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Oh please. What's the best way to learn a new programming language? Writing code in it. What problem(s) should you solve? Well, there's the crappy foo-bar thing that would be awesome to solve...

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.

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