Making life changes

This column is from The MagPi issue 51. You can download a PDF of the full issue for free, or subscribe to receive the print edition in your mailbox or the digital edition on your tablet. All proceeds from the print and digital editions help the Raspberry Pi Foundation achieve its charitable goals.

Making things can change your life. It did for me, and I hear the same from others all the time.

After I graduated from university in 2003, I jumped immediately into the workforce. I landed in New York City’s entertainment industry, which is where I’d dreamed of working since I was young. I was excited to be a staffer on a major television show, where I learned what it takes to produce a weekly drama series. I slowly worked my way up the ladder in the industry over a few years.

There’s a lot to admire about how film and television content is produced. A crew of over one hundred people with creative and technical talents come together to create a piece of entertainment, under the watchful eye of the director. It’s an enormous piece of creative collaboration, but it’s also a business. Everyone does their part to make it happen. It’s incredible to see a show get made.

I had found a niche in the television industry that I did well in, but eventually I hit a rut. I had a small role in a big piece of work. I wanted to be more creative, and to have more autonomy and influence over what I was helping to create. It was at that time that I started closely following what makers were doing.

Feeling inspired by the work of others, I started to make things with microcontrollers and electronics. I’d then share information on how to recreate these projects online. Eventually, I was contributing projects to Make: magazine and I was soon able to make money from making things for companies, writing about how to make, and writing about what others were making. Soon enough, I was in a position to leave the television industry and work as a maker full-time.

That eventually led to my current job, doing outreach for Raspberry Pi in the United States. It’s incredibly gratifying work and despite the long road to get here, I couldn’t be happier with what I’m doing. The spare time I invested in making things as a hobby has paid off greatly in a new career that gives me creative freedom and a much more interesting work day.

Matt meets maker Gerald Burkett at World Maker Faire New York 2016.

Matt meets maker Gerald Burkett at World Maker Faire New York 2016.

Make it happen

I meet people all the time who have stories about how making has had an impact on their lives. At World Maker Faire New York recently, I met student Gerald Burkett, who told me his story of becoming a maker. He said, “I’m doing things I wouldn’t have ever dreamed of just four years ago, and it’s changed my life for the better.” And Gerald is having an impact on others as well. Even though he will be graduating soon, he’s encouraging the school’s administration to foster makers in the student body. He says that they “deserve an inviting environment where creativity is encouraged, and access to tools and supplies they couldn’t otherwise obtain in order to prototype and invent.”

Because of more accessible technology like the Raspberry Pi and freely available online resources, it’s easier than ever to make the things that you want to see in the world. Whether you are a student or you are far down a particular career path, it’s easier than ever to explore making as a passion and, potentially, also a livelihood.

If you’re reading this and you feel like you’re stuck in a rut with your job, I understand that feeling and encourage you to pursue making with vigour. There’s a good chance that what you make can change your life. It worked for me.