2020 – My Year in Books 📚

I don’t think there has been a better year than 2020 to read. With most of us confined to our homes at some point during the year due to pandemic, books (and Netflix!) have become more popular than ever.

In this post, I’m reviewing all the books I have read in the year. Hopefully you’ll enjoy these quick reviews, plus I’ve also added a favorite quote from each.

In no particular order- let’s go!

Atomic Habits

Atomic Habits by far is the best book I’ve read in this year (hardcover). Author, James Clear, makes the argument that it’s the systems, not goals, that we should focus. Here’s his explanation “In professional sport both winning and losing teams usually share the same goal (to win!), however it is mostly about the system (routine) that each team follow, that makes the difference between winning and losing”. Here are my key takeaways

  • The concept of improving by 1% every day
  • Four laws of behavior change – make it obvious, make it attractive, make it easy, and make it satisfying
  • There are 3 layers of changing habits – changing outcomes, changing process, changing identity

As for me, I’m a huge believer in philosophy of “making tiny changes, for big results” and James Clear’s ideas made a lot of sense to me. I would 100% recommend this book to almost anyone, who wants to change their life without feeling overwhelmed.

“If you can get 1% better each day for one year, you’ll end up 37 times better by the time you’re done.”

Make Your Bed

Make Your Bed is a book based on General McRaven’s commencement speech in 2014 at University of Texas. While the the rules shared in the book are simple, short, clear, and straight forward, what’s captivating are the stories Admiral shares, including the anecdotes from his Navy Seal training that left me in awe. He narrates some key lessons from his life, learned the “hard-way” during seal trainings that almost anyone can apply to face challenges in their life. Also, if you haven’t seen the YouTube video of the speech, you can watch and listen it here. Overall, great stories on military training, coupled with excellent life lessons.

“Start each day with a task completed. Make your bed.”

Tribal Leadership

Tribal Leadership explains the various ways people function within an organization and teaches you how to lead change and improve your company’s culture. This book has an interesting take on social interactions and relationships. The premise is simple, there are 5 stages in which people exist, as follow:

1. Life sucks
2. My life sucks
3. I’m great
4. We’re great
5. Life is great

Overall, it’s great read on leadership. It’s crazy how accurately the 5 stages given in the book, reflect a lot about the companies I have worked. The author also shares practical tips that one can use to create successful teams and when the time comes you’ll know exactly how to motivate them. A must read.

“You don’t have to be in charge or powerful or pretty or most-connected to be a leader. All you need is to be COMMITTED.”

The Phoenix Project

Some people are lucky to find books that change their life. While I’m yet to find my life-changing novel, I do come across books that make me think, question my beliefs and push me to learn. The Project Phoenix is one such book for me.

Written by Gene Kim, George Spafford, and Kevin Behr, the book is about a large company’s transformation into a DevOps culture. Transformation driven not just to look cool, but as a necessity for the survival of the company. The Phoneix project is a gripping read that captures brilliantly the dilemmas faced by the organizations that depend on IT, and offers real-world solutions. The authors reminds us, ‘It is necessary to change for survival.’

“Improving daily work is even more important than doing daily work.”  

The Unicorn Project

The Unicorn Project is a sequel to The Phoenix Project (actually it’s not). Although, the two books fit together on the premise of digital transformation, they aren’t necessarily to be read together. The story this time dives deep into the developer’s world—Maxine, who’s a talented lead developer and architect, blamed for an outage and exiled on the Phoenix project. Throughout her journey, she partners with a team of corporate rebels, and together they confront their legacy and change-averse processes and apply the five ideals to lead a positive and lasting business, technology and cultural transformation. Not that the book is all about developers, debugging, continuous integration or unit tests, but it is very much the focus, at least for the first good half of the book. In the DevOps age, the core development topics were earlier left to developers are now in the center of discussion up to CIOs and sometimes CEOs. Gene Kim’s relatable writing style keeps the pages turning quite easily.

“Like all engineers, she secretly loves hearing disaster stories … as long as she doesn’t have the starring role.”

