A few months into my time at Seller Labs, I realized that I only ever associated with engineers. I rarely interacted with any other department, and that seemed dumb. What does marketing do? Do they make commercials? Is that Jeff guy like Don Draper? I had no idea.
But I know what you are thinking – I could just, you know, talk to people. But that is absurd. I’m a software engineer; we don’t talk to people on purpose. So, I had to intentionally and consistently put myself in a situation to develop friendships with people outside of the engineering team.
My plan was simple – I had to pick something that I was interested in, start a group at work, and then talk to the people. It would be
really scary great!
At first, I considered running a Dungeons and Dragons campaign for any interested peers. I love DnD, and I run two campaigns already. It would be easy! But I needed to interact with people who were NOT on the engineering team. So that wouldn’t work.
I also considered joining one of our company’s intramural teams. I then remembered why I was in marching band throughout high school, and I knew that would not work either.
But, one day, I was trying to justify another round of book purchases to my wife, and I realized that I could knock out two birds with one stone – I could start a book club! I like reading. Other people like reading. If I started a book club, I could interact with peers outside of my department, push my taste in books on them, and then justify the books as a business expense.
I created a basic literature survey, started a #bookclub Slack channel, and threw the information into our general Slack channel.
Two years later, we are still going strong. Here is what works for us.
On the first Monday of every month, we meet during lunch to discuss the previous month’s novel. We pick our books two months in advance using a simple poll. This allows adequate time to get a copy, and ample time for reading. People can opt in or out whenever they like. It is low commitment, easy to maintain, and a lot of fun.
We have read fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction, young adult, memoirs, short stories, and nonfiction. We have regular members from engineering, marketing, management, and customer success. My scheme has been a resounding success so far.
Here is what we have read:
|Title||Author||Month Read||Recommended By|
|Killers of the Flower Moon||David Grann||Dec 2017|
|A Darker Shade of Magic||VE Schwab||Jan 2018|
|A Gathering of Shadows||VE Schwab||Feb 2018|
|Brain on Fire||Susannah Cahalan||Mar 2018|
|Ember||Brock Adams||Apr 2018|
|Annihilation||Jeff Vandermeer||May 2018|
|Smoke & Mirrors||Neil Gaiman||Jun 2018|
|The Song of Achilles||Madeline Miller||Jul 2018||Caroline|
|An Unkindness of Ghosts||Rivers Solomon||Aug 2018|
|The Golem and the Jinni||Helene Wecker||Sep 2018|
|And Then There Were None||Agatha Christie||Oct 2018|
|The Storied Life of AJ Fikry||Gabrielle Zevin||Nov 2018|
|The Tattooist of Auschwitz||Heather Morris||Dec 2018||Hayley|
|Alif, The Unseen||G. Willow Wilson||Jan 2019|
|My Sister, The Serial Killer||Oyinkan Braithwaite||Feb 2019|
|The Feather Thief||Kirk W. Johnson||Mar 2019|
|Oil & Marble||Stephanie Storey||Apr 2019|
|Twelfth Night||William Shakespeare||May 2019|
|The Wicked Deep||Shea Earnshaw||Jun 2019|
|Norse Mythology||Neil Gaiman||Jul 2019|
|Spinning Silver||Naomi Novik||Aug 2019||Alli|
|This is How You Lose the Time War||Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone||Sep 2019||Alli|
|Fahrenheit 451||Ray Bradbury||Oct 2019||Hayley|
|The Haunting of Hill House||Shirley Jackson||Nov 2019|
|Ninth House||Leigh Bardugo||Dec 2019|
|A Woman of No Importance||Sonia Purnell||Jan 2020|
|The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna||Juliet Grames||Feb 2020|
|The Silent Patient||Alex Michaelides||Mar 2020|
|Lanny||Max Porter||Apr 2020|
|The ABC Murders||Agatha Christie||May 2020|
|Legion||Brandon Sanderson||Jun 2020||Jake|
|The Water Dancer||Ta-Nehisi Coates||Jul 2020|
Seller Labs Bookclub is one of my favorite parts of my job. It is a small time investment for a huge relational return. I have developed friendships with members from every department at the company, which has made me a better, more empathetic engineer. I understand what other departments actually do (even marketing), and I now see how my code directly affects my peers.
If you are interested in starting your own book club, feel free to use my initial interest poll, and monthly novel selection poll. Furthermore, feel free to contact me with specific questions. I am always happy to discuss books!