We, as an industry, are going to a dangerous place when we don’t just expect, but require people to keep working after work.
Neglecting candidates for a position because they don’t contribute to open-source projects; choosing who to fire on the basis of who has a pet project and who doesn’t; expecting employees to keep up with new technologies, frameworks and languages entirely on their own; etc.
This happens because somehow the belief that only people who code (for free) after work are passionate and/or good developers has become a “truth”.
Here are more realistic truths, however:
- Only a very specific demographic can afford to work for free after work.
- It’s in the interest of companies that their employees keep learning and are up-to-date. Companies should provide resources for this to happen.
- There are excellent developers who have a life outside work.
- There are excellent developers who have responsibilites outside work.
- There are excellent developers who didn’t teach themselves programming when they were 12 years old.
Life happens. People meet other people who become partners. People have kids. People build families. Developers are people.
One could think that having kids or building a family is a choice. Even assuming this is true (it really isn’t), life still happens. A parent grows old and needs daily care. You might develop a mental illness, like depression, and have zero energy after a long day at work to do more work. You might suffer a traffic accident and must spend 2 hours a day on rehab for a year.
Who can afford to keep coding after an 8-hour work day of coding? Who doesn’t get harassed in the open-source community? 20-year-old white guys with no responsibilities and/or with enough income to “buy” more free time (i.e: nannies, cleaners, good healthcare, a car to commute, etc.).
And this leads to the question…