Top positive review
Real practical advice you can use to become better at your job
April 16, 2017
I am an experienced technology executive and consultant for engineering managers and execs. Based on my experience, this book is now the best book you can buy to learn modern engineering management.
Previous contenders have included Peopleware, High-Output Management, The Mythical Man-Month, Good To Great, and others you've probably heard of. They are fine books, but they are either somewhat out of date, overly general, or a combination of both. This book is different. Fournier's book is a comprehensive overview of all the roles on the career path of modern technical management (starting from "senior engineer mentoring an intern" all the way up to CTO) and how to deal with the challenges at every step of the way.
What sets this book apart, other than being comprehensive, is that it is the product of direct and highly relevant experience. Fournier has worked at huge companies, small startups, and medium-sized companies, all in hyper-competitive industry settings. You've probably read other management books and it always goes like this: they give you a piece of general advice about how to deal with an issue. You try it (assuming it is even specific enough to put into action and isn't just a feel-good HR platitude), you run into a snag, and now the advice is useless because the rosy assurances in the book about how employees were going to act reasonably didn't really work. You throw the book away and think there is something wrong with you because everyone keeps on talking about how the book is great and it's just your fault that you couldn't make this great advice work.
Fournier's advice is not like that.
She starts with the general outlines of the strategy, but then tells you about times when she had to confront the issue herself, how she tried to apply the strategy and screwed up (there are instances in the book where she openly admits "The first time I tried this I fell flat on my face"), what kinds of problems kept the strategy from working, how she modified the strategy and overcame the problems, and finally and most importantly, wraps up with a summary about how context and trade-offs affect how you apply the advice. Acknowledging and explaining how common variations and implementation details determine how a general strategy will play out is what makes this book unusually useful and relevant.
Because everyone's job and situation are a little bit different, Fournier does an excellent job of breaking down broad strategies into their core principles, while separating out which details you can change based on individual situations, so that you can choose between trade-offs when you apply the strategy to the specific challenge you are confronting.
Lastly, this book will give you confidence. Confidence that you're not alone, that others have faced the same problems and surmounted them, that you can do it too. Confidence that you can screw something up but still pick up the pieces and try again, that you'll still get it right the second or third time, and that you are going to get to where you want to go.
This book is the product of years of tough lessons and hard-won success. Buy it. You won't regret it.