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A lot of really really good engineers I knew at AWS had no side projects. They were absolute masters at their job. May be AWS is a small sample size, and sure engineers with side-projects were better than average, but to say others were not as good...nope, doesn't go with my observation at all.

This is partly due to the nature of your employment contract at AMZN. They can lay claim to all the IP you create while employed. You will need to get explicit permission to work on an open source project. This is fairly common at large companies.

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