Are you a multi-passionate developer?

Nadya Primak on May 03, 2019

When I started on the path towards being a developer, I did not realize how many devs identified strongly with development being their singular pas... [Read Full]
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I used to worry a lot about not keeping up with those who spend most of their free time outside of work coding and reading about development.

However, I've come to realize that my many other interests, from reading fiction to meditating to listening to podcasts and Great Courses that delve into the humanities, economics, history, and politics, constantly provide me with useful insights for my day job as a software engineer.

At the end of the day, we develop software for humans, and understanding how humans think and live within the socio-economic-historical context of our world helps me be a better engineer.

I'll never be a specialist because I get bored focusing on just one thing too deeply, but the world needs generalists who can connect the dots and see the bigger picture, too :)

 

Agreed, I wish this perspective was more prevalent among developers. I might not be savvy with every single front end framework but I also can see things from the perspective of clients more readily because I'm not stuck in techlandia 24/7

 

I definitely have passions and interests outside of development, but I have had a hard time turning them into hobbies.

Even stuff related to my main hustle of web development like hardware would be awesome to pick up, but I haven't mustered up the energy. Maybe some day!

I really would like fitness to be an important hobby in my life: Trying hard to make that work.

 

About fitness: one thing that has helped me stay consistent with working out is to do it first thing in the morning.

Wake up -> drink water -> go to gym/run/home workout.

It really makes my day more fun and i am feeling more energetic at work. First few days were painful though.

 

Fitness can be really tough when we sit in front of screens all day and do more of the same at home. I am lucky that my work has a gym in the building so I go during my lunch break. I also have a plan to try out Beat Saber.. used to be a huge DDR nut back when that was all the rage but it got old after several years. What a great workout that was though...

 
 

I became a dev because I had a head for it and the money was good, but I do lots of other things. My education is in literature, and I write and read a great deal. I also have several research topics (some related to dev, many not), and I cook, bake, travel, and happily fail at playing guitar. I try to offer my dev skills to artists and writers, to provide them with functional web presences. And often when I'm learning a new language or framework, I'll build something related to my other interests as an exercise.

 

That's really awesome that you find ways to help other artists and writers! Back in college I had a lot more artists and writers in my personal network but now it's a bit harder to get those types of connections. Do you mind sharing some examples of how you have built something related to your other interests when learning a new language/framework?

 

Mostly it's consisted of designing/deploying websites, more often than not a WordPress instance. I also provide support/maintenance for a variety of arts/nonprofits websites (typically just minor stuff like upgrades, conflict resolution, security issues, etc). In grad school, I built a "thesis repository" system to allow fellow grad students to easily share their thesis projects, and comment on each other's projects. I've built lots of little "toys" for friends (and for myself), including mad libs-type apps, a silly virtual slot machine, that sort of thing. I was involved in a couple of projects I loved, but that died on the vine. The most interesting of them was an "aleatoric parser," a system that would index a lengthy manuscript to determine frequently occurring and/or unique words, then use that lexicon to populate mad libs-like poem templates. The templates themselves were to be generated from sentence fragments, using Markov chains to assemble the complete work. The intent was to create an application that could take your vocabulary and a machine-driven framework to generate the basics for new and surprising texts. It fell by the wayside because of time constraints, and the realization that others had done it better than we would have done it.

Wow, those are some awesome sounding projects! They sound like a ton of fun.

 

I've had trouble mixing some of my non-tech related hobbies into my dev practise and life.

The few that I was able to mix in where related to either my podcasts or productivity and automation.

I'd love to find a way to reinforce my love of Japanese history, or playing bass guitar with my dev work. But I've yet to come up with a way that I can do that.

 

I also love Japanese culture and history, and in high school I made a website that was a research project of sorts about Japan. It's not the most exciting way to combine the two but I recommend doing some googling and see what sorts of things you might find that other people are doing. It might inspire you!

 

Yeah, I guess you're right.

In fact, I'm giving a talk tomorrow on Blazor and need a new demo. If I have any time beforehand, I'll create a timeline of Japanese history using it.

 

My background is in print design and marketing, and I initially decided to move towards tech as a way of escaping the yucky "must be passionate about representing our brand" ethos of recruiters in the marketing space. There's a pressure in parts of that world to be an almost Disney-fied version of a person, who functions primarily as an expression of their brand culture - they're not really hiring, they're casting.

