Book Review: Smart And Get Things Done by Joel Spolsky


I just recently finished the book Smart and Gets Things Done: Joel Spolsky’s Concise Guide to Finding the Best Technical Talent. Joel Spolsky is the author of the very popular blog Joel On Software and owner of Fog Creek Software. This is another one of those books that is very unique when it comes to technical writing. It is both entertaining and informative. I don’t really think there is any other book like this out there. It is a fresh perspective on hiring technical talent written from the perspective of a developer who has been through the process of finding great talent.

The thesis of the book is that if you want to be successful in software, you have to hire the best developers and they will in turn develop the best software. The problem is, hiring the best developers is not an easy task as they never really tend to be looking for a job. The title comes from the basic description of what makes a great developer: Someone show is smart and gets things done.

Joel makes many assertions in this book that many companies don’t want to hear. Treat your software developers right. Buy them nice equipment. Give them private offices (gasp!). Apparently Joel practices what he preaches because nobody has ever quit their job from his company Fog Creak Software! That is amazing. That is the kind of company I want to work for.

Even if you are not a recruiter or heavily involved in hiring technical workers, this book still has plenty of value to you. If you are a developer, you can get a very good feeling for how good you are (are you smart and get things done?) and how to measure a company’s commitment to getting the best developers and making the best software.

There are a couple of points made in this book that I found very interesting and had never thought about before. First, the fact that the best developers are not really in it for the money – they just want to be taken care of by the company they work for. This is not really obvious to most companies who are hiring developers. Just look at how most startups try to attract talent.

The other interesting point was that what a company actually does makes a big difference to most developers. They want to work on something fun that they believe in. I wonder what effect this has on the quality of software that is not fun? How do you convince somebody to come write software for your cow manure processing plant?

This book is definitely worth the hour or two that it takes to read through it. Joel has a great writing style that is both engaging and informative.


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