I’m one year into my new career as a software developer, so I’ve been reflecting on what’s changed. One of the clearest contrasts with working in theatre production is the way my team communicates.

I don’t have a phone on my desk. I (almost) never write email. My inbox has become a passive feed of notifications from GitHub, JIRA, Google Calendar, Google Docs and Yammer. Meetings are rare. I stand-up with my team every morning and after that I barely say a word until lunch.

And I can turn it all off when I want. I love being able to hide all my notifications and get stuck into work without interruptions. When I’m done with a task I can catch up with my team. I feel very lucky to have so much control over my time.

We’re chatting in Slack

But all is not as quiet as it seems. The majority of our team’s communication takes place in Slack. We have chat rooms for everything: scrum teams, projects, deployments—even the office pool league has its own room!

I have never had such a large proportion of my communication with my colleagues in writing. And our chat history is searchable too! This is awesome. It turns all our discussions into a resource to refer to later. The chat room has become our forum for sharing everything, including how we feel.

‘Dinners don’t microwave themselves!’

I worked in the world of theatre—the very business of expression—where everyone enjoys expression and its many forms. Most of our communication was in person. And to express ourselves we would often quote, or mimic, or mime, or gesture, or sing a line or two.

Developers are often quieter than average in person. But catch them on screen and you’ll hear them at their loudest: the animated GIF. It goes beyond words and transcends emoji.

Nailed it

Timing is everything

As in every social group there’s the desire to express the moment best. Do I need to tell you that actors love to try? Hehe. They draw their material from scripts and lyrics, from parts they had performed and parts they would love to perform. Recognising the reference is all part of the act.

What struck me is how animated GIFs are so similar. They are moments that many people know and love, featuring popular characters from TV and film. And it’s all in the delivery. Deliver the right GIF at the right moment and you’ll start a wave of chuckles around the office.

Expression takes many forms :o)