Best Books for Starting a Career in Tech

Dan Lambert – Banking Technology Graduate (LinkedIn)

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A good tech book can land you an interview. It can get you a promotion. Or it can transform a company. I’ve certainly leaned heavily on tech books during some job applications and when starting on a new project. But if you are trying to break into tech, it can be difficult knowing which ones are both at a suitable level of difficulty and actually useful.

Books about tech range from the impenetrable and highly sector specific to the plain and overly generalised. So below I’ve listed a selection of books suitable for anyone seeking to break into tech. They’re easy reading (i.e. not textbooks) and no prior knowledge is required. Most are also pretty cheap.

They have also been specifically chosen such that they will provide valuable knowledge regardless of whether you end up working in that particular area of tech or not. So don’t get too hung up on choosing where to get started! They’ll all be useful and help demonstrate enthusiasm for getting into a tech role.

To develop your Data Science knowledge:

AIQ (Nick Polson and James Scott)

AIQ aims to introduce you to machine learning / artificial intelligence using stories rather than equations. And I can confirm that it does an exceptionally good job of it! It’s a pleasure to learn about the stories and history of machine learning without feeling like you’re sat listening to a three-hour long historical monologue.

It also includes some diagrams and tables to better explain certain concepts. There’s not a huge amount of technical detail. So if you are interested in data science and are already doing an online course, AIQ would complement that perfectly.

The Deep Learning Revolution (Terrence J. Sejnowski)

This tech book addresses deep learning specifically; arguably the most exciting area of data science at the moment. It puts good emphasis on the application and implications of this technology rather than just the theory. So if you have some understanding of how deep learning actually works, The Deep Learning Revolution will elevate your knowledge to the next level.

Reviews of this book online are pretty varied. Some love it but some complain about the memoir-esque style. However I think it does a great job of explaining the whole revolution of neural networks and some of the major players in its development. Admittedly it’s sometimes a bit detail-heavy in the wrong places, but it gives you information that most wannabe data scientists will not get until later in their career.

To become a better Web/App Designer:

Hooked (Nir Eyal)

Perhaps you’ve already tried creating a website. Or maybe you fancy developing an app. Or maybe you’re thinking that a role as a UX or UI designer is the one for you. If so, the information held in Hooked will be a great asset.

Whilst many resources out there focus on the technical skills required to do something like building a website, few consider the much more human aspects in the way that this book does. By considering behaviour, psychology, and the ethics of persuasion, you will learn how companies keep you addicted and how you can create a product that does the same. It’s an easy read and is full of great examples. Would highly recommend.

To improve your Development techniques:

Phoenix Project (Gene Kim, George Spafford, and Kevin Behr)

This is one of my absolute favourite tech books and a fantastic introduction to what are now the go-to ways of working in the whole technology industry. It is told as a fictional story about a failing company trying to run Project Phoenix but is based on well documented knowledge and best practices. It is also well known among techy people so you will find that many others have read it.

Lean, Agile, and CI/CD are all central topics to the Phoenix Project even if they are not all named explicitly. So I’d highly recommend reading this book and then if you’re interested, learning about the most up to date versions of Agile (perhaps SAFe) and CI/CD (perhaps DevSecOps).

Accelerate (Gene Kim, Jez Humble, and Nicole Forsgren)

Accelerate is a slightly dry but very forward-facing book all about the best ways to develop software. It is based on extensive research that was conducted over several years but is presented in a simple and concise way. It covers things like software delivery lifecycle metrics, leadership, and project management. I have seen very intelligent, senior technologists at my work base entire transformation programmes on the content of this book.

So if you are serious about development, big data, or DevOps, this will be an impressive addition to your knowledge as someone new to tech. Especially if you spend some time understanding how to apply what this book teaches you.

typing code on a laptop

To get introduced to Cybersecurity:

Cyber Security for Beginners (Raef Meeuwisse)

This book is written specifically for individuals with little to no tech knowledge. It introduces all the key concepts in modern cybersecurity whilst illustrating them with real case studies. Topics covered include the cloud, internet of things, and data privacy. Given that cybersecurity features heavily on many companies’ business strategies, the insights provided will always be relevant no matter what area of tech you end up in.

It is written unpretentiously and stuffed with readily-applicable information for both individuals and companies as a whole. It would be a great primer to a cybersecurity entry-level job or entry-level certification course.

If you’re in need of tech inspiration:

Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That’ll Improve and/or Ruin Everything (Kelly Weinersmith and Zach Weinersmith)

The technologies discussed here are at best bleeding-edge but are more often semi-fantasised ideas that will perhaps appear over the coming decades. However it is without doubt a great read and wholly enjoyable! Just understand that this is unlikely to be the content that gets you your first role in tech!

The book features space elevators, programmable matter, the very future of civilisation and so much more. It’s light reading and perfect for hypothetical conversations with your housemates on a slow evening. My only real criticism is that some of the ideas covered would benefit from a more detailed explanation.

Democracy Hacked: Political Turmoil and Information Warfare in the Digital Age (Martin Moore)

Ok this might not be ‘inspiration’ exactly. But did you watch The Social Dilemma on Netflix? If you’re looking for a similar yet better written version, then look no further. Democracy Hacked succinctly explains how politics, technology, and businesses are shifting their grip on the world. Social media and the recent US elections are a particularly potent instantiation of this.

I believe Democracy Hacked holds information that everyone should be at least vaguely aware of. The influence that digital technology platforms have on our day-to-day lives is, in many instances, more significant than that of any government nowadays. The way they utilise big data to achieve this is both terrifying and awe-inspiring. This is one of the best tech books to provide you with a solid foundation on which you can hold your own in any social media / surveillance / political warfare debate.


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