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2 reasons why side projects make you a better software developer

If you want to grow as a developer, remember the abc’s: Always Be Coding

I’m an avid believer in developers always having a side project.

As a dev with ~200 repos on GitHub, many of them private, you could say I’ve worked on a few. Some big, some small, some were a few days effort and others have been going for years. I keep going for two reasons.

1. You need a safe space to experiment

Under heavy pressure to finish before a deadline is not the time to try out a new framework. Or deploy to a new platform. Or bring in a language you’ve never used.

But as a dev, you need to explore to improve.

Years ago I used to say the blog is my lightsaber. Something I’d craft myself, test out crazy ideas, and generally a thing for focused play. As the blog has become a commodity, side projects became the perfect opportunity to dabble.

2. There’s more opportunities to up-level your skills

Often times as engineers we become known for specific domains or skills. A Golang, Java, Backend, React, Functional, or [fill in the blank] developer. While that’s not always a bad thing, we’re best served by branching out.

Gaining broader, full-stack experience makes us better at our day to day.

Maybe your place of business is an AWS shop, but you never touch anything cloud related. Why not try deploying your side project to Lambda? Or use a non-relational store like DynamoDB, when your work projects only ever use Postgres.

Each tech stack and new mental model learned in our side projects expands our ability to understand complex systems.

Take advantage of that! Be intentional with your growth. Find something that meets your Rule of 3, and give it a run while scratching your own itch.

Remember, Always BCoding, even if it is just a toy project.

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