As I've explored the tech culture of Silicon Valley, I've been disappointed to find many companies have a strong bias toward this same "always on" mentality. "Sure, you can do your job" they seem to say, "but if you're really serious, you'll also be attending meetups, conferences and trainings, giving talks, creating personal projects and learning a new language every weekend."

To me this flows from managers and leaders in the industry, and I find that really insidious. By selectively hiring & keeping only the most active developers, they're indirectly requiring a 7-day workweek. It's great for their bottom line in the short term - if you spend every waking hour thinking about code, of course you'll encounter and apply many more solutions than someone who's only wired-in from 9-5. But it selects for people who measure themselves in one dimension, which encourages competition over collaboration. It also ignores the burnout that's rampant in the industry, which leads to high turnover, which in turn pushes salaries higher and higher. It's very shortsighted and ends up costing everybody much more than money.

When I try to build my network, I focus first on my other interests. I meet other developers at metal shows and design expos, and steer clear of "tech networking" nights. This helps me find people - and hopefully eventual employers - who can respect a more balanced lifestyle.

 

I know exactly what you mean. Some companies like Netflix have alarming bullet points in their culture guides (yes, culture guides are a thing now apparently) like "you put Netflix's needs before your own" -- also how can a tech company ever hope to understand their customers if they want their developers to basically be coding robots?

 

100% this. A lot of tech culture (and by extension, the culture of the modern "professional" world) these days has a pretty culty vibe and it really bums me out.

We are people, we are not brands. We have depth and breadth and we are messy and complicated, but the prevailing ethos these days seems to be that unless you can jam yourself into some slick package with catch phrases there's no place for you in the modern economy.

 

Lately, I’ve been identifying and introducing myself as a multipotentialite. Since I’m still a tech newbie, I still have a deep attachment to my past life, which includes dance, wellness, events, & writing. As I’m learning new skills, I know I want to make tools that I can use for my other interests.

Being multi-passionate is never a bad thing, it makes us human 🙂 the only tough part may be distributing time and energy properly. Sometimes I get nervous about “narrowing” down my interests, but I think of my interests of either growing or shrinking (since I’m now reviewing flexbox 🤣)- the interests and passion are always there, but maybe at different rates of time & energy invested. And these may change with time itself as well!

 

I scrolled down the comments to see if anyone would mention the multipotentialite thing! With me I used to feel guilty when I picked up a new hobby and I would try hard to make it "fit" with all my other hobbies.

I've found that for me code is the glue that ties all my hobbies together. This is the video where I first learned about multipotentialites and how it can be a great thing

 

Yup! That's where I first heard of it! I'm a part of Emilie's online community The Puttytribe- we talk about these things all the time.

 

This is awesome, have definitely joined the waitlist for Puttytribe. Thanks for sharing!!

 

I would add, long walks, hiking or just hanging out in nature. It allows you to disconnect from everything, just for a while, and really recharge your batteries. It makes you happier, more productive, more creative, an allows you to introspect and figure out what you really want to do in life. Also you can combine hobbies like, reading a book or righting short stories while you are doing your nature visit. At least, this is what works from me. You should give it a try

 

Agreed, I definetely used to go hiking a lot more growing up because my father was a super avid hiker, but without him around to pressure me and with my husband being more of a runner, now I find the only real exercuse I get is a high intensity interval with jogging/walking at the gym for 20 minutes a day-ish. When its habit its so natural but now that I am out of the habit its so much harder.

 

I feel you. I live in Panama, so I'm used to going to places where nature and the jungle is intense and beautiful. When I lived in Boston, I tried to replace my nature walks with running and high intenisty workouts, but it's not the same.

Nature has this thing that is healing, it really works your body and mind at a celullar level. There are so many interesting studies out there. Have your heard of grounding? It can even help cancer patients. Basically it means just walking barefoot so you get in contact with earth surface electrons which have a positive impact in our bodies.

ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3...

 

I have a Msc in Architecture and I switched to software engineering after two years of working as an architect because I simply 1) love programming and 2) do not like working as an architect.
Meanwhile I also started running, hiking, doing yoga and short meditations, as well as cooking at home and voloneering for homeless people in a civic initiative. I also learned french and italian language and learned how to knit and crochet. And just recently I joined the bookfairies comunity in books hiding and spreading the magic of book reading :)
In my opinion (and experience) you can have as many interests and hobbies as you want, but you have to be aware that time is limited and sometimes you have to pause/delay one activity to commit to other.. And if you really need/want to excell at one of them, maybe it is better to invest a significant portion of your time in it.

