To be a great software architect, you need a creative hobby.

That was the premise of a keynote talk by Kai Holnes at the O’Reilly Software Architecture Conference today in New York City. Holnes, software developer at ThoughtWorks, compared CrossFit and weightlifting in general to technology. 

According to her, in both lifting and technology, there are three main things that you can do to improve: repetition, forming connections, and filling gaps in knowledge. In her lifting analogy, repetition would be just lifting weights over and over. This will certainly help improve your fitness, but to progress, you can introduce isolated movements (forming connections). Finally, you’ll hit a point where you’ll need to fill in gaps by seeking outside advice, such as hiring a coach. 

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In technology, when you start to hit the point where you’re researching and thinking, but aren’t improving, it’s time to expand your thinking through a hobby.

According to Holnes, a creative hobby can give technology practitioners a break. It allows them to refocus their brain from technology onto something else. It also enables them to explore new ways of thinking that they otherwise wouldn’t.

For example, outside of work, Holnes has hobbies like sewing, writing, and creating short films. She explained that while finding a hobby can be beneficial, the journey to finding that hobby is also important. You may try things that you think you might like, but that are a total failure. That’s okay, though, as the journey to finding that creative outlet can be just as important.