I’ve always been a big fan of software developers having side projects. I think it’s important, as a dev, to diversify the types of problems you’re learning to solve.
That said, I think there are plenty of good reasons not to work in code for your day job and then keep doing so on nights and weekends. If the idea is diversification, that can be extended to solving problems with a tool other than code.
Early in my career, I had my day job and my side projects and I was also freelancing. And, eventually, I came to hate it. The burn-out factor was very real. I got into development as a hobby. It became a career. In trying to monetize everything, it all became an obligation.
Admittedly, there were some other things that contributed to that. But I shuttered my consulting business and made an effort to ensure that development for work happened at work and stayed there, while coding at home was for fun.
More recently, though, as my side projects have continued to grow, I’ve hit upon a new drawback to coding for fun.
At my day job, I’m a Senior Software Engineer. I have a very specific role. When working on my side projects, I have every role.
On the right Friday night, I can decide that FantasyHockeySim.com could use a new feature. I can spend Saturday architecting that and Sunday coding and deploying it. It’s fun to have that much control, to implement changes so quickly, and to see the immediate impact.
And then the next Monday I go back to work. There, perhaps the product team has decided that we’re going to do an experiment, and perhaps an architect has designed that experiment, and by the time it gets to me I’m “just” implementing someone else’s solution. It’s hard not to feel like a code monkey sometimes.
To be clear, that’s the gig. If I could support my family on my side projects, I would. I can’t, so I sell my time working on projects where I have less control and that might be less interesting.
Sometimes, though, that just hits harder than others. I understood the risk of burnout and recognized it when that hit me. This, though, I didn’t quite see coming.