I must admit, these two books “The Project Phoenix” and “The Unicorn Project” had a profound impact on me during this year. I picked them while being stuck in abrupt travel ban (clearly the lowest point for me in the year). I read over #1000 pages in a week, that’s averaging 150 pages per/day, way above my usual reading rate. Also, these aren’t typical motivational books either, but for some reason, they just helped to stay focused on my work and reminded me, ‘This too shall pass‘.

Software Developer Life

Software Developer Life  is a refreshingly honest and personal book – pretty simple and to the point. This book offers good advice on how to be a good engineer in the real world. Author (David) shared technical and non-technical stories that his friends and he encountered in the past, and through these stories he proves that that only acquiring technical skill is not enough. One also needs to work on non-technical skills, such as collaboration, communication and empathy. He also shares real world tips on learning fundamentals, avoid arrogance, choosing your workplace, handling mid-career crisis and managing your boss. Overall, fun easy read and worth it if you’re considering a field as a software engineer.

“For any field, the people at the highest level are the ones who deeply understand FOUNDATION; that’s why they can break it sometimes.”

the Self-taught programmer

the self-taught programmer is the ideal book for anyone new to programming. I’ve read a few books on self-learn programming including Java & Python, even through with a decade long experience in technology, I would sometimes struggle to wrap my head around the code samples and exercises. Cory (the author) went above and beyond in providing examples throughout all the lessons and their real world application to complement the reading. His technique in breaking down complex technical topics in simple terms that anyone can understand, is what really makes this book shine. I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to learn to code or looking for a great starter to Python.

“Life is too short to have insecurities about where we got our education. Your passion, curiosity and hard-work is all you need to be successful.”

If you made it this far, bravo! Thanks for reading through my reviews and I can’t wait to see you share what you’ve read. Leave a comment for your favorite books, podcasts, and reading goals for 2021.

So long 2020 😷

The Unicorn Project – Book Review

A Novel about Developers, Digital Disruption, and Thriving in the Age of Data

Over a month ago, I read the book “The Phoenix Project” and published a review on my blog. The book was certainly amazing as it touched on so many important aspects of software development, DevOps and my own IT career. To my surprise, I found that the book also has a sequel The Unicorn Project.

So is it really a Sequel?

Although as per the author, there is absolutely no need to read The Phoenix Project prior reading The Unicorn Project, however based on my understanding of the books characters plot, I would totally recommend reading The Phoenix Project. There’s the same company – Parts Unlimited – same urge to change to survive, same challenges and same project – The Phoenix Project – on which the company is betting its future.

Developers

While in The Phoenix Project, the story revolves around Bill Palmer – VP of IT operations, The Unicorn Project, a brand new protagonist, Maxine Chambers – Developer Lead and Architect. Yes, you got it! the story this time deep dives into the developer’s world.

Maxine, is a talented lead developer and architect blamed for an outage and exiled on the Phoenix project. Throughout her journey, she partners with a team of corporate rebels, and together they confront their legacy and change-averse processes and apply the five ideals to lead a positive and lasting business, technology and cultural transformation.

Not that the book is all about developers, debugging, continuous integration or unit tests, but it is very much the focus, at least for the first good half of the book. In the DevOps age, the core development topics were earlier left to developers are now in the center of discussion up to CIOs and sometimes CEOs.

The Five Ideals

While author in The Phoenix Project  came up with “The Three Ways”, in this book he introduces “The Five Ideals” as follows:

  1. First Ideal: Locality and Simplicity

We need to design things so that we have locality in our systems and the organizations that build them. We need simplicity in everything we do, in our code, in our organization or in our processes. E.g. when you need to make a simple change and you need to change 15 files instead of 1, then you are probably violating this ideal. This is also known as the Single Responsibility principle.

  1. Second Ideal: Focus, Flow, and Joy

How does our daily work feel? This means not waiting for other people in order to get things done, get fast and continuous feedback. Also consider the lunch factor (similar to the truck factor): how many people do you have to pay lunch in order to execute a deployment?

