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Advice / Career Paths / Exploring Careers

I Love My Day Job as an Engineer, But My Side Gig Is My True Passion

Meha Agrawal, a software engineer at an online styling company, isn’t afraid to admit that her day job isn’t her number one passion. Typically, my advice to someone who tells me this would be something like, “Girl, get out of there, then! Go do something you love.”

But Agrawal didn’t need to leave behind her career in order to pursue her dreams. She just did it on the side, instead.

And I don’t mean that she started painting or singing in a band a few nights a week (which would have been cool, too). Nope, Agrawal, along with her co-founder, Joseph Yao, started SILK + SONDER, a company that provides monthly planner subscriptions.

“I was never passionate about software development,” she explains, “and I always knew entrepreneurship would be a much better fit.”

It may seem daunting. Tackling a whole new venture on top of working a 9-to-5? Wow.

But for Agrawal, it makes the most sense: “Keeping my day job gave us the space to put our product out there, test it, gather feedback, and repeat that process until we got it right. Right now, it’s sustainable to do both. And when the time comes to make the switch, all the initial pieces will be set up so we can hit the ground running.”

Here’s Agrawal’s story, and how she manages it all:

How Do You Balance Your Day Job and Your Side Gig (Without Going Crazy)?

It’s tricky, but what I’ve noticed is that staying laser-focused is the only way to achieve a healthy balance. When I’m working on my day job, I don’t deviate from it. Instead, I create a reward system. I know that, at the end of my work day, I can unlock my innovative spirit and make strides with the product I love.

I also dedicate my weekend to preparing for the upcoming week. This goes back to being incredibly self-aware and diligent about prioritizing. What people forget about side hustles is that you still have to fulfill both your personal and professional needs. So, I say “yes” to things I enjoy and “no” to those I see as obligations. This frees up a lot more time than you may think.

How Did Your Background as a Software Engineer Help With Launching a Business?

First, software engineering taught us how to break big problems down into executable chunks. Second, knowing how to code provides us with the flexibility to find answers and incorporate them without depending on someone else.

The reality is, what we see in our heads is what we want produced, and that vision can get lost sometimes if someone else does it. Because Joe and I both know how to code, we get to be in full control of the customer experience from the website to the doorstep. This allows us to implement quickly and remain self-dependent.

What Advice Do You Have for Someone Who’s Looking to Start Their Own Business, But Wants to Do it While Holding Down a Full-Time Job?

Just do it! That’s the advice I give myself every day. If you have the entrepreneur spark inside you, it’s more detrimental to hide your ideas from the world than to act on them. If you’re innovative and a problem-solver, you really have nothing to lose by launching something, even if it’s not perfect from the get-go.

But, if your full-time job is something you absolutely love, I encourage you to find a way to start something within your company. Being intrapreneurial can be just as rewarding as being entrepreneurial!

And, either way, if you’re lucky enough to be in a culture that supports your hobbies and interests, don’t let anything hold you back.