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Dalek Caan

Hello All -

I happen to be a fan of Google's "20% Time" allowance for working on the things for which their developers have great passion. A lot of Google's new products and product improvements have been borne from allowing their developers to work on these side-projects in their 20% allowance.

I do not work for a company that has such an allowance. As most companies, we are lean on resources and have more work than we should be handling. Despite that, I still force myself to take breaks and take weekends off. I love my job and I love coding and developing software. I read technical books and articles, quite often, and I try to apply what I learn on the job (as applicable).

So, here is my question for you all. When I have spare time (suitable for work, but beyond my 40 hour workweek), should I spend it improving my company's software or should I develop my own side projects?

There are pros and cons to each, and I know that each comes with its own potential rewards. My side projects are not with the intent of starting a business, just for my own learning and satisfaction of coding great things.

Any thoughts?

I would focus on personal development. Even if you focus on side projects, your company will benefit from your increased motivation and additional skills you will learn and strengthen.

I would choose side projects that both interest you but also strengthen your skills that will help advance your career.

When I have spare time (suitable for work, but beyond my 40 hour workweek), should I spend it improving my company's software or should I develop my own side projects?

depends on where you are at. If you are in your workplace then do company work because they own you and everything you do even if its beyond the normal 40-hour workweek. If you are somewhere else, then do anything you like -- don't do company work so that you don't get burned out. You need to rest and relax awhile every week. All work and no play makes for a very boring guy.

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Dalek Caan

Thanks, all. I guess I should have clarified that my side projects and study time are on my own time and resources at home. My ethics would never permit me to use my company's time or resources for non-sanctioned use.

I am leaning in the same direction as all of your comments suggest.

Thanks for your comments.

Sometimes you can have both. In my case, I help people out by creating custom components. A lot of these (with a little thought) could be used where I work. So basically I keep that in mind when creating them, creating a base component for general use and a specifc derived one for the one that asked. By releasing them in the public domain, I can still use them at work if needed (saving time, and getting my name in the code too).

You may want to spend your own time workiing on projects that will enhance your career options in the future and possibly create something that can benefit you directly down the line. If you want to think about doing something that will benefit your company down the line than perhaps have a converstation with your employer and see if you can't make a 5% deal to spend that time developing something for them.

It should be your manager's job to keep you busy, inspired and productive.

At my last job my boss lashed into me:
"Why do not you earn money doing some projects for students etc?"
(for years, at work, I was solving numerous algorithmic problems,
because in my the very first year there I had done everything for my factory)