  1. Third Ideal: Improvement of Daily Work

The Toyota Andon cord is a good example of this ideal. Sometimes, processes are improved by adding an extra step to the process every time something went wrong. This way a bloated process is created which negatively impacts flow. Often, when suggestions for improvement are made in a team working on a legacy application, the suggestion is killed by saying ‘We have always done it this way’. Of course, this is a non-argument, you must judge the suggested improvement and not express your feelings against change. This ideal is also about reducing technical debt which we discussed already. E.g. The Nokia Symbian builds lasted 48 hours when the iPhone was on the rise (somewhere around 2010). This way it is impossible to have fast feedback and it can have a devastating result for your company.

  1. Fourth Ideal: Psychological Safety

There should be no blaming culture, it should be safe to talk about problems and how to solve them. A culture of fear will make people hiding their mistakes, while a culture of safety will ensure that things will improve.

  1. Fifth Ideal: Customer Focus

Are we working on something the customer is willing to pay for or is this a feature which only will satisfy a functional silo? In other words, we need to focus on customer value.

Data is new currency 💲

Data in The Unicorn Project book, like in real life, takes the front seat. It’s with data that Parts Unlimited can now customize its marketing campaigns, optimize revenues and manage stocks like never before. It’s also with data that the teams operate their applications, make informed decisions on what to focus on and are able to react quickly when things go wrong. We often read that data is largely unused and can unlock immense value. The Unicorn Project gives practical examples of using this data effectively to generate favorable business outcome. Impressive!

Conclusion

Overall the book touches on a lot of different complex topics that are central to any engineering organization. For example, focusing on psychological safety of employees and the positive impact it can have on both a team and organization.

I love Gene’s style of writing that makes the entertaining to read about the struggles of a developer and how she (Maxine) overcomes those. It’s easy to relate to the frustration that comes from a company that wants to but is unable to change.

After reading through the book, I count myself lucky to work for a company that values its team members, their safety and follows a culture of openness & blameless post-mortems (believe me they do!). All in all the book made me reflect in a lot of ways, the same experience as the one I had with The Phoenix Project.

If you’re interested in DevOps, I highly recommend The Unicorn Project

🦄 Let your inner Unicorn shine!

My journey from DBA to DevOps

I’ve been working as a database engineer for over a decade, engineering enterprise data platforms. During the beginning of my career in early 2000, I chose the ‘safe’ path of being a DBA believing that relational systems being universal containers for storing critical data will never change. I started learning relational technologies like Oracle, MS-SQL, and eventually also learned Open Source systems including PostgreSQL & MySQL.

However contrary to my belief, enterprise technology did change a lot. Some things however remained constant like developers swinging by my cube to request a new database, performing DB refresh or tuning  a slow running query (my favorite). Sometimes these teams were frustrated with me when their app went down or when they couldn’t access their database. At times, my Dev and QA friends would come by my desk to learn what I was doing and even after my attempt to explain them how I am solving their production issue, they would walk away puzzled. I have grown up in this role realizing that a when things go wrong, the first one to be blamed is DBA (i.e. Default Blame Acceptor)

This was my life for long and as you might have guessed, it wasn’t very satisfying; professionally 😉

It was a vicious cycle of configuring environments, routine data refreshes, resolving outages, and late-night upgrades. The work which once gave meaning to my career, lately made me ask myself, “Is this it for a DBA?” , “Is it the time to change?”

The journey ahead…

I then started having discussions with my leaders, determined to find an answer to “What’s the future of my role?”.

During these discussions, I heard terms like Agile, Scrum, Continuous Delivery and DevOps. Since the last one was repeated more often than others, I started researching on “Skillset for DevOps”.

Initially I was all excited to learn a new skill set, maybe a new tool, however after multiple days of googling, I couldn’t find any specific Skill Set definition. During a follow-up discussion with my mentor, I learned something interesting,

“Think of DevOps as not a specific skill set, instead it’s a way of doing something.”

