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I am currently working for Microsoft in Bengaluru and want to eventually quit tech and do something on the side. I am not sure of the specifics now but am looking at one or a combination of 3 things all centered around coaching .. either (1) creating a product .. an app or something (2) creating content (YouTube videos, online courses, ebooks, etc.) or (3) providing a service (coaching clients - individual and group in person or online). It could be in the area of physical training therapy-style counseling to interview coaching (leetcode, etc). Like I said I am still working out the specifics and at some point would like to try out something and see if takes off. Once I have some confidence, I will quit my job but until then I need the security of a stable income. I understand it'll be a lot of work and I am willing to put in the effort.

I looked around about moonlighting and this is a bit different in that I am not going to directly go work for a competitor and the closest brush off with tech will be the product I create. I will continue my current level of performance at MSFT and will use my evenings and weekends and my laptop for all this.

The question is will MSFT be okay with this and is this something I can discuss with my manager? Will I need to check with the HR as well?

Also, I have been at MSFT for 10 years and am willing to switch to a different company if need be where this may be allowed. I have a sense that other big tech companies will have a similar policy so am looking at smaller mom-and-pop shops (I believe WITCH will be worse). I can take a hit on the income (need about 15-20lpa to survive) but am not quite ready to quit outright even though I have the savings to ride out a couple of years mainly because there is no guarantee this will take off and with a gap getting back into tech may be harder. Would love to hear from folks here.

P.S. Cross-posted on Reddit r/developersindia

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    Whether your employer will bo OK with your freelancing depends on exactly what you want to do, exactly how your employment contract is written, and what your company's policies are. We can't answer those. Your manager and/or HR department can. Discuss it with them.
    – keshlam
    Commented Dec 12, 2023 at 5:46

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While working for small companies, international companies and my own companies in roles of senior developer, to CTO, all our contracts always had a clause such as "Anything invented by the employee while in the Company's employment belonged to the Company". So Check your employment contract.

I can not talk for the large companies such as Philips (that I worked for), but for my own Companies, the intention was that if what they produced was of no interest to us or was in a totally different field, then we reserved the right to pass ownership back to them.

But if you truly believe that what you will be doing will not intersect your Company's business then you could develop it in your spare time. But

  1. I would not use any of the Company's equipment or software
  2. I wouldn't tell anyone about it, least of all the world here!
  3. I would terminate my employment a good 3 months before releasing it (thus giving me a fighting chance to argue that I developed it after you left the employment).
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  • Wouldn't that only apply if using the company's ressources (time, equipment, infrastructure etc.)? I doubt they can claim what you make/invent on your own time?
    – Gertsen
    Commented Dec 12, 2023 at 7:45
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    @Gertsen this probably depends on national employment laws. even if the contract provision doesn't hold up in court in the end, a large company has the legal resources on hand that will bankrupt a non-compliant employee.
    – Yourn
    Commented Dec 12, 2023 at 13:43
  • @Gertsen Lots of gotyas on this sort of thing. I would probably add to not make commits if it is a code project during core expected work hours unless it's a documented day off...don't want them to turn around and claim you made it while they were paying you...
    – Rig
    Commented Dec 14, 2023 at 17:07
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The question is will MSFT be okay with this

Read your contract and/or employee handbook

In most cases, this is well covered in the contract/paperwork that you signed when joining and almost all larger companies have a policy around it.

I've seen anything from "absolutely not" to "sure, no problem", we can't possible know what your contract says. One of the more common scenarios is that you are not allowed to do anything that's considered competition and anything else would require written permission.

If that's the case than yes: you will have to talk to your manager and to HR. It's anyone's guess how they will react to this, but chances are it's not going to help your career since you are giving signs of dissatisfaction and looking at alternatives.

Other things to do

  1. Have a local labor lawyer look at your contract and advise you. What's in the contract is sometimes not enforceable or superseded by local laws.
  2. Look into business liability and insurance. As soon as you run your own business, you are liable for A LOT of things. It may be easier to form a limited liability corporation but again that depends on local laws and customs
  3. Make sure you get a hang of the paperwork: book keeping, taxes, retirement, health insurance, etc. There is a heck of a lot more paperwork for self employed people. Organizing this up front will be a lot easier than untangling a mess at tax time later.

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