Top 7 Podcasts for the modern software developer

As a modern software developer you should always look out for ways to improve yourself as a programmer, architect and human being. Being a professional software developer is being a lifelong learner!

I found a very good medium for self-improvement to be podcasts. I like to listen to them on my commute. The thing where podcasts (and audiobooks for that matter) trump traditional books, blogs etc. is: you don’t need your eyes for them! You can listen no matter if you drive with your own car, ride your bike or use public transportation.

In this week I share with you my personal top 7 podcasts every modern and driven (.NET) developer should subscribe and listen to.

Most of the ones below fit into a 15-30 minute commute so if you have a job and don’t work from home you have no excuse not to learn from them. Even if you work from home you most likely have household chores to do. I often fit 2-3 episodes into washing dishes, mowing lawn or cleaning.

Some make you think and reflect yourself as a person, some simply dig deep into hard skills and some do not seem that deep at all at first glance, but hide very valuable insights under a fa├žade of humor or casual chatting. The order is not necessarily a rating or prioritization of any kind. If anything it is a very vague order of the felt influence they had on my professional life.

Developer Tea

Quick facts:

  • Site: https://spec.fm/podcasts/developer-tea
  • Schedule: 3 times a week
  • Single host: Jonathan Cutrell
  • Duration: mostly short episodes (6-20 minutes), sometimes he does interviews spanning over 1-2 episodes of 50-60 minutes
  • Field: Soft Skills

Jonathan Cutrell is a bright, young CTO with a healthy and calm attitude.

Three times a week he publishes mostly short episodes that, as he states it, “help driven developers, who want to level up their career” on their way to being great developers. His content is mostly inspirational and gives you tools to reflect on yourself as a person and your actions. Often he also gives practical tips and psychological tools to achieve your goals.

He makes sure to keep a calm attitude and tries to be a role model as an open and listening CTO. I firmly believe that he helped me get rid of some bad habits and helped me understand so much about social interaction and how to be productive as a team, even though it is often hard to say what exactly I learned in an episode I always feel a little more conscious and reflected afterwards.

His content is mostly evergreen, so it is definitely no waste of time to start from the beginning and go through the back catalogue to look for anything that sparks interest.

He also answers questions on the show and lately he started a format he calls 3×3, meaning one week (3 episodes) of about 3 practical and concise tips each.

He also does interviews from time to time, but I don’t think that is his strength. There are lots of interview formats out there and Jonathan is great and unique at his type of bite sized episodes.

Also he and his podcast are members of the spec.fm podcast network, which might be worth a look.

Simple Programmer

Quick facts:

  • Site: https://simpleprogrammer.com/podcasts/
  • Schedule: finished – no new episodes, but over 700 episodes of mostly evergreen backlog
  • Single host: John Sonmez
  • Duration: mostly short episodes (5-15 minutes), sometimes he does interviews of 50-60 minutes
  • Field: Soft Skills

John quit being the face of Simple Programmer at the end of February 2018, but he left us with more than 700 episodes of mostly evergreen content.

Most of his podcast episodes are the audio track of YouTube videos he did for Simple Programmer (now his channel is called John Sonmez.
John’s work as a life coach is focused on soft skill advice on career, life & fitness. Before doing the Simple Programmer Podcast he hosted “Get up and code“, which also is worth looking into the back catalogue, even though I lost interest after the change in host.
The Simple Programmer Podcast is a great tool if you want to get more productive, successful, better at managing your time or simply a more open and honest person.
By following those ideals he forms you into a more capable human being and developer.

Simple Programmer is focused mostly on soft skills and self-improvement on a human level. They have lots and lots of content in the form of podcasts, a YouTube channel, blog posts and courses. The central hub to all those things is the simpleprogrammer.com site. Throughout all the > 700 mostly short podcast episodes the basic theme is “get your shit together and stick to your goals and processes” using tools from psychology, philosophy and pragmatic, practical thinking.

From time to time John interviewed people, including big names like Robert “Uncle Bob” Martin.

Most of Simple Programmer’s content is free, like the blogging course that inspired me to start this very blog!

Maybe you would like to give it a try as well. I can only recommend it.

Most of their courses, videos, podcasts and blog posts are evergreen and useful at any point in time and your career, so search for things that interest you or do what I did and start at the beginning and skip what does not concern you (not much in my case).

Hanselminutes

Quick facts:

  • Site: https://hanselminutes.com/
  • Schedule: weekly
  • Single host: Scott Hanselman
  • Duration: usually around 30 minutes
  • Field: Mostly hard-skills and current topics circling around Microsoft

Hanselminutes is the podcast of Scott Hanselman. He does mostly interviews with either the guest or the topic having a relation to Microsoft, where he works. His guests often have some degree of prominence in the development community or the computer science academia.

