My 11 Takeaways from the book ‘Build’ by Tony Fadell from the lens of a Software Engineer

Karan Jagtiani
3 min readJun 25


My 11 Takeaways from the book ‘Build’ by Tony Fadell
My 11 Takeaways from the book ‘Build’ by Tony Fadell

Software engineers — the quiet heroes, scripting magic with lines of code, often unsung in the orchestras of innovation. We’re typically not the ones facing the investors or leading the boardroom, but our keystrokes help shape the future. As a software engineer, I’ve always been keen to learn from those who have walked this path before and risen to the helm of technological innovation.

Recently, I had a chance to read a fantastic book by Tony Fadell, the founder of Nest and one of the fathers of the iPod. It’s called “Build,” and it’s an enlightening mix of Fadell’s personal journey and lessons on how to make successful products and companies.

While some parts of the book seem more attuned to startup founders and CEOs, I gleaned some nuggets that are just as relevant for us individual contributors. So, let’s dive into my eleven software-engineer-friendly takeaways from Fadell’s “Build.”

1. Tell a Great Story: No, I’m not talking about the weekend adventures you share with your colleagues. I mean the stories we tell through our products. We may not directly interact with end-users, but our code is the backbone of the narrative that companies present to the world. Let’s make it a compelling one!

2. Create Painkillers, Not Vitamins: Your project might not be the next iPhone, but whatever you are working on, make it a “painkiller.” Ensure it’s something your customers can’t live without, instead of a “vitamin” they could easily skip.

3. No One Knows Everything: Embrace the power of not knowing! We live in an ocean of languages, libraries, frameworks, and algorithms. The day we stop learning is the day we become obsolete. So, keep an open mind, stay humble, and admit when you’re wrong.

4. Transparency Matters: Trust is built on transparency. If you’re stuck on a bug or struggling with a module, don’t hide. Be honest and seek help; remember, it’s about teamwork.

5. Have Fun: Let’s face it, if we’re not having fun, our code probably sucks. Our work should be enjoyable, and if it isn’t, we might be doing something wrong.

6. Find a Mentor: Maybe you can’t find a co-founder or a fancy executive to guide you right now, but finding a mentor in the field can be a game-changer. Someone to learn from, to guide you through the tech labyrinth, and help you grow as a professional.

7. Embrace the Chaos, Then Find Balance: Being a software engineer is like being in the middle of a storm — lines of codes flying everywhere, deadlines hovering around like dark clouds. But don’t forget to find your calm. Take breaks, clear your head, and yes, put it down on paper if it helps!

8. Nurture Your Well-being: Remember to take care of yourself. Good food, regular exercise, meditation, and leisure are not luxuries, but necessities. You are a tech athlete, so fuel yourself like one.

9. Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish: As Steve Jobs famously said, this quote sums up the essence of a coder’s life. There’s always room to grow, to learn, and to improve.

10. Failure is a Stepping Stone: Code didn’t compile? Server crashed? It’s okay! Mistakes are part of our journey. Embrace failure as a stepping stone towards success.

11. Impact is the True Reward: As software engineers, we’re not just coding. We’re creating, innovating, and making a difference. The most rewarding experience is knowing that our lines of code can change the world, one function at a time. So find time to work on building something impactful, it is painfully long, but rewarding experience.

Reading “Build” has been a delightful experience. Even if we aren’t building startups or making high-stakes corporate decisions, the lessons Fadell shared are universal. His journey inspires us to become not just better software engineers but better problem solvers and innovators, capable of building the next big thing!

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is interested in building something great. It is full of valuable insights and advice from a true Silicon Valley legend.