Team Geek is billed as a “Software Developer’s Guide to working well with others.” Its written by two googlers with solid tips for how to survive organizations from both the managerial and programmer points of view.

If you’ve worked anywhere then you’ll have already learned most of these lessons through experience. The strength of the book, for me, isn’t that it presents novel ideas but that in only 150 pages the book brings back to your consciousness knowlege that you already have, covering topics systematically with some valuable author insights. I expect to go back to this book to help be mindful of challenges that need to be address appropriately, and to borrow archetypes to help think about and explain them.

One point that the authors returned to again and again was HRT, pronounced “heart”, which is to create and environment of Humility, Respect, and Trust. The authors talk about both the good and the bad situations, and the authors point that the culture is a collaborative responsibility; it’s everyone’s responsibility to create this environment and that it can’t exist without everyone’s buy in. Good culture is like a culture in a lab in that it is grown and carefully maintained. If culture isn’t where it needs to be then there is work to do and it involves everyone.

I don’t intend to go into a detailed summary. Read the book. Here is a general outline of the content.

  • Importance of working with others
  • Building Culture: communication systems, leadership traits and practices, personal pitfalls
  • A basic guide to Organizational Manipulation (in a good way)
  • User first focus and what that means

The book is relevant for engineers and managers alike, which makes sense because in tech there is so much crossover. How to behave as a manager is discussed in terms of both patterns and antipatterns while touching on but not getting too deep into the formalized common sense that is leadership theory. Lessons are drawn from teams working together in an office as well as distributed teams working remotely on open source projects.

Overally, the book delivered a bit of clarity and a reminder to take actions today. A gentle push to ask the boss for things or to acknowledge office politics and increase your organizational influence. I’ll keep the book around.