Soft Skills
The software developer's life manual
John Z. Sonmez
Forewords by Scott Hanselman and Robert C. Martin
  • December 2014
  • ISBN 9781617292392
  • 504 pages
  • printed in black & white

Useful, practical and actionable advice on a wide array of topics.

Scott Hanselman

Soft Skills: The software developer's life manual is a unique guide, offering techniques and practices for a more satisfying life as a professional software developer. In it, developer and life coach John Sonmez addresses a wide range of important "soft" topics, from career and productivity to personal finance and investing, and even fitness and relationships, all from a developer-centric viewpoint.

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Table of Contents detailed table of contents





about this book

about the author

1. Why this book is unlike any book you’ve ever read

Section 1 Career

2. Getting started with a "BANG!": Don’t do what everyone else does

Having a business mindset

How to think like a business

3. Thinking about the future: What are your goals?

How to set goals

Tracking your goals

4. People skills: You need them more than you think

Leave me alone, I just want to write code!

Learning how to deal with people

Everyone wants to feel important

Never criticize

Think about what the other person wants

Avoiding arguments

5. Hacking the interview

The quickest way to "pass" an interview

How I got my last job

Thinking outside of the box and building rapport

But what about the actual interview itself?

What can you do right now?

6. Employment options: Enumerate your choices

Option 1: The employee

Option 2: The independent consultant

Option 3: The entrepreneur

Which should you pick?

7. What kind of software developer are you?

Specialization is important

Getting specific about specialties

Kinds of specialties for software developers

Picking your specialty

What about the Polyglot programmer?

8. Not all companies are equal

Small companies and startups

Medium-size companies

Large companies

Software development companies versus companies with software developers

Choose carefully

9. Climbing the corporate ladder

Taking responsibility

Becoming visible

Educate yourself

Be the problem solver

What about politics?

10. Being a professional

What is a professional?

Being a professional (forming good habits)

Doing what is right

Seeking quality and self-improvement

11. Freedom: How to quit your job

Going about things the smart way

Preparing to work for yourself

How much do you really work?

Cutting the cord

12. Freelancing: Going out on your own

Getting started

Ask someone you know

Best way to get clients

Setting your rate

13. Creating your first product

Finding an audience

Testing the market

Start small

Getting started

14. Do you want to start a startup?

Startup basics

Go big or go home

A typical startup lifecycle


Getting funded

15. Working remotely survival strategies

The challenges of being a hermit

Challenge 1: Time management

Challenge 2: Self-motivation

Challenge 3: Loneliness

16. Fake it till you make it

What it means to fake it until you make it

Putting it into practice

17. Resumes are BORING—Let’s fix that

You aren’t a professional resume writer

Hiring a resume writer

Going the extra mile

What if you don’t want to hire a professional?

18. Don’t get religious about technology

We are all religious about technology

Everything is good

My conversion

Don’t limit your options

Section 2 Marketing yourself

19. Marketing basics for code monkeys

What marketing yourself means

Why marketing yourself is important

How to market yourself

20. Building a brand that gets you noticed

What is a brand?

What makes up a brand?

Creating your own brand

21. Creating a wildly successful blog

Why are blogs so important?

Creating a blog

Keys to success

Getting more traffic

I can’t guarantee you success

22. Your primary goal: Add value to others

Give people what they want

Give away 90% of what you do for free

The fast track to success

Offering more of yourself

23. #UsingSocialNetworks

Growing your network

Using social media effectively

Staying active

Networks and accounts

24. Speaking, presenting, and training: Speak geek

Why speaking live is so impactful

Getting started speaking

What about training?

