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'I Have a Story to Tell' Hero's Journey with Venkat Subramaniam

January 23, 2020

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Venkat Subramaniam

This month we sat down with award-winning PragProg author, Dr. Venkat Subramaniam, to discuss reading, writing, software development and more. His career path will probably surprise you as much as it's sure to motivate you.

On becoming an author…

For Venkat, it all started with what he calls the “journey of reading.” “You always have this fascination for not just the subject matter that you’re reading about but the author behind it,” explains Venkat.

Even though he’d always had “admiration for someone who would invest their time in writing a book,” he never thought he’d actually write a book himself. That is, until he did.

After joining the speaker circuit, Venkat was learning about and presenting on technology. At the same time, he was surrounded by the authors who everybody was talking about.

“It was a perfect storm,” says Venkat. “Having come through the journey of learning from the great authors to be suddenly among the great authors and being the only non-author.”

And then inspiration struck.

Immediately after sending an abstract to a user group, Venkat found himself wondering why he wouldn’t just write a book about the topic instead. After a bit of research, he discovered there weren’t any books on the topic yet. So, he set to work writing the book, and, two weeks later, he had the completed manuscript. As Venkat says, "I just could not get the thought out of my mind.”

And that drive to write his first book was the same force behind his most recent book, Programming Kotlin. As Venkat puts it, “The reason I want to write a book is not because I want to sell a book, but it’s because I have a story to tell.”

On challenges and rewards…

Even before Venkat’s first book was through production, inspiration struck for his second book, Practices of an Agile Developer.

Once again, Venkat had the first draft completed within two weeks, and then he rewrote the book a few more times while traveling back and forth overseas. “Saying [the first draft] was rough around the edges,” laughs Venkat, “is an insult to the edges.”

In Venkat’s opinion, it takes “courage, tenacity, and patience” to write a book. “I don’t want to just publish a book,” Venkat explains, “I want to publish an excellent book … It’s the responsibility of an author to never slack.”

And Venkat certainly practices what he preaches, having deleted a chapter in a recent book four times only to rewrite every single word.

For Venkat, coming up with a great example is the single biggest challenge. Sometimes he’s 90% done with a chapter when he thinks, “Oh my gosh, there’s a much better example that would provide this journey much better for the reader.” And that’s precisely when Venkat says authors have to have the courage to start all over, because there’s simply no other way forward.

Luckily for all of us, Venkat finds great reward in the effort: “It’s not the monetary benefit. It’s not the money in my account. The book is written not for me to become rich. The book is written for somebody else to learn from it. And if they did that, then that amount of toiling I did by writing and reading the chapters was then worth it.”

On career and beyond…

Venkat is an author, a professor, a business owner, a public speaker, and now he’s also launching his own conference, But with so many feathers in his cap, Venkat is reluctant to pin all of his success on a single facet of his career.

“I don’t think one leads to the other as an endpoint,” explains Venkat. “It is a continuous feedback loop … Writing books inspires you to learn topics, give talks, and learn about the next thing.”

That said, Venkat does think there’s something unique about being an author: “A book gives me the intellectual depth that I cannot gain by writing software … Being an author has made me better at analysis. It’s made me better and more thorough in what else I do.”

Any publisher would be ecstatic to have Venkat as their author — and Pragmatic certainly is. From Rediscovering JavaScript and Test-Driving JavaScript Applications to Pragmatic Scala and Functional Programming in Java, Venkat has covered a lot of ground with us.

For Venkat, it’s our tooling, our support and the ability we give authors to be deeply involved with the entire process that keeps him coming back.

“Other publishers put me in the dark and they say, ‘We got this.’ No you don’t ‘got this,’” says Venkat. “I need to look at this. I need to be involved.” And that’s exactly what publishing with Pragmatic gives him.

We know our readers love, appreciate, and can’t get enough of Venkat’s work. So when he says, “Pragmatic Programmers isn’t a publisher. It’s a family for me now,” we couldn’t be more proud.

Complete your collection of Venkat’s PragProg titles today!

Then, start or continue your own author journey by sharing your latest book idea with us.

Upcoming Author Appearances

  • 2020-01-30 Cesario Ramos,
    “A Scrum Book” Course by Cesário Ramos and Jim Coplien
  • 2020-01-31 James O. Coplien,
    Vienna, Austria
  • 2020-02-06 Johanna Rothman,
    OOP, Munich
  • 2020-02-13 George Dinwiddie,
    Agile Charm, Baltimore MD
  • 2020-02-18 Paolo Perrotta,
    ParisRB Conf 2020, Paris
  • 2020-02-20 Michael Craig Walls,
  • 2020-02-24 Ethan Garofolo,
    O’Reilly Software Architecture Conference, New York City
  • 2020-02-28 Michael Craig Walls,
    Greater Wisconsin Software Symposium (NFJS)
  • 2020-02-29 Stephen Bussey,
    Lone Star Elixir in Austin, Texas
  • 2020-03-03 James Stanier,
    QCon London
  • 2020-03-05 Stephen Bussey,
    Code BEAM SF
  • 2020-03-06 Michael Craig Walls,
    Twin Cities Software Symposium (NFJS)
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