The most impactful book I’ve read in my career so far

Mitch Malone
2 min readMay 3, 2024
Book cover for “Powerful” by Patty McCord
Powerful by Patty McCord

Since beginning my career in tech I have read many dozens (possibly hundreds) of books on software engineering, design, product management, productivity, and other topics which are more obviously helpful for my career path.

And while I enjoyed many of those books, and of course I learned a lot, there is only 1 book I can say truly had a life-changing impact on me:

“Powerful” by Patty McCord.

This book is far from being considered “required reading” for most people in their tech career. It’s not that it isn’t popular, but the book tends to attract people in leadership roles as opposed to those trying to grow their careers.

Patty McCord is the former Chief Talent Officer at Netflix. In this book she offers insights into the innovative human resource strategies employed at Netflix. While this might feel like it’s targeted at people developing these strategies, even those beginning their careers can use this book as a good for what it means to truly be an A-player at a major tech firm.

Some of my biggest takeaways:

  1. Emphasize Transparency: McCord advocates for open, honest communication within the organization. Transparency helps in building trust and aligning all team members with the company’s goals.
  2. Hire, Reward, and Tolerate Only Fully Formed Adults: Companies should hire adults who are capable of self-managing, taking responsibility for their actions, and making decisions that benefit the business.
  3. Encourage Employee Freedom: The culture at Netflix, as described by McCord, focuses on giving employees freedom and responsibility. They are encouraged to make decisions and are held accountable for the outcomes.
  4. Radical Honesty in Performance Reviews: Netflix’s approach to performance reviews is based on radical honesty, immediate feedback, and dealing with performance issues directly and promptly.
  5. Foster a Culture of Innovation: The book highlights the importance of fostering a workplace environment that encourages creativity and innovation. This is achieved by eliminating rigid processes and allowing people to experiment and take risks.

(Of course, the book goes into detail on all of this. But these are my high-level takeaways.)

So, if you are at all interested in developing your career in tech, both in leadership and an IC capacity, I highly suggest keeping a copy of Powerful on your desk.

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Mitch Malone

Product and engineering leader (prev. CTO @ Linktree, Head of Eng @ BlueChilli). Nomad, remote worker, writer, photographer.