Influential Books

The following are a few of the books which I’ve found impactful in my day-to-day thinking, work and career development since graduating from university.

Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs


  • OKRs are incredibly valuable in their ability to focus an organization or team, but poorly constructed OKRs can do more damage than good.
  • Clear goals and measurable results are a focus mechanism that help an organization scale out.
  • Use OKRs as an opportunity to set stretch goals and aspirational targets instead of sticking with the status quo.
  • OKRs are an opportunity to communicate the why alongside the what.

The DevOps Handbook: How to Create World-Class Agility, Reliability, and Security in Technology Organizations

Of all the books in this list, The DevOps Handbook is the single most influential book and has been a guiding hand in how I attempt to organize engineering processes and teams.


  • Optimize delivery for rapid and small releases to make it easier to debug issues.
  • Structure your teams such that they own and maintain the code you ship to production.
  • You don’t “hand off to ops” after you’ve built the feature.
  • Closely follow and optimize for cycle time and lead time.
  • DevOps is a culture not a job title.

An Elegant Puzzle: Systems of Engineering Management

This is a quick read full of useful learnings over Will Larson’s career.

I would recommend it for new managers.


  • Always be recruiting and have a hiring funnel.
  • Inbound recruiting can be difficult without a strong company brand.
  • You should build up referral networks over the course of your career.
  • Learn to manage and present upwards.
  • Finish fully staffing one team before attempting to build a second half staffed team.

Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility

I genuinely love this book and revisit it often to get an idea for how Patty McCord helped recruit, retain and motivate talent at Netflix.

  • “A business leader’s job is to create great teams that do amazing work on time. That’s it. That’s the job of management”.
  • You need to be great at hiring to also be great at letting people go.
  • Employees are always looking for challenging opportunities and interesting problems to solve.
  • Like the above, people want to learn. Don’t optimize for office perks.
  • Challenge your team(s).
  • Everyone should understand the business.
  • Be as transparent as possible about the success and failures of the business.
  • Annual performance bonuses won’t necessarily make people work harder.
  • Whenever possible remove structure, policies, and process to move the authority to the team. This is very similar to the advice in Turn the Ship Around.

The Phoenix Project

A fun quick read.


  • Interpersonal communication skills are as important as coding.
  • Small changes can snowball across an organization, so chaining together a lot of small wins using a bottom-up approach can be very effective.

Turn the Ship Around! A True Story of Turning Followers Into Leaders

Another quick read with parallels to engineering leadership or leadership more generally.


  • To grant authority to mid-organization teams you need to provide them with clarity and competence.
  • Speak with intent instead of asking for permission.
  • Move from a leader-follower model to a leader-leader model.


A good reference when you are asking yourself what to do as new product owner.


  • Product roadmaps are not necessarily the most effective way of communicating product strategy or long-term needs.

The Hard Thing about Hard Things

One of the earliest books that I read when first promoted to CTO.

Ben’s new book What You Do Is Who You Are: How to Create Your Business Culture is also very good.


  • Peacetime CEO vs Wartime CEO
  • Building tech companies is not as romanticized as it’s made out to be.