From One Expert to Another: Dawn and Shannon Code


Shannon Null Code: I kept expecting to be denied the name change due to some technicality. It became most real to me when I received my new driver’s license. I have actually been surprised by the lack of reactions—apparently “Null Code” is not as shocking as I thought it would be.

Joey McAllister: Now, some readers may be saying to themselves, “Yep. That’s just past where I draw the line.” But, it isn’t like you changed your name to a URL to promote a website for a quick buck (which people have done). This is your way of showing that you love what you do. What are some other ways—perhaps some that don’t involve filing legal paperwork—that you are able to show your devotion to the craft?

Dawn Test Code: The timing of this question could not be more perfect. Shannon and I have been talking a lot this week about craft, after having terrible experiences with subcontractors doing some remodeling in our house and cleaning crews who followed them. It seems the first step is considering what you do as a craft. If you don't take pride in your work, well, then what is the point?

One of my favorite quotes came from a keynote that James Bach gave at STAREAST a few years back. He said that if your job is to do the same thing every single day, all day, then your goal should be to do it samer than anybody else! I love that humorous spin on it.

I think that if people focus on pride in their work, then there devotion to craft shines naturally. I am in this profession because I love it and because it never leaves me bored. I learn as much as I can, and then I use the things I learn (sometimes outside the scope of my day job). Between this deeper, practical knowledge and my enthusiasm, my devotion to my craft becomes obvious not only in my work, but when I talk to others about it.

Being involved in communities—both in person and online—also indicates that your craft is important to you. When you talk to others, you learn new points of view, learn about problems that others encounter that you have not seen, and learn about different ways of solving problems. Given that I am one person and can only experience so much, discussing issues with other people allows me to expand my own understanding with other people’s experiences.

Shannon Null Code: I can always tell when someone loves what they do or, often times, what they want to do. Passion is easy to detect. My first bit of advice is to be passionate about what you love. Treat your craft as a craft, practice it, grow it, and by all means share it. Teaching others what you know is rewarding to everyone involved.

Joey McAllister: This interview is in a software publication, so there’s a pretty good chance that the readers already have a certain degree of enthusiasm for software development. But, what next steps do you suggest to people you meet who are brimming over with excitement for their work and want to take it to the next level? What resources can they use to help them grow?

Shannon Null Code: I have found that being humble and opening up to the fact that I have much to learn was a huge stepping stone for me. I found a mentor that helped me understand my current value and how to fuel further growth. I happened to marry my mentor, which might not be an option for everyone out there.

Joey McAllister: What about those who really love what they do (or what they could be doing) but feel stuck because of a particular project, team, or organization?

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