Latest software development read

Just finished a great book – My Job Went to India

Not as xenophobic as it sounds, in fact not at all. Another excellent book by the pragmatic programmers.

Basically its a discussion of software development in the current climate. The main focus is on the current outsourcing fashion, what that means for western developers and how to compete with someone with a similar skill set on paper who costs 1/10 of what you cost.

My favorite bit was early on:
Imagine you set up a new company to build a single product. The whole companies future depends on the success of this product, if it fails the company goes bust.
What would you do in that situation?
Would you do some market research to make sure there was a viable market for the product?
Would you check out the competition?
Would you invest pretty carefully to make sure you got the product right?

As a developer your skill set is your only product.
Are you giving it the focus it deserves?

I have always had a very strong focus on skills, but this analogy really seemed to drive the point home.

Another very valid point he raises is learning a totally new language, not necessarily to use it, but more for the additional insight it will give you in applying you usual toolset.

This is like top class sports performers, who often train their opposite side (eg orthodox boxers training southpaw). Not because they expect to use it, but for the insight.

[This doesn’t always work – I broke my right arm in a motorbike crash, so had to learn to write left handed, my right handed hand writing is still rubbish]

I’m thinking of having another look at Smalltalk or maybe ruby, what about you (and dont be trying to pass off looking at from VBA as some kind of mind expanding leap)?



7 Responses to “Latest software development read”

  1. gobansaor Says:

    I’d recommend Ruby (see, not just to “expand the mind” but it can be a very useful general purpose tool. Also, try out some of the new user-focused development environments such as Proto (, a great mashup/etl tool with deep integration with Excel and VBA.

  2. Ross Says:

    I did look at ‘s’ once but it seemed a bit beyond me at the time. The other side of it is that a lot of say UK Excel devs will have “business” experience that can not be matched my chaps in Indian? true/not true?

  3. vbryant Says:

    In order to expand one’s programming toolset I would recommend learning a language which is entirely different from the one that is currently being used. For example, if you’ve been using a procedural language like C, Fortan or any of the other “old school” languages you should try an OO programming language like smalltalk, C++ or java.

    But if you really want to understand what a programming language does take your favorite language and write a runtime environment for your own language with all the programming conveniences you ever wanted. For example, create an XML syntax and write a java program to execute the XML code (okay, I think that’s been done, but its still an interesting exercise). Having gone through this exercise I’ve learned a great deal about the fundamentals of programming languages and how they are implemented.

  4. Marcus Says:

    Delphi. I’ve downloaded and installed TurboDelphi and have even quickly dipped my toe in the water to see how it feels. Meanwhile, I’ve been so busy with everything else I’ve barely touched it since. While I know it’s beneficial to my professional development, planning to do it and doing it are two separate things. As John Lennon put it, life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.

    Cheers – Marcus

  5. Simon Says:

    Yes – Its all a matter of priorities
    shall I learn a new peripheral language or go and play with the kids?(Or earn a living I suppose)

  6. Dennis Wallentin Says:

    I’m been thinking a lot of trying to learn Spanish. The driving force is to go there and meet spanish supporters of Barcelona FC and Vuelta (The Tour of Spain) to discuss two of the things I really enjoy, football and bicycling :)

    Kind regards,

  7. Skill set ownership « Smurf on Spreadsheets Says:

    […] Skill set ownership The last post on knowledge or rate of learning links here which is a post by Eric Sink talking about several things, one of which is taking responsibility for your own skill set. I posted about that a while ago in a book review. […]

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