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The Career Programmer: Guerilla Tactics for an Imperfect World (Expert's Voice) Paperback – 10 Oct 2008

3.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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About the Author

Founder of Practical Strategy Consulting, Christopher Duncan is the bestselling author of Unite the Tribes and The Career Programmer. He's been a frequent guest on radio shows across the country, his monthly columns have been read by hundreds of thousands worldwide, and he is widely acclaimed for his immensely practical approach to success in the real world where self interest and office politics are often more prevalent than common sense. This keen insight does not come by accident. Christopher has an unusually diverse background which includes a career in sales consulting, life as a professional musician, and experience fighting deadlines as a cubicle-dwelling software developer. He's also performed mind-numbing factory work, labored on construction sites, and built components for guided missiles. Currently, he writes, speaks and mentors professionals on career and business strategies. He understands the problems and goals of your people, from the lowest-paid workers to the executive elite, because he's been there himself and lived to tell the tale. Whether he's talking about the job-related anxieties of the night watchman's attack chihuahua or explaining the relationship between bunny slippers and corporate productivity, his humor and light-hearted antics will entertain your audience as he shares his vision of success through the pursuit of American excellence. Lively, expressive, and a consummate professional with three decades of stage experience, Christopher delivers an exciting and practical message to your people, inspiring them to reach for their very best and showing them how to get there in the real world, where things don't always go according to plan. Most importantly, he makes sure that everyone has a little fun in the process. He can be reached at

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It's an important tool for the modern developer. Any developer that is proud to be called that, must at least know some of the tools provided here. As the fast pace of change is ever increasing speed, one must be able to cope with that change. This book tells you that it is "do or die" for the contractor or developer on a small shop. Loved it.
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Format: Paperback
I write this review having only read part of the first chapter of this book, though that did also involve skimming 32 pages of frontmatter. It's very verbose and there is a lot of noise to cut through to get to the points the author has to make.

It puzzled me why software developers tend to write so verbosely when they are used to reading very terse code. I can only think that the writer is uncomfortable with the fact his reader is a human not a computer, and is over-compensating.

This book could use a re-write by a trained and experienced writer. Boil away the cruft, distil out the points. Maybe this book would suit a developer who is sufficiently frustrated with his career to be motivated to truck through all the verbiage but so far I have not had any eureka moment that makes it worth my while.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x9c65b054) out of 5 stars 11 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9e9a79fc) out of 5 stars Recommended reading for programmers new and old 14 Aug. 2006
By Jim Anderton - Published on
Format: Paperback
Being a good coder has a lot to do with activities other than writing code. Don't get me wrong, I love learning about and experimenting with new products and technologies and my idea of the perfect day involves coffee, headphones, my code editor, and a good juicy coding challenge. In fact, sometimes I think it's the programming that's the easy part of this job. It's all the non-coding stuff that is so hard to master. This is what The Career Programmer: Guerilla Tactics for an Imperfect World, Second Edition is all about. This book is about improving every aspect of your programming job except the coding itself (actually, it might do that too.) The topics in this book are the things we tend not to talk about because we're always focused on learning about the next acronym.

Are you one of the many programmers out there who do it for fun? Maybe you're just considering getting into programming? Maybe you're getting tired of corporate life and considering options. This book will help you consider what you're doing and quite possibly cause you to make some positive changes in your career. Whatever your situation, why not make the most of it?

While I liked this book very much, I do think Duncan painted an overly pessimistic picture of the corporate world at times. That said, all his points were very valid, even those that were a bit over the top.

Check out the sample chapter on the Apress site to get a feel for the author's writing style. Just to give you a flavor for the book, here are a few of my favorite section/chapter titles.

- So You Thought You'd Just Be Coding All Day, Eh?

- Why People Run Businesses and Pay Programmers

- Taking Control of Your Time

- Preventing Arbitrary Deadlines

- Getting Your Requirements Etched in Stone

- Preparations for Effective Information Gathering

- The Myth of the Eight-Hour Day

- Controlling Your Destiny

Duncan tells it like it is (or, at least, how it can be at times.) His writing style is enjoyable and easy to read. And, there are more than a few Chihuahua jokes. One can never have too many of those... Highly recommended reading!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9e9ab6f0) out of 5 stars Pragmatic approach to dealing with business people 10 Jan. 2007
By S. Hollis - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book does a few things well and trhen does them well again. It is humourous, readable and funny .. oh and practical too. Some what a cross between Dilbert, How to win friends and influence people and the one minute manager series.

This book sets up its chapters to mirror a typical development project scenario from inception to delivery. Each chapter looks at managements needs verses developer needs and how to manage the process of ensuring both sides get what they want.

Chris Duncan rightly points out the coders tend be artists who want to code great code in a perfect environment with little regards to the financial relaities of business. He conversely points out that business people (who pay us to code ) have agendas based on making a profit (which keeps us in paid employment) and that neither side is wrong. His basic approach is, 'Developers live in a business environment dedicated to making money. business managers pay the bills, they call the shots. Get over it and learn how to become saavy enough to survive this reality'.

He also points out that business managers tend to set the development deadlines, decide on the scope, create the scope creep and then fire those who fail to meet their demands. He believes that is our fault as coders for not communicating in an understable way that business managers understand and can relate too. If we can become saavy enough to talk to them in ways they understand ($ and cents) then we have a better chance of managing our projects through to a successful, and non-burn out, completion while also maintaining a life along the way.

