29 October 2004

On Being An Artist

I had an interesting conversation with a co-worker yesterday.
Before I get to that though, here's some background:


  • I'm getting ready to leave the company I've been working at for the past 5 (almost 6) years, and move on

  • There is a major rollout underway currently which I have been heavily involved in, and which is in its infancy.

  • This project, if architected correctly could have a dramatic impact on the company, and completely change the way the business runs.

  • This company has had a pretty rough time of it for the past 3 years or so, and there was recently yet another wave of layoffs.



Bottom line is, at the moment, I'm the only one left of the folks that did the research and initial architecture for this project. So, now that you know all that, back to the conversation.

It went, at one point, something like this:


Me: I'm trying to explain why what we have is wrong, and let you know that I understand what the business is attempting to accomplish, but this needs to be redone before we can do anything.

Co-Worker: Well, you need to understand that I have to take everything you say with a grain of salt, because you're a short timer and on your way out the door. What you're saying may be right, or it may not, but I've got to question what you're saying, because why should you care ?


This was a very interesting question to me, and I've thought about it for the past day. As I've tossed it around in my head I came to realize two things, though I think they are actually the same, just twisted differently:

1. This person has not got any clue how I think.
2. Geeks and Managers will never understand each other.

After coming to those conclusions I realized why I cared.
I'll give you a hint: It isn't because it will help the company.

I care because it's the technically correct thing to do.

See, tech is an artform to me.
Since I have an artistic background, I actually consider it an extension of my talent; basically, 'geek' is another medium for me just like 'pen and ink', etc.

I want this done right because it's a source of personal pride.
My hand is involved in the architecture, so it had better be done right, because to do anything less is insulting to my craftsmanship and ability, not to mention a waste of my talent.

My coworker will never get that, because in his position there's not a burning passion to do things because doing it right is a thing of beauty. It's all about buzzwords, bottom lines, and 'strategic partnerships'.

At his level, it's all about who you know, and which people you do and don't piss off. Anything you need beyond that you get from skimming the headlines of trade mags.

That's why geeks and management don't understand each other.

It's the same reason that an advertising exec can't understand how an artist could spend tons of money on supplies so that they can go sit on a street in the middle of a city, and spend hours, or even days, creating a huge chalk mural which will be washed away in less than a week.

It's not about the money. (or in my case, the company and/or my loyalty to it).
It's about the art.

Maybe you already knew that, but I just figured it out