I’ve planned to read 36 books in 2016 and managed to hit that number a few hours before the NY! The best of those 36 books are listed below.
Business, Management and Leadership
Considering the new role I’ve started in January 2016 (first-time CTO of a growing startup company), my reading last year was heavily geared towards business, management and leadership topics. Here are my favourite books in this category:
- “The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers” — in my opinion, a must-read book for anybody interested in starting a company or already building one. A treasure trove of great advice for startup founders on building and managing their teams.
- “Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers” — the author explains why so many companies, that find an initial product-market fit, subsequently fail to grow into leaders of their respective markets and often die a slow and painful death. The concept of a chasm and, especially, the idea of the whole product were very powerful for my understanding of what I felt in many companies I worked for — mainstream customers could not use your product unless they are provided with a minimum set of components and services to solve their problem. Very important read for leaders of modern SaaS companies, especially for API/platform enterprises.
- “Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders” — an inspiring story of a navy captain transforming one of the worst-performing crews in the fleet into a perfectly functioning team by pushing control down to individual team members.
- “The Score Takes Care of Itself” — inspiring story of one of the best sport team transformations and the man behind it, legendary coach Bill Walsh.
Few more books I found very interesting:
- “The Collapse of Parenting: How We Hurt Our Kids When We Treat Them Like Grown-Ups” — maybe it is just a confirmation bias, but I absolutely loved this book. The author focuses on a few serious problems in today’s parenting and the resulting decline in the achievement and psychological health of American children. He finally managed put into words something that was bothering me for 10 years since moving to Canada. Now that I became a parent and would have to raise a child in this environment, I was glad to hear that I wasn’t crazy not to agree with the approach that is being pushed on modern parents by American society.
- “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End” — one of my favourite authors, Atul Gawande, explores the current state of end of life care in the USA, Canada, and Western Europe. Terrifying at first, the book makes you consider your own mortality and think about the choices you are bound to make eventually for yourself and, potentially, for your close family members.
- “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” — a captivating overview of our history as human species: from 70,000 years ago until the 20th century: how we evolved, how we affected other species on the planet and how did we end up where we are today. A long, but very interesting read!
- “The Road To Sparta: Retracing the Ancient Battle and Epic Run that Inspired the World’s Greatest Foot Race” — fascinating story of Dean Karnazes (one of the most famous ultra-distance runners in the world) and his exploration of the legend of the Marathon. Highly recommended to anybody interested in running.
- “Catastrophic Care: How American Health Care Killed My Father — and How We Can Fix It” — very detailed overview of what is broken in US healthcare today. Even if you don’t have anything to do with US healthcare market, the book is a great collection of stories about side-effects of what initially looked like great ideas, but ended up screwing the system even further.
I was always a huge fan of sci-fi fiction and this past year I have discovered a few real gems that ended up on my all time favourite list:
- “Remembrance of Earth’s Past (aka The Three Body Problem)” series by a Chinese author Liu Cixin — huge universe, highly-detailed and powerful characters, timeline spanning centuries — you can find all of it here. But on top of the standard components of a good space opera, there is this previously unknown to me layer of Chinese culture, language, philosophy.
This trilogy has become an instant classic for me and is in the top-10 of my all time favourites next to Asimov’s “Foundation” and Peter F. Hamilton’s “Void”.
- Everything from Niel Gainman! Up until this year when I got exposed to his writing, I’ve never realized how much pleasure one could get from reading prose. I’m not sure how he does it, but if he were to publish a book of obituaries or classifieds, I’d be willing to read that too — I enjoyed his English so much! Favourite books so far: “The Graveyard Book” and “The Ocean at the End of the Lane”.
I hope you enjoyed this overview of the best books I’ve read in 2016. Let me know you liked it!
As a leader of a technical operations team I often have to work on technical operations engineer hiring. This process involves a lot of interviews with candidates and during those interviews along with many challenging practical questions I really love to ask questions like “What are the most important resources you think an Operations Engineer should follow?”, “What books in your opinion are must-read for a techops engineer?” or “Who are your personal heroes in IT community?”. Those questions often give me a lot of information about candidates, their experience, who they are looking up to in the community, what they are interested in, and if they are actively working on improving their professional level.
