April 24, 2023
If you're a professional developer with 5+ years of experience and you're struggling to find a better job or move up to a senior role at your company, it's not because you don't have enough years of experience. Years of experience is a bad metric, and it's not the only thing that matters.
What matters more is having the creativity, knowledge, task ownership, attention to detail, and critical thinking that are required in higher positions. And the good news is that most of these traits can be developed by working on side projects.
When you're working on a side project, you're the one making important decisions about the project - from choosing the right framework to deciding what features to include and how they should work. This teaches you to think about the project from start to finish, and to design, implement, test, and deploy it.
Side projects can also help you develop your creativity. Since you'll be writing all the code yourself, you'll have to come up with all the solutions yourself. And because you'll be starting with a blank slate, your brain will have to come up with creative solutions that don't have to follow the same rules as your day job.
Side projects can also help you develop your knowledge. Because it's a new project and you're working on your own, you'll likely run into more issues and roadblocks. You'll have to do research, learn new skills, new frameworks, and new software patterns. This will make you a better developer overall and you'll be able to apply that knowledge back at your day job.
But why should you spend all this extra time working on something that doesn't pay?
The answer is that it's an investment. The paymet for your work, with interest, will come later in life and it may come in different forms. Unlike your regular day job, the hours you spend working on side projects won't pay you at the end of the month. But it's a different type of transaction - instead of selling your time for a pre-defined amount of dollars, you're investing your time, hoping that the "market will go up" and you'll reap the rewards later.
So what exactly can your time investment in side projects bring?
Yes, multiple skills - development, planning, ownership, maybe even marketing. With every extra hour you spend coding and solving problems, you're practicing your craft and gaining more experience. With more experience, you'll be advancing your career faster, which will lead to a higher salary or a better job.
Your future employers and business partners want to see examples of your work. They don't care where or what you studied, or your promises of being a great developer. Show them examples of your code and projects - host them somewhere online and make them public. This will give them a sense of your skills and experience, and it can make all the difference when it comes to getting hired or landing a contract.
It's important to remember that side projects aren't just about writing code and solving problems. They're also about learning new things, experimenting with new ideas, and pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. And as you work on side projects, you'll find that you're not just becoming a better developer, but also a more well-rounded person.
So don't be afraid to take on side projects, even if they don't pay. The experience and skills you gain from working on them can be invaluable, and they can help you take your career to the next level. And who knows, maybe one day, your side project will turn into a full-time job or even a startup of your own.