How do you share your craft?
by, July 31st, 2010 at 11:34 PM (1121 Views)
This week I had a moment to beat myself up. OK, so not everyone thinks that I was actually needing to beat myself up, and they are probably much more correct than I am. I love what I do and I love to talk about it. My wife usually gets glassy eyed as I tell her about work (she's not a theater person, never has been). In fact, besides my family, my work is my life. I spend more time on CB than I do any other site.
Anyhow, I have never had any qualms about teaching people how to do what I do. Granted, I may not be the best teacher in the world, but what I do have is plenty of patience and creativity. If you give me enough time, I will find a way to get my message across. Obviously, when I teach a workshop, I don't have that luxury and plan more than what I ever feel that I can accomplish teaching. I do that so if I get it right on the first try, I don't run out of material.
I know many stagehands who are leary of sharing what they know. They either feel threatened by someone else knowing their skills and feel that they might not get as much work or they simply don't like to work with certain people. The second type is the easiest to change their mind. Basically if you share what you know with those you don't like, knowing that you will have to work with them anyway, that means that you will give them the skills to get the job done quicker and more efficient so that you have to work with them less! On the other hand, convincing someone to share their craft who fears losing job opportunities is much more difficult. Most of us have lost out a job to someone we have trained. Honestly, I can't even tell you how many of my own managers that I have had to train to be my "leader" over the years. That can be ultimately frustrating. Sometimes they are in that position because I didn't want it and at other times, they may have had some crucial skill that I actually didn't posess (stupid advanced degrees).
Right now, I have a skill set that is less common in professional theater by being a projectionist. I know of many technicians who would revel in having a skill that puts them above the competition. Frankly, it is kind of nice. While trying to get a job as an electrician can be difficult (something about a dime a dozen?), being well versed in video technology is not something that they even teach in most colleges. So, when I was recommended for my current job, I was on an extremely short list of candidates. I was told later that by the time I came up for my interview, I was essentially the only candidate based off of phone conversations before the interview. Shouldn't I want to protect that edge? No. At least that's not in my nature.
Here's my thought. If I am the perfect candidate for my job, and no one else can do it, then I am stuck where I am and will never have the opportunity to advance. If I make sure that others can do my job as well (probably not better since I will be more experienced, but who can say), then I have the opportunity to explore greater opportunities. While I'm not sure that I want to be in management again (I really kind of like working shows), I know that some day I might change my mind. I really might want to retire some day and just do this as a hobby (/wishful thinking). Without making sure that there are qualified technicians to fill my shoes, that is not as likely. Also, there are plenty of times when I am in a time crunch (aren't we all) in setting up for an event. If I have trained other people to know what I do, I can delegate responsibilities and not have to work as hard (I am lazy after all, more on that later).
In this past week, I have had a couple opportunities to help out others. The first is the one I started this blog about. I was leaving my show and a high school student stopped and asked me what I did on my show. I ended up spending about twenty minutes talking with her and her family about technical theater, both trying to inspire her and talk to her about the realities of this business. Granted, I only talked to her for a short amount of time, so I didn't get into too much detail. What I beat myself up for was that I didn't think to offer a quick tour. I don't know what kind of technology is in HS theater these days. I know that it runs the gamut and some schools probably aren't much better off than I was 20 years ago. However, I can pretty much say that we have some stuff that they will never have. Did I need to take them back? No. On the other hand, I felt that I missed out giving her a possible once in a lifetime opportunity. So, while I haven't lost any sleep over the matter, I do feel guilty for not thinking about it at the time.
The second one is more pressing. I was recently asked by our technology manager to start training all of our electricians in the ways of video. He had heard about some presentations that I had made up for the interns so that it would be easier for me to work with them when they were scheduled to be with me. Wait, what? I now have to teach that unique skill that sets me apart from the rest of the crew? OK. I'll do it. My biggest problem is that I learned on the job. Sometimes, I learned by trial and error because I had worked for a company who took no stock in training its technicians at all. So my biggest challenge is kind of like whtn I went from high school into college, I have a great understanding of how to do it myself, but I need to learn proper terminology so that I can teach it. The biggest reason that this is setting up to be more difficult than what I do with my own crew and interns is that I need to teach about technology that I'm not currently using. Man am I glad that there's the internet.