Using this as his base line he then gives a set of anecdotes, ideas, stories and humourous observations on the mis-communications that occur between managment (who pays for projects) and the coding teams (who develop the projects). It uses a commonly recognised cast of characters to show how various people interact and where the gaps are that cause long hours of coding to meet impossible deadlines and unstoppable scope creep can occur. he then gives some pragmatic ideas on how to avoid, plug, disarm or minmise these problem areas so both sides have a win / win situation.

What this book doesn't do.

1 - It doesn't attempt to give a magical cure for all develop project ailments in the corporate world, rather it tries to give guidence on the best way to deal with those ailments in a way that meets managmeents needs and avoids personal burnout.

2 - This book is not a book designed to make you a better project manager. It is a book designed to help you be a better coder working in the business world. Become more business needs aware and you will become a better coder. You may even get your life back.

3 - It does not espouse a new project development methodology and it does not give negative ways to sabotage, goof off or earn money for nothing. Rather it looks ways of lubricating the interactions between managmeent and coders so both sides get what they want.

It is funny, readble, accurate and disturbingly familiar (expecially the VDU through the fourth floor window scenario ... I am sure I never told my shrink about that particular fantasy).

So why a four and not a five? I worked in the Govt sector doing project development and unfortunately this book was of no use to me in that situation. govt managers ar not money minded and generally have no accountability so the ideas her present no leverege points that help in that situation. Had the book been called The CORPORATE Programmer: Guerilla Tactics for an Imperfect World, Second Edition (Expert's Voice) then the fifth star would have applied. Sorry chris but no one is perfect ;-)
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9c6b242c) out of 5 stars A realistic view of the world of programming as an occupational choice 31 May 2006
By Harold McFarland - Published on
Format: Paperback
Not a typical book from Apress but definitely appropriate for their audience, The Career Programmer teaches the highly skilled programmer the non-technical skills involved in getting a job or starting a career as a contract programmer. Contained within the pages of the book is a distillation of the stuff you did not learn in college but need to know to work in the real world. Some of the problems the author examines include working in an imperfect world with unrealistic deadlines and expectations, dealing with changing expectations, estimating techniques, keeping the project under control, getting a job versus flying solo, and how to do either. In the real world good coding skills are simply not enough to survive. You have to learn to deal with corporate politics. The Career Programmer, Second Edition is highly recommended to those who are or want to become programmers for a living.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9c660510) out of 5 stars You just MUST read it! 27 Mar. 2006
By Gus - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent book that covers topics that are never mentioned by programming books and schools, and yet are essencial to thrive in the software development industry.

Christopher Duncan's writing is funny and to the point. If you've ever got a pay check from developing software you're going to identify yourself in every single page of this book. If you're not yet a professional programmer, this is an excellent source of information of what to expect from the software industry as a business like any other.

Writing good code is not enough to succeed in the programming industry. If you don't learn how to deal with the issues covered by this book you might be "swimming against the current". You just must read it!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9c66042c) out of 5 stars How to manage your career and avoid the Chihuahua... 15 Jun. 2004
By Thomas Duff - Published on
Format: Paperback
There's the normal, "correct" advice about how to make it in the world of Information Technology, and then there's Christopher Duncan's take on it all. His take is much more realistic, and infinitely more fun to read. He covers his advice on survival in IT in the book The Career Programmer: Guerilla Tactics For An Imperfect World (2nd Edition).


Part 1 - Software Development In An Imperfect World: Welcome To The Corporate World; Business Is War, Meet The Enemy; Good Coding Skills Are Not Enough

Part 2 - Guerilla Tactics For Front-Line Programmers: Preventing Arbitrary Deadlines; Getting Your Requirements Etched In Stone; Effective Design Under Fire; Practical Estimating Techniques; Fighting For Quality Assurance; Keeping The Project Under Control; Managing Your Management; Corporate Self-Defense

Part 3 - Building A Better Career: Controlling Your Destiny; Get A Job (Sha Na Na Na...); Career 2.0; Flying Solo; Job Security


Duncan doesn't fit your normal corporate mold in a number of ways. For one, the shaved head, earring, and leather jacket may be a bit intimidating. Second, he's extremely irreverent when it comes to describing life in corporate America. Sadly, my 20+ years in IT only confirm much of his observations. You will almost always be asked to do twice as much in half the time that's required. To prevent yourself from going crazy in the process, you need to read and apply his advice. For those on the front-line of code-slinging, Part 2 of this book is most valuable. Rough estimates become "promises", so don't be suckered into off-the-cuff statements. Take the time to learn how your tools work (like your IDEs), and then make sure you get the most out of them. This can save you hours over the course of your project, and it might be the difference between meeting the deadline or just being dead. That's just a small sample of the practical stuff you'll find here. Part 3 also helps you take a step back and look at your career, where it's going, and what you need to do to properly manage your direction. Better to end up somewhere by design than by accident. And of course, the Chihuahua will be there every step of the way (you'll need to read the book to get that one...)

A solid read with a lot of wit and humor gained from the wars. If you've been floundering along and not enjoying the ride very much, take a step back and read The Career Programmer to figure out what you can do differently...
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