Be Valuable

Add value to someone else or myself.

Often software workers can lose track of what's important. To stay employable, stay useful. Think about what is important to other people, not just yourself.

Touted as one the core concepts of XP in HistoryOfExtremeProgramming

KentBeck gave a presentation titled "Be Valuable" to the Computer Research Laboratory as he was leaving Tektronix for Apple Computer. It was a case of rapidly growing engineer meets gradually failing company. Kent was annoyed with the company for being harsh with its own employees once its fortunes plateaued.

Kent was young enough to want to indulge in a "screw you" goodbye speech. Originally conceived of as a litany of complaints, including citing the unfairness of a recent salary freeze, the talk quickly morphed. WardAndKent were used to programming together and tried writing this talk the same way. It became a reflection on fifteen months working together exploring the limits of Smalltalk-80 (few) and the possibilities for methodological innovation (vast). Preparation was a retrospective of sorts. Their surprise was that they had been valuable in every way that their management was attempting to manage value but that their success relied on moving quickly before management became involved. The title, a late addition, became a commitment that guided both careers.

The presentation was packed with members of TekLabs. As the presentation unfolded the lab director's smile became more and more strained. By the end, Kent had managed to insult the people he intended to insult (by recommending practices contradictory to theirs) and inspirit his peers. Like most harsh farewell valedictions, in the end the presentation was probably not worth it.

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