Acting in a booth

The loneliness of acting in a booth, with no one to respond to, can be difficult. “It has to be all in my head,” Hale told me. “Environment, ambient noise, history with this person, what I need from this person, what I want from this person — all these decisions have to be made on the fly, in the moment, as quickly as possible.”

This paragraph resonated with me this week. It’s from the recent¬†New Yorker¬†profile of Jennifer Hale, a leading video-game voice actress. For her work, she goes into the booth with a script, tries to grasp context around the lines — no video game in front of her, no other actors with her, no sense of how a user is playing the game — and performs them.

The scenario reminded me of work. The job I have now is the most fun, challenging and collaborative job I’ve ever had. It is also the loneliest. Beyond anything going on with life, the nature of the heart of the work runs solitary. Collaborative and solitary? I think so, at different times.

In product-based management, responsibility lies with one owner. In Agile development, the principle of self-organizing teams often means the team’s relationship with the product owner is only temporary. The backlog of work to be done is what sticks with the owner. In a digital world where products are never complete, the owner has the ongoing job of putting new needs against the existing core. What’s necessary? What isn’t? The owner’s job is to wake up with the core and carry the core through the week. Maybe patch it. Maybe add to it. Maybe gut it. As needs derive from the crowd or colleagues, caring or not, the core must move ahead. The owner keeps momentum through separation.

Environment, ambient noise, history with the product, what you need from the product, what you want from the product. Going into the core, into the booth, needs in hand, trying to grasp the contextual expanse, ultimately unknowable. You can only imagine the results playing out.

I haven’t reconciled this feeling yet with the good stuff — the fun, the challenges, the collaborations that occur just outside the core. If I’m going to last in this job, longer than a couple years, I know I should.

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