Wait, so all it means is Dev and Ops working together, that’s sounds weird! So now I have to learn all languages used by developers…C++, Java, Python…ugh? While I’ve been coding on PowerShell & SQL for infra automation, I never considered myself as a developer. Hmm…maybe that’s what needed to change.

Fast forward – Learning Go

In the past couple of years, there is a rise of a new programming language Go lang (or simply GO). Most developers in their code will have to interact with the database at some point in their project, and often that means working with PostgreSQL. I particularly got interested in learning Go’s integration with PostgreSQL. There are multiple Go libraries that allow Go PostgreSQL integration productive and fun. Excited about my journey and want to share whatever I’ve learned recently…so in the next few posts I’ll blog about PostgreSQL integration with Go.

Disclaimer: By NO means I claim to be a Go expert and I am not going to teach Go lang. There’s a lot of great online courses and material for that. I am only going to share my learnings on Postgres integration with Go.

The Phoenix Project – Book Review

A Novel about IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win

Some people are lucky to find books that changes their life. While I’m yet to find my life-changing novel, I do come across books that make me think, question my beliefs and push me to learn. The Project Phoenix is that book for me.

Written by Gene Kim, George Spafford, and Kevin Behr, the book is about a large company’s transformation into a DevOps culture. Transformation driven not just to look cool, but as a necessity for the survival of the company.

The synopsis is simple. Bill, the protagonist, is the Director of Midrange Operations at Parts Unlimited, a US-based $4 billion per year manufacturing and retail company. Bill is swiftly pulled into the spotlight by the CEO and persuaded hoodwinked into taking up the post as VP of IT Operations. It soon becomes clear that among standard responsibilities, Bill and his team are responsible for making the launch of the risky doomed Project Phoenix a success. Project Phoenix not only seems to be hugely overscoped for its ambitious – and imminent – timelines, but it also faces enormous pressure elsewhere.

The characters and situations in the book are stereotypical, however that’s not a criticism. The intent is clearly for us to identify with the characters and events, to relate your workplace with the story . So here are my key learnings “spoiler-free

DevOps is a collaborative working relationship between Development and IT Operations 🤝

Outcome of this collaboration is fast flow of planned work, while increasing the reliability, stability of the production environment.

3️ Ways principle 📜

The First way – focuses on maximizing flow of work from left-to-right starting from business to development to IT operations to the end user.

The Second way – focuses on increasing the feedback loop from right to left. The focus is not only on getting feedback but also on how fast we can get the feedback in order to make necessary corrections/improvement quickly.

The Third way – The third way is all about developing and fostering a culture of continuous experimentation and learning.

Speed to Deliver is the key 🚀

Technology is life blood of all business today. It’s imperative that all business should strive to bring their applications to market more quickly so they don’t miss any opportunities and easily adjust to the market standards. To achieve these objectives, organizations must adopt the right DevOps practices in their software development processes to reduce time to market.

Overall, book does a great job at explaining all these ideas with examples and linking them together. It’s a super fun and easy read, and I would definitely recommend you.

Site Reliability Engineering: How Google Runs Production Systems – Book Review

Essential Read for anyone managing highly available distributed systems at scale

First off – It’s worth let you know that Google lets you read this “entire” book online for free on their website. Yes you read it right, you don’t need to buy the book, just click on below link – https://landing.google.com/sre/sre-book/toc/index.html and start reading!

The book starts with a story about a time Margaret Hamilton brought her young daughter with her to NASA, back in the days of the Apollo program. During a simulation mission, her daughter caused the mission to crash by pressing some keys accidentally. Hamilton noticed this defect and proactively submitted a change to add error checking code to prevent this from happening again, however the change was rejected because program leadership believed that error should never happen. On the next mission, Apollo 8, that exact error condition occurred and a potentially fatal problem that could have been prevented with a trivial check took NASA’s engineers 9 hours to resolve. Hence early learning from book

“Embrace the idea that systems failures are inevitable, and therefore teams should work to optimize to recover quickly through using SRE principles.”

