There are a lot of parallels that have been drawn through the years between creating software and creative outlets such as painting, writing, music and other forms of art. I couldn't agree more with this as time and time again I've been a part of teams that were made up of engineers who spent a lot of time in other pursuits in their free time. I've also been a part of teams where the majority of team members simply didn't have any creative outlets that they enjoyed. The difference in productivity and quality was palpable, to say the least. Creative teams tend to consistently produce better solutions and are especially productive when they have a chance to foster their creativity during the course of a project.
There are a number of reasons why this holds true - first among them is the fact that a creative developer sees their development environment as a canvas. Just like a painter sees a blank canvas before they get started on their next masterpiece and a musician sees the air around them as an opportunity to fill it with song, creative coders love to start new projects with new technologies and tools. If their project has been in maintenance mode for a while or they have been working on the same code for a long while, the opportunity to write something new carries the same rush as writing a new song or taking photographs of a new setting. This mindset generally leads to an explosion of new ideas and unique designs for the new project - that blank slate can get filled very quickly
Another way that creative pursuits help in development is that they allow the coder to rest and relax their brain during critical times. It's one thing to take a break, close your eyes and think about nothing - and that might work well for some people. However, I tend to want to do something passive when taking a break that still stimulates my mind. For me, that means picking up my guitar for a few minutes or writing about something else entirely when I take a break. If I'm working on a project plan or trying to refine a large process, after a while my brain wants to shut down completely. At that point, I might switch gears for a bit and write something creatively - maybe a blog post or even just brainstorming ideas for future posts or other forms of writing. When I used to write code constantly, I had the same routine - I would take breaks during long coding sessions and play a little guitar or write for a little bit. I always came back refreshed and ready to get back to the work at hand. Of course, people who don't consider themselves artistic or creative have outlets as well, but I think those who have them would agree that creative outlets translate very naturally to developing software.
Creative developers also have very natural ways of handling stress by channeling the energy that they get from their other hobbies. Software development can be a very stressful profession with tight deadlines, changing priorities from day to day and pressure to learn and increase your skills at the same time that you're getting a lot of work done. Handling the stress that comes with this is the difference between being very successful and dreaming of a new career because of the pressure involved. I've unfortunately seen this time and time again through the years and I've always noted the special ability of some people to remain calm and centered even during the most stressful of times. When asked what their secret was, in a lot of those cases it was their creative pursuits that helped them manage their stress.
Finally, developers are more likely to see and react to other solutions if they are used to thinking quickly and improvising in a creative way. Often it is difficult to solve new problems without new thinking - especially in the technology arena. Many times the technology that was the obvious and best choice for a solution 6 months ago is obsolete today. In addition to technology concerns, businesses come up with new problems to solve every day as well. To be effective in solving these problems in a flexible and precise way many times takes a lot of creative thinking. That creativity might be the difference between winning the business and losing out in this economy and has never been more important to a software team than right now.
The Track-It! team is very diverse. Our team is centered here in Tampa, FL and we've got team members who are US natives from Florida, the northeast and from tiny towns in the south. They've also lived everywhere from Seattle to Philadelphia to Singapore and Thailand. We've also got team members who are originally from Poland and Ukraine. Between all of us, we enjoy creative pursuits such as playing guitar and piano, photography, writing music and other creative writing. We even have a team member who grew up in the northeastern US and played in a Russian balalaika band with his family as a kid. Now, that's eclectic!
This mix of personalities, cultures and creative energy makes this a great place to come to work every day. What this team has accomplished over the past few years alone with the Track-It! product is just tremendous and we're about ready to unleash even more great functionality on the world. We can't wait to share it with you, but don't worry - it won't be long now. In the meantime, we're working on even more cool stuff for Track-It! and we'll keep strumming, tinkling the ivories, taking lots of pictures and writing about all kinds of things to keep us motivated and relaxed.
Hmmm... you don't think the team has to do all of this just to be able to deal with me every day, do you?