Book Review: Soft Skills by John Sonmez

December 19, 2014

Have you ever wished that you had a manual for how to live the good life? A guidebook that will tell you how to make the best decisions. I certainly do. John Sonmez has taken a crack at this task with his latest book, Soft Skills: The Software Developers Life Manual.


The core premise of Soft Skills is that being a good software developer starts with being a good person. By “good”, I mean someone who has their life under control, makes good life decisions, and can achieve their goals.

Soft Skills is a book about a lot of things. It covers general career skills, like interviewing, setting career direction, and marketing yourself. It also covers skills that increase your job performance, like learning and productivity. Additionally, it covers general life skills, like managing your finances and fitness (mental and physical). Soft Skills reads like a summary of many of the top business and self help books.

While the book covers many topics, it does so in bite sized pieces. Chapters run around 5-10 pages each, so it’s easy to read and reference. Since most of the topics stand alone, it’s also easy to skip around and focus on the topics that interest you the most.


These are a few concepts from the book that I found useful.

Business Mindset

Instead of having an employee mentality, software developers should treat themselves as a business. Their primary asset is their ability to produce working software. Adopting this mindset makes it easier to think clearly about career choices and gives you a sense of autonomy. Like any other business, you must invest in improving your assets (aka. human capital), and market your skills.

Career Direction

Software developers have three routes for advancement, each with advantages and disadvantages. This book dissuaded me from considering freelancing as a future career goal. The routes are:

  • Employment - High stability, but lower income and lower freedom.
  • Freelance - More freedom and money, but also more hassle and risk.
  • Entrepreneur - High risk, but near infinite upside on rewards and lots of freedom.

Personal Marketing

Marketing is multiplier that can catapult your career into the stratosphere. You marketing yourself by helping out your fellow developers. You can do this in a vareity of ways, including writing, speaking at conferences, and making videos.


The finance information in this book is great. John “retired” at age 33, so you know he’s doing something right. I enjoyed reading about the ups and downs on his journey to financial independence. He covers a variety of topics, from general finance to the different types of investments.


One of my favorite things about John Sonmez, whether it’s his books or his videos, is his attitude. John is upbeat and pragmatic. He doesn’t believe in zealotry, which is something that plagues our industry.

Who's this book good for?

This is a good reference book for any software developer. People who are early in their careers will derive the most benefit, but it’s a good book even you’re a few years into your career. I wish I had this book about eight years ago when I was graduating college. If you are well read in the topics the book covers, you may find the content a little shallow, but I’m happy with my purchase.

Links: Soft Skills (Amazon) (Manning) The author’s web site: Simple Programmer

Dustin Ewers

Written by Dustin Ewers who lives and works in Southern Wisconsin. GitHub | Twitter | LinkedIn

© 2022, Built by Dustin Ewers with Gatsby

The posts on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent my employer's positions, strategies, or opinions.

Some of the links contained within this site have my referral ID, which provides me with a small commission for each sale. Thank you for your support.