I like his style very much and he is very good at picking people and topics that give developers a good overview of what currently is out there and what is next to come, while also having non-degrading topics. On the downside this means, that a portion of his content is objective to becoming dates within a couple of years of even months with topics like “The State of Virtual Reality 2016” or the presentation of fresh new JavaScript libraries.

Software Engineering Radio

Quick facts:

  • Site: http://www.se-radio.net/
  • Schedule: 3-4 episodes per month
  • Rotary Staff: usually single host + guest or two hosts
  • Duration: about 40-80 minutes
  • Field: Mostly hard-skills in monothematic episodes

Software Engineering Radio is easily one of the longest-running series on this list. They started in 2006 by explaining hard computer-science topics like specific algorithms and concepts like OOP, concurrency, SOA or agile. The early episodes lack from strong (often German) accent and slow speech (the first about 100 episodes where the only podcast I routinely listened on 1.5-2x speed) and some have a very low-volume.

Later the topics were less hard computer science and often involved prominent and/or successful engineers being interviewed about their special field of work and often give a fresh look on best practices or even some new emerging fields of tech.

They always kept a high level of quality in their content and often can be even used as secondary literature besides a university course for individual problems. Usually they dig deep into their topic and that’s why they have a little longer episodes than most of the other podcasts on this list.

The rotary staff is quite big with a current league of hosts consisting of:
Kishore Bhatia, Nate Black, Kim Carter, Matthew Farwell, Felienne, Bryan Reinero, Edaena Salinas and 16 Alumni and guest hosts in the back cataolg.

.NET Rocks!

Quick facts:

  • Site: https://dotnetrocks.com/
  • Schedule: weekly
  • Two hosts: Carl Franklin & Richard Campbell usually together with at least one guest
  • Duration: about 45-65 minutes
  • Field: Mostly focused .NET hard skills & news

This is the other dinosaur in this list. .NET Rocks started in 2002 and produced over 1525 episodes (by march 2018).

While neither seems to be directly working for Microsoft they both are prominent figures in the .NET world. They have a huge body of work, a wide range of guests and an equally wide range of topics. The one thing all have in common: .NET and/or C#. Not always directly like when talking about C# in general with Jon Skeet or Xamarin development, but sometimes fringing on it like possibilities to use Docker in a .NET stack or talking about UX Design.

They always present their show with a wink with reoccurring segments starting with signature phases like “You know what time it is?” “Oh it must be that happy time again!”, so even longer interview episodes feel half as long and very structured.

This one is great when you want to know what’s happening in the .NET world and be entertained while listening as well.

Soft Skills Engineering

Quick facts:

  • Site: https://softskills.audio/
  • Schedule: weekly
  • Two hosts: Dave Smith & Jamison Dance
  • Duration: about 30 minutes
  • Field: Mostly answering sent questions about soft-skill problems and difficult work place situations

Dave & Jamison answer about 2 questions about soft skills & professional life every week in a casual to comical tone. But do not be fooled by that tone. The topics they handle often are very serious and important for the daily life of most professional software developers (especially employee devs). Once you learned to listen past the “just quit your job” that by now is the first go-to solution, before digging deep enough into the question to get a more serious response followed by a content “question answered”.

Actually often there is a very deep insight and even some personal revelation hidden below the surface, just like Kabarett does with political issues in satire.

Like .NET Rocks this does not feel like a learning experience, but yet it gives you timeless soft skill advice without effort, but with fun.

Does not Compute

Quick facts:

  • Site: https://spec.fm/podcasts/does-not-compute
  • Schedule: weekly
  • Two hosts: Sean Washington & Paul Straw
  • Duration: about 30-45 minutes
  • Field: Mixed topics from the professional life of a software developer

Sean and Paul do a wild mix and match of all parts of the professional developer’s life and career. Most episodes appear as a free and seemingly improvised discussion about one broad and loose topic or situation with lots of tangents and side-tracking.

They do keep a casual tone most of the time without edging on comedy, but make the podcast feel like listening some friends or colleagues talk over lunch or in the coffee break; which is how it all started if I recall correctly.

Often their topic comes from their own lives relating to their experiences or relating to stories they heard or read. This is probably the most human podcast in this list, reminding you that yourself as well as your colleagues are people after all. Everything has two sides to it, not everything is pristine and clearly distinguishable and not every problem has a solution. Yet, it is worth talking about every notable thing in your life!

Honorable mentions

These podcasts have some great content, but I am not familiar enough with their regular style or level of quality and content to do proper recommendations on them; if you’re still looking for more you should try them out as well:

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