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Side-project - Data Eng, Full-stack, or mobile?

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Data Engineer at Financial Company2 months ago

I'm a Data Engineer looking to break into FAANG. As such, my time outside of work right now is spent applying to jobs, asking people for referrals, and networking. When I have interviews, my focus shifts to Leetcode.

I really want to build a side-project though both because it's fun and because it will help me perform better at future jobs.

My (common) issue is this: where do I start? Not in terms of the problem I am solving. I have a super-smart friend who's a lawyer and an MBA who's into fantasy sports and he has neither the time nor the ability to create an app. I feel like I could just generate a bunch of different ideas with him and pick the one most interesting to me.

I mean in terms of tech area. Alex and Rahul are both mobile developers and that naturally lends itself to great apps. I know Alex has mentioned that in a vacuum, it's better to focus on front-end for side-projects. I have no experience with front-end or mobile, some back-end dev experience and a fair bit of data.

I could build a data eng project. Start Data Engineering has some great projects on his blog (https://www.startdataengineering.com/post/data-engineering-projects-with-free-template/) and there's definitely plenty of examples online (e.g. https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=data+engineering+project).

My question is whether I should build a DE project. I'm not particularly wedded to DE because I feel like I want to do more SWE work and less business analyst work. Above all, I want to get into FAANG for the boost to my learning, career, and comp. DE is prob the easiest way of getting there but again, not wedded to it.

So I see my options as a) doing a DE project (maybe using the projects above to get my feet wet); b) doing a full-stack project (hard to do a back-end only project I think); c) mobile? (Alex and Rahul are tempting me).

Is there any advantage to mobile over a web-dev project?

If I do b or c, I'm concerned about falling into tutorial-hell or at least taking too long to learn before building. I'm tempted by a full-stack course like Zero To Mastery's full stack course, but it's 40 hrs, and I know it's prob not necessary.

Just want to add that I'm a newb for side-projects and I'm aware that I can and will experiment with multiple project types once I get started.

Sorry for the unstructured thoughts here. My brain works on NoSQL, not SQL ;)



  • Data Engineer
    Data Engineer [OP]
    Financial Company
    2 months ago

    Just finished Alex and Rahul's Masterclass "How To Come Up With 100k+ Users App Ideas You Can Build For Free - 6/19/2021" and their last slide is actually about the virtual of mobile apps, so I guess that's a strong rec for doing a mobile side project.

  • Rahul Pandey
    Tech Lead/Manager at Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    2 months ago

    If you're using a side project in order to land a job, the lens through which to evaluate a side project is "how easy is it for people to judge your work?"

    Here's the reality: 99% of recruiters and hiring managers won't bother to clone your Github repo, download your app, or checkout your interactive website. So my bias is to spend time on things where it's clear what you've done.

    That's one of the reasons I mobile apps:

    • The fact that you published the app is already impressive
    • The Play Store / App Store show your avg rating and number of downloads, so it's clear if you actually have users
    • Looking at the (structured) app store listing for 10 seconds provides lots of data about your attention to detail, grammar, and basic design sense.

    But in your field of Data Engineering, you could find a project which has similar properties around being easy to show-off. For example, could you do something with the DE buzzwords (Airflow, Spark), but apply it to book sales or movies? Then make a really dead-simple infographic that a charlatan like me could understand. Now you have my attention!

    The other approach is to start with people around you. Could you grab your super-smart lawyer friend and see what interesting data questions or data banks they have access to? This will give you motivation to finish the project, along with someone who can tell you if your results are actually meaningful.

  • Data Engineer
    Data Engineer [OP]
    Financial Company
    2 months ago

    Thanks Rahul!