- A hobby can become a basic asset for career development
- There are things that we are given more good and give us more satisfaction. Knowing them and relying on them is vital to building a professional future that fills us
Around 2006 my responsibilities in the company I was working for changed. From managing a small team dedicated to seeing how to apply new computer development technologies to new projects I moved on to managing the entire development team.
35 people in the company plus a lot of projects with external teams. In total more than 100 people.
And suddenly I had a new challenge before me. I, who understood me very well with computers, suddenly I had to manage a lot of people.
An interesting challenge, for which I had not prepared myself and that forced me to have to train and learn at a fast pace to have to work with those computers with 2 legs, 2 arms and an operating system very given to do things that nobody had programmed them.
Regardless of the challenge, it posed another problem for me.
When I had some time to think I realized that I missed developing my own programs. It was something I was good at. I was really good at it. And now I didn’t have time to devote to it.
I could try to find people on my team who had a problem and sit down with them to listen to what was going on with them, and quietly steal their keyboard and get to work within the lines of code.
But it didn’t look very professional for a Development Director.
So I thought I’d spend my free time at home.
I’d always seen it as a game, so how can I pass this level? We will try this way. If it doesn’t work, we’ll try this other strategy.
What did I care if I took time away from the WOW or the Zelda and dedicated it to my new game?
And what do I do
So I had to think about what I would do.
At a time when it was unusual for companies to offer APIs to connect to their services, we had already had to create programs to scrape hotel websites (often even with the permission of the hotels themselves) so that our travel agencies could quickly search for availability for their customers. That was quite fun technically.
But what was the topic? It couldn’t be on tourism issues because it didn’t conflict with my job.
There was one subject in which I was not (nor am I) a particular expert but which I liked quite a lot: the world of wine.
So I decided to create a website to offer a search engine for Spanish online wine stores. Where anyone could look for a certain wine and see in which stores I could find it and which of them could offer me the best price.
I was going to use this service myself.
So I set up nosolovino.com: a search engine for online wine stores.
That was back in 2006… And it’s still working.
Technically, I had to set up a whole framework for data extraction capable of scanning wine websites (like Google’s robot), extracting important information (title, appellation, price, photo, …), detecting news and price variations, merging data, standardizing brands and appellations, etc., etc.
In fact the web had some pretty good years generating income as an affiliate or from advertising. In fact I have always thought that, if I had not had my main job, I could have lived perfectly well from this. I even have a huge list of improvements that could be made.
The unexpected by-products
Here comes the interesting part.
Although the project was born as a hobby, it has generated a set of benefits I didn’t count on.
Not especially economic.
But I did learn a lot about entrepreneurship. Of launching your own project and defining your own goals and not working for those of others.
That’s not easy either if you’re not used to it.
In fact, when the tourism company in which I had worked for 24 years closed down, it was immediately clear to me that I was going to launch my own consultancy. And that was conditioned by my experience with this hobby I had been working on for years.
I also learned a lot about online marketing, setting up websites, landings, advertising campaigns, SEO, selling advertising, charging for services.
But technically the framework that I built for the world of wine I have been able to reuse in other companies with which I have collaborated in recent years.
I was able to adapt it for the world of sports articles for a startup with which I collaborated a few years ago.
I was able to adapt it to extract information about job offers, weather forecasts and events of interest by city for a community website that needed to offer content to its members.
I am doing an adaptation for the real estate world for another company in which I participate consolidating and classifying information on properties for sale.
All these adaptations probably would not have been considered if I had not built the initial experiment dedicated to wine. Because the construction of the framework requires quite a lot of time and an important investment. On the other hand, it is possible to adapt the existing framework in a very simple way.
What started out as a hobby has become an important asset in developing new initiatives. It has also opened the way for me to be able to participate in other people’s companies because of the knowledge I have accumulated.
But all this was initially built without that clear objective. I have had to pivot several times during the process to reach the current point.