Book Club: The pragmatic programmer

A convergence of problems has led me to start an engineering book club at the FT. I think it’s a pretty good idea (bing bong, unexpected item in the bragging area), and so I’m going to blog about it and share the format so you can play along, or replicate it wherever you are. This post covers why I’ve started a book club in an attempt to encourage you to join me!

A very natural and not at all posed photo of my desk with a book on

I have started a book club because I want to meet more of my colleagues

A while back I, a Principal Engineer in the Customer Products team, was fretting about the impact most people working remotely was having on the broader engineering team at the FT. Mainly, I was concerned about attrition rate of engineers we hired during the pandemic, and whether those engineers were getting the same sense of belonging in the FT that engineers hired pre-pandemic have.

I had also noticed someone, a new engineer, who was popping up in the bigger team slack channels, trying to get involved, putting themselves out there. And I thought about what I could do for that person to increase their chances to meet people, to increase the surface area of FT engineers for them to bump up against without doing anything explicitly for “socialising”.

I was also reading this book — the 20th Anniversary Edition of the Pragmatic Programmer — and not getting very far with it. Not because it wasn’t good, but because I find it hard to think about ideas and concepts without having someone to talk about them with.

So, that’s how we ended up with a book club, and how the book ended up being The Pragmatic Programmer

The Pragmatic Programmer is a classic

This book was first released 20 years ago, but has been rereleased recently with modern references, and large chunks of outdated bits removed. It popularised a lot of software engineering practices that are standard stuff now. Have you ever used the phrase “rubber ducking”? Yeah, that’s because of this book.

12 years ago, I read this book because I heard every new starter at Etsy, a company whose engineering culture I really admired, was given a copy when they joined.

The Pragmatic Programmer is also very good material for a book club as the chapters are discrete essays on a particular subject, so anyone who misses a week’s reading can skip it entirely and go again for the next week.

My colleagues gave this idea an enthusiastic “yes”

I love these folks. Like… can you imagine if I had suggested this and nobody had been up for it. I think I’d have resigned on the spot through sheer humiliation.

However I needn’t have worried.

Screen shot of me asking my colleagues if they’d like to join my book club, with lots of hands-up emojis and positive responses
You lot 🥺

So… let’s do this.

I’m going to put up some notes for every chapter as we cover it, and then probably a big monster post at the end linking to them all. I hope the format of these will improve over time and other people in the team who would like to try blogging will get involved too but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

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