The book is divided into four parts, each comprised of several sections. Each section is authored by a Google engineer.

In Part I, Introduction, the authors introduce Google’s Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) approach to managing global-scale IT services running in datacenters spread across the entire world. (Google approach is truly extraordinary) After a discussion about how SRE is different from DevOps (another hot term of the day), this part introduces the core elements and requirements of SRE, which include the traditional Service Level Objectives (SLOs) and Service Level Agreements (SLAs), management of changing services and requirements, demand forecasting and capacity, provisioning and allocation, etc. Through a sample service, Shakespeare, the authors introduce the core concepts of running a workflow, which is essentially a collection of IT tasks that have inter-dependencies, in the datacenter.

In Part II, Principles, the book focuses on operational and reliability risks, SLO and SLA management, the notion of toil (mundane work that scales linearly, and can be automated) and the need to eliminate it (through automation), how to monitor the complex system that is a datacenter, a process for automation as seen at Google, the notion of engineering releases, and, last, an essay on the need for simplicity . This rather disparate collection of notions is very useful, explained for the laymen but still with enough technical content to be interesting even for the expert (practitioner or academic).

In Parts III and IV, Practices and Management, respectively, the book discusses a variety of topics, from time-series analysis for anomaly detection, to the practice and management of people on-call, to various ways to prevent and address incidents occurring in the datacenter, to postmortems and root-cause analysis that could help prevent future disasters, to testing for reliability (a notoriously difficult issue), to software engineering the SRE team, to load-balancing and overload management (resource management and scheduling 101), communication between SRE engineers, etc. etc. etc., until the predictable call for everyone to use SRE as early as possible and as often as possible. This is where I started getting a much better sense of practical SRE (a.ha!)

Overall it’s a great read, however it isn’t perfect. The two big downsides for me are 1.) this is one of those books that’s a collection of chapters by different people, so there’s a fair amount of redundancy and 2.) the book takes a sided approach on “Build Vs Buy” dilemma of engineering. I mean at Google scale, it will always be better to build, however that is rarely true in the real world. But even including the downsides, I’d say that this is the most valuable technical book I’ve read in the year. If you really like these notes, you’ll probably want to read the full book.

“Hit Refresh” Book Review – Transforming Microsoft with a growth mindset

“A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge. – George R.R. Martin”

Yes, I admit that I sort of dropped the ball on reading. What was more surprising is that all this while I almost did nothing to correct it. Fortunately sanity prevailed and my wife who herself is a voracious reader and a writer (though her first masterpiece is still in making) help me remind about all the good things I am missing by not reading. So I picked up books again!

This blog is share reviews of whatever little I’ve read and learn from your thoughts.

So what is my latest read?

Hit Refresh: The Quest to Rediscover Microsoft’s Soul and Imagine a Better Future for Everyone – By Satya Nadella

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First as an Ex Micrsoftie, I am in absolutely love with Microsoft and I take so much pride in talking about how the years that I spent in MS has helped me shaping my career. While some may disagree, but I firmly believe that impact that Microsoft had on our daily lives is beyond any other technology company. Not just the software, Microsoft clearly were the first company that provided the platform, tools and more importantly the inspiration to dream and design a digital world, as it we know today. Over the time, other tech companies came to their age and outsmarted Microsoft in multiple key areas including Search, Social and Mobile. And then Satya Nadella came to helm he embarked on a journey to re-discover the lost soul of company and make it relevant (and Cool) again.

‘Hit Refresh’ is primarily divided into three parts

  1. First is Satya’s personal story coming from India and arriving at Microsoft in 1992
  2. Second is story of Microsoft transformation and steps Satya took to curate the ‘Growth Mindset’ in employees
  3. Third (and favorite) part of where Satya talks about the disruptions and transformation that technology is going to create, which will overcome the existing limits of physics and chemistry and ultimately better the mankind

Author has been extremely honest and open in talking about the strengths of his competitors and acknowledges the need find the smart ways to partner with companies to learn from each other perspective. There are multiple places in book that made me realize that Satya is a leader who has no fear of being authentic and vulnerable. He actually talked about his biggest fumble at Grace Hopper conference and how working with ‘Frenemies’ Microsoft created more growth opportunities like Office for Mac!

