The Missing README front cover

The Missing README

A Guide for the New Software Engineer
by Chris Riccomini and Dmitriy Ryaboy
August 2021, 288 pp.

Download Chapter 6: TESTING

For new software engineers, knowing how to program is only half the battle. You’ll quickly find that many of the skills and processes key to your success are not taught in any school or bootcamp. The Missing README fills in that gap—a distillation of workplace lessons, best practices, and engineering fundamentals that the authors have taught rookie developers at top companies for more than a decade.

Early chapters explain what to expect when you begin your career at a company. The book’s middle section expands your technical education, teaching you how to work with existing codebases, address and prevent technical debt, write production-grade software, manage dependencies, test effectively, do code reviews, safely deploy software, design evolvable architectures, and handle incidents when you’re on-call. Additional chapters cover planning and interpersonal skills such as Agile planning, working effectively with your manager, and growing to senior levels and beyond.

You’ll learn:

  • How to use the legacy code change algorithm, and leave code cleaner than you found it
  • How to write operable code with logging, metrics, configuration, and defensive programming
  • How to write deterministic tests, submit code reviews, and give feedback on other people’s code
  • The technical design process, including experiments, problem definition, documentation, and collaboration
  • What to do when you are on-call, and how to navigate production incidents
  • Architectural techniques that make code change easier
  • Agile development practices like sprint planning, stand-ups, and retrospectives

This is the book your tech lead wishes every new engineer would read before they start. By the end, you’ll know what it takes to transition into the workplace–from CS classes or bootcamps to professional software engineering.

Author Bio 

Chris Riccomini is a software engineer, startup investor, and advisor with more than a decade of experience at major tech companies such as PayPal, LinkedIn, and WePay. He has been involved in open source throughout his career and is the author of Apache Samza.

Dmitriy Ryaboy is a software engineer and engineering manager. He’s worked at a variety of companies and organizations, including Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Cloudera, and Twitter. He helped create and grow multiple open-source projects, including Apache Parquet. Dmitriy is currently the Vice President of software engineering at Zymergen.

Table of contents 

Chapter 1: The Journey Ahead
Chapter 2: Getting to Conscious Competence
Chapter 3: Working with Code
Chapter 4: Writing Operable Code
Chapter 5: Managing Dependencies
Chapter 6: Testing
Chapter 7: Code Reviews
Chapter 8: Delivering Software
Chapter 9: Going On-Call
Chapter 10: Technical Design Process
Chapter 11: Creating Evolvable Architectures
Chapter 12: Agile Planning
Chapter 13: Working with Managers
Chapter 14: Navigating Your Career


“This is an impressively thorough overview of the many skills a new software engineer will need to learn, beyond coding, to be successful in the job. A great book for new college grads and those just entering the profession who want to see what the next phase of their career curriculum will be.”
—Camille Fournier, former Vice President of Technology at Goldman Sachs and author of The Manager's Path: A Guide for Tech Leaders Navigating Growth and Change

"The Missing README is exactly the book I wish I had when I started my career. Fun to read, full of sage advice and priceless stories. It is like having coffee with a senior mentor, except you don't even need to come up with the right questions. Very useful for engineers early in their career, and senior engineers who wonder what they missed."
—Gwen Shapira, Engineering Leader at Confluent

"The Missing README is an excellent practical introduction to the day-to-day realities of software engineering in the 21st century. It covers the wide range of essential skills, techniques and heuristics that you'll need to be an effective part of any team that builds, deploys and operates production systems."
—Adewale Oshineye, Developer Advocate at Google and co-author of Apprenticeship Patterns

"This book puts together all the things you don’t learn on your own starting out. The information is well organized and a pleasure to read. I will be giving a copy to all my interns and new college grads."
—Thomas Hanley, Senior Engineering Manager

"An accessible, handy guide to practical aspects of being a Software Engineer . . . The clear, Readme-style writing makes this book an excellent reference for any level Software Engineer from Intern to CTO."
—Tim Burns, Data Architect

"The Missing README provides practical and actionable insights for both new and seasoned developers. The authors cover, in detail, how to expertly navigate widespread obstacles software developers will encounter at any organization they join. This book is the README we all need."
—George D., Advanced Reviewer

The Missing README is like having a mentor on hand to give how-to tips and general encouragement. The book acknowledges that it will not describe every workplace or every situation, but the lessons offered should prove useful to both junior engineers and those already on their career path. For undergraduate students it could serve as a textbook for the things you don’t learn in Software Engineering Class . . . I plan to incorporate the chapter on 'Learning to Learn' as part of my lesson plans because I am always happy for my students to hear advice from another source."
—Mary Moore, Professor of Computer Information Systems at West Virginia University, Advanced Reviewer