[Oldletter #24] The mythical man month, being a senior engineer and one size fits all databases

Every Friday, I’m sharing a short list of evergreen articles/resources broadly related to software engineering that wouldn’t typically get shared in most tech newsletters or social media feeds.

This week’s links were chosen by guest curator Stephen Kuenzli. Stephen is a cloud security and DevOps expert, author of the Effective IAM for AWS book, and founder of K9 Security, a SaaS product which helps AWS customers better manage IAM permissions at scale.


  • The Mythical Man Month (book) (1995) by Frederick Brooks Jr. Timeless book on the management and delivery of software projects.

    Adding manpower to a late software project, makes it later. Men and months are interchangeable commodities only when a task can be partitioned among many workers with no communication among them. This is true of reaping wheat or picking cotton; it is not even approximately true of systems programming.

  • On being a senior engineer (2012) by John Allspaw. Reflections from the former CTO of Etsy on what it means to be a mature engineer.

    Mature engineers understand the non-technical areas of how they are perceived. Mature engineers have an innate sense of anticipation, even if they don’t know they do. Mature engineers make their trade-offs explicit when making judgments and decisions.

  • A one size fits all database doesn’t fit anyone (2018) by Werner Vogels. Amazon’s CTO covers a breadth of purpose-built databases by use case, citing AWS services and customers.

    The days of the one-size-fits-all monolithic database are behind us, and developers are now building highly distributed applications using a multitude of purpose-built databases. Developers are doing what they do best: breaking complex applications into smaller pieces and then picking the best tool to solve each problem. The best tool for a job usually differs by use case.


Submitting your recommendations

If you’d like to share an evergreen article/book which has significantly influenced your thinking or practice around software delivery, please email it through to me and I’ll add it to my backlog for sharing in future editions.

Have a great weekend!

— Paul

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