How my Fermentation Hobby Helps Me as a Software Engineer

How my Fermentation Hobby Helps Me as a Software Engineer
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

While technical expertise is crucial, I’ve discovered an unexpected wellspring of professional growth: fermentation. This seemingly unrelated hobby has become a secret weapon, nurturing valuable skills that translate directly to my engineering life.

Lessons from the Unknown: The parallel nature of the structure of the challenges I face in my fermentation hobby, and the challenges in my role as a software infrastructure engineer are undeniable. Learning from one has helped me improve in the other.

One pivotal experience involved replicating a rice wine recipe across different locations. Unexpected variations in temperature, water, and even starter cultures produced unique results. What could have been frustrating became a treasure trove of learning. A missing yeast strain yielded a delightful aroma, while “wild” mold sparked a flavorful experiment. These experiences mirrored the software world, where unforeseen issues are the norm. They highlighted the value of embracing the unknown, a crucial mindset for navigating the complexities of coding.

Patience is a Virtue (and a Line of Code):

Crafting exquisite fermented products requires patience. Perfect cheese or kombucha demands waiting – weeks, months, or even years. Similarly, robust software applications often involve planning, iterative testing, and the understanding that quality takes time. My fermentation hobby has instilled this patience, allowing me to trust the process, focus on progress, and approach projects with a long-term vision, leading to more sustainable and successful software solutions.

Adapting on the Fly:

The art of fermentation thrives on the unexpected. Unlike sterile software development labs, fermentation projects are full of curveballs. A cold snap can slow a ferment, a batch might develop its own aroma, and online recipes will yield unpredictable results. These “deviations” have become invaluable lessons in flexibility and adaptability, skills that directly translate to software engineering success.

For instance, a summer heatwave threatened to ruin a batch of kimchi two years ago. Remembering my experience with kombucha temperature fluctuations, I improvised with ice packs and strategic refrigeration inside a insulated chamber originally bought to heat my ferments. Additionally, I monitored the kimchi closely, adjusting salt content and fermentation time based on its progress. The result? A unique, slightly spicier and funkier kimchi, a testament that by adapting to unforeseen circumstances I was able to save the ferment.

This experience extends beyond anecdotes. It has instilled a mindset that acknowleges change and thrives on real-time problem-solving. When dependencies shift, bugs emerge, or client requirements evolve, they become opportunities to apply my fermentation-honed resilience. I can think on my feet, analyze situations calmly, and devise creative solutions that keep projects moving forward.

A Holistic Ecosystem:

My fermentation experience has equipped me with valuable “mental models” that translate directly to software development. Just as understanding the interplay of microorganisms, temperature, and pH levels influences fermentation, I can now approach software development with a more holistic perspective. I consider not just individual lines of code, but the entire ecosystem in which they function, anticipating potential interactions and dependencies that might otherwise lead to unforeseen issues.

Learning from Every Batch (and Bug):

Perhaps the most significant impact of my fermentation hobby lies in its fostering of continuous learning. In software development, failures often carry a negative connotation. However, fermentation has taught me to view challenges as opportunities for improvement. When experiments go awry, I don’t discard them as failures, but rather analyze the variables, identify missteps, and apply those learnings to future endeavors. This approach has instilled a culture of continuous improvement within my team, encouraging open communication about challenges and fostering a collaborative environment where learning trumps finger-pointing.

Fermentation is not without its share of “mishaps.” Off-odors, unexpected textures, and even failed batches are all part of the learning process. These “failures” provide valuable insights and compel me to refine my techniques. Similarly, in software development, encountering bugs and errors is inevitable. My fermentation hobby has instilled a growth mindset, teaching me to view challenges as opportunities for learning and improvement. I approach failures with a calm determination, dissecting the issue, learning from it, and applying that knowledge to future projects, leading to a more resilient and adaptable approach to software development.

The Fermentation-Security Connection:

External factors can throw a wrench into even the most well-planned fermentation project. Learning to adapt and adjust on the fly is crucial for success. This translates directly to the software development world, where unforeseen dependencies, changing requirements, and evolving technologies are the norm. My experience in navigating the unpredictable world of fermentation has made me a more flexible and adaptable engineer. I’m better at anticipating and responding to change, embracing different approaches, and finding creative solutions when faced with unexpected challenges.

While most ferments yield delicious and safe products, the potential for contamination or harmful bacteria necessitates vigilance and strict hygiene practices. Similarly, software security demands constant awareness of potential vulnerabilities and proactive measures to prevent data breaches and malicious attacks. My focus on maintaining a sterile environment and identifying potential risks during fermentation translates into a heightened awareness of software security risks. I’m more proactive in implementing security measures, staying updated on vulnerabilities, and responding swiftly to potential threats, ensuring the safety and integrity of both my fermented creations and my software projects.

Conclusion

Ny journey with fermentation has revealed a profound truth: embracing diverse interests can unlock unexpected benefits that enhance our professional lives. The patience cultivated through waiting for a perfectly aged cheese, the analytical thinking honed from meticulously monitoring variables, and the adaptability developed from navigating unforeseen challenges in my hobby have all translated into invaluable skills that make me a better software engineer.

And the journey of discovery doesn’t end with code. From baking sourdough bread to composing music, every pursuit holds the potential to enrich our lives and equip us with unique perspectives and skillsets. So, I encourage you, my reader, to step outside your comfort zones, explore your passions, and witness the transformative power of diverse interests. Who knows, your next great innovation might just be brewing in the most unexpected place.

Royalty-free stock image above by Antoni Shkraba: Pexels.

Sirish
Sirish

This is where all my quirky comments will go.