Recently, one of the candidates asked me to share my lists with him and I thought this information could be valuable to other people so I have decided to share it here on my blog.
Must-Read Books List
First of all, I would like to share a list of books I believe every professional in our field should read at some point in their life. You may notice that many of these books are not too technical or are not really related to the pure systems administration part of a techops job. I still think those are very important because technical operations work on senior levels involves much more than just making sure things work as expected. A lot of it involves time management, crisis management and many other topics that are equally important for a professional in this field.
So, here is the list (with not particular ordering, grouped by topics):
Systems and Networks Administration
Technical Operations, Architecture, Scalability
Project, Release and Time Management
For more information on interesting books for technical operations engineers, you can check out the following book lists on GoodReads:
Conferences, in my opinion, are an essential part in professional development of any engineer. Here is a list of conferences that could be useful for techops engineers:
- Surge Conference – in my opinion, this is definitely one of the best conferences dedicated to building and maintaining large web architectures. If I were to choose one conference a year to go to, it would definitely be Surge. Videos from previous years are freely available online: 2010, 2011, 2012. 2013 videos should be available soon as well.
- Oreilly’s Velocity Conference – biggest and, probably, the oldest web operations and web performance event. In my opinion, recently it became too focused on web frontend performance, though it is still a really interesting event. Complete video compilations from the conference are available for sale: 2011, 2012, 2013.
- Monitorama Conference – pretty new, but already very popular conference with interesting content for everyone interested in monitoring (which most ops engineers are). Sides and videos from the first ever Monitorama conference in 2013 are available online.
- Percona Live Conference – really awesome event for anybody who has MySQL in their stack. Huge multi-track event with talks from the best and brightest people in MySQL community. Slides and keynote videos from 2013 event are available online.
- DevOps Days – small events happening all around the world and becoming more and more popular. The major topic of these conferences is the DevOps movement, related team/project management practices, etc. Videos and slides from some of the events are available online.
Even if you do not have time to watch any of those conference videos, I think every operations engineer out there would really enjoy 2011 Surge Conference closing plenary session video where Theo Schlossnagle (one of my personal heroes in IT community) described a typical debugging session many of us go through every once in a while:
Interesting Web Resources
And last, but certainly not least, I would like to share a list of web resources I like to follow to stay up to date on the most recent news and fresh ideas within the web operations community and related areas:
Leading Industry Sites and Blogs
- MySQL Performance Blog from Percona – one of the best resources on MySQL performance
- High Scalability – awesome resource with a lot of great articles on scalability, performance and design of large scale systems
- Kitchen Soap – Blog by John Alspaw (another of my personal heroes in IT field)
- DevOps Community Planet – feed/news aggregator for the DevOps community
- DevOps Community on Reddit – not too active, but still a useful resource for getting interesting news
- Agile Sysadmin – Blog of Stephen Nelson-Smith
- obfuscurity – Blog by Jason Dixon, maintainer of Graphite, author of Descartes, Tasseo and other useful tools for metrics collection and displaying
- The Agile Admin – Many interesting thoughts on agile web operations and devops
- Operation Bootstrap – Blog of Aaron Nichols talking about many different aspects of working in operations
Engineering Blogs of Large Web Companies
- Changelog – member-supported podcast on 5by5 network talking about interesting open source projects
- Food Fight – bi-weekly podcast for Chef community
- DevOps Cafe – interviews with interesting members of DevOps community
- The Ship Show – twice-monthly podcast, featuring discussion on everything from build engineering to DevOps to release management, plus interviews, new tools and techniques, and reviews
And this is it! I hope these lists would be useful for young engineers going into the technical operations and for people who already work in this space. I am going to try to regularly update this post in the future to make sure it stays relevant for a long time.
Many people know me as a nginx web server evangelist. But as (IMHO) any professional I think that it is really rewarding to know as much as possible about all the tools available on the market so every time you need to make a decision on some technical issue, you’d consider all pros and cons based on my own knowledge.
This is why when I received an email from Packt company asking if I’d like to read and review their book on Lighttpd I decided to give it a shot (I usually do not review any books because I do not always have enough time to read a book thoroughly to be able to write a review). So, here are my impressions from this book.
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