For me, this translates to: invest unpaid time for your employer to improve things, on the off chance that it will be accepted. I understand where he's coming from, but that borders on self-exploitation.
On the other hand, if it gets accepted, there might be several benefits that could make the unpaid time worth it:
* getting a raise or a promotion for the initiative
* better work environment due to using the best tool for the job
That's a WIN for both sides of the equation. You're expanding your knowledge and learning something new; The company is getting the benefits of you learning new stuff. This is how 'engineering culture' is supposed to work.
It's complete garbage to associate this with "exploitation." If the company were saying "this is mandatory that you do exploratory programming on nights and weekends for the next 6 months" then you might have half a leg to stand on.
What about devops? Are there any areas where you either aren't collecting data you might want, or you are collecting it but only recovering it after it's caused an issue? Maybe a small utility there will, while nibbling a bit at your productive hours (few hours a week), lead to enough gains over the long term as to offset it.
Sure, if your employer prevents you from touching anything outside your dev box without a TPS report signed by the head of engineering, the head of QA, legal, and Gryphon (the mythical animal one), and any code that passes always has to be in Java, you're out of luck, but that seems like the kind of environment to flee.
Another thing, tangentially related, which I've been thinking about lately: I'd love to do an apprenticeship with an old-school erlang hacker.. haskell hacker or lisp hacker who learnt the hard way in the field.