Professional Development

Sailing, whiskey influencing and more: 4 DC tech pros share their (very cool) favorite hobbies

Fifth Tribe's Khuram Zaman, Spotify's Taylor Poindexter, Kion's Brian Price and Future AI's Charles Simon clued us in on what they do when the work clock stops running.

Charles Simon seen securing some equipment on an Artic adventure.

(Courtesy photo)

Look, we’re all for celebrating the local community when its members have professionally succeeded. But even we know that your time in the office, whether virtual or IRL, isn’t all of who you are.

Talking to technologists day-in and day-out makes it clear to us at Technical.ly that you all are more than your LinkedIn descriptions. Outside of work, you’re parents, gardeners, food enthusiasts, athletes and cultural connoisseurs. Those parts of your identity can even help you learn new skills, land a job, stay focused on the clock or offer much-needed decompression and self-care when times get tough. After all, it’s called a work-life balance, right?

So, we asked the question: What do you all do after 5 p.m.? Are you immediately hopping on Discord? A community activist? A parent again — for good measure?

Spoiler: As it turns out, based on your responses, you’re all really cool.

Here’s what four local technologists and entrepreneurs had to say:

Khuram Zaman, CEO, Fifth Tribe 

The guy with a new twist on family game night

Zaman, a CEO and adjunct professor at Georgetown University, has a few different hobbies to keep him occupied in the off-hours. His own experience founding a company (where he received tons of free advice) led to his becoming a major mentor in the community, participating in programs like CampTech with the State Department, the Halcyon Incubator, Aspen Digital and others. He’s found mentorship to be fulfilling and said it helped him sharpen his skills as an entrepreneur.

But when he’s in the mood to do absolutely anything but think about the startup world, he’s big into gaming. He said he typically plays strategy or collaborative games with his kids (often on Saturday; his family calls it “Video Game Day” and they all play together). Favorites in his household include PC games like Age of Empires or co-op games on the Xbox such as Overcooked and Child of Light.

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Playing strategy games, he told Technical.ly, helps him focus on and execute ideas quickly — a skill that can definitely be applied to work.

“Gaming allows me to take my mind completely off of work and gives me a break so I can be completely absorbed in another matter,” Zaman said. “Being able to focus at work is important, but being able to unfocus is also important when I’m not working. Those breaks help me refresh so when I go back to work, I’m more focused and able to move quickly.”

Bonus round: Zaman and his wife are also huge gardeners and they love to hang out in the garden, sip some tea and chat. This year, they’re growing tomatoes, potatoes, jalapeños, chili peppers and cilantro.

Taylor Poindexter, software engineering manager, Spotify

The Happy Hour MVP

Poindexter was first introduced to whisky via a tasting party hosted by a close friend. She stepped through the doorway having labeled herself as “not a whisky person.” By the time she left, though, she had not one but three different whiskies she liked sipping straight, and each one was different.

Noticing the difference in each really piqued her interest, she said. And after getting a crash course in how the product was distilled, she was hooked on a new interest.

“I love the complexities of whiskey and the fact that there continues to be a seemingly unlimited amount of knowledge to soak up about the topic,” Poindexter said. “I love it so much that I give a whiskey presentation at every one of my birthday parties in an attempt to slowly, but surely, indoctrinate my friends, as well.”

But, like many things, that social component changed after March of 2020. So, after getting a few nudges from friends, Poindexter created the @womanwithwhiskey Instagram page, where she could continue to share her knowledge and love of whiskey. The result, she said, was one of the best decisions she ever made — especially with how welcoming the whiskey community has been — and she knows it’ll be a lifelong hobby.

The Instagram page has connected her with tons of people she would never have gotten to meet otherwise. And personally, it’s helped others get a more well-rounded picture of her, which she thinks has encouraged people to want to work with her more.

“I’ve been told that some of my best qualities shine through on camera, and folks being able to see that on a regular basis makes them view me more favorably,” Poindexter said. “These connections help supercharge my career and also bring a lot of laughter and joy into my life.”

Making the unscripted videos on her page also made presenting in front of crowds a lot less intimidating, she said. Plus, the page is a constant reminder that consistency is key — and that, sometimes, there’s a great deal to gain from just getting started on something and adjusting as you go along.

“Sometimes I get overly focused on wanting everything to be perfect before I tackle a task, but that’s not always necessary,” Poindexter said. “Start and iterate until you’re pleased with your product.”

Charles Simon, founder and CEO, Future AI

The one who might take a meeting on the water

Simon is one of those lucky enough to have found his main hobby as a child. He began in childhood, having learned from his father, and has sailed on progressively larger boats throughout his life. Most recently, he and his wife were camped out on a 58-foot boat parked in Annapolis, Maryland, which served as their home base for sailing around the world. The pair took a trip through the Arctic Northwest Passage, circumnavigating the North American continent.

Sailing is particularly intriguing for him because it’s both very physical and a huge mental game, requiring expedition planning, navigation, routing, communications, weather forecasting, maintenance and repairs alongside routine operations.

“Sailing is so varied,” he said. “On one hand, you can have a magical, calm day with the boat ghosting along silently. The other extreme is the exhilaration of the boat pounding through waves and drenching you with seawater.”

Long-distance sailing offers major lessons in self-reliance, he said.  Sailors need to know that their own skills, planning and preparation are the only things that will get them successfully to their destination — no room for imposter syndrome.

Not to mention that he believes it’s more or less the perfect way to unwind from everyday life’s stressors.

“The sailing trip gives you tremendous perspective,” Simon said. “You have lots of time to think but enough mental and physical activity to take you away from the tensions of work. I come back from a trip renewed.”

Brian Price, CEO, Kion

The boss who you want to invite you over for dinner

Price said he always enjoyed watching cooking shows, learning new kitchen techniques and preparing meals with his family from an early age. So it’s no surprise that he considers cooking one of his main outside-of-work hobbies. While some are just trying to get something in their stomach after a workday, he thinks cooking is a great activity that’s both educational and, if it’s shared, a bonding experience.

“Teaching folks about how to construct a perfect bite or the perfect pairing with wine or bourbon, or the differences between specific ingredients in a dish, is just so interesting and an area where almost everyone can learn a little something,” Price said.

Building software or tech products can take months on end. But cooking, Price said, is something that can be finished in an hour or two while also allowing someone to enjoy the work and effort that went into creating a dish. He said it’s a great way to leverage the other side of his brain while offering some much-needed instant gratification that can take him away from the workday.

Besides, food is one of the most universal things we share here on Earth, seeing as everyone has to eat sometime.

“Technology is great, but not an area that everyone can relate to — and for some, it can be very frustrating,” Price said. “But almost everyone has had that dining experience that becomes a lasting memory that can be shared and related. It’s almost a universal topic that everyone can relate to others with.”

Got a hobby you’d like to share? Tell us about it at dc@technical.ly. 

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