This week my main task for this sprint was can­celed. While not as momen­tous as the can­cel­la­tion of an entire project (I’ve been there too), delet­ing the past week’s work still stung. This isn’t the first time, though, so I know that there are a few things to keep in mind:

You didn’t waste your time

Bottom line: Were you paid for your work? Then your employ­er still sees it as valu­able, if only to make sure that a giv­en line of devel­op­ment was suf­fi­cient­ly explored before deter­min­ing it was­n’t worth con­tin­u­ing. Developing a prod­uct or ser­vice often means say­ing no” to things, and some­times that means cut­ting loss­es before the sunk cost fal­la­cy takes hold.

You probably learned something

Over the past week’s work, I learned about man­ag­ing TLS con­nec­tions (includ­ing sup­port­ing ciphers that are no longer con­sid­ered secure), para­me­ter val­i­da­tion, and XML name­space sup­port in XPath. You prob­a­bly learned a lot more if your project extend­ed longer, and you can use that knowl­edge fur­ther on in your career. Put it on your résumé or CV, and you may get an oppor­tu­ni­ty to work on the same things in the future.

You could continue if you want

Okay, maybe you’re not going to sneak into the office for months to fin­ish things. But as long as you have the time and incli­na­tion, you could con­tin­ue to work on your project, espe­cial­ly if you think it could be valu­able to the com­pa­ny lat­er on. Consider this care­ful­ly, though—you don’t want off-​the-​books work tak­ing time and ener­gy away from your main job.

There’s no shame

Lastly, you should­n’t feel ashamed about being part of a can­celed project. They hap­pen all the time, and prob­a­bly should hap­pen more—history is lit­tered with failed soft­ware projects that like­ly could have cost less if only their prob­lems were rec­og­nized ear­li­er. By its nature, soft­ware devel­op­ment is explorato­ry and dif­fi­cult, and not every idea pans out. As long as you can find some­thing new to work on, you’ll be fine.