Side Projects

published on February 28, 2013 in life

Developers often hit a wall when side projects come up. It somehow amazes me how many people are wrong about the importance of side projects.

History

The country I live has a strong background of communism. This country in Hungary. So does the country that i have born in. Which is Romania.

Work is understood that something you have to do for a living. That is thought to be given/provided to you mostly by the government. The work you do has to be something you hate, that you want to get rid of at the end of the day. Work is something you must have, it doesn't matter that you employer rips you off, which is the average thing here in Hungary because smart politicians keep the minimal wage to such a low amount from mostly personal reasons, you just need to have a job. You have to.

There are a few companies around, not many, just a few, which see work and payment in a different way. Which feel that they need to value their employers. But even these companies have a policy against side projects. 

My history

There was a company I worked at, which had a really old-fashioned boss. We had to comply with a lot of legalrules for certain projects and he always said that "you do the reading of the documentation at home, here, you work". Allow me not to add more here.

Another company, which is actually one of the biggest media companies in Hungary, had written in our agreement that I cannot have any kind of side project. None. Period. I can only work on their projects, with their technology. After three years I got bored and unmotivated, which ended it all. Developers who still work there constantly complain that there is nothing to learn, no way of getting better.

From my point of view, side projects are crucial. There is one thing that a side project always has, that your job doesn't, and that is passion. Your work might sometime bore you, but you will always put your heart into your side project. 

This is something managers from around Budapest should understand. If they encourage side projects, their teams will get better. If someone doesn't have any kind of side project, anything to put his heart in in his time, then he is a lazy bastard and should be fired. Why? Because he is not progressing, he is not eager to learn, he does not want to be better.

They say that all known famous internet startups came to life to scratch a developer's itch. If devs did not take side projects, we would not have the internet we have today. 

There is another aspect of side projects. People put their heart in them. They tend to put time in them and in time, they become really good at something. They create facebook, or Node.js, or coffeescript, or Ember.js, and many other things we would not have without side projects.

Encourage

Make people have side projects, make them passionate about them. And you will have better employees, better people to choose employees from.