November 22, 2022
28 min 18 sec

Moonlighting gets its moment in the sun

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So what's the deal with moonlighting? And should companies really be losing sleep over it?

Or is it just old wine in a new bottle?

Pooja, Soumya, Debkanya, and Kiran from Tydy wonder aloud about all things work every week. And this week it's all about those who choose to do a little (or a lot) extra post their day jobs.


Debkanya: Hello and welcome. This is Tydy Tea Time and I'm Debkanya Dhar from Tydy. Joining me today, is Kiran Menon, CEO and co-founder, Tydy, Soumya Samuel, who's our Employee Experience Specialist. And, we have Pooja who heads design and social media for us. Welcome everyone.

Pooja: Hello

Kiran: Hello

Soumya: Hello!

Debkanya: This is the first time we are doing a LinkedIn Live event, and so pardon us if we make some mistakes along the way, but the topic today is something we have a lot to talk about, which is all about moonlighting. What is it? Who is doing it? Who's pissed off about it? Who loves it? So if you are listening in right now, if you have an opinion, we want to hear it.

If you have any existential questions about Moonlighting, whether you should do it or not, [00:01:00] then join us. Maybe we can mull it over together. So with that, I'm going to hand over to Soumya, who is going to make sure that we stay on track today. And because you know, this is, this is how we work, right? The four of us, we do these chats every now and then, and we always tend to veer off.

So just to make sure that we don't talk about the latest episode of House of the Dragon or the Rings of Power, or what have you. Soumya, over to you.

Soumya: Thank you so much, Debbie. And hi, and hello to everyone who's joined us for this Tea Time conversation. So, like Debbie said, all four of us are kind of going to pick each other's brains on Moonlighting.

All of you are listening. Please join in the conversation. I believe there's a, a Raise Your Hand option. One more role that I will be playing here is to ensure that we wrap up in 30 minutes or less, so that we can also get back to our regular day to day business after this. Jumping right in. I've been reading a [00:02:00] bit about moonlighting and, and I observed that moonlighting has a lot of history, right?

It's not something new. The word itself comes from the time when people used to take up night jobs after their nine to five and kind of metaphorically worked under the moonlight. And even if you look around right now, you'll see that there are a lot of entrepreneurs who are moonlighting. Maybe it's teachers in colleges.

There are employees who moonlight as part of theatre groups or dance companies, and even some of the founders of popular startups and companies who are still working a full time job while they build out their passion projects. So I think the first question that I'll open to all of you is why is there now a sudden uproar around this topic?

Has something changed, something shifted?

Debkanya: I'd like to go first, Soumya. I think yes, something has changed and I think we all know what that is. It starts with a C, a, capital [00:03:00] C. We're all living in a post pandemic world. We are all remote. We are all working from home. I mean, many of us are still, or we are working from Bali or Goa, wherever, and all of a sudden for a lot of us, our time is our own.

I think that is what has changed. The lines between work and life have blurred so much and moonlighting is, that thing that lives in that gray space in between. Yeah. So I would say that is the number one reason for why moonlighting is being talked about a lot more now, even though it's always existed.

So I would say that's reason number one. And the, the second reason for me, in my mind is that, you know, there are just so many more opportunities out there, whether you know you wanna make more money or whether you just wanna go after something you're passionate about. Right. And also the fact that with technology today, you can get things done so much faster and so much more efficiently that you have enough mind space in a lot of cases to actually do both, right?

Do your full-time job and run a [00:04:00] side hustle and, you know, be available to your family at home. And I think one more reason is people are, you know, becoming smarter about how they make money and what they do with that money. And as many financial advisors will tell you, there's, it's always safer and a better bet to have multiple sources of income.

And, and moonlighting is the answer to that, right? So I think these are my top three reasons as to why I feel like it's in the limelight right now. And of course the other, uh, obvious one is where people, companies are now reacting to the fact that they're more aware of their employees going out and holding other jobs. And I think that is the reason there's so much debate.

