Book Review – The Nomadic Developer

Just before I recently decided to turn a new page in my professional career, I came across this book called The Nomadic Developer: Surviving and Thriving in the World of Technology Consulting. Before I made up my mind about being a consultant, I purchased this book and read a few parts of it (specifically chapter five “What You Need To Ask Before You Join a Technology Consulting Firm” and chapter ten “Is Consulting Right for You?”). I recently read the book from cover to cover in order to find out more about what it means to work for a consulting company. So far, I’ve only been working as an in-house developer for companies that aren’t in the software business itself. This basically means that I’ve been working to support and find solutions for the core business of the company, where software is just a means to an end. Companies tend to value the people that bring in the most revenue.  In a lot of cases, an in-house developer is usually seen as a cost instead of someone who brings in revenue.

As a consultant working for a technology company, software is the core business which is a slightly different ball game compared to being an in-house developer. I use the word ‘slightly’ here because as a consultant, there’s a high chance you’ll probably end up developing software to support businesses of other companies that aren’t also in the technology business. But still, I think that working for a company that makes money in your own field of expertise is a good place to be.

Anyway, this book is targeted towards helping consultants (or future consultants like myself) to understand the economics of the technology industry. It’s filled with great advice for all folks that are new in the IT industry, coming from college or otherwise. But for more seasoned developers, there are some great nuggets in there as well. Although the book is mainly focused towards consultants, lots of the advice in the book is also applicable to in-house developers.

Take a look at the twelve chapters to get a quick glimpse of the content. The wisdom collected here is drawn from the author’s own experience as well as from others that contributed content to the book like Jason Bock, Michael Hugos, Derik Whittacker, Chris G. Williams, … etc. The content of the book is interspersed with annotations and anecdotes of the contributors which makes it highly interesting and fun to read. The last chapter is an enumeration of essays from the contributors. These essays all promote doing community work in one way or another like working on open-source projects, writing books, organizing user group meetings, etc for gaining more visibility as a consultant. While I’m certainly highly in favor of doing these things, doing them just for your own advancement or sales purposes is definitely the wrong reason. In my opinion, the author could have done a better job to warn the reader that contributing to a community only for visibility reasons isn’t the right perspective for doing these kind of things as it tends to do more harm than good and probably won’t last either. Again, putting out advice to do community work in order to gain visibility is one thing, warning about the dark side of the coin couldn’t hurt either.

So if you are working as a consultant or thinking about becoming one, just pick up this book and give it read. It’s also available in audio format if you fancy that. I learned a couple of things from this book and probably so will you.

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Jan Van Ryswyck

Hi, thank you for visiting my blog and reading all the crap that I'm posting here. I'm a senior software engineer at SD WORX. Developing software is one of my greatest passions in life, and I enjoy doing it every single day. I've got three kids (Len, Lisa & Laura) who constantly remind me that there is more in life than just programming all day. They are the greatest kids in the whole world. And last but not least, there's my girlfriend who is my inspiration in life. You can always contact me at jan_dot_van_dot_ryswyck at gmail.com

6 thoughts on “Book Review – The Nomadic Developer”

  1. I must admit that i cringed while reading the table of contents, especially the consultancy taxonomy. I’ve never been a consultant myself but it look like a scary world to me where you constantly forced not to be yourself as an engineer or a “problem solver” but be a clown to sell yourself.

  2. @DaRage
    I have to disagree with you. I think being honest and sincere is a virtue that is appreciated by any kind of human being, and if not, then you don’t wanna be there anywhere. I think as a consultant you have to be the best engineer/problem solver you can be on top of having great communication skills. Being a clown isn’t going to work either I think.

  3. I think I misrepresented myself when I said clown. What I meant is that I’m afraid people don’t treat with the respect as a problem solver but as resource to buy and sell. So maybe not clown but more like a prostitute. Do you see what I mean?

  4. @DaRage
    That’s just plain body shopping which has nothing to do with consultancy. This is also described in chapter two “The Seven Deadly Firms”. The author heavily warns for being an employee at one of these kinds of companies.

  5. Jan,

    Congrats on your new job !!. Being a consultant for 5 years and after having worked in s/w product company for 3 years I agree with you about the inhouse development. But I would also like to say that not all forms of consulting are great. Consulting which Microsoft does at MTC centers is great. But if you are going to work as a technology consultant in some enterprise. It may not be a great idea. The author himself has written in his blog that Technology consulting is 10% technology and 90% consulting. So for 90% of the duration, you have to understand the business model of the enterprise and understand the business. So if your friend joined a s/w product company and you became a consultant, chances are that he will know a ton more about technology after a year whereas you would know a ton about the business of the company. Choice is left to the individual as to what he/she wants in life.

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