Agency at Work pp 291-310 | Cite as

Professional Virtues and Agency at Work: An Ethnography of Software Developers

  • Mira YlénEmail author
Part of the Professional and Practice-based Learning book series (PPBL, volume 20)


This chapter contributes to the discussion on meaningful work by examining professional virtues and agency in the context of software development work. The study referenced in this chapter provides an example of an ethnographic, practice-based research setting. While asking, ‘How do organisational practices enable professional agency?’ the questions, ‘What agency-enabling practices are in the organisation?’ and ‘What kind of professional virtues do these practices enable?’ are discussed. As a result, four practices that enable professional agency were identified: democracy, experimentation, self-directed development and independent project teams. The focus on the moral dimension of work challenges us to think about professional agency in relation to the virtues of a professional practice: This chapter emphasizes that the pursuit of meaningful work is not solely about the asset of universal best practices but also about the virtues important to a particular group of professionals in a particular organisation. As the organisation studied was an award-winning workplace recognized for employee well-being and satisfaction, the findings of this study suggest that one element of a great place to work is the fact that the organisation’s practices provide space for a virtue-driven professional agency, and that these organisational practices have formed with respect to professional virtues. To create a great workplace, organisations should see themselves as spaces for professional agency, enabling such work conditions that it is possible for professionals’ virtues to guide their work.


Professional agency Professional practice Virtues Software development Ethnography 


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© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Vincit/Aalto UniversityTampereFinland

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