There is a trait I have had for a very long time which I only recently consciously realized. It is that I aspire to be a craftsman*. Wikipedia describes a craft as “lying somewhere between an art (which relies on talent and technique) and a science (which relies on knowledge).”1 Something about being at the intersection of art and science has always been intoxicating to me.
I have always liked to create things, and appreciated the art of created things. As a senior in high school I took auto, wood, and metal shop at the same time, all year. It wasn’t just that I was just some student in those shop classes either, I was the top student. So even though generally speaking I was a horrible student in high-school, when it came to a class where I could create, I aspired to be a craftsman.
Some people are content with only learning enough to make a cutting board, and doing that over and over. A craftsman isn’t like that though. They are never content with where their skills are in their craft. They want to know how to use every tool in the shop so that they can create anything and everything. If there is something new, they want to know how to leverage it.
A craftsman is someone who equally values knowledge (what wood should I use), continued learning (how can I make a jig to create this piece), and practical application (creating the piece). Lastly, and I think, most importantly, a craftsman is the type of person who takes personal pride in what they create. They’d gladly sign their name on what they create. Nearly two decades later I’m still very proud of the first place winning quilted maple curio cabinet hanging in my house that I made as a high school student. It is probably the only thing I’m particularly proud of from high school in fact.
But I don’t create much using wood, metal, or socket wrenches anymore. My craft of choice now is software. The heart of software is creating things. Software is an amazing place where you can take the science of math and computers and apply it like art in a way to create something that you can use. And not only can you use it, but because of the economics of software you can basically give it away for free to everyone you know, or even don’t know for that matter.
Professionally, I am a product owner. I thrive on figuring out what to create (knowledge) and working with a team to build what previously didn’t exist (application). I’m drawn to other aspiring craftsmen being on my team. It is my opinion that great software is created by craftsmen.
As a hobby I love to code. Outside of work and family it is the number one thing I do, but I don’t think I could ever do it as my day job. Perhaps that’s because at home I can code just to enjoy the craft. I don’t have to worry about the strategy, deadlines, or other constraints that exist in a business. I can just craft code I find beautiful.
Hopefully in twenty years I’ll still be proud of the nuances of some of the code I write. Just like I do now knowing that my curio cabinet has dove-tail joints instead of dados, and book-matched quilted maple instead of a veneer maple plywood.Filed In: UncategorizedFebruary 13, 2014