Why I no longer code in my free time

Why I no longer code in my free time

I’m less insecure about my career

Those of us who write code are an insecure bunch. Technology moves faster than any one human being can keep up. The threat of falling behind is real and can impact careers and earnings, and that’s a terrifying thing. I studied a lot of tech concepts in my free time to try to stay relevant.

I have a Kubernetes cluster sitting in my living room that, looking back, exists only because of a misprediction that I would need to know Kubernetes to stay employable. Kubernetes is fun, and this is not an attack on Kubernetes at all; I just don’t think insecurity is a healthy motivator.

I’m a good number of years into my career and I feel confident that I have the skills I need to contribute to a team. I’ve also had the humbling experience that every programmer eventually has, when I discovered that new interns were smarter than me. It’s a good thing. It means I can focus on my strengths rather than obsess over my weaknesses.

In some ways, I have to thank AI for helping me let go of my tech insecurity. Hear me out.

I will never write something like ChatGPT. Even if I had that level of understanding of neural networks, I will never have access to OpenAI’s data and compute resources. Realistically, there are only a handful of companies on this planet that will need to roll their own large language models anyway (although I’m sure there will be plenty of companies who mistakenly think they need to roll their own models). This isn’t my path.

My career took a path I didn’t expect

I’m still a data scientist; I write code, analyze data, and produce forecasts. But I’ve fallen into the economics space and discovered that I like it!

Instead of being worried about not knowing enough about tech, I’m certain that I don’t know enough about economics. I’m going in a new direction and embracing my lack of knowledge. I’ve even signed up for a Masters in Economics.

I made an industry prediction a few years ago that the data science hype would wane, but that there would still be a place for domain experts with data science expertise. I don’t know yet if my prediction is true, but it’s true for me, and in a field I never anticipated.

I get to use a programming language I like at work

I enjoyed coding in my free time when it was the only way I could use programming languages I like (R, Julia, and recently Rust). For a long time, my employment demanded that I use Python. Programming scratches an itch for me, but not programming in Python.

This is not about whether R is better than Python or vice versa. I don’t care. All that matters is that I enjoy writing in R and have a bad time writing in Python. It’s more of a vibe than a comparison of programming languages.

Now I get to use R for 40 hours a week, and it’s great. I love my job and feel truly privileged to use this language all day. If I’m getting my coding fill from 9 to 5, then I don’t need to code from 5 to 9.

As I get older, relationships matter more to me

I’m about to be married, and time with my fiancé matters more to me than anything else. There is no code I can write that would bring me more happiness than doing the most mundane household chore with her.

I have a dog who means the world to me, and I enjoy throwing a ball for him more than I do managing a VPS. His goofy little smile fills me with more satisfaction than a 97% test coverage badge.

My dog’s approach to life is oddly inspiring. I took him on holiday last year. Halfway to the destination, I stopped to fill up the car. He got out at the petrol station and thought it was the best holiday destination ever. Everything he saw and smelled was new and exciting. He had no idea we were driving to a beach house that would be even better than a petrol station — for him, this was as good as life gets. We would all be a lot happier if we had his approach to life.

I’m increasingly drawn to hobbies without screens

After staring at a screen all day, I struggle to stare at a screen after work.

I’ve gone back to a hobby I enjoyed when I was a child. Sixteen-year-old David gave up on Warhammer 40K because he didn’t think that women would want anything to do with someone who paints plastic miniatures. Thirty-something-year-old David just doesn’t care.

There’s a unique joy to rediscovering abandoned childhood hobbies. I have disposable income now that lets me afford expensive toys. And then I get to play a game with some friends, using physical dice, physical rulebooks, and physical models.

My greatest hobby accomplishment this year isn’t a Dockerfile that actually works but reading an epic fantasy book series. I read through Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson’s Wheel of Time series in under four months. I was fully immersed in one of the grandest book series ever written.

I don’t know what’s next

The title of this post isn’t entirely true. I do still code in my free time. I maintain lambdr and I stop CRAN from deleting my packages. Just last week I wrote some R code to analyse the playlist for my wedding, and maybe there’s a blog post in that.

Despite not coding as much in my free time, my passion for coding and data science hasn’t waned. It’s just that now I have found a balance in life that doesn’t include Kubernetes clusters in the lounge room.