Career Strategies Sep 30 2010

Best Technology Books to Help Your Career

By kyle stock

Nick Bilton puts it well in the title of his new book: "I live in the future." Things have been moving fast -- and they're getting faster. Instead of just being conversant in certain technologies, Silicon Valley pros now have to eat, sleep and breathe them -- literally plugging their professional lives into a grid of social networks.

But if we live in the future, we're also living in the past. Facebook may yet go the way of Friendster and the clouds are moving in fast on computing networks. Thankfully, there is a rash of new books this fall that will give technology pros an edge. So close your Tweetdeck and crack or click open one of these.

1. "Being Geek: The Software Developer's Career Handbook," by Michael Lopp ($24.99) -- Anyone who has spent 10 minutes as a productive cog of Corporate America can appreciate a book that addresses "How Not to Throw Up" during presentations and "Managing Werewolves." Lopp, the Silicon Valley lifer behind the popular blog Rands in Repose, also touches on negotiating an offer letter, divining your personal worth and figuring out when it's time to move on.

2. "Buy-In: Saving Your Good Idea from Getting Shot Down," by John P. Kotter and Lorne A. Whitehead ($22) -- Debbie Downers aren't just depressing, they're dangerous to your career. Like wise old senseis, Kotter and Whitehead detail how to parry and punish the most common naysaying techniques. And they have the crimson stamp of approval from Harvard Business Press.

3. "The Innovator's Way: Essential Practices for Successful Innovation," by Peter J. Denning and Robert Dunham ($29.95) -- Innovation, like switch-hitting or driving on the other side of the road, can be learned. At least, that's what Denning and Dunham say. Their drill includes eight steps: sensing, envisioning, offering, adopting, sustaining, executing, leading and embodying. Next-gen Zuckerberg's take note.

4. "Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation," by Steven Johnson ($26.95) -- Another how-to for the Silicon Valley set, Johnson also lays out a kind of roadmap to creativity, albeit with some meandering sidetrips along the way. He describes "slow hunches" and accidental epiphanies that led to some of our biggest breakthroughs. The book should draw a healthy following if it resonates like Johnson's previous offering: "Everything Bad Is Good for You."

5. "I Live in the Future & Here's How It Works," by Nick Bilton ($25) -- I'm still waiting for my jetpack and flying car, but Bilton, a New York Times tech writer, makes a persuasive case here. His offering casts the net on the digital world wide, touching on the porn industry, new media narratives and the culture of video games. At the base of all that, though, is "the consumnivore" who increasingly wants to pay for experiences, rather than just content. Bilton gets this stuff and will help you get it too (or at least help you fudge it in your next interview).

6. "What Technology Wants," by Kevin Kelly ($27.95) -- Another blockbuster offering from the techno-elite, this time Wired founder and former executive editor Kevin Kelly. Kelly traces the history of technology and throws it forward in about a dozen directions, forecasts that will help anyone in the industry. It's fair to say that this will be one of the headier offerings out there. Kelly writes a lot of trippy stuff about how humans "co-evolve" with technology and one of his former books, "Out of Control," was required reading for the cast of "The Matrix."

7. "The Orange Revolution: How One Great Team Can Transform an Entire Organization," by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton ($25) -- Spoiler alert, this book is not about Ukrainian politics. Rather, it tackles workforce organization and how a whole can be greater than a sum of parts. Specifically, Gostick and Elton break down the characteristics of the groups that launched Zappos, Madison Square Garden and other breakthrough businesses.

8. "Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future, (revised and updated)" by Dan Schawbel ($14.99) -- It's all about you! Your personal brand, that is. Take it from a guy who wrote an updated version of his book only about a year after it first published. Schawbel's latest offering includes passages on the trinity of social media -- Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter -- but also gets into more obscure territory like search-engine optimization and how to correspond with bloggers.

Write to Kyle Stock



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