By Gergely Orosz, the author of The Pragmatic Engineer Newsletter and Building Mobile Apps at Scale

The Software Engineer's Guidebook

Navigating senior, tech lead, staff and principal positions at tech companies and startups. An Amazon #1 Best Seller. Now in ebook format as well!

The Software Engineer's Guidebook

What's Inside

Part 1: Developer Career Fundamentals

1. Career paths
2. Owning your career
3. Performance reviews
4. Promotions
5. Thriving in different environments
6. Switching jobs

Part 2: The Competent Software Developer

7. Getting things done
8. Coding
9. Software development
10. Tools of the productive engineer

Part 3: The Well-Rounded Senior Engineer

11. Getting things done
12. Collaboration and teamwork
13. Software engineering
14. Testing
15. Software architecture

Part 4: The Pragmatic Tech Lead

16. Project management
17. Shipping in production
18. Stakeholder management
19. Team structure
20. Team dynamics

Part 5: Role-Model Staff and Principal Engineers

21. Understanding the business
22. Collaboration
23. Software engineering
24. Reliable software engineering
25. Software architecture

Further reading: online, bonus chapters

Bonus #1: for Part 1
Bonus #2: for Part 2
Bonus #3: for Part 3
Bonus #4: for Part 4
Bonus #5: for Part 5
See more details for each chapter in the extended table of contents for the book.

Book Reviews

"Bridging theory with practice, this book presents a clear roadmap for anyone navigating the tech landscape. A must-read for engineers at any career stage."
Alex Xu, software engineer and author of the System Design Interview Book Series
"Spanning a huge range of topics from technical to social in a concise manner, this belongs on the desk of any software engineer looking to grow their impact and their career. You'll reach for it again and again for sage advice in any situation."
James Stanier, Director of Engineering at Shopify, author of The Engineering Manager
"You need to understand ‘the lay of the land’ and know how to thrive in different environments in order to progress as a software engineer. The Software Engineer’s Guidebook goes beyond helping just with this: it does a comprehensive job covering areas that engineers need to know of in order to keep progressing at each engineering level in the tech industry.”
Nielet D’mello, Software Security Engineer at Datadog
"The book equips you with how to grow beyond the mid-career developer levels, and understand what is expected out of roles and situations you could be in. Reading this book made me lament one thing: how it was not available earlier in my career! It is absolutely essential for all software engineers."
Arnav Gupta, Director of Engineering at JioCinema
“The beauty of this book is that it covers multiple rungs of the career ladder, with enough concepts to give even the most experienced developers something new to consider. Even with 17 years in the industry, I still found new ideas to use. It's a real treasure trove of actionable information.”
Chris Seaton, Tech Lead at Skiddle
A treasure trove of perspectives, suggestions and ideas. These will help you move to the next level no matter where you are in your career.”
Roberto Vitillo, Principal Engineer at Amazon, author of Understanding Distributed Systems

Read more reviews:

How to Read the Book

The book is separated into six standalone parts, each part covering several chapters:

  • Part 1: Developer career fundamentals
  • Part 2: The competent software developer
  • Part 3: The well-rounded senior engineer
  • Part 4: The pragmatic tech lead
  • Part 5: Role-model staff and principal engineers
  • Part 6: Conclusion

Parts 1 and 6 apply to all engineering levels: from entry-level software developers to principal or above engineers. Parts 2, 3, 4 and 5 cover increasingly senior engineering levels. These four parts group topics in chapters – such as ones on software engineering, collaboration, getting things done, and so on.

This book is more of a reference book that you can refer back to, as you grow in your career. I suggest skimming over the career levels and chapters that you are familiar with, and focus reading on topics you struggle with, or career levels where you are aiming to get to. Keep in mind that expectations can vary greatly between companies.

In this book, I’ve aimed to align the topics and leveling definitions closer to what is typical at Big Tech and scaleups: but you might find some of the topics relevant for lower career levels in later chapters. For example, we cover logging, montiroing and oncall in Part 5: “Reliable software systems” in-depth: but it’s useful – and oftentimes necessary! – to know about these practices below the staff engineer levels.

Buy the Book


Frequently Asked Questions

Is there an audiobook?

Right now (in Feb 2024) there is not one yet. I am in the progress of getting this version ready as well. Get notified the audibook is released.

The book doesn't ship to my location, or shipping is silly expensive off Amazon.

You should now be able to ask your local book shops to order the book for you via Ingram Spark Print-on-demand - using the ISBN code 9789083381824. I'm also working on making the paperback more accessible in additional regions, including translated versions. Please share details here if you're unable to get the book in your country and I'll aim to remedy the situation.

I'm an engineering manager. Is the book useful to me?

I'd like to think so! The book can help you get ideas on how to help software engineers on your team grow. And if you are a hands-on engineering manager (which I hope you might be!) then you can apply the topics yourself! I wrote more about staying hands-on as an engineering manager or lead in The Pragmatic Engineer Newsletter.

I'm not a software engineer. Is the book useful to me?

I've gotten this variation of a question from Data Engineers, ML Engineers, designers and SREs. See the more detailed table of contents and the "Look inside" sample to get a better idea of the contents of the book. I have written this book with software engineers as the target group, and the bulk of the book applies for them. Part 1 is more generally applicable career advice: but that's still smaller subset of the book.


About the Author

I've been a software engineer for a decade — working at JP Morgan, Skype/Microsoft, Skyscanner and Uber — and then an engineering manager for another several years.

As an engineering manager, I did my best to support people on my team to improve professionally, get the promotions they deserved, and give clear, actionable feedback when I thought colleagues weren’t ready for the next level, just yet.

As my team grew and I took on skip-level reports, I had less and less time to mentor teammates in-depth. I also started to see patterns in the feedback I gave, so began to publish blog posts of the advice I found myself giving repeatedly; about writing well, and doing good code reviews. These posts were warmly received, and a lot more people than I expected read and shared them with colleagues. This is when I began writing this book.

The book took four years to write. By year two of the writing process, I had a draft that could be ready to publish. However, at that time I launched The Pragmatic Engineer Newsletter. The focus of this newsletter is keeping the pulse of today’s tech market, plus regular deepdives into how well-known, international companies operate, software engineering trends, and occasional interviews with interesting tech people. Writing the newsletter made me realize just how many “gaps” were in the book draft. The past two years have been spent rewriting and honing its contents, one chapter at a time.

Today, The Pragmatic Newsletter is the #1 technology newsletter on Substack — with more than 500,000 readers. The newsletter has helped me improve the book; I’ve learned lots about interesting trends and new tools that feel like they are here to stay for a decade or longer, such as AI coding tools, cloud development environments, and developer portals. These technologies are referenced in this book in much less detail than you will find in the newsletter.

I hope you discover useful ideas in this book, which serve you well for years to come.

Follow me on Linkedin, or on Twitter at @GergelyOrosz.

The links to books on this site (including to my book!) are affiliate ones. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.