this section will help you to learn how to learn correctly.

4. Productivity

Productivity is yet another essential thing in our careers, especially if you’re going out on yourself or building a side business.

I work a regular job, and I also work on this blog when I get time. So, I know how important productivity is, especially in building this blog. Some days, it seems like I’m working, but at the end of the day, when I look back, I might have done nothing much to push the needle.

For me, productivity is all about publishing as many articles as I can when I get time. I’m avoiding other works like checking emails, checking the analytics of the website, etc. because those are not the important pieces in my work.

This section has a lot of tips on improving productivity. I try to better my productivity using these tips, and I’m still lazy at times. It is one area I need to work on a bit more.

Burnouts are common for programmers, and I’m sure that we all have experienced that at times. John has got the cure for burnouts in one of the chapters in this section. He also shares his thoughts on how to break huge tasks into small pieces.

Developing habits is yet another essential thing we need in our life. John talks about the value of good habits and hard work and how you can create your own routine.

5. Financial

Other than reading books, I’ve made some other new year resolutions as well. One of them is to invest 40% of the income that I earn from my job into some assets. Before you call me “crazy”, read the 5th chapter in this book, which talks about the important financial decisions in your life.

Generally, software developers earn a good income, and still, many of them are in a bad financial situation. It is due to the lack of financial knowledge that they have. Finance is an important aspect of your life, and you should invest your time in enhancing your financial knowledge.

In this chapter, John talks about all the good and bad financial decisions that he made in his life. Starting from reducing your spending, to negotiating your salary, John covers the basics, and then he moves on to some more advanced stuff like the stock market, real estate, retirement plan, etc.

He also tells his life story and all the financial steps that he had gone through until he retired at the age of 33.

The problem for me with this section is that it is a little bit US-specific. All the things that he talks about in this section are not realistic in my country. Nevertheless, this section has a lot of information to be financially fit.

6. Fitness

Physical fitness and health are a big deal in life. Since most of us work by sitting in a chair and looking at the computer screen all the time, we need to take extra care of our body and health.

Society has a bad perception of software developers as fat guys who always drink coffee and eat junk food, even though that’s not always the truth. Still, most of us don’t take much care about our physical fitness.

This chapter will help you develop a fitness mindset and a healthy diet. John Sonmez is pretty great in his physical fitness. He regularly works out, runs marathons, lifts weights, and even has some unique practices. This guy has enough experience and knowledge in physical fitness, and hence we can trust his words about fitness.

Two months ago, I started running 5kms daily in the morning. Even though I skip some days, when I’m not feeling well, I still d it regularly. The most difficult thing is to get started. If you can start your routine somehow, you’ll at least have an opportunity to make it a habit. Once it becomes a habit, it is all easy.

I learned some great advice from John in this chapter bout running. One thing he said is to run slowly. I used to run at some speed, and I wasn’t able to cover long distances. But when I started running very slowly, I don’t feel fatigued as often. Now, I start slowly and run faster at the finishing laps.

You can also start your work out routine with the help of some good information from this book. Also, start eating correctly. Remove all the junk from your diet.

7. Spirit

The last section of this book is all about mind and spirituality. John talks about how the mind influences the body. He helps readers to build the right mental attitude and a positive self-image. Note that this chapter is not from a religious viewpoint.

He also gives some tips on love and relationships as well. Oh my god, this guy talks about everything.

In the end, he gives some final thoughts and his success book list as well.

Why This Book is Unlike Any Book I’ve Ever Read

What I like the most about this book is, at the end of every chapter, there is a small section called Taking Action. In this section, he gives a few quick steps that we can do to implement what we’ve learned from the chapter.

If you can read this book and do all the steps that are mentioned in the Taking Action section, I can guarantee you that you’ll succeed in a lot of areas of your life.

That is why this book is special. It’s a complete package. It has all the theory in digestible language, and all the actionable steps that cover all areas of our life.

Now, let me give you some actionable steps in Soft-Skills-style.

Taking Action

  • If you haven’t read this book yet, check out the book at Amazon and get your copy.
  • Check out the work of John Sonmez at his YouTube channels: Simple Programmer and Bulldog Mindset.
  • What are your new year resolutions? (you can make resolutions any day). Make some goals and write them down in the comments. Develop some new habits and improve in different areas of your life.
  • Which area of your life do you think you need to improve? For me, it’s productivity. I need to learn to work without motivation.
  • If you’ve already read this book, what are your thoughts on the book? How many stars would you give it out of 5? Leave your thoughts in the comments.
  • If this article was helpful, do share it. It’ll motivate me to make more articles like this.

Happy Reading!

Ashwin Joy

I'm the face behind Pythonista Planet. I learned my first programming language back in 2015. Ever since then, I've been learning programming and immersing myself in technology. On this site, I share everything that I've learned about computer programming.

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