On Pedigree

On Pedigree

Sue Kim

January 30, 2013

Lately, I've been learning a great deal about pedigree.

It's a learning that actually began in my teenage years. Back then, I used to spend summers at my aunt's country home. My aunt was a person surrounded by stories. Wherever she went, stories preceded her entrance - and collected in her wake. In society, she was a respected, prominent educator. To me, however, Auntie was just a super nice lady who laughed a lot. I knew her by her habits, not her accomplishments.

A few years ago, a friend said "Tell me about your aunt."

I felt embarrassed that after all those years of knowing her, I knew next to nothing about her educational initiatives. All I knew was the little things.

Like how she always glued tiny red bows onto her slippers

to distinguish hers amidst a sea of nameless slippers - used by countless guests - at the door.

And how she was up by 4:00 AM every day.

I never-ever-ever saw her stay awake past 9:00 PM. After dinner, people would sit around chatting and laughing. Invariably at around 8 o'clock, Auntie would stand up to go to bed. Instead of carrying on without her, the party would just end. I've never seen anyone command by example the way she did.

She always walked with a stick.

"That's your pedigree!" my friend exclaimed. "No one else has it - it's in you!"

The dictionary definition of pedigree

connotes upper class distinction. Looking more closely at what the American Oxford has to say, however, one can see that pedigree is any background that confers quality. Thanks to my friend, I re-conceived this thing called pedigree. At 8th Light, I learned how pedigree works in action.

Pedigree is not about amassing fame, notoriety, or status. The way I see it, pedigree is actually a series of small tiny habits engrained through close proximity over a long period of time. A certain unconscious background-learning that gnaws at us constantly.

And what is your pedigree?

By this I don't mean what prestigious school did you attend. Or what famous company did you apprentice at. Right now (this very minute!) we as software professionals are being trained. We are trained by the company we keep, our daily teachers. It might behoove us to stop and think "Is this the training I want to receive?"

So. If you could design your own pedigree, what would it be like?

Do you want a pedigree that signed the Agile Manifesto? One that values quality over greed? One that's masculine - or feminine? How often should your pedigree cycle through cutting edge technologies? How should it view the future? What are its daily practices and expectations? Should it be didactic or experimental, mean or nice, fast or slow? Arrogant or thoughtful?

15 years from now, as you look back on your background, will you be happy to have exactly the pedigree that is slowly forming inside you this very day? If the answer is no, then why not go out and get the pedigree you want?

Mold your background into what you need it to be. Find your best teachers. Enlist your best mentors. Because now more than ever, the world needs your craftsmanship. It needs you at your very best.