My Life in Books: Thaisa Fernandes
10 min read
We are delighted to welcome Thaisa Fernandes - a program manager at Twitter and host/producer at the Latinx in Power podcast - for the latest installment in our My Life in Books series. We asked Thaisa to tell us about the non-fiction books that have had a major impact on her life, and we now have even more books on our ever-growing reading list!
Thaisa mentioned that she hasn't been a big reader for most of her life, and also that books are still expensive in Brazil, her home country. She started reading regularly after moving to the United States 7 years ago. She says that it was a life changer - professionally and personally - because she’s been learning a lot with books ever since.
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft - Stephen King
I'm a big fan of Stephen King's work and I was really impressed with On Writing because it’s totally different from what he usually writes. When I bought it, I was looking for a book about writing, and I came across this one.
I learned so many details about King’s life that makes total sense because now I understand better his writing through his life.
I read a review on Goodreads once saying that this book is half memoir and masterclass, and I couldn’t agree more. As English being my second language and the language I work with, I truly value the power of communication written and verbal.
I’m always trying to find ways to improve my writing skills as much as possible. Also because at my work, I write a lot, and my hobby is to share everything I know about product and program management in my blog.
I think this book can bring a lot of value to aspiring but also non aspiring writers. Stephen King talks about the importance of reading and also writing everyday. Especially when you have personal projects, I liked to see his perspective of being able to write and read anywhere he could.
No matter where you stopped, it’s an interesting skill to develop that is the ability to pick up where you stopped.
It was super inspiring to learn the details about the process when he wrote Carrie for example, where we wrote most of it while working in a laundry. King brought this sense that if you want to write well, you’ll need to read as much as you write, and consistency is the thing that will make the difference.
It’s really interesting to read his thoughts and the fears that almost made him not publish his first books.
The Lean Startup - Eric Ries
This is an older book but I think the Lean Startup framework is still super relevant nowadays. Eric Ries tells what happened with his startup and why they failed. I think it’s so powerful when people share their failures and the learnings they got in this process, and what could have been done differently.
The main thing to me is that the Lean Startup framework enables a startup to shift directions with agility and validation. This book is definitely worth reading!
I like how he mentions some interesting techniques like the Five Whys. Ries also suggests breaking the problem into small and tactical chunks.
For example, it may be possible to shorten the product development in a non-polished app, where it’s possible to gather metrics, measure the progress, adjust, and adapt while learning what the users really want before it’s too late.
What was a game changer for me was this sense of it’s ok to fail as long you’re learning, but it’s always important to validate your learnings because if you spend time only learning and not going anywhere, what’s the point?
Eric Ries defines a startup as a company that is dedicated to creating something new under conditions of extreme uncertainty, and he addresses a lot of questions people might have since he created the Lean Startup framework after some failures, and it’s really interesting when he shared his perspective and how a lot of mistakes they committed are preventable.
In the Lean Startup framework, he also covered the idea of rapid scientific experimentation rather than wasting time planning the whole project with lots of uncertainty. Think about startups and how nimble they are and how we should be creative and capital efficient.
I truly believe in this idea if you have the right framework to operate and work, you’ll be on the right path for sustainable business.
Nonviolent Communication - Marshall B. Rosenberg
This book is a must read in my opinion if you are a designer, product manager, engineer, and I’m actually rereading it. My first thought when I heard about the term nonviolent communication was actually confusing because I had no idea of those different ways to communicate your message.
This drills into the fascinating question of how people get better at things. It’s inspired me to pick up new hobbies and attempt to develop skills in places where I previously thought I had no chance.
Violent communication is communicating in a way that may hurt or harm other people. This means that you might be judgemental, defensive, or even preventing the other person from fully expressing themselves.
Nonviolent communication can help increase your ability to live based on connection and meaning. It also helps you to have more empathy, and better relationships.
Rosenberg shows us in detail how we might take action with pre-established concepts to unintentionally not fully listen to the other person. Non-violent communication is the sum of four different things: consciousness, language, communication and means.
- Consciousness is the set of principles that support our life and bring us empathy, a sense of courage that makes us feel responsible for the words and language we use.
- Language means the responsibility we have for what we say and the way we speak. It’s understanding that the way we communicate can bring or distance the other person.
- Communication is the sense that we’re responsible for the way we speak, and we need to know how to ask for what we desire and how to react in case there’s a disagreement.
- Means is the use of our influence or power to bring people together, share the power, and become stronger together.
The Art of Asking - Amanda Palmer
I watched Amanda Palmer's TEDTalk and I was blown away, I guess not only me since it seems 12,516,632 people watched it too. I was a fan of her work already, reading her book made me think a lot about the art of asking and how quite often we don't ask for what we need.
Amanda shares so bravely her story, fears, challenges and humbleness that I love to recommend this book to people.
This book made me think a lot about my culture too, I think Latinx struggles with this idea of accepting help and especially asking for help which is interesting because we love to help those in need.
Another interesting concept she brought in the book was this sense of vulnerability when you ask for help, because the other person has a choice, they can say yes or no, and the possible no might be the most difficult part of it.
I definitely felt more connected to Palmer reading her memoir, I loved how she shared how difficult it’s to look into someone else’s eyes, be real and ask for help when needed. Why are we so afraid to look at someone's eyes? What are we afraid to see? Ourselves?
Why do we expect a yes when we ask for help? Amanda says that when we expect for a yes all the time, it doesn’t mean it was an ask, it was a demand instead. The art of asking is an instructive book to anyone who is not getting what they need.
This is a mandatory book to start being more comfortable with no’s and being humble about your life.
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team - Patrick Lencioni
I read this book 7 years ago when I was studying at UC Berkeley and it really changed me. Patrick Lencioni wrote about a leadership fable where Kathryn Petersen is the Decision Tech’s CEO and her company is facing some challenges.
I love how easy to read it is and how it makes you want to know more about what’s going to happen with this dysfunctional company. What was more intriguing for me was the fact that her team was extremely competent and the conflict wasn’t necessarily always there.
Patrick Lencione talks about how you can discover the problems your organization or team has, and also how to analyze and solve them. In this book, Kathryn Petersen has a team extremely competent with a good product but they’re not moving in the right direction.
Her team is having problems, and a lot of them are not easily perceptible. For example, the team might be agreeing with others, not because they believe in the message but because they’re afraid to disagree. That was something super interesting to hear, because he is right, consensus might not mean anything.
During this CEO journey, she immerses herself in the complex world of her company and finds the five dysfunctions of a team that are inattention to results, avoidance of accountability, lack of commitment, fear of conflict and absence of trust.
I loved this sense that leadership means courage and openness, even the best teams with great products can struggle. Lencioni outlines a model and actionable steps that can be used to solve team problems and help you to foster a collaborative and strong team.
My key takeaway and big lesson is that even with lack of conflict, you and your team can fail. Another key takeaway is that conflict is not necessarily something bad, the existence of conflict can mean you and your team have the opportunity to clarify misunderstandings, brainstorm new solutions, and agree to a common goal.
Thaisa Fernandes helps businesses create awesome products and programs. She’s a Program Manager at Twitter and a podcast host and producer at Latinx in Power. Proud Latina in tech who lives in the San Francisco bay area for almost a decade and loves to road trip.
In her free time, she enjoys reading books, of course, writing in her blog PM101, biking and finding vegan friendly places around the world. If you want to chat more and recommend her a book, feel free to send Thaisa a tweet.
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