Read Books? I want to work with you.

Published in General on 27-Nov-2017

When interviewing new technology workers, whether it's software developers, product managers, QA or IT, we always want to maximize the chances of hiring someone that will be successful: a good fit for the team, skilled at what they do, passionate about building something great. Such a person can dramatically increase both the morale and productivity of a team, but they are somewhat of a unicorn: fantastic in theory, but very difficult to track down.

How can you tell if someone you are talking to fits the bill? I don't know if there's a way to tell for certain, but one of the qualities that I've noticed in the people I've worked with who score highly in all those categories are people that read. Fiction, tech, business, the more diverse the topics, the better.

All the people I've worked with that I would consider truly great at what they do all read. Is there a cause and effect relationship there? I suspect there is, but I don't know which is the cause and which is the effect. Do people become great at what they do and develop a desire for self improvement because they read, or do they already have those skills and abilities and that leads them to read to further improve themselves? It's likely not exclusive, it probably works both ways.

The benefits of reading books in your field are obvious: you get to learn skills that are immediately applicable to your current job or the next, you expand your knowledge base and add to the bag of tricks at your disposal for solving problems. However, huge benefits exist for reading books outside your field as well. If you're primarily a techie like a software developer, reading books on business can give you a deeper insight into why your company works the way it does (or doesn't work). Reading books on personal interaction can give you insight into why your colleagues behave the way they do, or how your own behavior may come across to others. If you're a more business oriented person, a sales person or product manager for example, books on technology, systems design and architecture can give you a peak into why your software developers build things the way they do, and why it can seem to take such an infuriatingly long time.

Don't limit yourself to non-fiction either. While the benefits of non-fiction are more tangible, reading fiction has been shown to have dramatic cognitive and intellectual benefits. Reading is like exercise for you brain, just like exercising your body, it shouldn't be neglected.

Another important skill that reading instills is critical thinking. Books, like everything else, come with wild swings in quality: some are fantastic, some are terrible, most are somewhere in between. The more you read, the more you become able to separate out the cruft and realize what is nonsense and what is valuable.

In sum, I don't know if people become good at what they do because they read, or if people who are good at what they do read, but I do know that when I am interviewing people one thing I always look for on a resume is 'Reading' listed as an interest, and it's always a good conversation starter.

About the Author


Daniel Morton is a Software Developer with Shopify Plus in Waterloo, Ontario and the co-owner of Switch Case Technologies, a software development and consulting company. Daniel specializes in Enterprise Java Development and has worked and consulted in a variety of fields including WAN Optimization, Healthcare, Telematics, Media Publishing, and the Payment Card Industry.