Some people choose an interest or hobby in childhood and pursue it into adulthood. They go to school for it and it becomes their career. (Hats off to you professional ballplayers and artists who have made it.)
But for most of us, the path is not so linear. And many of us adults even give up our childhood hobbies or interests when we join the workforce.
Sure, it’s possible to cling to a hobby and a career that seemingly have nothing to do with each other – except, if you think about it, you can probably find similarities between what you spend your free time on and the work that pays. the bills.
Technically asked our Soft community to give examples of their favorite hobby or side project and how it translates to their tech career. Here are five of our favorite answers.
UX and painting (and teaching)
Brand Colleen is a user experience designer at a fintech company based in Radnor BM Technologies, Inc., but she also likes to paint. Brand said painting and design are forms of communication. Painting visually communicates its emotions while design visually communicates a process.
“For both, I would consider it visual storytelling,” she said. “Many of my paintings are imagined colorful horizons or color field paintings. Here I try to tell the story of my feelings… inspiring colors and horizons that delight me. Like most stories, what the viewer/listener gets out of it is up to them. For the design, I tell a different story. How can I best help the user navigate from point A to point B to C with the clearest and most precise? How can they feel supported throughout the journey? What is the voice of that experience that guides the user?”
Brand not only paints for herself, but she also teaches the art form, which she says has helped her look at painting from a new perspective. She has also mentored design students at work.
“For painting and design, I’m a constant student and mentor/instructor,” she said. “I think the cycle of learning and teaching and learning in these two areas has been instrumental in my life.”
Coding and piano
Tim Allen is IT Technical Director at Wharton Research Data Services (and a noted metaverse enthusiast), but connects his passion for coding to his passion for music.
“I started writing code when I was six, when my mom won a raffle for summer camp at Montgomery Country Day School,” he said. “In the morning, they had fun but educational sessions, and I chose the computers. I wrote my first lines of code on Apple II+ and Commodore PET machines. The same year, I started taking classical piano lessons, and ever since, music and code have gone hand in hand for me.
Allen said both fields equally require nimble fingers, but less obviously they both leverage math.
“Mathematics is the language of nature, and the thought patterns for learning to read music and to play a piece, or to develop a computer program, are similar and complementary,” he said. “Developing software and composing music are both individual and collaborative endeavours. Code and music are somewhat abstract, there is often more than meets the eye, and compositions are more than the sum of their parts. Both intersect with the arts and sciences, which have been separated in the American educational system, to the detriment of both. Throughout my life, coding and music have both been my blank canvas.
Currently, Allen primarily plays guitar rather than piano, but maintains the similarities between coding and music.
UX and video games
Matt Sharayko is a senior UX researcher at AmerisourceBergen who believes his childhood hobby of video games played a part in his tech career. He said he started playing around age 5 with computer games on floppy disks, and for the next 20 years he played frequently.
For the past five years or so, he says, he hasn’t had time to play that often. However, he sees many similarities between researching and designing an app and a video game.
“In either case, the user is navigating through a user interface (UI) to accomplish something, whether they’re trying to book the cheapest flight or trying to beat Bowser in Mario. user interface should be clear to understand and easy to use,” Sharayko said. “Like a lot of skills, you learn with experience, and I think playing a lot of video games growing up helped me have a good experience of how a product looks and feels (and vice versa, what it shouldn’t).”
Entrepreneurship and cars
Entrepreneur Sean Dawes is one of the owners of Modified Euros, and he said his passion for cars set him on the path to his career. Dawes said he had always loved cars and his father was also a sports car enthusiast.
After graduating from college, he could not find a job in his field. So he pivoted, turning his hobby into a career when he applied for a marketing job at Round5an e-commerce automotive retailer.
“[I] I worked there for a bit, gaining a lot of experience and finally decided to leave and start my own business,” he said. “At first I was doing marketing consulting while working on my own automotive e-commerce business. [Modded Euros]. Two of my colleagues from Turn5 came with me and today we have a warehouse/offices in West Chester generating millions in revenue.
Dawes noted that his knack for fixing cars is all self-taught. He said he bought a scrap car and learned to take it apart and put it back together himself without worrying about ruining a nicer car.
“This same concept applies to businesses,” he said. “How can you deconstruct processes to limit risk while focusing on the upside? I taught myself to program the same way: taking specific problems, deconstructing them, and learning to code to solve those unique problems. So, instead of just “learning to code”, I focus on solving a specific problem. The same was done with the car. What things do I need to learn how to do and do on this demo car and then apply my lessons to my current car? »
AI and art
Brad Flaughersenior engineer at open source platform manufacturer Astonishedsaid he has gone deeper into his field by creating art generated by artificial intelligence.
“I had studied computer science, but my skills were lagging behind,” he said. “I’ve always been interested in painting but not very good at it, so [I] started playing with computer generated art. During the pursuit of my hobby, I learned a lot about cutting edge AI/ML tools. I honed my skills using Neural Networks and TensorFlow and started using it in my career as a software developer. »
“Deep neural network-based models are the models that power most major AI services today, self-driving cars, adtech and fintech models, and health outcome predictors all use the same technology stack than the one I used to generate my art. I know this because I’ve turned my hobby into consulting work with big companies like Procter & Gamble, and smaller ones through my work with NextFab here in Philadelphia.
Flaugher said he also tried to teach intelligence and machine learning the same way he re-taught it to people looking for a career change. In his own bootcamp, Data Driven Programming Bootcampstudents choose passion projects using AI/ML models and he helps them with the project for six weeks.
“It all started basically because I was having fun trying to make art in my basement,” Flaugher said.
Bonus: Journalism and Baking
As for me? I wouldn’t call myself a technologist, but as a technical journalist, I always see similarities between my profession and my hobby. I started cooking during the initial COVID-19 lockdown in spring 2020. Since then it has become one of my favorite things to do in my free time.
I find myself stepping into the same focused area while cooking as I do when writing. The attention to detail, the necessary patience and the satisfying result can all be applied to both reporting and cooking.
Although I’ve never been a world famous baker, I make great chocolate chip cookies (in my opinion) and have the added benefit of practicing the soft skills that are necessary for my career.