In Praise of … Side Projects

One of the coolest aspects of being a software developer is that if you can think of an application, you can create it. There aren’t many careers with that kind of opportunity. However, you might not be able to persuade your employer to pay you to build it, which is where side projects come in.

Side projects allow developers to work on things that we don’t necessarily get to use during the working day. Sometimes it’s a different tech stack, sometimes a cool idea that we think will make us rich (it won’t, but we can all dream). The main purpose of side projects though, is to have fun.

If you are like me, most side projects don’t get finished, for a variety of reasons:

  • A better idea for a side project comes along and elbows all the others out of the way.
  • It gets too much like real work and I realise that I wanted to play with the new tech rather than make a living with it.
  • My awesome idea turns out to be stupid and unworkable.

None of these are bad reasons. The whole point of a side project is that there are no commitments around it. I’ll always learn something, even from my stupid ideas. At some point in the future one of my colleagues may say ‘Hey Mr CTO, I have this great idea that will completely change the company and make us all billionaires’, and I’ll be able to explain why their grand plan is doomed to failure.

Some side projects get completed though, and turn out to have legs. They might make a good Dreamforce talk, or they might be of use in the real world, in which case I’ll typically gift it to BrightGen which is how things like Signature Capture end up on the App Exchange.

Starting a side project on the Salesforce platform is simple – just signup for a Developer Edition and get coding. You’ll be creating your side project on exactly the same platform that production instances use, so if it turns out to have legs, getting it live is a well trodden path.

I’m better known in the Salesforce community as Bob Buzzard — Umpteen Certifications, including Technical Architect, 6 x MVP and CTO of BrightGen, a Platinum Cloud Alliance Partner in the United Kingdom who are hiring.

You can find my (usually) more technical thoughts at the Bob Buzzard Blog

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