Unconventional Ways I make money as a Software Engineer

And the easy steps for getting started!

This is my sixth year in tech — and I have held multiple roles during this period.

Unusual tech side hustles for 2022. Photo by Alex Knight on Unsplash

I initially started off in tech support for my university’s Instructional Support Services while I was working towards my Master’s thesis. Around the same time, during the summer of 2016, I was also asked to mentor high school students under the Research and Engineering Apprenticeship Program (REAP) created by the US Army Educational Outreach Program (AEOP). I received a scholarship/stipend for the same.

My core work in tech began during the same time when I started writing python for big-data analysis in bioinformatics and computational biology as a part of my thesis. This was followed by my full-stack engineering role at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where I worked on designing and implementing big-data medical genomics projects funded by NIH and NHLBI while collaborating with external researchers and medical practitioners on creating systems for them on the National Research Platform (NRP) and the Nautilus Optiputer supercomputer.

I moved on from that role to work in corporate America’s R&D when I took up a position at Monsanto/Bayer Crop Science as a Data Scientist — and then revered into a move engineering and design-based role for genomics at Biogen.

All in all, my diverse experiences and incredible learning while at university and as a senior software engineer (full-stack) in academic/R&D paved the way to some unusual career pathways and opportunities in side-hustles.

Through my various job titles, I discovered that there were probably a couple of things that I enjoyed most in my academic and corporate STEM/tech career — explaining things, researching, designing, and whiteboarding.

While tutoring/teaching (youtube, courses, in-person), writing tech and (tech career) related articles are something I have considered time and again — I was pretty thrilled when an opportunity to “Advise” came my way.

Someone reached out to me on LinkedIn requesting my expertise in an R&D data delivery process. I accepted the consultation requested and set up my rate per hour as an initial test.

I accepted a couple of consultations to date and made a neat little side income for less than 2.5 hours of work.

Unusual Tech-Based side-hustles

To start off, you could set up a free account on a site like “Guidepoint” and wait for your profile (and your per hour rate) to be accepted — following which you will receive consultation requests that you can accept/decline based on how well they match your background and time availability.

Usually, it takes less than a week for the project lifecycle to complete from a consultation request to the actual client call — and you will have about 45 days to submit the invoice for the call.

You will also have to keep in mind that if you are working for certain companies, you may be put on a “Do Not Contact” list based on that company’s policy on adviser consultations. Find out with the platform or the employer what’s their policy on consultations.

What do they look for in “Advisers”

Based on my experience and understanding, they look for people —

  1. working in tech / design/ software/ big-data/ roles in major companies,
  2. who work on a specific set of projects like drug design and pipelines or in AI,
  3. who are subject matter experts on cybersecurity, knowledge graphs, remote sensing, GIS, etc.,
  4. who are familiar with securing data pipelines in medical, agriculture, healthcare data

The points I have listed above just scratch the surface. It really depends on what your background is and how it can be tuned to new-age requirements.

The nature of these consultations is NOT about sharing what you do at your job — but what your understanding and approaches are towards a particular subject matter — it could be semantic search, APIs, specific pipelines, or platform integration on tech stacks.

You are able to set your own rates — and if the client accepts, you get paid by the hour (mostly a conference call which will be recorded). You are free to drop out of the consultation if you feel that the client has violated the terms of the consultation at any point.

You may also get paid for the time you spend preparing for the call — since the nature of these calls is very intense (in my opinion). Sometimes, more intense than actual tech interviews.

Other ways of consulting can include participating in tech-based focus groups or reviewing feature releases. A company that helps set these types of market research studies is Ivy Exec. You may consider signing up for their user/adviser profiles. If you qualify for their study, you may receive anywhere between $250 and $500 for an hour’s participation.

I have written about how I leveraged my non-conventional background in Bioinformatics and Computational Sciences into a full-stack engineering and Data Science career in tech. Read it here.

If you’d like to learn some python for Bioinformatics, read it here.

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