Working on Technology Off the Clock

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I have always spent time learning relational databases on my own, non-work time. As the years have passed, I have spent less of my own free time on technical learning and writing for many reasons, but still, I spend plenty of my own time learning about the database technology that Codd started.

While I never actually kept count, I have spent at least thousands of hours blogging, writing books, learning, and just playing around with SQL Server features to figure out how they work. I have also worked with some very competent people who only spent 40 hours a week working with the same technology.

I am not here to bash those making a great living just working at your day job. In some ways, this blog is more here to celebrate those who do a great job just during their day job. Over the years, I have written many blogs about What Counts for a DBA. In those years, I probably came across as thinking you were total slackers. It was what I knew and what I loved. All of the people I knew who were great were doing the same things.

In my early years, I spent just unthinkable amounts of time writing/learning. My first book took 20 hours or more each week for almost a year. I bought a very early smartphone to do a solid part of the writing on the go. (I still do this to this day, though the phone I am writing on now has many more temptations than the old green screen Palm device did!) I wrote at my daughter’s sports events, doctor’s visits, concerts, and even once while working the PowerPoint for a wedding. Sleep was commonly joked about but rarely done to any satisfactory level.

The company I worked for always appreciated my effort, but never required it. The skills I learned doing the writing were often useful in my daily work, but never once was it required. Spending lots of your free time being required by your employer is one of the main arguments I see people talk about when they are pessimistic about doing extra-curricular learning. “This is something you are doing for your company.” I never thought of it that way. I thought of it as doing something that I wanted to do that was (mostly) kind of fun.

Do I regret it? I do have regrets. While I never let it crowd out my family/spiritual life, yet I did let it take over the rest of my life. I pretty much stopped exercising, I stopped eating food that didn’t come from a bag with a character on the side, and sleep became something that lasted far less time than the surgeon general would have praised me for. If I had any advice for someone reading this blog, it would be to take care of your health first, then keep learning.

What about yourself? Do you have any feelings about treating work like a hobby? Drop your opinions in the comments!