Holiday Season Gifts for Engineers and Managers
A Thoughtful Guide to Holiday Season Gifts for Engineers and Managers
After an intense year, where I mostly wrote about serious topics such as Engineering Management, Leadership, Productivity, Career Growth, and more, today, heavily inspired by this post by, I want to write something a bit different and softer.
Don’t worry, this is just an exception dictated by the holiday season; I’ll be back with my deep dives next week.
As we approach Christmas and a New Year that we all hope will bring more success and happiness to us and our teams, why not express our best wishes to our team with a small gift? Or why not just celebrate our achievements as Engineering Managers?
A great idea would be to gift yourself or your team a paid subscription to this newsletter 😊
To make this easier, I've created a Christmas Special offering a lifetime 30% discount on all subscriptions!
This is an incredible opportunity, so I’d strongly suggest you don't miss it, as it’s rare for me to make this kind of lifetime offer!
If my newsletter isn't on your gift radar and you're looking for something different but aren't sure where to start, don't worry — today's article has you covered!
Here’s what I will cover today:
📚 Learning Gifts for Engineers and Managers
🚀 Productivity Gifts Ideas
👨💻 Remote Working Gifts
📱 Some More Gadgets
Disclaimer: apart from the visual course, from which I'll earn a small fee if you purchase it, I won’t earn anything from the other products or services linked here. They are primarily products/services that I have bought and use daily, and I feel confident in recommending them as gifts. Also, be aware that the prices are indicative and can change over time or vary based on your location.
The holiday season is probably one of the best times to disconnect from your regular job, spend quality time with your loved ones, and take some well-deserved breaks to learn something new. Whether it's a book, a newsletter, or an online course, these all make great gifts for picking up new skills or deepening your knowledge.
Here are some books I've recently read, along with others I read a long time ago but still find incredibly valuable.
Atomic Habits ($13.79) - A practical guide that offers strategies for forming good habits, breaking bad ones, and mastering the tiny behaviors that lead to remarkable results.
Getting Things Done ($7.99) - A book about improving productivity and organization through a simple and effective system for managing tasks and commitments.
Building a Second Brain ($15.49) - This book will teach you how to create digital system to store, organize, and effectively utilize your ideas, projects, and knowledge.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People ($12.32) - A classic in the field of personal development and productivity. It outlines seven habits that can help individuals become more effective in both their personal and professional lives.
Leadership and Management
Radical Candor ($15.34) - A book about effective leadership and communication, focusing on the balance between caring personally and challenging directly in the workplace.
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team ($23) - This book outlines the common pitfalls that teams face, such as lack of trust and fear of conflict, and provides strategies for overcoming these challenges to achieve successful teamwork.
The Manager’s Path ($23.49) - This book offers practical advice and insights for tech professionals navigating the transition from developer to manager, covering various levels of leadership in the tech industry.
Become an Effective Software Engineering Manager ($39.49) - This book, byis designed to help engineers transition into management roles and become effective leaders within their organizations.
Books for your Engineering Teams
The Software Engineer’s Guide Book ($37.99) - By the author of Pragmatic Engineer newsletter (that inspired this article), a comprehensive guide to demystify the Software Engineer career journey.
The Pragmatic Programmer ($39.99) - A guide that covers a wide array of topics in software engineering, emphasizing practicality and effectiveness.
The Phoenix Project ($15.25) - A novel that tells a story about IT and DevOps, illustrating how these practices can revolutionize IT departments and businesses.
As I've mentioned many times, newsletters are quickly becoming one of the best ways to learn and stay up-to-date.
Here are some paid newsletters I read most that are a perfect gift for you and your teams:
Refactoring by($15/month) - Probably one of the best newsletters out there for Engineering Managers, Developers, or people who want to understand more of the Engineering world.
- ($7/month) - If you want to grow into Engineering Leadership roles, this is simply a must read.
- ($5/month) - A great newsletter about leadership, tech culture, mental health, self-development, growth mindset, career growth, high performance, and much more.
- ($5/month) - Weekly newsletter providing actionable advice for software engineers to grow faster in their careers. What I like about Jordan is the conciseness he uses to write his articles.
Scarlet Ink by($12/month) - Another awesome newsletter about career growth, leadership, and hiring that recently moved to Substack.
While these newsletters will add great value, you don’t necessarily need to spend money to learn more during your holiday season. Here are other excellent newsletters that, at least for now, you can read for free:
- - A must read for your Engineers, but also for Engineering Managers who want to stay in touch with technology.
- - A great resource for Individual Contributors transitioning to the Engineering Manager role.
- - Stories, tips and practical advice from a Staff Engineer at Meta.
Explain Ideas Visually ($159) - Many people ask me every day how I create my visuals. I've already shared "my secret" with some of them, but now I'm revealing it publicly. This course is what enabled me to start creating beautiful visuals in less than two weeks, even without any previous knowledge in design.
Start to Stage (
£199.00/ £149.00 GBP with my coupon) - Public speaking is undoubtedly important for an Engineering Manager (I’m also planning to dedicate a newsletter issue to this topic). Pascalle is one of the few professionals I've met who approaches public speaking in a very scientific way, and her video course is incredibly valuable! Pascalle was also kind enough to provide me with a coupon (included in the link) that offers a £50 discount on the course to my readers.
