Personal Projects

Sparkfabrik was born and constantly dwells in the open culture movement. We do our best to inspire all our workforce to share knowledge, ideas and great software with the world. Also, we choose our team mates based on their passion, willpower and drive.

This qualities mix hardly define a 9-18 performer.

We know that it may happen, from time to time, that the boundaries of the project we work on become too narrow for our passion. We know we may want to explore new roads, learn new things and - why not - give shape to something that's our very own brainchild.

Maybe a friend asks us to do a quick job for him, develop a small site or a small business application and we want to take the challenge and fun. Well, we guess this may happen quite often.

Nothing bad with any of the above.
Still a thin line runs between fueling passion to everyone's good and working against Sparkfabrik. Possibly, without even noticing.

This page is here to clarify the company's positions on personal projects - or on work you may want to do outside Sparkfabrik - and to provide guidelines for an open, honest and transparent dialogue around those themes.

Foreword

Sparkfabrik provides specific assets to each and every employee:

  • A company laptop
  • Training programs, on-the-job and education resources
  • Possible access to additional online resources or devices

Using the mentioned assets for personal training, learning and tinkering is OK, but you are NOT allowed to make use of those for personal gain or to perform work for third parties, unless expressively authorized by the company management.

In addition our employees learn classified or confidential information related to the company strategy, our customers, etc.

Our employment contracts binds all employees to strict secrecy about those information. In no way what's contained in this page overrides or relax those obligations.

What is always allowed

Maintaining or contributing to free/open source projects (code or knowledge)

If you decide the world lacks a smart-coffee-machine driver written in ocaml and you decide to share yours with the world, then go for it. You don't need to ask for permission. Quite the opposite, it would be great pride for Sparkfabrik to employ the maintainer of smart-coffee-machine-ocaml, and we may also decide to sponsor your project and contribute to it!

Same is for free knowledge: do you think there is value in explaining the anthropological effects of agile on packs of developers under 25 and you want to write an article on Medium? Well, ok.
Again, we are always keen to host your content if you feel it is a good fit for Sparkfabrik's communication.

Anyway, as long as you release your work under a free or Creative Commons license, you can go for it.

An important caveat thou: if you publish content about experiences you did while working in Sparkfabrik, mentioning this is really appreciated.

Creating tools or software for personal use

Your garden needs irrigation and you'd be delighted to create a rain-o-matic with an RPi and Typescript?
No problem at all. As a matter of fact, we'd love to hear about your experience during an internal talk, if you don't mind.

Making use of free software publicly released by Sparkfabrik

Want to use or fork SparkDock or this playbook for your own good? You can, just respect the license. After all those packages are published on GitHub for a reason.

Please, mind this is NOT the same for the packages stored on internal Gitlab or in private GitHub repos. After all those packages are not published on GitHub for a reason.

What is usually allowed but we want you to discuss with us before

Working on a no-profit closed/non-free personal project that has public exposition

If you are working on a project, even if no-profit, to which you give public exposition (deploy it as a public platform, pushing it on socials, talk about it on/offline and ultimately make people use it), we require you to communicate with us before.

We have little interest being sand in your gears, but we want to review with you your communication and the technology stack so that:

  1. Nobody can mistakenly think you are not a Sparkfabrik's employee (or you work as a contractor when you are not)
  2. You are not going to accidentally use code which is still undisclosed by Sparkfabrik or (worse) that's been produced for a customer who holds full rights on it

Both those cases would damage the company in case of disgrace, so we need to iron things out before you move forward.

Provide free work for a relative or friend

Should your cousin's fishing club ask you to create a site for them free of charge (or as an exchange in kind), this is never a problem, but please: to avoid unfortunate misunderstandings, just let us know.

What is NOT allowed (unless explicitely approved)

Working on a profitable personal project outside Sparkfabrik

If you want to create a new startup and gain from it, go all-in: leave your workplace and invest personally on your dream. It will be sad seeing you go, but that's the right arrangement.

There are three very important reasons for that:

  1. While most IT companies work with contractors or on-demand workforce, Sparkfabrik only hires full-time employees. This is one of our main selling points and we take pride in this. Running two ponies, you are casting shadows on our honesty and reliability with both clients and colleagues, vaporizing our efforts and investiments.
  2. We invest sound money and a lot of effort ensuring a sustainable working pace and a positive work-life balance. We want everyone to relax, take sleep and live a healthy life outside work so that - when you are at your desk - you can perform at your best. If you split your energies over two endeavours, Sparkfabrik will be damaged in its ability to deliver. Yes, yes we know... you can bear with it... but we can't trust superheroes. They seem cool but they wear a mask.
  3. Sparkfabrik constantly invests in your training and professional growth. This is nothing we can (nor want!) to take you away, but this means that - provide your personal project is not a woodworking atelier - we are basically sustaining your personal goals with our resources ("our" includes everyone in the company). We feel this is irrespectful in the face of your colleagues.

Despite all of this, we are big fans of enterpreneurship: come, talk to us and we may work our an arrangement.

Provide paid work outside of Sparkfabrik

As simple as it is. You can NOT work as a contractor for other competing companies. You would be breaching your non-concurrency obbligations.

Granted, if you can seize the opportunity for an occasional small income (your cousin's fishing club wants to pay you an invoice for their small new site), we are usually keen to grant you the permission. Not the same if you sistematically work outside the company. If you are really in the need, talk to us: we may decide to pay you a perfectly legal overtime so it's a win/win.

In no case, working with direct competitors will be tolerated.

If you want to work in a totally different field (like be a paid mover instead of paying for the gym, or exploiting your lifeguard license in your town pool during summer weekends), we'll very probably give you the permission. Still you are required to come and talk to us.

It's important to understand that having an explicit permission will also protect you from breaches exploitings.
Good fences make good neighbours, right?

The golden rule

Addressing every possible case with a playbook page is very hard.

We value personal freedom and our employees well-being so much, it's the first point in our mission.
For this very reason, we value transparency and honesty over everything else.

The golden rule to avoid any possible issue is: talk to us.

With an open dialogue we will always figure out how to save everyone's day.

Last updated on 14 Sep 2020