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Renaissance Man Joins Element as a Web Developer

Kevin Hamilton

Director of Technology

Joe Shockey has a thirst. Sure, a thirst for beer, a Wisconsin Old Fashioned, or the occasional espresso. Yet, his real thirst is for knowledge that expands his horizons and adds to his enjoyment of life. Throughout his decades-long career, Joe has been, and continues to be, a true Renaissance man.

Take, for instance, his first job after graduating from UW-Stout (go Blue Devils!). Although his degree was in industrial design, a product-focused discipline, Joe landed a graphic design job due to his college curriculum being heavy in graphics studies. He immediately started creating distinct visual marketing elements for some heavy hitters: Kimberly-Clark, JanSport, GE, and Humana, among others.

As rewarding as it was to contribute to the success of these national brands, Joe saw something even bigger coming: the internet. He reached back into some college programming courses to pull knowledge for web design, eventually segueing into programming full time. Let’s discover more about this Joe-of-all-trades.

Question: How do your graphic design skills influence your programming?

Joe: My graphics background has given me a unique perspective on website development. Understanding the fundamentals of design is invaluable for translating concepts to code. I know what the designer is trying to accomplish, and I make decisions accordingly.

Sometimes an idea can look great on a concept board but might not work well in a browser. I like teaming with designers to find solutions that maintain the feel and flow. I’ve been able to successfully channel my creativity into programming, and I love the challenges of coding.

Q: Building a website is a foreign concept to most folks. Can you simplify it for us?

J: I think of each new project as if I’m building a car engine. There are a dozen ways you can assemble it so it runs. The challenge is to build it with the fewest moving parts.

And you want it modular, so if one part breaks or wears out, you can swap it out without having to rebuild the entire motor. Plus, new and better parts and tools are being introduced daily!

Q: You obviously have a creative side that may surprise some. How do you get inspired?

J: I love everything about the outdoors: hiking, fishing, camping, etc. I share a cottage with my brothers in Michigan’s UP, and my family spends a lot of time up there in the summer. There’s an ancient hemlock forest perfect for Shinrin-yoku, the Japanese therapeutic method of “forest bathing” or calmly breathing and taking in nature.

joe fishing

Another, more exhilarating, way to experience nature is to challenge family and friends to run from the hot sauna straight into the cool lake. Of course, just floating on a pontoon boat with a spinning rod in one hand and a brew in the other is incredibly rejuvenating.

Q: You know kerning, coding, cars, canoeing, craft beer, and connecting with nature. How deep does the knowledge well go, Joe?

J: I like making music, too. I play guitar, banjo, harmonica, and I can fake it pretty well on mandolin and ukulele. I have a brother who builds instruments as a hobby, and he built my guitar, banjo, mandolin, and dulcimer. So, my family has a lot of creators in it. Music. Design. Programming. For me, it’s all about lifelong learning.

And, knowing is half the battle. Go Joe!