Learning to Be a Better Developer on the Run: Python Podcasts and Enlightening Audiobooks

7 min read

Agile, Python
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Being a software developer is all about constantly honing your skills. But it’s not always an easy task.

You don’t always have the room or the time to take out your Kindle, or it may just not be your thing.

I would like to share my experience as a Python developer living in a world where there’s hardly any time to waste.

I start each day with a 30-minute drive to work; audiobooks made it possible for me to recover that seemingly wasted time, and made driving (something I had always detested in the past) an enjoyable experience.

However, if you think your daily commute might not be the best time to listen to an audiobook, then how about listening during a workout or a walk? If you live near a park or any other safe place to bike around, or if you have a stationary bike, you can get some educational entertainment along with your exercise.

Once you find a place and time to start listening, all you need is a simple pair of earphones and a phone strapped onto you—if that’s not the case already.

Actually, there is one more thing you are going to need: something to listen to.

The listening material I’d like to recommend to you can be divided into two categories: podcasts and audiobooks.

Podcasts

To stay up to date and satisfy your daily thirst for knowledge, podcasts are an excellent choice.

Since they are much shorter than your typical ebook, they are ideal for listening even during a shorter run/ride/drive.

They often provide a fresh perspective on new up-and-coming projects or just a couple wise words from an author of an already well-tested and mature framework or library.

You can find a podcast on virtually any topic; the only question is whether it still produces fresh content or not. Thankfully, the Python community has produced some very high quality podcasts that will give you something new every week while you binge on the backlog of past episodes.

1. Talk Python to Me

A high-quality and regularly updated podcast with 150+ 40-minute episodes to pick and choose from.

2. Python Bytes

The best podcast for fresh news from the Python world.

3. Podcast.__init__

Like Talk Python to Me, plenty of interviews with more or less famous Python community personas, often project-centered.

4. Test and Code

Dedicated to the testing aspect of software development—with Python, of course! Good choice for QA engineers and devs alike.

Audiobooks

There seem to be no audiobooks that target developers as their audience—you can probably guess why.

But that does not mean there are no audiobooks that can make you a better developer, teammate, and perhaps even a leader.

Algorithms to Live By

While intended for a general audience, explaining how one can apply well-known algorithms to everyday life problems, it can also function as a good refresher course for a programmer. Not every programmer has even attended an algorithms course, and even fewer remember the course content, so a book like Algorithms to Live By can bring a lot of value.

Note: while I really liked this book, I would strongly suggest listening to it using 1.5x the normal speed. Basically every audiobook app should allow you to tweak playback speed, so that should not be a problem. In most cases, adjusting the pace to your needs/concentration level will significantly improve your experience.

The Power of Habit

Essentially a book on how to “hack” your daily routines to fit your goals.

Why did I decide to put it on this list? Because the premise of this whole article is that we need to adapt our lives to keep doing the best work we can—without losing our sanity, that is. In order to become more productive and not overwork ourselves while doing so, it is crucial to make our habits work for us.

Soft Skills: The Software Developer’s Life Manual

If you don’t know which topic is the best for you to delve into, this book is a good choice to start. It covers a variety of topics related to improving your career and contains a treasure trove of references to other materials that you can use as inspiration to dig deeper.

In contrast to the science-backed books listed above, this one is mostly based on the experience of the author and his search for the best way to succeed.

The Phoenix Project

A fable set strictly in the IT realm. If you have ever worked for a smaller company, even in the role of a programmer, the typical DevOps troubles described in The Phoenix Project will hit close to home.

Even if you work in an environment where these things are the job of another department, you will still be surprised how accurate the fictional situation represents the real finger-pointing that happens when trouble comes, even if everyone is supposedly working toward common goals.

If you are looking for a light and functional introduction to Lean principles, this book is for you.

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Based on extensive research, this audiobook sheds some light on what drives the high performers and why companies such as Google or Atlassian allow their employees to spend up to 20% of their time working on self-devised side projects.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

A leadership parable showing the fundamental dysfunctions affecting the work of teams, and the way to deal with said dysfunctions.

Although it tells the story of fictional characters, demonstrating the point of view of the author, it still makes for a very informative and interesting read. While the target audience was without a doubt people in upper/middle management, any person working in a team—and working in one isn’t optional for a software developer today—can also learn a lot from this audiobook.

Honorable mentions

For bringing new ideas into the world:

For an introduction to Kanban I would also like to suggest Making Work Visible: Exposing Time Theft to Optimize Work & Flow, although it is guilty of the typical blunder of making references to an attached PDF, which defeats the whole point of listening to an audiobook.

If you are working in SCRUM, you may also want to listen to Scrum Mastery: From Good to Great Servant-Leadership. While written with aspiring Scrum Masters in mind, it contains real-life examples and practical tips which can help every Scrum Team member. It underlines the importance of the Agile principle of adaptability and the often misunderstood role of the Scrum Master in the team.

Ready? Go!

Now that you’ve learned about a few interesting podcasts and audiobooks, you will need something you can use to listen to them. Well, thanks to smartphones residing in the pocket of practically every tech-oriented person, this will be as easy as downloading a decent app from your app store and typing in the title of the podcast/audiobook that caught your eye.

Podcast and audiobook apps

Thankfully, the app choice is quite good whichever smartphone OS flavor you use, but to spare you confusion among a plethora of choices, let me give you some recommendations for Android.

To keep up to date with new podcast episodes, I use Podcast Player, which is free (it only contains some unobtrusive ads).

For audiobooks, the two choices I’d recommend are:

  • the official Audible app – Amazon’s sizable library makes the subscription fee worth it, especially if you don’t limit yourself to career-related books; or,

  • Voice Audiobook Player – for listening to books offline in MP3 or any of the other supported formats.

Something missing from the list?

While I am well aware of a variety of high quality podcasts—which is why I’ve limited the selection to the ones directly related to Python—I am always on the hunt for more general software development-related audiobooks!

If you have any suggestions, make sure to hit me up, or even better, leave them in the comment section for others to see and use.

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Author

Maciej Urbański

Python Developer

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