I read an interesting article the other day (I can't for the life of me find the article). The article outlined why this developer didn't have a side project. He had recently been to an interview and, in his opinion, he failed the interview because he didn't have any side projects and was not a passionate developer. He justified his lack of side projects by saying he has other things he is interested in and has a balanced life. Sour grapes or valid point?
It is a common trait of passionate developers to have many side projects. An old mentor, Stuart Hope, claimed you were not a real developer unless you have at least side project. Companies like to see some examples of your programming and side projects are an easy answer to this problem as you probably won't be allowed to share code from your current job.
I pondered this article for a few days and had realised that outside of work I have no side projects. Prior to my current job, I had plenty of side projects automating most of my digital life. It worried me as I believed I was a "real" developer.
It then struck me, I have many side projects at work that aid me in my current job. These have solved many of the frustrating issues I have had at work but would not have been given time to work on. My company has a 80% work week rule. Every Friday we have a Labs day. We can do anything we want provided it benefits the company or ourselves in our professional capacity. We can watch training videos but not spend the day at the golf course. The benefits and the pitfalls of it are well documented over the web. But for Tranzact it has been nothing short of phenomenal.
It has resulted in some amazing projects and achievements within the company. It has also very cleverly ensured that any side project you have has some kind of work focus. My side projects at work have included:
- My own Visual Studio Extension to solve many of the issues we have with Nuget and Resharper
- Implementing a backup strategy to Azure Backup
- Speeding up system tests using RAM disks
- Upgrading the application security on our applications (articles coming soon)
- Automating of recurring support requests and handing the process over to the client resulting in less support tickets
The 80% work week has led to the developers tackling some of the features they wished had gotten priority on the backlog. These items, if it were not for the policy, would forever remain as nice to haves and frustrate developers to no end. It leads to many many side projects that end up being highly valued in the work place.
My side projects are there and I am a passionate developer but you won't see them in public.