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Fave-reads: 5 must-read books for IT career growth

In a world of tweets and webinars, IT pros are still getting some value the old-fashioned way: books.

By Mary Brandel, Network World
December 12, 2012 06:00 AM ET

Network World - Let's face it -- when it comes to IT professional development, books might be the last place people turn. With webinars, online forums, blogs, Web sites, bootcamps and social media, books would seem like a last resort.

"Most of the information I'm getting is online, whether it's headlines through Twitter or pointers to insightful articles posted on a blog," agrees Doug Ross, CIO at Western Southern Financial Group in Cincinnati. "The most digestible content now is coming in the form of fairly short posts or YouTube videos."

Still, Ross says, every so often a seminal work comes along (Nicholas Negroponte's Being Digital comes to mind) that is a must-read. We asked a handful of IT professionals in a variety of industries and job titles to name the books that have influenced their careers. Here is a wrapup of titles to read before the year ends or put on your New Year resolutions list for next year.

George Lasseigne, Director of Technology, Warren Manufacturing, Inc., Birmingham, AL.

1. "The Leadership Secrets of Santa Claus", Eric Harvey, David Cottrell, Al Lucia and Mike Hourigan

There are a few things that made this book relevant to me. First, the timing. It came in the mail (still no clue who sent it or how I got it) soon after I took my first management position. I had no direct reports at the time, but I was managing a number of third-party contractors. What really stood out was the advice to hire and surround yourself with quality people.

Though it sounds like common sense, it really got through to me that it's better to not have anyone at all than to have a "warm body" who's only getting some of the job done. I ended a few of the contracts and had to take on more work than I wanted for a while. However, we were more productive, and everyone -- especially me -- was happier. It's a tough lesson all managers need to learn early.

The other big point was simplicity. I had read a few other leadership books in the past, but most are long and come across rather aloof. This book really hammered home the fact that management is not complex. It really boils down to a lot of common sense and treating people fairly. The hard part is consistently executing and following through on hard decisions.

Donald Roper, Systems Administrator, Greenville, S.C.

2. "The Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong", Laurence Peter and Raymond Hull

I found this book revealing because one of its tenets is that "super competents" will never make it past a certain point unless their boss or their boss's boss doesn't see them as a threat. If you are super competent at your job, it might actually cause you to lose your job simply to maintain the hierarchy of incompetents.

The wild part is that I have actually seen it happen. In my case, it was an incompetent boss worried he might lose his job to a "super competent" who definitely had a much better education and skill set than his manager. The manager rode the poor guy until the guy left in frustration.

Jessica Carroll, Managing Director, Information & Digital Technologies, U.S. Golf Association, Far Hills, N.J.

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