Diverse hobbies for igniting engineering innovation

Diverse hobbies for igniting engineering innovation
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

My journey with juggling multiple unrelated hobbies suggests that engineers with a diverse interest are assets to allows for greater innovation and creativity.

From mad-scientist to Problem-Solver

The traditional image of a software engineer rarely includes fermentation vats with big blobs floating inside them, or paintbrushes. My personal journey fermenting unique beverages reveals an unexpected truth: diverse hobbies can unlock potent tools for engineers, helping them tackle complex challenges with ingenuity. This essay discusses this potential, we will explore how seemingly unrelated pursuits can help cultivate useful skills and perspectives that help generate creativity and innovation in engineering.

While technical expertise remains essential, engineers who venture beyond formulas and schematics unlock a treasure trove of benefits. Firstly, diverse hobbies expand their “toolset” for problem-solving. Imagine an engineer with a background in music approaching an interface design challenge. Their understanding of sound and rhythm could translate into user-friendly interfaces for individuals with auditory sensitivities. This “cross-pollination” of knowledge empowers engineers to identify unexpected connections, leading to more creative solutions.

Diverse hobbies nurture empathy, a key yet often underrated quality in engineers. By immersing themselves in different worlds, they develop a deeper understanding of diverse user needs and perspectives. For example, an engineer with a passion for woodworking might approach design with a keen eye for user experience, ensuring their creations are not only functional but also aesthetically pleasing. This enhanced empathy promotes stronger user relationships and ultimately leads to more impactful engineering solutions.

A Skillset Beyond Formulas

My experience with fermentation serves as a testament to this. As I experimented with unique brews, I learned useful skills in adaptability, problem-solving, and grit. These skills proved served me whell when I worked on an internal project that involved building the first internal-facing GPU Kubernetes cluster in our Fortune 100 organization. Experince in the project reflected the seemingly unpredictable pauses and accelerations in fermentation, and demanded I be flexible and ready to improvise. Both needed a strong understanding of fundamentals so I could see the change factors. Ultimately, the problem-solving mindset that I learned through my hobby proved to be useful in the project’s success.

We are scratching only the surface of the benefits diverse hobbies offer. Engineers who embrace the richness of diverse interests unlock their full potential as innovators, collaborators, and impactful problem-solvers. They can inspire a new generation where technical engineering solutions are technically sound, and also empathetic and human-centered. I have written the importance of human-centered design elsewhere on this blog, feel free to search on the ‘search’ bar to follow up on it.

Broader Implications

While technical prowess forms the bedrock of engineering, a singular focus can create a dangerous tunnel vision. This narrow perspective, limited to established methods and familiar solutions, often verlooks concerns like actual user needs, ethical considerations, and changing technology landscape. By embracing diverse hobbies and interests, on can act as a potent antidote to the restrictive worldview, equipping oneself with the multifaceted perspective and flexible approach to problem solving.

Consider the infamous case of the Ford Pinto, where cost-cutting measures prioritized over safety resulted in fatal design flaws. This tragic example underscores the dangers of tunnel vision, where engineers, fixated on technical specifications, failed to anticipate the broader social and ethical implications of their work. In contrast, an engineer with a background in social psychology might have foreseen the human cost of such decisions, advocating for a user-centric design approach.

Beyond ethical considerations, a limited perspective can hinder innovation itself. Sticking to established methods stifles exploration of alternative approaches, potentially leading to inefficient solutions. History is rife with examples where breakthroughs emerged from seemingly unrelated fields. The Wright brothers, inspired by birdwatching, revolutionized transportation with their flying machine, while Velcro, originally designed to capture burrs on animals, has found myriad applications in diverse industries. Diverse hobbies can similarly spark creative connections, allowing engineers to view problems from unexpected angles and arrive at groundbreaking solutions.

Beyond Technical Jargon

Communication and team-work are cornerstones of successful engineering projects. A lack of diverse perspectives can undermine clear communication, and hinder partnerships. Imagine a team of engineers with identical backgrounds attempting to explain a complex technical concept to a diverse group of stakeholders. Their limited understanding of the audience perspective could lead to miscommunication and frustration. An engineer who enjoys theater might leverage their experience in storytelling and audience engagement to communicate complex ideas effectively, getting an easier cooperation and buy-in from various stakeholders.

Imagine an engineer, solely focused on traditional construction methods, faced with the rapid rise of 3D printing technology. Their limited skillset might hinder their ability to adapt and embrace the innovation. Conversely, an engineer with a passion for tinkering and experimenting, honed through hobbies like robotics or woodworking, might readily embrace new technologies, quickly upskilling and adapting to the changing landscape.


Diverse hobbies ignite innovation in unexpected ways. Engineer whose artistic eye designs intuitive interfaces, inspired by minimalist art to reduce user errors is better at his job than one whose main hobby is programming. Imagine the musician optimizing data processing, drawing from his musical composition interest to optimize algorithms. Think of the soccer player leading joint projects, leveraging collaboration skills to encourage a thriving innovation environment. Picture the writer crafting clear technical communication, making collaboration simpler through user-friendly documentation. These are just a few examples of how engineers could harness hobbies to achieve remarkable results. From user-centric design to efficient algorithms, collaborative leadership to clear communication, by embracing diverse interests, engineers unlock creativity, adaptability, and problem-solving potential. Those potentials help them with innovation, empathy and understanding customer problems.

Royalty-free stock image above from Pexels.

Shirish Pokharel, Innovation Engineer, Mentor

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