How do you tell a master craftsman?

I asked my 12-year old son today what it means to be a craftsman and a master craftsman (of any profession). Then we went on to discuss how you can tell that someone is a master craftsman. I find his answer illuminating:

  1. They should be able to talk their craft and, if you’re not a master yourself, they will lose you and go over your head and talk about things you don’t understand. This was from a child’s view, but I interpret it as “They must be able to talk up their craft”.
  2. They should be able to create a sample on demand. He was thinking about small crafts when he mentioned it, but when we talked about bigger things (like skyscrapers), we decided a small test problem would suffice.
  3. (and this I think is the most important one) They should show you their previous work. They should be able to say, “Look, I created these high quality things in the past, so I can create high quality things for you in the future.”

The book Software Craftsmanship book mentions that to be a master, you must have a masterpiece. To claim that you’re a master, you must be able to show some really good work. So in our discussion of how do you tell a master craftsman, the answer is simple: look at their work.

When you hire an artist (painter, photographer, sculptor, etc.), you look at their portfolio. All artists have one, and it’s how they get work. So, if we’re craftsman, we should have portfolios. Résumés are similar to portfolios, but a) they don’t emphasize actual completed works enough, and b) they’re dry and boring. So maybe we need to start making multimedia portfolios to highlight our abilities as a craftsman. I picture web sites with screen shots, customer testimonials, sample code, links to your blog and other sites, and links to free software or other non-work projects you’ve created.

The key here is, if you want to convince someone that you’re a master craftsman, show them your work and your masterpieces.

Ron “Ziroby” Romero
http://www.ziroby.com (which has some portfolio elements, but needs to talk about my actual for-pay work)

[cross-posted to the Software Craftmanship list at http://groups.google.com/group/software_craftsmanship/browse_thread/thread/a9a03d96ff298a26 ]

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