The key take away the book offers to its readers is to stay optimistic about what’s to come. As the technology is advancing, the world is changing faster then ever. One  definite ways master this change is have a “Growth Mindset

“Don’t Be a Know-It-All, Be a Learn-It-All – Satya Nadella”

2014 – My Year in Books 📚

There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island” – Walt Disney

2014 has been quite a year for me both personally and professionally. I’ve never been much of book reader as they’ve always reminded me of my school days when reading a book was like compromising on all other good things (some of my schoolmates can resonate to that). However things gradually changed (thanks to wife), and I started to read and ended up having an year far more richer than than one I started with.

While this by any standards is a tiny number of books read during the year, I still decided go ahead and blog about whatever little I’ve read and to share my reviews.  This I believe will motivate me to read more in 2015 and could be some help for my readers.

I’m mostly reading on my Kindle (Fire HD) device which makes reading very portable, light and less expensive (given Kindle format books are much cheaper), however I still have love for physical paper ones.

Tech reads

T-SQL Programming

#1 Inside Microsoft SQL Server 2008 T-SQL Programming; Itzik Ben-Gan, Dejan Sarka; Coding & Technical; Read-Status: Completed;

Itzik Ben-Gan is unquestionably the greatest T-SQL Guru and this book is one of the best SQL references ever published on T-SQL. I’ve been working on databases since SQL 2000 and Oracle 8i days, and thought I knew ‘reasonably’ enough about T-SQL until I started reading this book.

The book is more or less is a conversation where author and readers, which at some point looks it’s not like a technical read (when it really is). Few chapters look at SQL beyond the storage engine, exploring other areas like SSDT, CLR, Hierarchical/Geospatial and Azure & xVelocity etc.

I would recommend this book any day for a SQL DBA trying to get a deeper handle on T-SQL code and beyond relational topics. This one, however, is not for beginners, so I would also recommend them to take a look at 1st book in series “T-SQL Querying“.

DBA_Surviver_1

#2 DBA Survivor: Become a Rock Star DBA; Thomas LaRock; Coding & Technical; Read-Status: Completed;

‘DBA Survivor’ is like SQL DBA Career Guide 101. In my opinion (yes it’s just mine) this book is not really a technical reference that you may want to revisit while troubleshooting a database issue, however, its a book that you would like to refer when you feel lil lost with your career path as DBA; be it a beginner, an intermediate or an expert. Thomas LaRock is veteran DBA and also a PASS president, having a great career working in mid-to-large size organizations and whatever he talks in the book is all about his own experiences, which I’m sure you’ll be able to relate with.

Now the best part about ‘DBA Survivor’ is that if you’re a new DBA, it has a clear road map of what you should be doing to make the most of your current role and reach to the next. I repeat it is not overly technical, instead,  all it has is navigation map which will help you take do those rights things at right time and help you get there, and all of this in a simple entertaining voice.

After reading the book, I wished if could have got this book eight year back, when I started my career as a DBA, still, I’m thankful to Tom that I have read this now.

SQL_2014

#3 Introducing Microsoft SQL Server 2014; Ross Mistry, Stacia Misner; Coding & Technical; Read-Status: Completed;

Finally after much wait ‘SQL Server 2014’ got RTMed this year, and this is first official book that covers the new SQL release. The thing to callout is that the book is ‘freely’ available in kindle format, making it a little more special (yes! you can download one right now and then resume this read).

As expected, the book pre-dominantly take quick deep dive into topics that matter most to new SQL release like AlwaysON enhancements, In-Memory Capabilities, and Columnstore indices. Being an introductory reference, none of these chapters cover the minuscule depth of the respective topics, rather provides a high-level overview of these enhancements. In addition, the author also makes an attempt to help you identify a relevant business case for choosing these new features (example what kinda workloads will get benefited from In-Memory? Or Will Bpool extension really help you gain that much desired app performance?). Don’t consider this marketing, instead its a guide to help you map your business needs to this newest SQL release.