25. Writing books and articles that attract a following

Why books and articles are important

Books and magazines don’t pay

Getting published


26. Don’t be afraid to look like an idiot

Everything is uncomfortable at first

It’s okay to look like an idiot

Take small steps (or dive right in)

Section 3 Learning

27. Learning how to learn: How to teach yourself

Dissecting the learning process

Teaching yourself

28. My 10-step process

The idea behind the system

The 10-step system

29. Steps 1-6: Do these once

Step 1: Get the big picture

Step 2: Determine scope

Step 3: Define success

Step 4: Find resources

Step 5: Create a learning plan

Step 6: Filter resources

30. Steps 7-10: Repeat these

Step 7: Learn enough to get started

Step 8: Play around

Step 9: Learn enough to do something useful

Step 10: Teach

Final thoughts

31. Looking for mentors: Finding your Yoda

Mentor qualities

Where to find a mentor

Virtual mentors

Recruiting a mentor

32. Taking on an apprentice: Being Yoda

Being a mentor

The benefits of mentorship

Picking a "worthy" apprentice

33. Teaching: Learn you want? Teach you must.

I’m not a teacher

What happens when you teach?

Getting started

34. Do you need a degree or can you "wing it?"

Do you need a degree to succeed?

Advantages to having a degree

What if you don’t have a degree?

35. Finding gaps in your knowledge

Why we leave the gaps

Finding your gaps

Filling the gaps

Section 4 Productivity

36. It all starts with focus

What is focus?

The magic of focus

Getting more focus

It’s not as easy as it sounds

37. My personal productivity plan


Quarterly planning

Monthly planning

Weekly planning

Daily planning and execution

Dealing with interruptions

Breaks and vacations

38. Pomodoro Technique

Pomodoro Technique overview

Using the Pomodoro Technique effectively

The mental game

How much work can you get done?

39. My quota system: How I get way more done than I should

The problem

Enter quotas

How the quota system works

Why the quota system works

40. Holding yourself accountable


Becoming accountable to yourself

External accountability

41. Multitasking dos and don’ts

Why multitasking is generally bad

Batching is much more productive

What about true multitasking?

42. Burnout: I’ve got the cure!

How you burn out

In reality, you’re just hitting a wall

On the other side of the wall

Pushing past the wall

43. How you’re wasting your time

The biggest time waster of all

Giving up the TV

Other time wasters

Tracking your time

44. The importance of having a routine

Routines make you

Creating a routine

Getting more detailed

45. Developing habits: Brushing your code

Understanding habits

Recognizing bad habits and altering them

Forming new habits

46. Breaking down things: How to eat an elephant

Why bigger isn’t always better

Breaking down things

How to break down things

Breaking down problems

47. The value of hard work and why you keep avoiding it

Why is hard work so darn…​hard?

I’ll just work "smarter"

Hard work is boring

The reality

Working hard: How to do it

48. Any action is better than no action

Why we refuse to take action

What happens when you don’t take action

What is the worst that could happen?

It’s easier to steer a moving car

What can you do now?

Section 5 Financial

49. What are you going to do with your paycheck?

Stop thinking short term

Assets and liabilities

Back to your paycheck

50. How to negotiate your salary

Negotiations begin before you even apply for the job

How you get the job is extremely important

First person to name a number loses

What about when you’re asked to name a number first?

What if you’re asked about your current salary?

When you have an offer

Some final advice

51. Options: Where all the fun is

Option basics

Digging a little deeper

Selling options

More complex options

52. Bits and bytes of real estate investing

Why real estate investment?

Okay, so how do I do it?

First step: Education

Taking action

Use property management

53. Do you really understand your retirement plan?

Retirement is all about working backwards

Calculating your retirement goal

Path 1: 401(k), IRAs, or other retirement accounts

Path 2: Setting up an early retirement or aiming to get rich

What if I am stuck in the middle or close to retirement?

54. The danger of debt: SSDs are expensive

Why debt is generally bad

Some common debt follies

Not all debt is bad

55. Bonus: How I retired at 33

What it means to be "retired"

How I got started

Rental woes

Gaining traction

Grinding it out

Short circuit?

More grinding it out

Turning a corner

The lucky break

Hard work mode

Multiple passive income streams

A quick analysis

Section 6 Fitness

56. Why you need to hack your health


Brain power


57. Setting your fitness criteria

Picking a specific goal

Creating milestones

Measuring your progress

Living a healthy lifestyle

58. Thermodynamics, calories, and you

What is a calorie?

