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Why should you have a side project as a javascript developer

posted on: 03-feb-2018

Dan Abramov completely changed his life with just 99 lines of code when he created Redux. And yes, it started out of fun as just a simple sideproject. So was the first version of Node.Js, created by Ryan Dahl. When you work on a side project, your returns are directly proportional to the value you add. The more time and effort you put in it, the more you get out.

But what can you get out of a side project? Well, quite a lot of things:

  • a great learning experience
  • a resume and a interview asset
  • last but not least: quite some fun

Sideprojects as a learning tool

Learning by doing is probably the best approach for learning React and Javascript. Opposed to the theoretical learning it allows you to get a real feel of whatever it is you’re playing around with.

One of the best strategies to learn a new framework or language is first to read and follow the tutorials or guides that usually accompanies the tool or framework. Things will work great as you have that tutorial to hold your hand at every step you make. But the real challenge starts when you start a small project by your own. In there you will meet situations that were not in the official documentation, you will start to google and dig deeper, discover new blog posts and tutorials and a new world will open before your eyes.

So the next time you learn a new framework, don't just settle for the default todo list example from the official documentation. Go deeper! For example try to build a IMDB search app, that will fetch data about your favorite movies. Having that done go for a autocomplete box, and a login mechanism. And so on. Being a self-learner is the most important skill a React developer can have.

Passing the job interview with a sideproject

Ok, we will have to admit that there are tiny changes for your side project to become a major success and you get an awesome job working full time on it. But even so it can be a great asset in your professional life.

As a junior developer there is this deadlock circle of "you will not be hired if you don't have experience" and "you can get experience only if you have a job". Sideprojects are the perfect way to break this circle. Build a side project on your own, and you will have something that will be a good substitute for the workplace experience .

Even if you are an experienced developer you still have to pass the technical interviews. But with a few sideprojects up your sleeve, you can easily slip in during a interview something like “That reminds of this thing I’ve been coding on the side”. Your interviewer will ask “what is it about?” and now the game is under your control. You know your side project probably better than any other thing you’ve worked on. And as long as the project comes off as decent and you can effectively defend your design, you’ll leave a great impression.

Also interviewers love sideprojects. They are the living proof of the two biggest assets a developer can have: passion and initiative.

So what should I do as a side project ? Since you will be spending your evenings and weekends working on this, it helps if it’s related to a topic that you are passionate about. It can be a small software application, a card game like Solitare or Blackjack or even a blog. Anything that is not a part of your day job and is out there for the world to see and use.

So go ahead, build something!