re: Do I need to code in my free time to be a good developer? VIEW POST


Great article, mate! Why is it only in this industry we hear stuff like this? When was the last time you heard this from a plumber, a creative director, a bank manager, a cop, an airliner pilot, a dentist, a journalist, a musician, a car designer, a team manager, a writer, a social worker, a secretary... I could go on but I think you get the point. They all take time off at the end of a normal work day, yes, 8 hours and not a minute more.

In other words, with only 8 hours to sleep, 8 hours to work, and 8 hours to commute, prepare or eat meals, and spend time relaxing, the question is:

Do you live to work, or do you work to live?

So the IT worker's life is just plain nuts in those outfits that think putting unreasonable demands on their staff is, well, reasonable. Something's very wrong here.

Unfortunately, when you put this discussion in the wider context of competition with, say, China, where the wo/man power outnumbers the West by a factor of a 1,000 if not more, you start to see we got a problem as it is not possible to compete successfully anymore. Unless we could get some AIs to do all the work for us....mmhh....food for thought.


You just have to know what you expect from life. It's not about the wider context of competition.
I personally want to spend more time out of computer after my 8 hours.
As he said, I love coding but my work/life balance is important. F**ck the competition.
If it's hackathons, okay. If I just want to compare to others, not for me ego but to know if i'm still up and up to date, okay.

My actual job enabled to take days off something unbelievable from what I've seen in the companies in my country and everytime i take some vacations and when i come back my productivity is boosted


Some employers are not convinced coding is real work. I've always avoided such workplaces.


I don't know about you, but if my brain surgeon, or even my GP hasn't taken any initiative in the past 20 years to read up on their specialties, since graduating and going through residency, that is going to worry me a lot.

Nobody is going to sit in their appointment with their GP, while they read published papers or practice a new technique (or new to them, 30 years into their career).
Somebody needs to be the "first" for that doctor, of course. But hopefully not with a scalpel in one hand and the journal in the other, with 0 prep time.

Likewise, if you are writing the code for a pacemaker, or a bank login, laproscopy arms, self-driving vehicles, or aeroplane pitch autocorrection, I don't want those things to be your "first time" while you are writing the production code.

Does that mean that I think people in those positions should be cramming all night, after a 10 hour work day? Not at all; I think that companies should have enough runway to support learning during the workday, and should be offering mentorship and apprenticeship models.
But, in the human-wellbeing spheres, where companies are clearly not providing that atmosphere, I do hope that there are some developers who do the responsible thing, and research the knowledge gaps of their teams/themselves (while also advocating for the wellbeing of the team and the consumer).

I don't want "I don't know what I don't know" to be the reason for reading about "this is how I learned that we shouldn't just throw an exception in a pacemaker" or "now I get why TLS and intranet are important for bank accounts".


I absolutely agree with you, critical systems should be done by people with knowledge and experience. I like your analogy with doctors, but there is the difference between doctors and developers - developers do have time to learn even during working hours. And unlike doctors, we can ask for a code review, or just ask colleagues to help if I stuck somewhere.

Besides that, I could be incredibly naive but I think that modern companies can not just stay in "no support for learning" approach. Those companies should do something about that to stay attractive for developers. I believe that we live in a time when we can choose the environment where we want to work. But, again, I can be wrong here.

In an ideal world, I completely agree with you, and that is how everything should work.

I can say, both from my experience consulting, and through helping friends enter the industry recently, that we don't live in that world. Not everywhere, at any rate.

Boeing didn't need experienced developers, because their codebase was so mature...
(not a joke).

Some too-big-to-fail consultancies start by signing contracts, and only interviewing to hire after the ink is dry.
And not just for general consumer websites and admin panels, but for anything else they can put programmers on.

Even if a company wanted to do the right thing, if they were entering a new space (let’s stick to pacemakers, just as an example), they have a bunch of devs that have a bunch of experience with high-level hardware, say...
...but none of them have any experience with medical devices, regulated devices, or mission/life-critical devices.

