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Hi Fernando,

Congrats on the book. What’s your take on personal projects? Should a software dev always have a side project outside of work? Thanks.
 
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Hey Carld, thanks for asking, that's a great question!

There is a whole section on the book about side projects, but my take on it is that yes, they should have a side project, but only if it helps them.
What does that mean? The real question is why do you want a side projects?Are you trying to improve your skills? Are you trying to build a product and earn money? Do you feel like it's a mandatory trait of all developers?

To me side projects are great learning tools, but if you're getting your learning from somewhere else, then why bother? Side projects take lots of time and can become an obsession to some developers. To me nothing is worth losing quality "me" time over. Meaning, if you feel like relaxing and watching TV, or spending time with your family or your friends, anything that disconnects you from the stress of your job, why avoid it?
If on the other hand, you manage your time properly and still feel like you'd get some benefits from working on a side project using A PORTION of your free time, then by all means, go ahead.
They're also a great way to show your skills if you're looking for your first job, so yes, I do recommend them, but it's also important to not the "dark side" of side projects.

What do you think about them?

Carl Groovy wrote:Hi Fernando,

Congrats on the book. What’s your take on personal projects? Should a software dev always have a side project outside of work? Thanks.

 
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Also, make sure to check your current employment contract. Many non-compete clauses make it impossible to publish side-projects that could be of interest to your employer, even if your publish them as open-source.

Working on hobby-projects is fine, but keep them private.
 
Marshal
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In addition to Stephan's valid point about employment contracts, also be cautious about using your employer's computer and/or time to do it because if they choose to and can prove it they can claim ownership of your side project.
 
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I've known at least one company whose policy could be summarized as "Whatever you do on our time using our equipment is ours. Whatever you do on your time with your equipment is also ours".

Legally questionable, but then much of the success of corporate/employee relations can be determined by the fact that one employee versus a whole team of management, legal, HR and others doesn't exactly lead to an even battlefield.
 
Tim Cooke
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I've worked for one of those companies too. Legal or not, the average employee will likely not have deep enough pockets or the willpower to prove them wrong.
 
Tim Holloway
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One of the great Libertarian Fantasies. The idea that if you're talented enough and hard-working enough you can take on the massed resources of an entire organization and win.

A bigger tell for me is that the Goddess of Libertarianism herself had to belly up to the public teat in her declining years. Apologists say it was money stolen and hers rightly to reclain (note: most people get more out of Socialist Security than they put in). But the Libertarian Philosophy as presented in her works says that you should be 100% self-sufficient. Get cancer? Don't expect Socialized Medicine to cover it. In fact, even insurance is just privatized Socialism. You should have socked away enough to pay for all that care beforehand. Even if you were 3 years old at the time (and what's this mooching off parents, anyway?) Got robbed? You should have worked hard and hidden enough away to survive it, not gone begging to the robbers. Got robbed and you knew how much and when it was coming? NO EXCUSE WHATSOEVER!!!

OK, a bit off topic. but the point is that you need to build up a portfolio of your own, and you need to do the Libertarian Thing and ensure that it's truly your own. I tell prospective employers that I come into a job with certain assets, and I may use or improve those assets for their benefits, but as a courtesy if nothing else they should not expect to own any more of those assets than the parts developed for that particular business. Especially now that "careers" are not something you have with just one company anymore. That concept died around 1980-1984.
 
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Tell your employer to sponsor you for a master's or doctorate. Make sure the terms say that you retain ownership of the intellectual property of the degree, despite their paying the fees. Tell them that whenever it gets out they will sponsor higher degrees, that will attract better applicants.
 
Campbell Ritchie
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A few minutes ago, I wrote:. . .  [if] they will sponsor higher degrees, that will attract better applicants.

That bit is completely true.
 
Tim Cooke
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Some years ago I was at a conference in London with the late Joe Armstrong and somebody asked him how he found the time to write the Erlang programming language. His response was something like this:

You need to find an employer who's willing to let you do what you like for 10 years without asking too many questions


I believe the employer in question was Ericsson.
 
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Campbell Ritchie wrote:Tell your employer to sponsor you for a master's or doctorate. Make sure the terms say that you retain ownership of the intellectual property of the degree, despite their paying the fees. Tell them that whenever it gets out they will sponsor higher degrees, that will attract better applicants.


   

I'd worked for over half a decade in one of the better IT shops in town doing critical OS support functions. I asked if they could accommodate me doing some sort of  schedule that would permit me to attend university classes and they shot it down flat. Which led to me resigning, but without an income I could only attend for a limited time and I ended up working at other places once savings were gone.

These days, even getting a company to provide you with any sort of training beyond some sort of online video course that you have to view unpaid outside of working hours is all too rare. In fact, even the video is rare enough.

In the USA, at least, rarely is possession of anything above the Bachelor level going to improve IT jobs prospects and in fact, often works against you.
 
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