BetterHelp ($60/week) - While not a course, this is one of the most well-known online therapy services. I recently subscribed and must say it's great. Why might you consider therapy? Well, it's not only for those with mental health issues. Sometimes, talking with someone about your problems (both personal and professional) can help clear your mind. Think of it as a sort of mentorship and a perfect gift for starting to reflect during your holidays.
Productivity is key for every Engineering Manager and their team. In this section focuses on tools and gadgets that can help you work smarter, not harder. I’ve included items that I find really boost efficiency and make the workday go smoother.
Akiflow ($24.99/month) - As I've mentioned many times, for a couple of years now, the only to-do list I use is my calendar. Akiflow enables me to do exactly this, transforming my calendar into an easily manageable to-do list. It also offers many other features that, in my opinion, justify the higher price. Additionally, they have yearly plans that can save you a significant amount of money.
Notion AI ($8/month) - While I'm primarily an Obsidian user, I've recently started using Notion more often. I mainly utilize it for my creative process, managing inspirations for my visuals, and creating templates for this newsletter. Notion AI is a fantastic add-on that enhances Notion's capabilities. It can suggest edits, summarize, simplify texts, and much more. Although Notion is available for free, Notion AI is a paid add-on.
Sessions ($69 lifetime while writing) - There are many video-conferencing apps out there, most of which are good for personal use. However, for professional use, they either fall short or become quite expensive. Sessions is a recent discovery that I'm already in love with. It includes all the common features of a video-conferencing service, plus many unique ones like AI Live Transcripts, Takeaways, Q&A, and more. The best part is that you can still get a lifetime license for a very small fee!
As the nerd I am, I own all sorts of gadgets, many of which might be considered unnecessary. However, there are a few that I use daily to boost my productivity, which could also make great gifts for you or your teammates.
Timeflip2 ($59 - get a 10% discount with this code: SIMPLYTFLP10) - When you're balancing a family, a full-time job, a newsletter, growing your social presence, hobbies, and trying to maintain a social life, time-boxing becomes crucial. Timeflip2 is essentially a smart Pomodoro timer that also lets you track your habits and monitor where you spend your time. It has API support and integrates with various apps. If you don’t need the smart functionalities, the Ticktime Pomodoro Timer ($37.99) is an excellent alternative and makes a cool gift for your teammates.
Elgato Stream Deck ($149) - Many engineers are avid users of shortcuts, often having to remember combinations that would challenge even Johnny Mnemonic (hopefully you are not too young to remember it 😀). While the Elgato Stream Deck is primarily designed for YouTube streamers, it’s fully programmable and great for many other purposes. Here are some examples of how I use it:
Note Taking: I use Obsidian, which relies heavily on hotkey combinations. With the Stream Deck, creating my fleeting notes, new contacts, daily notes, and so on, is as easy as pushing a button.
Slack: You can integrate your Stream Deck with Slack to change status, send custommessages, and more, all with the simple push of a button.
👨💻 Remote Working
I have worked remotely for more than 10 years now and wouldn't go back for any reason. While there are a lot of benefits to remote working, it does require you to invest in creating a comfortable space to maximize your productivity.
In previous newsletter issues, we've already covered the basics:
A good chair, like the GT Omega (currently on sale for £99.95!)
Quality and comfortable headphones, such as the Jabra Evolve 2 65 ($265)
These gadgets are all excellent and I recommend them because I use them daily and couldn’t imagine living without them. However, there are also other interesting gadgets that could be perfect gifts for yourself or for those working from home.
Busy Box R ($49) - If you have kids, like I do, you know that telling them you're working doesn't always mean much if you're at home. That's part of the flexibility of working remotely, but it can be problematic when you're on a call or focusing on a challenging problem. With the Busy Box R, you can visually signal to your kids or an intrusive roommate that you're on a call or particularly busy. Trust me, it works!
KEFEYA Laptop Screen Extender ($240) - There are two types of engineers: those who use virtual desktops and those who use physical monitors. I belong to the latter group, and in my home office, I regularly use four physical displays (yeah 4, you read it right 😀).
But what about when you are traveling? The Kefeya Triple Laptop Extender solves that problem by allowing you to attach two portable monitors (which you have to purchase separately) to your laptop.
As I mentioned, I’m a big fan of all kinds of nerdy gadgets. Although I own a 3D printer and print many of them, there are still some I have to buy from time to time. They may not necessarily be useful gadgets, but guess what? They make perfect gifts!
The Ultimate Hacking Keyboard ($320) - This is not just any mechanical keyboard; it's THE mechanical keyboard. Fully programmable, customizable, and splittable, its only drawback is the price.
Inspire Mugs (various prices) - Engineers and Engineering Managers alike love mugs. This website offers inspiring mugs perfect for your everyday coffee.
Printable Daily Planners ($4) -is a fantastic visual designer I've been following for a while. She created these printable daily planners for those who still use pen and paper. I think they're a great gift idea!
Metal Fidget Cube ($21) - I love fidget toys for stress relief, and I often 3D print them. However, the feel of a metal cube offers a completely different experience!
I know this newsletter was a bit different from what we usually do here, and I get that not everyone might like this kind of article. But I think it's nice to sometimes take a break from serious stuff, especially after a busy year.
I also really hope this article gave you some good ideas for your last-minute Christmas gifts, or even a little something to reward yourself for all your hard work and what you've achieved!
✌️ That’s all folks
That's all for today! As always, I would love to hear from my readers (and if you've made it this far, you're definitely one of the bravest). Please don't hesitate to connect with me on LinkedIn and send a message. I always respond to everyone!