These people not only can't ask each other for code reviews, they don't even have enough knowledge and experience to hire the correct person to be able to do so.
And the management might assume everything is fine, because the regulators will make sure it's safe... in a lot of industries, though, regulators just check your documentation and approve things based on how similar they are to things that have been done before. Rather than being the pinnacle of excellence in that domain, they likely don't have any hands-on software/hardware experience in it (again, see Boeing).

And so it is, when you have consultancies asked to come in and be experts at something they are good at, but touching some completely novel domain...
...or when you have expanded too quickly, with a lot of new developers, in a tricky domain, and have also burned out (or laid off) your experienced developers, so nobody is left to course correct. Or the ones left are unfortunately antisocial or overwhelmed.

Also, given recent events, there is a lot of competition for a reduced number of roles. At least around here, and so a lot of people are being asked to take a lot of responsibility with no safety net (because there is none the employer is willing to give). Much of me wants to say "just let it fail and they’ll learn their lesson”. And then the other part of me thinks about what that means for planes and pacemakers.

Not suggesting any of this is good, or right. But it's also not a solved problem.

Thanks for such a lengthy response. I liked both the original article and your article!

@seanmay (I couldn't reply directly to you due to threading in dev.to)...

These people not only can't ask each other for code reviews, they don't even have enough knowledge and experience to hire the correct person to be able to do so.

I work in a heavily regulated environment - to be able to conduct a sensible code review, you don't need specialists - you just need people that will be honest.

I'm the most senior person on my team, in many ways (length of time for the company, length of time in the language, most responsibility yadda yadda yadda). I'm not, however, infallible. I'll happily have anyone that can just about read the language and still has warm blood critique my code.

End of the day, if a senior looks & spots a bug, great. If a brand-new-first-week-on-the-job junior looks at my code & doesn't understand what it's doing, I've done something very wrong & it needs re-work. I want them to tell me they don't understand, so I can re-write it and I can help mentor them if that's appropriate. Or they should be questioning me on why I implemented the way I did.

If the same junior reads the ticket I'm working on, and doesn't understand it, then we all did something wrong during Sprint Planning, because we accepted a ticket that couldn't be "picked up by anyone" (caveat, if all they need is a domain specific dictionary, that's fine).

To go back to your medical analogy for a moment - I'm perhaps a little strange. A while ago, I went into hospital for a scan on my shoulder. Being that there's nothing particularly hard for the CT to see, they had to inject dye. Right into the middle of my shoulder. They had a student doctor on duty, and asked if I minded. Before I replied, she said she'd not done this exact procedure herself before. "Sure, you've got to start somewhere... if you're confident enough to give it a crack, get on with it."

25mins later (for a relatively straight forward injection) she's still poking my shoulder & rummaging around. Then she says that she needs to go get someone else, because this isn't working the way she expected. More experienced doctor comes in, 30 seconds later, job done.

She couldn't apologise enough, but as I see it, she was a junior trying her best, and she asked for a peer review so she could learn. Can't ask for much better than that, and I'm sure she won't want to make the same mistake in future. (turns out, I have a misaligned A/C joint)


Doctors have well defined CPD, they also have one of the longest working hours and some somehow cram in even more work, they certainly get some time paid for the CPD and research.

I work in healthcare development, currently get a day a week for training, other local based companies do similar.

Theres much more important things in life than work, it only really exists to keep you in food, warmth and shelter.

But if your fun is coding, great but it wore off in me when it became work, riding my bike, walking in the hills and interacting with people from different backgrounds is more my thing.

So I'm totally with this.


These other professions do require extra work (maybe not a secretary) and a constant pursuit of knowledge and skill, but it might just be invisible to someone outside of that profession.

Maybe the question is what does that extra work achieve? How is it recognized on the job? Seems like maybe the author is saying if that extra work isn't reflected back on the job, why spend time on it. Maybe what he's looking for is the opportunity to learn and apply knowledge at work. Does the employer pay for conferences and classes, etc?

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