Beach reads for IT pros – summer 2022
Vacations and business travel provide ideal opportunities to lean back and take on some fresh thinking. Tech HQ picks out some rewarding books for IT pros and their colleagues at the intersection of technology and business.
‘Crime Dot Com’ – Geoff White
White’s crisply written and well-researched book lifts the lid on hacking and cybercrime, while avoiding the pitfalls that spoil many media reports. Like a skilfully performed product teardown, White manages to disassemble complex topics into their component parts so that readers can see how various attacks were orchestrated and glimpse at the thinking behind the campaigns. Shining a light on the human side of the equation gives the book an edge over typical security bulletins, and will help cybersecurity professionals to better understand their adversaries. It’s an addictive read, and fortunately there’s more – White’s follow up book, ‘The Lazarus Heist’ is a similarly fascinating read, focusing in this case on Nation State attacks.
‘No Filter’- Sarah Frier
Dubbed ‘the inside story of how Instagram took over the world’, Frier’s book serves up a feast of insights into not just Instagram, but also Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and more. Her research is a rewarding read for anyone wanting to know more about what makes social media giants tick, with plenty of discussion on what happens behind the scenes. The FT award-winning book, published in paperback in 2021, will resonate in particular with readers who have had to rapidly scale their operations, as well as integrate into different business cultures through a merger or acquisition.
‘The E Myth Revisited’ – Michael E Gerber
‘The E Myth’ has some universal truths that will prove invaluable to any IT pros who are thinking about turning their tech ideas into businesses. Commercialization is the tricky part of the tech business puzzle, and Gerber’s wise words have been a revelation to many – going way beyond the small business narratives that play out in the book. A big takeaway is his advice to ‘work on the business, not in the business’. Putting in long hours is no guarantee of success, and Gerber’s book gives readers a more sustainable path to follow. He also looks at the skillsets that are required so that founders can make sure they’ve got a balanced team to lean on. Getting the ‘people part’ right can be a major stumbling block for companies – much more so than nailing the tech side of things. And the answer is a simple one, on paper at least – requiring that firms possess a blend of entrepreneur, technician, and manager personalities.
‘Future Drops From Sneakers to AR’ – Elizabeth Semmelhack
Sneaker fans will need no convincing to pick up Semmelhack’s latest book, which is a glossy companion to the Future Now exhibition showing at the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, Canada. But the book touches on a lot of other themes too, which will be of interest to those working in the technology domain. Talking points include the use of more sustainable materials, product design in the virtual world, and collectible items enabled through non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
‘Playing to win: How Strategy Really Works’- A G Lafley
Lafley – who led multinational consumer goods giant Proctor & Gamble (P&G) on two occasions – is an interesting character. He’s a realist who’s good at making choices and cautions companies against trying to be ‘all things to all people’. Lafley advises leaders to think carefully about which markets have the strongest prospects for their firm’s products or services. In terms of metrics, he focuses on customers – specifically, the ability of a company (whatever its size) to create customers and, drilling down further, customers that love the product. Instagram co-founder Keven Systrom had ‘Playing to win’ on his bookshelf, according to Sarah Frier (author of ‘No Filter’, featured earlier in this reading list). And other tech leaders who’ve taken an interest in Lafley’s work include Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel. ‘Play to win’ is co-authored with Roger L Martin – former Dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto – whose ‘Design Thinking’ approach has appealed to some big-name firms over his career. These include Blackberry-maker Research in Motion, and Lafley’s former employer P&G.
‘Technically Wrong: Sexist Apps, Biased Algorithms, and Other Threats of Toxic Tech’ – Sara Wachter-boettch
Making products more appealing is a sure-fire strategy to drive company growth and Wachter-boettch’s book serves as a timely reminder that plenty of blind spots still exist in the design of apps and other IT-enabled devices. The author has gathered examples of where things have gone wrong so that readers can avoid repeating the same mistakes in their work. And, while it may not be the feel-good read that you were hoping to take on holiday, the lessons are important to learn. Cathy O’Neil’s ‘Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy’ is a similarly useful read.
‘The Road to Conscious Machines: The Story of AI’ – Michael J. Wooldridge
Dubbed a ‘myth-busting guide to AI past and present’, Wooldridge’s highly-praised book aims to take readers on a level-headed tour of the technology, introducing the pioneers and sharing the ground truth on what AI is and isn’t. Wooldridge is a professor of Computer Science at Oxford University and was awarded the British Computing Society’s Lovelace Medal, which is ‘presented to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the understanding or advancement of computing’, in 2020.
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