Taking time for a sabbatical
Taking a self-funded sabbatical can sound like an extravagant luxury. However, more and more people are doing it, especially in the world of software engineering (one of plenty examples can be found here).
My reasons for taking a sabbatical were very simple: I wanted to be in control of 100% of my time, at least for a couple of months. I wanted to catch up on coding projects, personal development, reading, and sports. Yes, all this can be done while you’re working, but I don’t think it’s healthy to code for 3-4 hours on a pet project after having worked ~8 hours in a full time gig of solving problems. Even I can’t take that much screen time.
So, last fall, I’ve taken the radical decision to take a few months off, and despite the current circumstances (eg. a pandemic), it’s been amazing.
Soon I’ll be ready to be back at work, and so I’ve thought that I would share what I’ve done in the past ~4 months. This serves me well as a moment of reflection too. A non-exhaustive list of activities follows.
volunteering - I’m teaching Python to a group of students (some of the course structure is on repl.it). This is a great experience because it makes me improve my teaching and communication skills, and because some students really stood out with their perseverance and diligence to learn and practice, which makes it a rewarding effort.
acquired an AWS Database Specialist certification - the cert is not that important, but the hours put into learning for it were well spent.
acquired a Kubernetes Application Developer certification - again the cert is nothing to brag about, but it did make me revise and practice a lot, which was my main goal.
attended a hackathon where I built a basic social network in Python, using Postgres as a graph database
have written a web app in Go and React to store Kindle clippings, and experimented with several other coding projects
did quite a bit of reading:
- read 15+ books (tech, non-fiction, fiction),
- countless technical articles, and a few academic papers (some written by engineers at Google & AWS),
- computer science books (algorithms, graph theory, site reliability, distributed systems, etc)
Besides these activities, I did lots of things unrelated to my profession - these included cycling, long walks, training and socialising (digitally), which helped me preserve a good mental health and a generally positive attitude.
Overall, a sabbatical might sound like a radical idea, but it’s not - if you can do it, I say, go for it.