Smalltalk and Corporate Cultures

I started programming in Smalltalk around 1986 in Digitalk/V on a PC XT. Since then, I used most commercial Smalltalk products in variety of projects in different roles over time, ranging from a programmer to architect and technical director. I worked in Poland, China and Australia, where I worked mainly in banking insurance and advertising. I have spent last three years in the U.S. working for telecom and utility companies. In Australia I was a founding member of Australian Smalltalk User Group and I co-sponsored its web site. I was presenter in Smalltalk Summer School in Utrecht, 1995.

The presentation is an effort at systematization of experiences from projects involving Smalltalk. The period covered spans more than 10 years on four continents in various organizations, from small to the really big ones in terms of team and budget size. It is also about specific expectations, voiced or not, as to the development of software using Smalltalk could or should be done, most of which had to be adjusted in corporate reality. Apart from sharing experiences and few anecdotes, the focus of the talk is the functioning of Smalltalk and Smalltakers in specific corporate and organizational cultures. There are settings in which Smalltalk is very likely to fail; there are also situations, where Smalltalk as a technology and mindset it supports work very nicely. The objective is to describe identifying features and symptoms both for failure and success with Smalltalk, using the presenter's experiences (mainly) in Australia and the U.S. The intended audience is not only people who manage or lead Smalltalk development, but also Smalltalk programmers who may be reluctant to go beyond the technical. The hope is that these shared experiences may help one avoid death marches and looming disasters; that popularizing Smalltalk may become more effective; and that fashionable approaches in Smalltalk projects, like Extreme Programming, can be examined from the point of view of types of corporate culture they respond to.