Recently, I had the opportunity to get feedback on my site from my classmates as part of the “Portfolio & Professional Development” course I'm taking this semester in university. In it, one of the major projects we have to work on during the semester is a portfolio site for showcasing our work and letting employers get in contact. Because I had this site that I was working on already, though, the professor was kind enough to let me keep working on it for the class. Our most recent class was focused on going around and leaving thoughts about the website drafts that others had made. Much of the feedback I got were ideas for relatively minor tweaks and additions for improving the styling and navigation of the site, and I'm planning on using that feedback as a list of things to work on. There was one piece of feedback that really stood out to me, though, which was a critical comment about my intent with the site.
“The intentions of the site are a little unclear, it feels like you're just sharing your hobbies on the internet rather than trying to get hired.”
It's worth saying that this was a valid criticism to make, especially given the scope of the class. I think it's fair to say having your competitive Team Fortress 2 history on the front page of your website isn't going to help your job prospects. This isn't to imply I'm going to try to make my website more professional; this is first and foremost a space for me and my interests (in other words, they pretty much got my site's purpose).
That said, I want to focus in on the idea of me sharing my hobbies. When I read that line, it got me thinking about how much of what I do now came as the result of hobbies I had when I was younger. An easy example that comes to mind is my interest in game design, which you could argue began when I was making Minecraft adventure maps. I like to think it really started back when I first got into by making levels for the workshop in Portal 2, as that would be what got me interested in how levels are actually built.
I started off by making puzzles with the in-game editor, having a blast at just creating my own levels, despite barely being able to walk around in them due to my computer's poor performance. Eventually I wanted to do something with custom styles, which led me into figuring out how to export maps from the in-game editor for use in the Hammer Level Editor. From there I expiremented with lighting, textures, and models to build new environments from scratch. Because I was using Portal 2 as the base for my expirementation, the only elements of level design I truely had to worry about (beyond the beast that is puzzle design) was pacing. Of course, I began thinking about level design more broadly once I began looking to map for other Source games as well. What started as a way for younger me to kill time became a genuine passion I still hold today. The same thing goes for my interests in video editing and music; these are fields I played with growing up that I now consider serious interests of mine.
Programming is another example of this mentality, especially given that I began learning about it just for fun. At the time, I figured it would be a way for me to apply the high school algebra skills that I felt I wasn't doing much with, so I set on trying to learn coding to apply those skills. While the hardest part was undoubtedly finding a resource that I could learn the basics from, once I had that it was an enjoyable and rewarding experience. As I began to branch off from the guided path and work on my own little coding projects, I became more interested in different programming languages, using Git for version control, and how I organized my code. What started off as a hobby to apply the math skills I had in school had become a genuine interest of mine. Better yet, it's leading me into further interests like digital electronics and circuitry.
Even today, I still have hobbies that I'm slowly beginning to take more seriously. The pattern seems to be that as I begin to make stuff with the fundamental knowledge I have in a field, I start getting more invested into it. I start experimenting more heavily within in the medium in trying out new things, which leads me to learn more about techniques and approaches. Eventually I realize the quality of my work is good enough that what I have is an actual skill I can apply in my work. Putting it simply, my hobbies have become my interests.
That resource I initially learned programming from was the University of Waterloo's Python From Scratch course, by the way. Highly recommend that course for anyone who wants a good fundamental introduction to programming. ↩︎