Creative Outlets

This past summer I took a three month sabbatical from Automattic. It’s something that’s offered to everyone once you’ve been at the company for five years or more. I was overdue, I’m less than six months away from my ten year anniversary! Time flies.

During my sabbatical I spent much of my time away from the computer, working in the garden, getting my hands dirty, and spending time with my family. It was a great and much appreciated break, it felt good to relax and recharge.

Out came the Laptop

Laptop in the gardenHowever, my time wasn’t all away from the computer. My brother has been looking to break into the world of programming in an effort to change careers. He’s spent the last ten years working in the service industry, and he’s ready for a change.

Early in the summer we spent three sessions a week working to understand programming fundamentals. His language and platform of choice is Swift and iOS, he wants to ultimately find a position as a junior iOS developer. For the first six weeks we didn’t touch anything to do with apps, we didn’t even plug in a phone or boot up the simulator. We only spent time using Swift playgrounds, going through data types, operators, functions, loops, arrays, dictionaries, optionals, then finally onto classes, objects, and inheritance.

Swift is a wonderful programming language, this was my first experience working with it. You can clearly see how it has taken the best of many different languages, and almost completely left the worst of them behind. Even though I had no experience using it before, my brother and I were able to work effectively using my knowledge of other languages.

The Spark

We built a very basic starter app, for weighing objects.

Teaching my brother over the summer allowed me to learn something about myself. As we continued on through the fundamentals and started into building a basic starter app, I realized that I was really enjoying the process. It felt great to learn a new language and environment, and even better to learn it through teaching.

As the summer passed we continued working towards building his first app, designing the UI, and using the correct APIs for the hardware we needed to access. Along the way I noticed that helping my brother was providing me with a creative outlet, something that I think had been missing for some time. It made me feel good. My day-to-day work at Automattic is fulfilling, although I don’t often get to express creativity in ways that I have done in previous years. This is okay, what I’ve learned is I still need to give myself an outlet to express it in my own time.

So that’s exactly what I intend to do from this point on. I’ll make sure I spend at least a few hours a week on my creative outlet. I expect to continue on with iOS development, which is the last thing I would have expected before my sabbatical! I figured why waste the knowledge I’ve built up helping my brother?

I will start posting more on this blog about what I’ve been working on, including posts about what I learned helping my brother start from square one. The learning curve for iOS development is steep, but really rewarding once you get over it.