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Doing side project keeps you motivated and make you smart in your real job

I am already in 5th year in the company and its the usual 4 year itch. Things have not become boring in the startup but for past year I have become a sweeper. It seems we found this nirvana in mysql and I am transforming all products to store the data in a sharded mysql to solve the scalability issue in that component.  Cloud file system is a field that is yet to be cracked and we scale now to store billions of rows and we can continue to add mysql and scale but there are still interesting problems like how to scale a single customer to 100M+ files. We currently can scale to 10M+ files for live data and 25M for long lived archival data.  But again daily its boring as nothing new to learn.

So how to motivate yourself when you work from home and your work is becoming boring. Well do a side project, open source or something that you want to do but cant introduce at your company. I started reading hadoop but again I was just reading but not doing it.

Then one of my friend came up to me and said he wanted to move the build system for his side project into EC2 and can I help him. I was like why not, I did it free of charge over 1 hour daily in night for 2-3 months but in this process I learnt a lot about :

  1. Jenkins and how to spin new slaves and launch remote builds
  2. EC2
  3. how to install CentOS on EC2 and use yum
  4. Nginx
  5. Monit
So doing side project keeps you on toes and in turn makes you smart because now I can see how can you make things better at current company also. But in our case looks like our startup was already better at these components but hey now when I am debugging a monit or nginx issues I can figure things on my own rather than being dependent on someone. So in  turn it makes me fast and smart at my day job. Also I know little bit about EC2 and CentOS.

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