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SHEcreatives: Creative Code with Kaitlin Edwards

How can coding–a field based on data–be creative? Just ask Kaitlin Edwards, a Developer for Tennessee’s Department of Environment, whose specialty is creative code. Kaitlin is also a Certified Facilitator and has held positions all across the spectrum, from graphic designer to intern coordinator to food photography stylist. Outside of the office, Kaitlin is a Transfer Advisor for Junior League of Nashville, an active member of Swing Dance Nashville, and is pursuing her Masters in Organizational Management and Leadership at Middle Tennessee State University. She enjoys coding, designing, dancing, baking, and getting excited about pretty much every experience life brings her.

I am not a creative genius.

That should truly be said up front. I have no advice that’s going to take your work to entirely new levels, changing your views on the world and how you display those in your own creative medium. I wish I was, but honestly, I’m a pretty average human. I have a full time job that I enjoy, and I can make an amazing lasagna from scratch, but there are hundreds of others out there who have more artistic ability than I’ll ever be able to claim. However, I am a very creative individual.

I might not be able to paint you a breathtaking portrait, but I have successfully turned a programming job into a career that combines all of my strengths into one awesome position in which I thrive. My words probably won’t cause you heartache or joy, but I find ways to fill my artistic needs in areas that most people wouldn’t even consider. It’s taken me a long time to figure out ways to do this, but I’ve discovered that there are two main key points to remember as you find ways to make it as a creative individual in a corporate world.

“Artsy” is a Label, “Creative” is a Trait

In high school, I was part of an “artsy” group (I went to a boarding school for the arts, so we were all artsy little punks, but still). We thrived on being unique, avoided the norm like it was the plague, and strived to live for the arts. Being artsy wasn’t a hobby, it was a full-time job–people could just look at me, with my dyed pink hair and “ironic” MOMA shirt, and say, “Dang. She is an artist.”

Now, I am not knocking people with pink hair. If you’ve got it, do the damn thing. But we all know people like this–people who change their appearance or attitude to pose as something they aren’t, merely switching out who they are on a surface level to fill the requirements of the label they want to be. Truly successful people are the ones who dive deeper than just the surface, moving past just the label of “artsy” and into the “I genuinely face life with a creative mindset” realm. Artsy people change a logo of a company and call it rebranding; creative individuals use the same opportunity to totally reinvent a company’s image and encourage a new mindset. Artsy people add CSS to an old webpage from the early 2000’s and call the job done; creative individuals research new solutions a company has never considered before and tailor change management to fill the needs of said company.

Being artsy is not a bad thing, but we need individuals who go a step further, bringing fresh, new ideas to the table instead of polishing what’s already there and moving forward.

Because, let’s be honest–if you limit yourself to just being artsy, you’re closing a lot of doors that might hold amazing opportunities.

I am a programmer. I work in a very technical field and work with logic, day in and day out. On paper, there is no room for artistry in my job. If I had a strictly artsy mindset, I would have scoffed at my current job and clicked “next” on Indeed. However, by broadening my ideals and creatively working with my job, I have found there are so, so many ways to fill my artsy needs–I create new workflows that are innovative and efficient, I research the best ways to format code for optimal outcomes, and, when I’m lucky, I get to show others that taking chances and exploring options that aren’t part of the “standard workflow” really improves all elements of our job.

Again, I cannot express this enough- if you want to have lavender hair and super expressive makeup, do it. If you want to wear a pantsuit every single day, do it. But be sure that it’s really you who wants to do it, and not just a label that’s encouraging you to change at a surface and not fundamentally. If you’re being artsy just to stand out and be unique, take a second to check in and ask yourself if you really believe in what you’re showing to the world. If you don’t, find what you do believe in. If you do, take that passion and heart and use it to expand your mindset, diving deeper into the creative mindset.

A Baby Shark is Still an Effing Shark

This. Is. So. Important. Ladies, would a doctor offer her medical services and hard work for free? No. Would a lawyer take on clients for free to “get her name out there?” Absolutely not. How are either of those professions different than being a graphic designer, an interior decorator, a dancer, an author, or anything else? Do not sell yourself short. If you have a strong portfolio of work you are proud of, do not let someone convince you that “just” designing a logo or writing a mission statement is something you should do for free. Do not let someone convince you that spending “twenty minutes” of your time on something is not a big deal (especially as it’s never just twenty minutes). If you’re doing it because you need to build your portfolio, find ways to make yourself stronger that you really care about. Find a cause you care about and offer your services to make an impact in your community. Join a club or organization you’re passionate about and become their marketing chair. Find an internship that might not pay, but that teaches you every single day and helps you broaden your mindset. There is a huge difference between doing something for free because you are truly investing in what you care about and yourself and doing something pro bono because a family friend needs free photographs at her wedding. I am not saying it’s easy, and I’m not saying to blow off all opportunities, but I am saying that letting yourself get taken advantage of should be a hard no. Always remember- it doesn’t matter how “new” you are to the industry, or what your age is- a baby shark is still an effing shark.

It is easy to be discouraged from chasing your creative dreams. People will mock you, take advantage of you, and try to knock you down. Don’t let them.

Find what you are passionate about, hold onto it, and let it carry you to success. Passion and hard work will only lead you to being successful, so put in your headphones, blast some Beyoncé, and ignore the people who are only holding you back. It might take you a while, but I’d rather spend years working towards the goals I set for myself than days regretting creative opportunities I’ve passed up because I was too scared to go for it.

ICYMI check out our latest SHEcreatives post here!

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