In 1941, Swiss engineer George de Mestral returned from a hunting trip and found burdock burr stuck to his clothes. He looked at the burrs under a microscope and saw that they were covered with little hooks that caught on his clothes. He then spent the next 15 years attempting to convert his discovery into a new form fastener. His hobby, combined with his formal training as an engineer, ultimately lead to the invention of Velcro.
At some point during the last 10 years, our industry decided that a developer could best express their passion for technology by how often they code. Everyone writes code at work, but the truly passionate developer codes all the time. “Real” developers are busy on open source projects and hack-a-thons, as well as working on their own side projects. Of course, this is in addition to their regular jobs, so weekends and evenings are consumed by of course, more coding. This relatively new attitude condones the stereotype of a socially awkward developer who wants nothing more than to sit in front of their computer screen all the time.
Developers feel compelled to constantly code and find their next side project. Familiarity breeds contempt; this always-on attitude can easily lead to burnout. Side projects should be a labor of love, not a dreaded slog designed to pad out a resume. Constant coding leaves no room for other interests. Developers are in the business of using technologies to solve problems, either for themselves or others. A single-minded focus on technology leaves little room for exploration and growth outside of technology.
Some of the best developers I have worked with didn’t spend all their free time writing code or attending the latest hack-a-thons. They had creative outlets outside of technology: photography, cooking, painting, sculpture, and music, just to name a few. Connecting with the world in these creative ways enhanced their ability to connect with coworkers and clients. Like George de Mestral, they were able to take advantage of insights that came from outside of their day-to-day work.
Find that other passion, that creative outlet that pushes you outside of your comfort zone.