Side projects are not a threat


3 min read
development
career
autodidacticism

Say it with me, side projects are not a threat.

If anything, they should be viewed as a form of continuing education.

Before you say anything, I’m fully aware that there are assholes out there that choose to run their side business(es) while they are on the clock.

They tend to be highly opportunistic dirt balls. They will leverage whatever or whomever they can and may even try to steal your own customers!

Those folks are just bad seeds and the person that hired them probably wasn’t a good judge of character.

They are also part of what gives side projects a bad name.

I’m not referring to them, I’m referring to the person, probably an engineer, that goes home after work and they invest their free time in working on something that’s not directly related to their day job.

Hold up Mr. Employer, I know exactly what you’re thinking.

I want them to be working on work stuff 100% of the time.

Eerie, right?

Know how I know this?

It’s because I’ve heard these exact words at least a few times in my life.

Not even because I was behind on a project or anything like that. It’s just because when somebody is paying somebody else, they tend to get greedy.

What’s astounding is that over the last few years things like avoiding burn out and “having a work-life balance” have become hot topics.

Yet somehow, the moment you mention that you have some other shit going on in your down time, you are villainized!

For whatever reason, it’s become more acceptable to spend 4 hours a night binge watching Netflix or running around in some video game than it is investing time into improving your skills.

A lot of it seems to boil down to this irrational fear that if somebody has a successful side project they are going to leave you to pursue it.

Side projects are like the lottery. Most aren’t going to be winners, but most of the time you will learn something from your side project.

Even if a side project is a winner, wouldn’t you prefer to lose a highly motivated person that spends their time improving themselves versus keeping a couch potato that can recite every character back story from Game of Thrones?

With all of that said, I had a very small side project come up this weekend and I wanted to document the things that I learned on my own, while off the clock.

So the project was an Alexa skill, because Amazon is going a giveaway which includes an Echo Dot and some killer socks.

I really want the socks, but a free Dot would be great too ;)

Granted, this probably wasn’t a project that is going to blossom into a viable revenue stream for me, but it was a great chance to learn and improve.

In less than half of day of my time, I was able to learn how to create an Alexa skill, how to write and deploy a Lambda function and at the most trivial, how to quickly read in an RSS feed.

All of these new skills came at zero cost to my employer and at least a few of the things I learned will end up coming in handy soon.

OH THE HORROR.