 

I used to struggle with this as well. I get distracted/excited by new passions pretty easily. Once I realized that I can really only focus on one thing passionately at a time (besides my primary daily work for $$), things got easier.

Some passions, like fitness and music, have sort of simmered down (but not abandoned!), but sometimes I'll make a push and focus on learning some new material or revamping my workout plans.

It was tough for me to admit that I only have a limited amount of time, energy, and focus available, but once I did I think it helped me to avoid putting too much on my plate and prioritize what 'passion' I should keep my focus on. It also helped me realize that switching 'passions' too often spreads me too thin and I don't accomplish anything but buying a bunch of tools I won't use and learning a bunch about subjects I won't really accomplish anything in...

Good luck!

 

This is really helpful, I'm curious, were there any apps or exercises you tried that helped you to prioritize your passions? I hope I can prioritize mine as well and reach a better equilibrium.

 

The transition to self-employment for me was a big change and facilitated a lot of introspection and time-management focus. Writing out goals and trying to really decide how I want to spend my time and live my life in a long-term and sustainable sense led me to taking a long hard look at how I can embrace a passion while having it be rewarding and even profitable in the long-term. I really enjoy coding, and once I realized what realms I liked working in the best and started keeping my focus narrower things got clearer. I also realized that passions that are detrimental to other aspects of my life can be really toxic, even if they're fun. I definitely avoid certain types of addictive video games and other hobbies I can get too sucked into at the expense of my health and success. Hope you figure it out!

I have played thought about taking the plunge into self employment myself, there are quite a few things about it that appeal to me. So would you say being self employed has helped you to figure out what your major passions were and help you be able to juggle them without burning out or being too scatterbrained?

I'd say it more forced me to, lol. Lots of people suggest a transition to self-employment rather than jumping of a ledge, and I fully agree there. I was already doing freelance work part time before I quit my day job, and it was still a tough transition in a lot of ways. When no one is looking over my shoulder, the willpower cost of 'getting stuff done' seems to go up, so it's even more important for my work to be something I enjoy doing as much as possible. For me, doing software development is nice because I can really get into what some people call 'flow' and I don't feel like I'm working at all, just fully into the task at hand. I definitely didn't have that as often doing various sysadmin stuff.

 

I can totally sympathize. I have so many projects on the back burner or only in sketch form in a notebook. Video production and photography is a passion of mine, but I’m also really into making art with electronics and making fine art installations. Developing for the web full time can zap your enthusiasm for sure. There can be a balance though. Time box activities. For instance I give myself at least 1 hour photography time a week and if I get a shot worth editing ensure I fit in another hour for that. Make sure you get enough time to explore your other activities but at the same time don’t force creativity. It’s important to be flexible as well and follow your creative urges, sometimes at the expense of other work or leisure activities.

It is so important to make sure you can take a time out from everything. Go on a trip, live without a computer for a little while. Experience something new to keep life interesting.

It can be hard to give some things up. I recently sold my PS4 for instance so I would have enough time to persue writing and speaking. It’s up to you to prioritize what matters most.

 

I totally understand, I am also a huge fan of photography and used to take my Canon 60D with me everywhere. It's been harder the past few years because I feel like everyone else just uses their phones and I haven't been travelling as much so I feel like my photos aren't as interesting as they used to be. Now I've sort of meandered away from photography more towards making games and writing, but making games is a huge undertaking and hard to balance with other stuff, and I also got a bit burnt out after a few frustrating projects. Now I look back at all these random things I've done and I'm like.. where to go from here?

 

I used to be very reactive in my approach to coding - I only learned what I needed to know to get a project done. I spent all my free time studying what I am passionate about: theology. I recently didn't qualify for a much better job because of that... I have been working hard this year righting that wrong and making time for being proactive and learning new web-based technology and have fallen in love with coding again. It can be rough especially having a wife and two special-needs kids... I rarely even get to play video games anymore. 😉

 

Where I work, there are a lot of devs that are multipassionate. As for myself like many other dev, I love coding on my free time, but my biggest hobbies involve a camera and Adobe software. I love photography, cinematography, photo/video editing and tinkering with motion design and normal 2D animations.

 

I have three major facets to my life:

  1. Coding, especially at MousePaw Media, the open source software company I founded. I consider my DEV.to writing to be an extension of my coding.

  2. Writing and publishing novels. My first book, Finding Scrooge, was released this past December. My next book, a mystery novel, is planned for later this year.

