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Okay, I have looked for a solution to my specific problem but have only found solutions for working on personal projects at work or on sick days - which is not lining up with my problem.

I'm a junior developer, recently finished school about a year ago. I am now working full time as a junior developer at a small company. This is my second FT dev job after college. Side note: Prior to working here, I worked at a previous company that was not a good fit at all (i.e. they'd send me emails at 7pm on a Friday night and ask me to get the job done by Sunday night which I was not happy with) and management let me go.

During the last couple years, I have spent a great amount of time developing a personal portfolio - building websites, features, and open-source libraries (gems) for learning purposes and to use it as a discussion point in CV and at interviews. This has quite entirely worked to my advantage as it has strengthened my skills and gives me something to talk about in my CVs and interviews.

Since starting work here, I have (on my own time!) been actively developing projects outside of work to keep my skills up in that language and framework (Ruby and Ruby on Rails). My company uses an entirely different framework and language (Qt and C++). Moreover, my personal projects are in regards to personal interests like recipes, color schemes, the Bible, skateboarding, learning how to use Vim etc. All of my git repos are public and I only work on these projects after working hours are over (i.e. when I'm at home and not working).

At the company where I wasn't a good fit, they would always inquire as to what I did last night or over the weekend. And of course, since I believe honesty is the best policy, I would tell them that I worked on my personal projects because they said when I first started working there that it would be entirely okay to keep developing personal projects on my own time. I soon found out that they didn't like that at all and was basically told to keep my mouth shut. And they'd continue to ask me what I did over the weekend or the night before...which I just started having to lie or keep my responses vague. In a nut shell, the senior devs gave me the impression that personal projects on my own time was definitely not okay.

However, I am at an entirely new company and I'm still continuing to strengthen my skills with my personal projects outside of work. My question is, is it okay to continue to develop personal projects outside of work? I only wish to keep my skills in this one framework up because (a) I've been working on personal projects in this framework/language for 3.5 years now and (b) I really like to program in my spare time

EDIT: Nobody at my current company asks about my personal life and of course I'm not just going to tell others that I've been programming outside of work because I feel that that's not the right thing to do.

  • @MattR Okay, thank you. I wasn't entirely sure after the experience with my previous company. That's definitely good to know -- thank you! – earlyriser01 Apr 19 at 16:31
  • @teego1967 Okay, that's definitely reassuring. Thank you for the confirmation :D No, I don't intend to poach their business or take their property at all. – earlyriser01 Apr 19 at 16:32
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    @AlexHowansky now that you put it into perspective, it makes sense. Thank you. :) – earlyriser01 Apr 19 at 16:57
  • @Neuromancer you do have a valid point. How should I go about this? I just read the employee handbook they gave me my first week in regards to "outside employment" and all it basically says is that it won't tolerate divided loyalty if they find me working with companies that compete with them. I don't intend on doing any of that. Which means none of my personal projects will in any way be related to what the company does or partakes in. – earlyriser01 Apr 19 at 17:39
  • @earlyriser01 the rule of thumb you can do out side work and retain the ip as long as you notify the employer and its not related to your day job - you need to check what your employee handbook says and your state labour laws – Neuromancer Apr 19 at 17:50
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There are a few conditions which must be met for this to be no problem:

  • This should not affect your professional performance. If it becomes clear that you are tired and unfocused in the morning because you are doing GitHub commits at 3:30am the night before, then it is a problem.

  • You should not use any proprietary knowledge from your work at your employer (i.e. rewriting a company-specific algorithm in another programming language)

  • You should not write anything which competes directly with products you work on for your employer (conflict of interest)

  • Your contract should not have an "all code written belongs to us" clause, in which case you should consult a lawyer about the scope of the clause.

  • 1
    This is the perfect answer. I think it's worth noting that our OP is just asking the very basic question "Is it OK to work on (totally unrelated) side projects outside of work". And the only reason OP is asking this is due to the totally bizarre experience at Old Workplace. – Fattie Apr 21 at 14:02
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In my experience, it has been perfectly OK, encouraged even, to work on other projects in your personal time. You are educating yourself and it doesn't cost your employer anything. I would say that the caveat is that you cant let the work you are being paid for slip; that is when it becomes a problem.

The other thing worth mentioning: while a company can't own your education per se, it can write an employment contract that says it owns the work that you do while you are employed by them. So, if by chance, your side projects make money, they might come back and claim the profits.

4
  1. Do anything you want on personal projects outside work hours

  2. Note that that means PERSONAL. Simply don't work on other paid work outside of hours. It's just not worth the hassle; set it aside.

  3. Your first company were utter idiots. Forget it ever happened.

Aside: regarding that first company, you should have LEFT THEM the first time they idiotically asked you to do something outside of hours! Now you know!

Aside - as a couple folks have mentioned: of course - obviously, duh - you cannot use any intellectual property from your workplace, in your personal stuff.

  • I think there are times when a company can reasonably put in requests on a Friday and expect work to be done by Sunday. That said, that should be paid time, and not something a junior programmer should be required to do. That's the sort of thing a senior programmer like me gets tasked with and duly compensated for. I absolutely agree that a junior employee (of any job description) should not be required to do that sort of a task. But I don't feel the request itself was the point worth leaving for. – Ed Grimm Apr 20 at 22:49
  • "PERSONAL" is not equal to "Not for profit" ... Let's say someone paints in their personal time, and sell those artwork independently (or through a platform like society6 or Etsy).. they are not violating any ethical or professional boundary, except they have to show that income in their tax-return. – ghos-h Jun 6 at 10:13
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You most likely signed some intellectual property and confidentiality agreement when you started at this new company. Read it carefully and follow it. No doubt it covers your question.

That being said, many companies ask for Github links when you ask for a job. Side projects and experimentation are considered good at many workplaces. Your first job was not the norm.

(I sometime psychoanalyze people I've never met: a bad habit. Still: I suspect some big shot at your old company was personally threatened by the existence of your side projects and wanted to prevent you from working on them.)

Suggestion: over lunch or coffee ask some co-workers, "what do you do in your spare time?" Maybe somebody will tell you about a Github repo, and then you can talk about yours.

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