Until New Years Eve of 2017 I was a baker; a 5a.m. start time, flour-dusted, fed on coffee and sugar baker. And I loved it. I loved taking flour and salt and water and turning it into something that was so much greater than the sum of its parts. I got immense joy from watching my bread rise, from testing recipes again and again, tweaking every possible ingredient until I had a foolproof recipe in my hands. I also love eating bread and I could write this off as research and study as a baker. So it came as quite a shock to many when I hung up my apron and tucked away my recipe books. But I’ve come to realize that there are skills to be brought over from every industry, even ones are disparate as baker and web developer.
1. Mise en Place
Everything in its place. This phrase is drilled into every line cook’s head the second they step into a kitchen. It means setting yourself up for success. It means making sure you have all the ingredients you need for a recipe before you start or ensuring your workspace in clean and organized. In code, this translates to keeping your desktop and tabs clean when working on a project; making sure that your files are organized and well-labelled; ensuring you have all the relevant information needed before starting to code. Your mise is getting all your images before starting your HTML, it’s organizing your colour palette prior to starting.
2. Prep Lists
At the start of every shift, I would make a coffee and go through my entire station and take stock of what I had and what needed to be prepped and ordered. This probably sounds a lot like a to do list, and it is. But it’s also more nuanced than just a list. I would break mine down by importance and schedule my day so there was so wasted time. As a developer, it means scheduling breaks away from your screen. A mentor of mine enforces a daily walk outside to make sure everyone steps away from their screen at least once during the day. Beyond time management, prep lists are great if only for the satisfaction of crossing items off of them.
3. Taking Heat
Kitchens are hot. That’s to be expected. And hot kitchens lead to hot tempers. There’s a reason Gordon Ramsay is famous for his creative insults. And as much as I would love to say that Hell’s Kitchen is a gross exaggeration of the real world, working in kitchens teaches you to check ego at the door. During a busy service, there isn’t time for “Please,” or “thank you.” If you do something wrong, the expo will notice and they will call you on it. It’s not pretty, and it’s usually not pleasant, but it’s necessary and important.
Developers often have very open online personas. Twitter, Linkedin, Github, CodePen, we are available to the public in a way that was unfathomable a handful of years ago. That means criticism is only ever a tweet or comment away and it can come from anywhere. And while it may be harsh, it is important to understand that criticism is where growth happens. People voicing concerns about your code being messy or inaccessible are key to realizing what you need to focus on. Developing a thick skin is important in most aspects of live, but is vitally important if you’re going to live your life online.
4. Be Part of the Team
As mentioned, kitchens can be a harrowing place to work. They are loud, hot, confined spaces filled with big personalities. The people you work with make or break your work day. You need to trust the people your line, know that they could bail you out of weeds if you needed a hand and they need to be able to trust you. That trust comes from countless hours spent together and it would be unrealistic to expect that kind of trust to be built overnight or even in a week. But you can start on day one. Build relationships with co-workers that go beyond a cordial nod when the day starts. Show that you are reliable and able from the get-go. Even the best developer out there can be made better through collaboration.
Those are the things I’m taking with me into this new world of divs and stylesheets and offices, where there are lunch breaks and coffee breaks and uniforms that don’t involve nonslip shoes. And I’m hoping that these skills will help me (and you) in this new chapter.
Thanks to Patrick Fore, Jessica Lewis, Ilya Pavlov, and Ali Yahya on unsplash.com for the beautiful pictures.