  3. Writing and performing music. I'm a solo pianist, and the frontman of a band with plans to record next year.

Besides all that, I always have a book from the library I'm reading. I enjoy playing chess with friends, volunteering at my church, patio gardening, and using my culinary skills to make dinners from scratch.

I'm really not sure how I keep all those in the air. I just do. They're all important to me, so I find time for each.

 

Very impressive! I am inspired to hear that you are able to keep all these things going. I also have a book in the works about breaking into tech and hope to get it finished this year. Good luck with your next novel, I'll be sure to check out your work :)

 

Personally, I'm into a lot of things as well, but I find it meaningful to merge all my interests together.

For example if I'm a poet and a web developer at the same time I could make a blog for poetry

If I am into music and curation I could make a music app/website with all the things I think would be cool features

If I'm into social enterprise, photography, videography, arts and humanity (I love this one), I could make an crowd-funding platform, use photography and videography to get visuals for a campaign and find a way to make a use friendly payment platform.

The best thing about this is you get to hone all your skills and interests almost once at the same time. It makes you live a truly meaningful life. And you'll always have something to do, all geared towards the totality of your being. 🙏😅

 

Agreed, merging your interests makes everything a lot easier :)

 

I think this is a big issue in our field. It moves so fast and there is no way to keep up with everything. It's unfortunate that we feel like we need to turn development into our main hobby as well as a career.
I come home from a day of work and don't always feel like studying Docker or Vue, but feel guilty if I watch Netflix or read a non dev book.

I'm pretty sure I'm good at development in general, designing and solving problems. But what if no one ever hires me again because I don't know all the js frameworks!

I don't wanna be consumed by my career but it seems to be very common...

 

It's very hard to narrow down a human being to a single thing. I don't think there's anybody who does NOTHING except his main profession. I consider the case to be quite the opposite. I would say that most people do too many things that they find it hard to identify what they regularly do.

As for me, I do a lot things. But I don't have a "go to" hobby, except probably reading comics. I really love my job, and I gladly pursue it in my leisure time.

 

Absolutely! I love maps, bikes, and mountains. I find combining them with software development helps me remember why I enjoy software development. Some example of that overlap are TrailStash(a sample map: try.trailsta.sh), bikehero and more artistic endeavors like creating art with code:

 

Oh I am totally into this. I used to play around a lot with Processing.js and recently got into figuring out how to transfer an art style onto a photograph with machine learning. Creating art with code is so much fun, will totally check out those projects!

 

I used to have lovely hobbies: reading literature (and other humanities books), writing short stories, drawing, but turned all my time and passion into programming and couldn't write stories anymore, because writing need reading and some sort of meditating (time), but all that gone with my passion turning to programming, I love programming and passionate about it, but it's sad to see the time passes and your hobbies becomes part of the past, I really wrote beautiful stories, and I wished to have writing career. weeks ago I got my first book (short stories/ Arabic) published, the stories I wrote before joining the IT industry. now I started to think of my hobbies seriously, and I think that good time management can do a lot goodies to us.

Good luck with your beautiful hobbies.

 

For me development and music go hand in hand. Started playing guitar at 7 started programming at 10. Failed at being a musician but never stopped writing and playing. I find the creative act of songwriting and especially exploring songwriting in different genres is an excellent balance to my dev job. I love that it flexes different aspects of my creativity and allows me to exercise the other side of my brain. More than once I’ve solved a particularly thorny dev problem by grabbing a guitar or banging away on a music keyboard. Drums can also be a tremendously therapeutic workout as well.

 

Very cool, that definitely makes sense. I think being able to express ourselves creatively is so crucial. It makes a big difference in my daily life as well, and is super therapeutic.

 

My "biggest" hobbies are guitar and game-dev (I probably spend about the same time gaming, but wouldn't see it as hobby or passion).

Especially the guitar is great for instant dive-in and getting in a flow-like state (there are no notifications on guitars popping up). Also it's pretty quick to pick up and put away, and you can play while watching shows.

Gamedev is great because it combines so many things I like: coding, music, graphics. (Also things I don't enjoy, like creative writing)

I had more hobbies coming and going, and also thought a lot about how to schedule them and so on. My conclusion was that, if the "passion"/"love"/"motivation" is there, I don't really need to schedule it. If I struggle with keeping up with an activity, then I probably just want to be having done that, instead of be doing it. (Sorry, that reads horribly. Example: Somebody starts writing poems. Not because they enjoy writing poems, but because they want to have written poems. I hope it's understandable. They want to tell people they wrote a poem.)

