OCT 27, 2016

I'm in the Band

Last Friday, I caught a friend’s band at a local pub. I know how it sounds. “A friend’s band. That’s cute.” Except it’s not like that. This friend is an exceptional guitarist. When he plays, it’s like watching Joe Satriani, Jimmy Hendrix, Slash. His instrument becomes an expression of his soul. That thing screams and wails and takes you on a rock-metal journey that transcends words. Although my friend was “the star,” the bassist and the drummer were clearly accomplished artists in their own right. They belonged by his side.

As I sat there, being led through their instrumental world, something struck me:

They were embodying a Corgibytes core value: Craftsmanship in Context.

What Does That Even Mean?

When I first joined Corgibytes, I – like everyone else – carefully studied our core values. They were all pretty straightforward and easily applied. Except for Craftsmanship in Context. Its definition covered programming, technical discoveries, commits and wikis. The “context” had more to do with ensuring that the work performed was clear and accessible to all who would come across it later.

I practiced that a tiny bit as part of my daily tasks when I would git commit blog posts or web changes. I always made sure my log messages clearly stated what I did. Which was usually ‘Adds blog post’ or ‘Fixed typo’. I wasn’t exactly rocking this core value.

That is until I started looking at it from a broader perspective.

Apple’s Dictionary first defines context as “the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed.” So context can easily be interpreted as an environment. Still, I wasn’t sure how the value applied to my everyday tasks.

Craftsmanship in All Contexts

The place to start was by defining my environment. To me, that meant what I was producing or surrounding myself with. Well, I researched, wrote, edited, scheduled, promoted, kept a close eye on deadlines, sent out reminders, occasionally nudged others into action…

Although my context involved grammar, calendars, creativity and analytics, rather than Angular applications, Rails upgrades and integrations, I could still perform my tasks with craftsmanship.

I, too, can be conscientious and set high standards for my work. That includes: consulting frequently with my colleagues to ensure I understand what they do as best I can; verifying with them if I’m unsure of something; reading up on social media and content strategies; and, taking it one step further, signing up for a programming fundamentals class (where I’m writing my very first JavaScript code!).

All contribute to honing my skills and growing as I too “solve complex problems” (of varying degrees) “with many interdependencies” and perform my work with “transparency,” where I can provide “context” to my colleagues.

While my tasks fall under a different domain than programming, they are still technical and they require special knowledge that I apply with utmost care and thought.

No More “Just”

But to be able to truly adopt the Craftsmanship in Context value, I had to change my mindset.

I have this nasty habit of diminishing the worth of whatever I’m doing by comparing myself to others. I tend to use the word “just” a lot. “I’m just running a half-marathon.” “I just did the research part of this.” “I’m just the content person.” Because to me, the developers all have more important tasks and, therefore, what I do is “just.”

Which brings me back to the band. All three on stage were astounding. And all three were contributing to the overall exceptional quality of this bar band.

Observing their mannerisms and confidence, I’m convinced the bassist did not think to himself: “I just play the bass.” Or the drummer: “I just do percussion.” Each of them demonstrated impressive musicianship. Assuredly, playing with other bandmates of such high caliber motivated each one to constantly reach for new heights, but no one in the group was “just.”

My role at Corgibytes may not be a starring role, like the developers. But by keeping tight reigns on the content schedule, by providing a form of quality assurance, by promoting the amazing things that are being done here – and more –, I do contribute to elevating the organization as a whole. My bandmates are highly-accomplished and they constantly help me expand my context. Indeed, my work supports more than is showcased, but there is no doubt that I am an integral part of this Corgi-band. And, therefore, also embrace and apply Craftsmanship in – my own – Context.