In 1984, my first job after college, I was hired as an associate mathematician, and given the responsibility to write software that would model the Earth's rotation. The personal computer was a fairly new thing and there were no software development tools like there are today. During those times, you simply had to write and test the code on your own until it worked. I was a young graduate from an HBCU, competing, not so much, with graduates of "elite" schools. For most, the assumption is that those kind students would do better than me. Well, no one had written the software yet. I'm not sure they thought I could do it, but by the grace of God and hard work, I finished the code, they tested it, and things worked out well. My value to the company was clearly demonstrated - so I thought.


An older gentleman pulled me aside and asked, "Are you getting credit for your work? Is your name on the report?" I didn't know to do that. I had no sense of how the game was played, and simply wanted to do my best for the glory of God and for the paycheck. This crafty Black-American veteran educated me on how to work within the system without being consumed by it. He helped me understand my marketplace value.


Once I completed my master's degree, I talked with others who had recently received their master's degree but had no work experience. This gave me a sense of what the market would bear in terms of salaries for recent graduates. Having been in that position for over two years, clearly my value was greater than the value of those who had never had any work experience. Or so I thought.


When I graduated, they offered me a salary that was less than the entry salary of another mathematician who had recently received his degree but had no work experience. It was clear that they had a misunderstanding of my marketplace value. I went all the way to the top of the organization to argue my case for an appropriate salary, and they did not budge. In 1986, right after my conversation with the senior leadership, I walked away.


Value is determined by values.

I can't say what the values of that company were, but one of them was not fair pay based upon experience and performance. There was some other value, spoken or unspoken, that was at play regarding me. Those values determined my value to them. On the other hand, integrity, "just balances", honor, these are some of my values. And the company lost value to me when they did not demonstrate my values.


What are your values? What are the principles you hold dear? What are your nonnegotiables? Answer these things and you will know how you determine value.

Regarding your value, here it is:

You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men.

- I Corinthians 7:23 (NASB)


Since God was willing to pay the ultimate price for you, you have ultimate value. There is nothing in the universe, apart from God Himself, worth more than you. So, live at the level of your value.