I think it makes sense to plan and schedule in the beginning, but if I struggle too long to keep up, it may be time to ditch that activity.

 

Definitely agree that game dev is a great way to combine lots of interesting things. I personally enjoy creative writing but there are lots of games that don't have as much of a story element where you can still make a great game. I guess I don't schedule my hobbies per say, its just that I sometimes have a desire to do more than one at the same time, and then have decision fatigue and end up doing none of them at all.

 

I like to call myself a serial hobbyist and I have always managed to incorporate my hobbies somehow with development.

I hike and wildcamp a lot in the UK and my blog was my first foray into basic coding.

I also created a site to store music samples I created in my home studio setup.

Having loads of hobbies give me more opportunity to code...perfect.

 

I have two passions right now. They are playing the guitar and running. I'm quickly developing a passion for coding (it's actually very similar to learning music to me actually). I've only been learning to code for a little over three months but the more I learn, the more I really love it. When I get stuck with coding (and that happens a lot), I'll switch to running or guitar playing to take a break. My goal is to combine all three when my technical skills are up to par. That is build apps for music and running.

 

I have an interest in becoming more skilled in art and 3D modeling (Blender). It's great because they both can possibly tie into my interest in coding. But I have to say it can be tough focusing on one hobby without thinking I need to do more coding today because it's what I'm looking for a job in.

 

I just can't focus on a single subject, because I'm a Computer Scientist student and a Web Developer... so YES I'm doing courses about Ruby and JavaScript and also going to conferences about Neural Networks and Internet of Things... xD but I'm happy tho, I work as a Web Developer, and I really like it, and also I learn something new every day in college, can't complain!

 

I can relate! When you catch me at lunch or with a spare hour of time, I'm either reading something here on DEV or working on my music project. I go to lengths to doing everything myself from recording/producing my music to creating branding and album art.

For me, although it's multi-faceted it feels like a singular passion project. When I find a passion project with dev that gets me this excited, I'll probably dump most of my attention there branching out into whatever technology it requires, picking up new skills along the way. (That's the hope at least.)

 

Identifying as a male software engineering student, soon graduate.

I think your developer type and your passion can depend on why you entered the field in the first place.
I originally wanted to be an architect but didn't share the same passion as designers. I wanted to solve problems creatively, and my newfound passion with building gaming computers and modding my favorite video games was a gateway to development. For a large amount of male developers in their teens, this is what ignites their interest.
A more design or detail oriented developer very likely has more creatively outletted hobbies, and those hobbies are far closer to that of design or arts fields, so I find it natural that these developers feel distant from others.
I will share that often times I have many other hobbies first, but then development will seep into it. Computers enable the most infinite possibilities, so it usually happens naturally, making my Multi-passionate hobbies seem to all lead to development, but I don't see it that way.
Examples: I love hi-fi headphones, and trading card games. A trading card game played in person can be simulated with programs now to practice when your friends aren't around, and it even allows for digital multiplayer with my friends across the country.
Audio is a very hardware related field, but I love to contribute to sites that compare headphone sound signatures as well as headphone forum reviews.
To me, most of my hobbies all funnel back to development and the internet in one way or another.

 

I am definetely lucky that a number of my interets overlap with programming as well. I love making games and a lot of my personal and side projects involve making games. Also because of my different passions I can make a game by myself because I know how to make art and how to write a story. I have other hobbies that don't fit in as well though, but maybe I could try to fit them in with a bit more effort. Writing and art are discussed on the internet all the time but I feel like a lot of artists and writers still spend most of their time working on their own, without as much influence from technology.

 

I'm into meditation, handstand practice, reading pretty much everything, cooking, philosophy, hanging out in nature to name but a few!

 

Handstand practice jumps out to me here as, is that a real thing?
😀

 

I'm learning how to do handstands, training for the last couple of years!

 

Aside from computer stuff, I enjoy studying Chinese and traveling abroad, which boost my brain, eventually beef up my technical skills. Focusing on techs 100% is not good for brain. I bet.

 

Aside from coding, I'm also a passionate guitar player and a BJJ Practitioner. It helps me get the tension out of my system and helps me express my frustrations in coding hahaha

 

Apart from frontend development I enjoy playing Indian Bamboo Flute, I love the soothing voice of my flute, it is certainly turns out to be a stress buster.

 
 

I've been playing guitar since I was 15, never stopped. Still play pretty much every day.

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