People are often amazed when I tell them that programming is not just a job–it’s also my hobby. I know that it’s one of the main reasons I was immediately considered for the job I have now. After looking at my cv, my now-manager headed to my web-site and saw that I had done a number of personal projects.
It’s the whole reason I think I have excelled beyond everything I’ve learned in school in the last few years. It’s one of the reasons I’m learning so much practical knowledge. Working on my own projects lets me do fun things at my own pace (I still try to apply some pressure to get things done). I always try to do things I’ve never done before.
I learned a TON making BRayTracer–about program organization, unit testing, optimization, user interface design, architectural levels, and a whole lot about .Net. There are still so many things I want to add to it so I can learn more.
It’s not something you can do just in an attempt to prove to future employers that you’re hard-core. You have to love it. There are a lot of other fun things in life. I just happen to love writing code, and I try to spend a lot of time outside work doing just that.
All other things being equal, somebody who programs as a hobby will be a better programmer than one just in it for a job.
Finding time is always difficult, though. Work is stressful, and sometimes you need to get off the computer. Still, I’ve got some cool utilities planned, a pocket pc game, and who knows. I’m keeping track of ideas, and I’ll just have to start small and work on one at a time.