Book Review: The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master

Over the past few months I have read and reread parts of The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master (also on Amazon) from Andy Hunt and Dave Thomas. In the field of software engineering this is a land mark book.

Years ago Frederick Brooks wrote The Mythical Man Month about software engineering based on experiences from programming the OS of IBM’s mainframe. For me one of the most striking take-a-ways from the Mythical Man Month is the 10-fold difference in productivity between different programmers. This difference could not be explained by external factors such as education, training or experience. Based on my own experience working as a programmer and managing projects and teams of programmers I can testify that this is indeed the case. Unfortunately the high performers are rare, hard to find. Being a productive programmer is in my opinion an attitude and work approach matter and the book from Andy and Dave scratch the surface about what makes the difference between an average and a top coder. In a very readable and accessible style they present attitudes, work methods and do’s and don’ts for a software engineer. Each chapter covers one aspect, examples are “The cat ate away my source code” about taking responsibility for your code and “Tracer Bullets” about using prototypes for getting feedback about what you are doing early on.

The software egineering is often compared with the construction of buildings. A analogy that often fails. This book makes a far better analogy with gardening. You seed, plant, weed and care for your garden. Most of the times it grows and gives good results and sometimes for a reason unknown it doesn’t. Then it is best to take it out and plant something new, I can tell from experience if you are working with software taking this approach works.

If you are active in software engineering, read this book!

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