Monday, October 7, 2013

Soft Skills for Digital Artists, Part 2 - Problem Solving

One of the most important intangible skills a digital artist can have is the ability to problem solve. Problem solving is so important that calling it a "soft skill" rather does it an injustice. It is an essential ingredient to a successful career. Problem-solving is the process of finding a solution. I italicized "process" because once you arrive at the best solution, you are done.  I've read it informally described as "what to do when you don't know what to do."

Problem-solving is built-in to the world of computer animation and vfx. The need for it is inescapable because of several reasons.  For one, the arena of computer graphics is always changing. The envelope is always being pushed, and artists are continuously asked to do things that have never been done before. And since these things have never been done, no one knows how to do them - they have to be figured out. This kind of problem solving - the development of new techniques, new tools - happens on a scale big to small.
Another reason is rather mundane and everyday; the computer is prone to breaking down. Anyone with a computer knows that is true. When working on a project which has alot of steps, often in various software packages which have just been upgraded and within a complex pipeline, things have lots of places where they can go amiss. I use the vague term "things" on purpose, because just about anything can get glitchy and not work as predicted. In fact things may break so often that trouble-shooting them can be a normal part of the day. While getting frustrated may also be a normal reaction, it helps immensely to roll with the punches. A coworker who constantly complains about having to deal with the inevitable problems can be a bit of a PITA to others around them, and doesn't help get things done which makes bosses grumpy too, none of which is good for job health. Imagine how much bosses like the person who has solutions instead! In my opinion it is alot easier to not get frustrated if you realize that problems are part of the process and you are expecting them.

In the workplace, those who can problem solve have a greater likelihood of going on to leadership positions. Those who cannot or do not chose to problem solve tend to stay in worker bee positions - someone else figures it out, and they are told what to do; the solution is provided to them and they carry it out.