Last, it always help to take a lead and learn something new, so then when your workplace decides to upgrade, the decision makers know whom to talk to.

Non-Tech/Business reads

delivering_happiness

#4 Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose; Tony Hsieh; Business & Money; Read-Status: Completed;

‘Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose’ is a great book, actually its the best I’ve read during this year. I personally recommend this book to all my family and friends. Wherever you are, whatever you do, you should be reading this book……as its talk about the most basic human trait i.e. being happy. So if you’ve been thinking this is another book from co-founder for a billion dollar start-up, havingusual insight into how successful they have been, then it’s not adequately correct. While the book still talks about how Tony Hsieh and other co-founder friends started Zappos, this one clearly goes beyond telling about how any individual or an organization can ‘really’ be successful.

Profits, Passion and Purpose are the three main elements of this book, which Tony Hsieh explains in a simple (yet uncommon) story telling way. There are too many thing that I liked about the book, in the interest of space, so I’ll list my top favorites:

  • Everyone is an entrepreneur – Tony Hsieh was into business right from age of 8 when he started selling customized buttons via mail order. It was not just about earning money instead it was about being creative and experimenting. When you read this section, do take a pause to go back in your past and ask yourself, what did you liked doing as a child and then see if you can relate some of it to what you’re doing today.
  • Profits – Profits are important, cyclical and are much easier to make when you follow a creative and less-taken path.
  • Passion – Profits alone cannot make anyone successful as they are cyclical and cannot be sustained. Passion, however is less cyclical. Combining profits with passion can make bigger impact on overall success.
  • Purpose – Even when you’ve identified your passion and path to profits (being successful) there’s still a need to have a purpose, i.e. what are those things that finally makes you a happier person.
  • Finally on Happiness? It’s beyond my explanation, as it’s so much personal to everyone. All I can say is that I’m joining Tony’s  happiness movement

The book is filled with some wisdom tweets from Tony Hsieh (he referred them as “tweets to live by”) such as ones below:

“We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same.”

“No matter what your past has been, you have a spotless future.”

everything_store_

#5 The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon; Brad Stone; Business & Money; Read-Status: Completed;

Consider this book as a memoir on Amazon and it’s undisputed leader Jeff Bezos. Author Brad Stone I believe is been able to get the most authentic details of Amazon including its founders, history, challenges, competitions, losses and triumphs.  ‘The Everything Store’ primarily focuses on Bezos (pronounced Bay-Zoes) and his awe-inspiring journey of founding Amazon. Given the author’s perspective, overall journey of Amazon seems like a Bezos personal journey and every progressing chapter will get you even with your thoughts around why Jeff is among the smartest CEO’s in relevant times. Here’s some of my favorite picks around Jeff’s leadership styles:

  1. Play Godfather – Make them an offer they can’t refuse: picking up zappos.com, diaper.com or numerous other Jeff’s negotiations
  2. Information only when necessary – Do you really know why kindle books are cheaper than their hardcover counterparts?
  3. Two Pizza Teams – Size of team shouldn’t be more that can be fed on 2 large pizza’s (this been adopted in by Google as well!)
  4. “In the old world, you devoted 30% of your time to building a great service and 70% of your time to shouting about it. In the new world, that inverts”
  5. Customer Obsession – Add that empty chair in every meeting that represent your customer and write all memo’s as journals

Further besides Amazon, the book also has an inspiring story on early formative dates of world-wide-web (WWW), talking about stuff like web mails, online retail and the eventful time of dotcom boom and bust. So if you have slightest interest in travelling back in time to understand evolution of internet and then be returned talking Cloud and e-readers (Kindle), the book won’t disappoint you.

