There's been a lot of discussion lately in the Polycount Forum about an article written by Christopher Gregorio on How to hire an artist. Our very own Jon Jones wrote a rebuttal on his blog that's also gained some attention. To me, both sides present good points. And while the original article is garnered towards the flash industry, his points can be held against any industry where art out-sourcing is a valid method of development.
This article is not a pro or con response to either, but rather something derived from both: What makes a great coworker or team-mate, specifically as an artist? While I was reading both articles and all of the replies in the Forum, I couldn't help but think of all the interviews I've conducted in the past and the question I always asked myself during these interviews: Do I want to work with this person? Nevermind their art ability. Are they personable, inspiring and encouraging? Or are they timid, mute and rather boring ?
I asked a few friends of mine what makes great coworkers in their eyes. We'll see what they had to say along the way.
To me a great co-worker is someone I can look to for honest creative feedback, stimulating artistic discussion, and passionate drive that will resonate not only in his or her work but also be something that will help drive my own artistic pursuits. Being such a team driven enterprise, having not only talented but super chill coworkers is incredibly important in this industry; when crunch hits it’s your fellow artists that will be there in the trenches with you. Team chemistry is made during those 12 hour crunches and a good co-worker is not just a professional acquaintance but also a great friend.
Over the past few years I've had the privilege of working with a number of insanely talented artists that I was proud to call my co-worker. Hell, I am sure I've gloated about a few of them online somewhere. I think, though, that what makes them a great co-worker and not just some talented fool is their ability to encourage & educate.
It's selfish, but if your co-workers are better than you at what you get paid to do and they offer help or insight as you go along, then that to me is a great co-worker. Like I said, its selfish, but if I am learning and making a living as I go along than that is fantastic. Unselfishly, working with people who inspire, share and listen along with you is a hell of a feeling. The byproduct of the collaborative effort is often times friendship. And what can make a better coworker than talented artists who are also your friends? To me, thats the ultimate coworker.
I do not see "my job" as an artist actually a "job." This is my life, and I love and respect my life. I treat the people I work with (past and present) as if they are a constant part of my life. When looking at future coworkers, I not only look for people who produce top-notch art, but artists who are people I would like to hang out with, have a conversation with, share opinions with, learn from, share an office with, and go drinking with. I would never want to look for "just another warm body," to create art - it’s a trade craft sure, but without considering the soul of the artists, our art and games become shallow and dull.
Perhaps a better approach to this is looking at what makes a 'bad' coworker. When I say 'bad' I am not talking about a morally questionable person - that's an entirely different conversation. What I am talking about is the type of artist co-worker who considers what they do nothing more than a job. They come in, work their 8 hours, and leave. Generally these sorts of artists have to be prodded constantly for an opinion, aren't as up-to-date in the development world as they should be, and are generally a drag to be around. Sure, they are talented and are contributing to the project, but the overall morale of someone who is working with such an artist can be affected.
The reality is that these artists exist. Talented people who 'just don't give a fuck'. I am sure they're happy and enjoy themselves, but they're not contributing to anything beyond their title and its unfortunate. These are the sorts of people who can, unfortunately, make for poor coworkers.
Having been in the industry for over 15 years… I’ve learned you ultimately will spend a lot of time with your co-workers, so they need to be easy to get along with, especially in long crunch times. Good co-workers (yourself included) should help each other grow within your respective fields. They should be eager to learn, and willing to share (techniques, references, etc). They should, without hesitation, be able to provide constructive criticism and is willing to accept similar feedback. A good teammate will not only tackle his or her own responsibilities, but in a pinch would be willing to chip in and take on some tasks for other, overwhelmed employees, to help reach a goal… and not just walk out with the “I’m done my stuff” attitude.
From all this, you’ll gain mutual trust and respect, and ideally, some really good friendships will grow.
So, what makes a great coworker? Reading this may make it seem like they have to be friendship material to be considered a great coworker. I really don't believe this is the case all the time, but generally when people connect positively that is the outcome. If the people you're working with inspire you, drive you, encourage you and learn from you then I would say you have yourself an awesome bunch of coworkers. If they're there to clock in, get their tasks done and ultimately contribute the absolute minimum to the project and the work experience then to me that's unfortunate. Talented artist? Certainly. Great worker? Certainly not.