Humility in SW Engineering

There are many people in the business world who will tell you that you need to take pride in your work. But I think you can be much more successful with humility, the opposite of pride.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting you should not get a sense of accomplishment in a job well done or that you should not do a job you would not feel good about showing to anyone.  I am saying that pride can make you stubborn and unwilling to take constructive criticism. Pride can blind you to what may be a better possibility or solution. Pride can keep you from learning a better way.  And pride has no place in active collaboration.
Take refactoring for example.  Refactoring is a great agile pattern for streamlining your code or cleaning out unused features to make room for new functionality.  But if you are too proud of that little trick you did to get that line of HTML to render the way you wanted it, you may find yourself unwilling to part with that function and holding on to it past its usefulness.  A humble programmer will know they can let it go and make way for a new function.  Besides, you can always dig it back out from source control if you want it for reference later.
Humility can also help you move forward faster. Sometimes we hesitate to ask for help when we hit a problem and spend time spinning our wheels when just asking the right engineer would push us past the roadblock.  None of us want to look like we aren’t capable of doing our own job, but we are meant to work in a team and succeed as a team. And often your teammates may have similar problems that you will find you can help with.  While you do need to be sensitive to others need to get their own work done, just being humble enough to ask for help when you need it can lead to success.

UPDATE: As I’m now a scrum master, I’ve started skimming through books and materials to look for ways to get good at it and succeed. I ran across Scrum shortcuts without cutting corners and shortcut 4 seems to relate directly to what I was saying in this post. 🙂

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