One of my favorite quote from the book “For all great innovations it’s necessary to have the willingness to fail and be misunderstood for a long period of time – Jeff B”

Jobs

#6 Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography; Walter Isaacson; Biographies & Memoirs; Read-Status: Completed;

When I started with the book, I was unsure if I’ll ever be able to cover it in its entirety (be able to read and understand) given the length 600 pages. And then I spent the whole of weekend reading without any major breaks and completed in 2 days! Although the book is an biography of Jobs, the details are exquisite and they cover the entire history of Apple Inc. (from Apple II to iPads).

Steve Jobs was “Diva”. He’s been the among best CEOs the world has known or will remember. Author Walter Isaacson has done a brilliant job in narrating Job’s complex personality in a compelling way. Actually planning of this book started with Jobs being alive and as such jobs has taken a great care to ensure that the books covers not just the brilliant feats but also the monumental failures that Jobs has to go thru to make Apple what it today. The book typically has 3 parts

First one covers the Jobs personal life (before Apple came to existence). Jobs was born with bundle of contradictions. Adopted since birth, he grew up with being skeptical to church and then ended up being a huge believer of Karma, followed Buddhism and got obsessed with Zen-like simplicity (know you know why iPhone’s feature just one button).

Second part, covers the birth of Apple and the challenges that lies ahead. Steve was turned out of apple, founding of NeXT, Pixar and then dramatic return to apple. This is most gripping tale of how an ordinary looking individual choose to do extraordinary things with childlike simplicity (iPhone would never have been so successful with a phone keypad). There are many other facets about the jobs personality like being highly demanding of his colleagues and coworkers, have lack of sensitivity towards others and over obsession with details / design.

Third part covers the post PC (read windows) era, that details the epic rise of Apple products like iPod, iPhone, iPads, iTunes, iCloud with Apple becoming world’s most valuable technology company.

The books is an amazing narrative not just because the subject matter is jobs, but it is also well-written (Kudos to Walter Isaacson). Also the book is not just for IT nerds or geeks, but everyone who want to dig deeper in Steve’s life, belief and obsessions that led to creation of Apple. Here’s my favorite Jobs quote

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever ” – Steve Jobs

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#7 How Google Works; Eric Schmidt; Business & Money; Read-Status: Completed;

Google has been among the most disruptive innovators of 21st century and company has consistently been among the ‘best places to work for’. Everyone’s aware of that already, except this book explains WHY part of it?

The authors Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg have done an impeccable job in explaining the “Why Google has been so successful?” like explaining the core philosophy that has helped Google to be the successful enterprise that it has become today or how they hire right people (aka Smart Creative) or stuff like allowing 20% of time on personal projects.

There’s been lot written about Google already like the search giant dominance over net, their mapping services, driverless cars and google glasses; however reading through the book I realized that Google primarily is data company that is managing information of 3 billion users (source Internet Live stats) and is coming up with new business models for making that data useful to us. Did you know that Google has ability to track the spread of any epidemic 200x faster than traditional ways used so far by US CDC!

Hiring is a big part of Google’s success and as such it’s given supreme importance within the company. Going thru some pages, one actually feels as if the entire company is like a huge HR dept. that is constantly looking to find and hire smart creative.

Eric and Jonathan have added tons of example like one above which explains WHY part, in an interesting story telling way. In a nutshell, the book provides a firsthand account Google’s success formula, that should be helpful of all professionals and organizations that are aspiring to successful in a ‘data-driven’ world.

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#8 Hatching Twitter; Nick Bilton; Business & Money; Read-Status: In-Progress;

Even before I start telling about the book, I just want to say that I’m still in middle of my read, yet I’m compelled to include this in year’s review.

Since I picked up this book, I couldn’t put it down. The first section (where I’m right now) talks about how Nick, the farm boy taught himself to code and started blogger. The book also covers lives of other founders and how each one of them brought their own unique strengths, perspectives, resources, skills and innovation to the table to make twitter what it is today. The book so far is all about the people behind the twitter and it will be interesting to read more to understand how they were able to script a collective success in spite of their individual imperfections. So I’ll come back to complete this review…!

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