What to Know Professional Programmers Playlist

Pete’s Professional Programmers Playlist

In the video above I tell you a short story of why my professional programmers playlist matters. When I see someone do good work, I feel obliged to acknowledge their valuable service. In just 1.5 hours you’ll get the essentials of some of the best work I’ve seen over the years. The books and videos I recommend are an endorsement of that specific work. It doesn’t mean that I therefore agree with the most outrageous things the author has ever proclaimed. We live in strange times where it’s necessary to make that clear.

If you can’t take a joke, I can’t take you seriously

Peter Whelan


What does every successful tech company have in common? Google, Apple, SOTI.  They all invest in research and development.

To enjoy a great career, think of the time, money and effort involved in educating yourself as your personal R & D investment.

If you’ve chosen programming as your career then my professional programmers playlist is for you. You’re doing something important, you’re building the future. 

I’m Peter Whelan and my entire career has been in IT. I’ve hired, trained and managed dozens of programmers and IT professionals.  I’m a computer science grad and I’ve passed over 30 Microsoft certification exams. 

In this playlist, I share with you the books that have helped me become a better programmer.  You remember books, right?   It’s fun and exciting to learn ideas, to have that aha moment when you understand a new concept. These books gather years of expert experience into something you can read in a weekend or two.  Study these and you’ll advance rapidly in your career.  

I’ve studied hundreds of books.  It amounts to over 10 years of full time study. I make an episode of my “What to Know Show” for the few books that I recommend, so that saves you a lot of time.

I’ve read these books cover to cover, took notes and re-read them. Books changed my life. They don’t care who you are or where you’re from. I grew up in a ghost town.

My dad was a hard worker who told me, “Nothing will serve you better than a strong work ethic”. When I was 15, I dug his grave. Then I went to work on a cement crew. I knew how to drive stick and learned to operate the dump truck.  I figured I’d be a heavy equipment operator.

Then my high school got a mini computer, the DEC PDP 11/10.  I read the manuals that came with it and taught myself a lot.

Have you given up on the idea that you can improve your skills? Books don’t care where you are starting from.  You can open them, read them and learn. Reading, and rereading, good books is time well invested. 

We’re living in a golden age for self motivated learners like you and me. You already know this. Excellent videos and podcasts are available. Thanks to lifelong learning, I’ve seen professionals surpass the ability and the compensation of university educated MBA’s  

Some things you spend money on and the money is gone. Invest in educating yourself and you get it back many times over.  It’s important.

Do you feel it’s your employers responsibility to train you?  If they’re doing so, great! Consider this. Are someone elses goals for your career, more important than your own?

Your career, your life, is your responsibility, so take it seriously. If you want to!

Can I tell you a story? Priyanka and Greg are hired as programmers right out of college. Both of them straight A students start at $40,000 a year. Their manager, lets call him Peter, gives each of them a copy of “The Clean Coder” by Robert Martin. “Take this home and read it. It’ll get your career off to a good start.” He says.  They each say “Thank you, I’ll do that”. 

Priyanka reads the whole book over the weekend. Greg goes home and complains to his mom “You won’t believe how demanding my boss is. He told me I had to read this on my own time.” He tosses the book aside.  A year later, it’s performance review time. Greg managed to avoid reading or learning anything outside of work, but he did his job. He gets a five hundred dollar raise. He’s not impressed and neither is his manager

Priyanka acted on the advice in “The Clean Coder”. She invested ten hours a week of her personal time studying and practicing her craft.  In a year, that amounts to two months of full time effort. Priyanka is a happy professional, the kind of person that enjoys improving and that I enjoy working with. She pushes back when deadlines are unrealistic or requirements are unclear. She earns a three thousand dollar raise.

Ok, so what happened there? Priyanka got a three thousand dollar raise after doing over five hundred hours of extra work. Now, I know what you’re thinking. That’s only six dollars an hour. Now you’re thinking, that guy does math fast. Greg got five hundred without doing anything extra.  But, that’s not the end of my story. 

Fast forward five years later, Priyanka has five years experience

Greg has one years experience, five times over. Despite repeated encouragement, he hasn’t read a single book or completed a course in five years. The economy has tightened up and his manager has to let someone go. Greg gets two months working notice. He finds that the market has changed. He doesn’t have the skills employers are looking for. After 3 years of college and 5 years of work, he gets into a field he’s better suited for.

Priyanka on the other hand, has the equivalent of two years of full time study over the last 5 years. She’s learned a lot in that time. Imagine how much she’ll learn in 10 or 20 years. Her salary has risen to 70 thousand a year. Her manager had to defend keeping Priyanka over Greg. Why keep the higher paid person when cuts are made? Won’t you save more money by cutting the highest salaries first? 

Here’s the thing. Priyanka produces more revenue than she costs. Cutting her would damage the company. Now, why am I telling you this? If you’re a programmer, be a good one. You didn’t get into this field to be mediocre. You watched this far, you’re curious, you’re learning, you’re one of the good ones.


Be the best you can be, if you want to.  

You may be thinking I’m out of line with my story.  To make my point, I compared two fictional people.  In reality, comparing yourself to other professionals IS a bad habit.  Compare yourself to where you were yesterday or last week or last year.  That’s a useful comparison.  Think of how much you have already learned that you didn’t know when you started.

By studying what these professionals have to say, you’ll raise your understanding of the best practices in programming. You’ll learn from them, as I did. You’ll build a circle of competence. When you’re competent, it overcomes biases that people have against you. You may be discriminated against due to your age, gender or your personality. Smart business people ask “Can you get the job done?”

You’re going to spend your life working in your career, you might as well be productive. It matters. You matter. If you read these, I’d love to hear how it worked out for you. My intention is that this enriches you, as it has me.

Thank you for watching.