I could see where Dzuiba is coming from, although I wouldn’t word it as strongly. I’ve seen a lot of posts pop up on DZone extolling the virtues of being a "passionate programmer", someone who always strives to learn, devotes free time to improving, living and breathing code … all the usual self-back-patting by overachievers.
I used to code in my free time. But that’s because I was learning from scratch. I spent my college years learning such esoteric topics as orchestration, music theory, Associated Press style, defamation of character, points and picas. Control structures, variable types and design patterns were not part of that curriculum.
When I switched from being a content producer to a web developer in the last year of the 1990s, I had to devote a lot of personal time to turn raw talent into actual skill. I think 2003 was the first year I actually felt comfortable considering myself a web developer, but I had to write and rewrite a lot of code to get there. Still do, in fact. (I have since trashed the code I wrote in 2003 in favor of a framework. Who knows when that will be replaced with something else?)
I can tell you when I started coding at home less — early 2005. That’s when my interest started being diverted to home studio recording. I wanted to figure out how compressors, limiters and equalization worked. I wanted to create a Red Book-standard compact disc that I could eventually send to a pressing plant. I wanted to learn how I could create a make-shift isolation booth in my walk-in closet to record vocals.
It’s possible I could have learned home recording and continued my exploration of code, but honestly? How many times do I want to relearn how to use an if statement? When you know the basic grammar of programming languages, all that’s left is to learn vocabulary and syntax. I would like to learn Ruby and Python at some point, but I prefer to learn how to use effects processors instead.
I still code in my free time, but it’s not all I do. In fact, coding is my escape from recording. When my ears are fatigued, I’ll fire up Netbeans and scrub a few more bugs I’ve been putting off.
All that to say, I chose balance. I’ve benefited from coding in my free time. I wouldn’t be nowhere near qualified if I didn’t. But I’ve benefited just as much — my instinct tells me even more so — from leaving code in the office. When I’m done with models, views and controllers, I can go home and think about chord progressions and melodies. Or nothing at all.
Dzuiba is right to question a mindset that blurs boundaries between the personal and the professional. I don’t find it healthy. The rebuttals are also correct. Extra-curricular coding is necessary to improve, let alone keep up.
So code in your free time, if you want. And if hiring managers find fault that you don’t, their lack of balance is not your responsibility. In fact, just nod and walk slowly away.