Losing weight is simple

How many calories are you consuming?

How many calories are you burning?

Utilizing calories to achieve your goal

59. Motivation: Getting your butt out of the chair

What motivates you?

Rewarding yourself too early

Motivation ideas

Just get it done!

60. How to gain muscle: Nerds can have bulging biceps

How muscles grow

Weightlifting basics

Different goals




Getting started

What lifts should you do?

What to eat

61. How to get hash-table abs

Abs are made in the kitchen

Your body doesn’t want you to have abs

What can you do about it?

62. Starting RunningProgram.exe

Why you might want to run

Getting started running

Advice for getting started

63. Standing desks and other hacks

Standing desks and treadmills

Food hacks

Eggs in the microwave

Plain nonfat Greek yogurt

Frozen meats

64. Tech gear for fitness: Geeking out

Step counters and pedometers

Wireless scales

Combo devices

PUSH strength



Section 7 Spirit

65. How the mind influences the body

It starts with the mind

The mind and body connection

66. Having the right mental attitude: Rebooting

What is positivity?

The positive effects of positivity

How to reboot your attitude

Change your thoughts


Play more


67. Building a positive self-image: Programming your brain 408

What is self-image?

Your self-image is difficult to change

Reprogramming your brain

68. Love and relationships: Computers can’t hold your hand

Why software developers sometimes have a hard time finding love

Understanding the game

So, all I have to do is be confident, right?

It’s a numbers game

69. My personal success book list

Self-help and inspirational books

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield (Black Irish Books, 2002)

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill (Wilder Publications, 2007)

Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz (Reprint, Pocket Books, 1989)

The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale (Reprint, Touchstone, 2003)

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (Reprint, Signet, 2005)

Software development books

Code Complete by Steve McConnell (Microsoft Press; 2nd edition, 2004)

Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftmanship by Robert Martin (Prentice Hall, 2008)

Head First Design Patterns by Eric Freeman, Elisabeth Robson, Bert Bates, and Kathy Sierra (O’Reilly Media, 2004)


The Millionaire Real Estate Investor by Gary Keller (McGraw-Hill, 2005)

Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki (Demco Media, 2000)

No-Hype Options Trading: Myths, Realities, and Strategies That Really Work by Kerry Given (Wiley, 2011)

70. Facing failure head-on

Why are we so afraid of failure, anyway?

Failure isn’t defeat

Failure is the road to success

Learn to embrace failure

Appendix A: If you can write code, you can understand finances

What is money?

Types of money

Inflation and deflation

Central banks

What about "regular" banks

The basics of finances

Appendix B: How the stock market works: Rules of the system

The purpose of the stock market

What happens when you trade a stock?

How to make money in the stock market

Indexes, mutual funds, and ETFs

Appendix C: Garbage in, garbage out: Diet and nutrition basics

Basic components of food

Other things your body needs

It all starts with diet

Appendix D: How to eat healthy: Pizza is not a food group

For the most part, food is food

Should I just eat junk food?

But what exactly are "healthy" foods?


About the book

For most software developers, coding is the fun part. The hard bits are dealing with clients, peers, and managers, staying productive, achieving financial security, keeping yourself in shape, and finding true love. This book is here to help.

Soft Skills: The software developer's life manual is a guide to a well-rounded, satisfying life as a technology professional. In it, developer and life coach John Sonmez offers advice to developers on important "soft" subjects like career and productivity, personal finance and investing, and even fitness and relationships. Arranged as a collection of 71 short chapters, this fun-to-read book invites you to dip in wherever you like. A Taking Action section at the end of each chapter shows you how to get quick results. Soft Skills will help make you a better programmer, a more valuable employee, and a happier, healthier person.

What's inside

  • Boost your career by building a personal brand
  • John's secret ten-step process for learning quickly
  • Fitness advice to turn your geekiness to your advantage
  • Unique strategies for investment and early retirement

About the author

John Sonmez is a developer, teacher, and life coach who helps technical professionals boost their careers and live a more fulfilled life.

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