Developing Your Career
Career-wise, taking an improv course is a fantastic way to develop a skill that is often not practiced in software engineering — good communication. Far too often I’ve spent weeks glued to my computer, focusing on deadlines, only to find that when going out with friends I’m not able to articulate myself verbally as well as I normally could. Language, like a muscle, needs to be practiced or it atrophies. Since I don’t often get the chance to communicate at work outside of daily stand-ups, an improv class allows me to stretch my creative, and communicative muscles.
In addition, improv forces you to put yourself out there and feel uncomfortable — a feeling I’ve spent my entire life chasing. This feeling is an indicator that you’re developing a new skill, or trying something outside of your comfort zone and thus growing as a person. A class allows you the opportunity to refine your public speaking skills, and perhaps discover talents you may not have known you’ve had.
Improving Your Well-Being
The benefits of participating in improv don’t just stop at your career, they can extend to your health and well-being. Participating in a class forces you to take your eyes off a screen and be present in the moment. You’re often immersed in games or scenes that command your full attention. Your mind won’t be thinking about work, relationships, or anything bothering you — since it won’t have the chance. It’s a way to disconnect from the rest of the world and be present in the moment — something we don’t practice often enough in our world of constant Slack messages, emails, and alerts.
Obviously taking an improv course isn’t going to be attainable for everyone in software engineering, but I challenge my colleagues — when’s the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone and tried something new?