It is time for another review, and much sooner than usual at that, as I had the displeasure of catching this really nasty flu this week and I was forced to stay home. The positive side of it though, is that I finally found some time to read this book I bought some time ago, since being ill and all somewhat restricts your concentration capabilities, and as such, reading highly technical stuff isn’t nearly as effective as I would like it to be. So to read something softer, I read Soft Skills from John Z. Sonmez, a book I highly recommend to anyone. But let’s restrain ourselves from using the “in medias res” narrative tactic, and let’s start with the review from the beginning, which review, as always, is found on goodreads.com. Please enjoy.
I really try to restrain myself from giving five stars to a book, mostly because I only give all five of ‘em out when I cannot really complain about what the author is trying to achieve with a piece. As such, I must warn you, that this review strictly views this book based on what it sets out to accomplish and not how deep it goes into topics. If you are expecting some deep detailed stuff, than this book isn’t for you. On the other hand if you want a light read that probably will give you some inspiration and a bird’s-eye view of the day-to-day stuff of being/becoming a successful professional without being invasive about it, read on.
So, let’s get into the specifics. The main title says Soft Skills, so you might probably expect the traditional talk about soft skills and their importance like writing skills, talking skills, presentation skills, etc., all the stuff that you might put under the heading “soft skills” in your CV. But the reality is, that this book rarely touches these subjects directly, instead it uses these concepts merely as tools from a much wider point of view. To understand what I mean, just read the smaller title: “The software developer’s life manual”. This title is much closer to representing what you will really find in this book, but interestingly enough, it is still a bit misleading, as you could simply replace the “software developer’s” part with a plethora of other professions, and the majority of the contents would still apply. So to help you truly grasp what this book is all about, I’d recompose the title to this: “Soft Skills: A life manual for career starters”.
So let’s be more specific about the actual contents. The book is divided into 7 big topics, all of which you will and/or already face in everyday life, like career, self-marketing, learning, productivity, financial status, and finally physical and mental fitness. All large topics are divided into several smaller chapters, which never exceed more than 10 pages, where the average page number/topic is about 5 or 6. This structure makes it very easy to get through each section, but most importantly, it allows you to stop periodically, like clockwork really, to deliberate on the things you just have read. And there really are things one can and probably should deliberate on, as most chapters contain a “Taking action” box at the end that directly ask you to do some things related to the ideas you just read in that chapter. The contents of these boxes include asking yourself some so far avoided questions, organizing stuff, researching some topics, creating lists of things, starting changing your habits, rethinking your convictions, etc.
It will become evident rather quickly, that this book is all about taking action and is very much against sitting around waiting for the magic to happen. To reinforce this, it contains boxes different from the aforementioned “Taking action” style boxes, and these are the “Landmine” types. These will very quickly dispel a lot of excuses one might find to avoid taking action, as they will contain some very good advice how to circumvent the usual deterrents of action, like “What if I can’t…”, “I don’t feel like…”, “I’m not good at…”, “How do I deal with…” and many others. This book really tries hard to make you do something. Anything. To make the point even more firmly, there is a myriad of examples why taking any action is better than taking no action at all, and you will also be given very specific instructions and advises how you can keep rolling (for an extended period of time) after you decided to start. There are whole chapters about it. As a matter of fact the structure of the book itself is an example of how you can keep going and the author very openly points that out, so when you have this book in your hand, you have physical proof that the things written down in it are known to produce results.
I’m not saying though, that everything you will read in this book will be of absolute novelty. If you are considering to read this, than you probably are somewhere on the path of trying to get more out of life and yourself already, and as such, some of the things written here will probably be quite familiar if not out right the same thing you already figured out yourself. Don’t be discouraged by it though, as I’m sure you will also find some very good new ideas and advises that will most probably help you become better at work, life, health or simply become plainly better. In addition to this, it was a big relief to me, that the author never seems to preach while giving advice, the language is always nicely balanced. This is important, because you will find a great deal of products, individuals and services mentioned by name, and if the language wouldn’t be so well balanced, one could accuse this book of advertising stuff, which I must stress isn’t true. All these are merely used to back up some claims, help you get on track and show you how (and with what) he did some stuff.
So all in all, I would recommend this book to anyone who needs a good general overview of becoming a better professional, as contrary to the title, the contents of the book do not apply to software developers only (although I must admit there is a certain leaning towards that direction).
As always, thanks for reading.