Kiran: I'll add my 2 cents. You know, speaking as an entrepreneur, I think Soumya, you kind of touched upon it, is a lot of entrepreneurs started with moonlighting, right? So a lot of us have basically started our dreams, our [00:05:00] kind of, you know, dream start-up while working somewhere else.

And I did this as well. So I definitely started moonlighting when I was with my previous employer and started working on, you know, ideas and POCs and what have you. So, so I think as long as moonlighting is something that is not in conflict of your existing employment, it shouldn't really be that much of a problem.

It shouldn't kind of be looked at negatively. In fact, for example, you know, I know a lot of my Tydy colleagues are, are listening in over here. You know, if anyone is looking to start their own business, their own idea, their own startup, please feel free to moonlight at Tydy, right? Because I think that is the way or the best way to really kind of grow and build something you really want to build when, when you have [00:06:00] those kind of ambitions and those kind of dreams.

So, so for me, moonlighting is actually something that's a necessity in the, in the economy, but also as long as it's not in conflict with your existing employer. And, and that's about it.

Soumya: I just had that question that I wanted to ask you, Kiran. I didn't know it would be so easy for you to answer. I really wanted to ask you whether we could moonlight as well, but you, you just went ahead and answered it already.

Kiran: Oh, a hundred percent. Please do. If you are thinking about the next big start-up, please moonlight and then give us the opportunity to be a part of it somehow.

Soumya: Lovely. That's so lovely. I think in the same context for employees who are actually moonlighting, and both Debbie and Kiran did kind of touch upon it, what are the reasons why employees moonlight?

Is there a benefit for employers as well from employees who are moonlighting? Is there some an advantage that, that they can [00:07:00] see?

Pooja: I feel maybe one of the many reasons for why employees possibly consider moonlighting could also be because most companies still have a low starting salary, you know, and that combined with say, inflation is kind of,

these people aren't able to support their lifestyles, their basic needs. Therefore the need to moonlight and that I would think is one of the key reasons. The others are, of course, like Debbie mentioned, is Covid. There's been so much time on people's hands and even lesser supervision that people have started turning towards their passions and even,

they're just purely, you know, combating their boredom through expanding their skill sets, for example. You know, sort of pursuing that career path that feeds their [00:08:00] interests or their passions is also something that I would see as another point.

Debkanya: And, uh, we have Gaurabh Mathure, who's joined us.

Hi, Gaurabh.

Gaurabh: I want to just contribute on this one topic about the why because like Kiran said, I think all of us have had different moments when we've all moonlighted. And for me, I think the main reason that I have in the past or you know, continue to sometimes is, is really around, you know, unleashing some of that additional creativity. Because, you know, your work kind of gives you a certain avenue to channel what you do.

And luckily, you know, a lot of us like what we do. So we do use a lot of our skills at work, but there are experiments you want to do. You want to explore your own potential, which is why you also try out different things. And for me, actually, one of the most interesting advantages, which you know, in retrospect happened was that [00:09:00] anything that I was moonlighting with actually contributed back to the work that I was doing.

It gave me a full cycle to really kind of go back and, you know, if I explored something new in my moonlighting projects, I kind of came back and applied it to work because it gave me that avenue to look at it something differently. Right? So I think it's, it's also could also be additive. It doesn't have to be like a completely separate thing.

It's really you exploring something and coming back to reflect on your job from a different perspective. And that's, that's what I wanted to contribute.

Soumya: Yeah, I, I think I really agree with what Gaurabh said in terms of, especially for the creative space that we are in maybe. I write content, so having that kind of visibility, the experience adds to the jobs that you're doing.

So I think it's a great way to unleash your creativity. Now coming, coming back. I think the two companies that's being discussed, [00:10:00] you know, in this context there's Wipro, there's Swiggy. Two companies that I think a lot of people online are talking about for the decisions that they have taken around moonlighting and not for the same reasons.

People seem to think that both of them have taken polar opposite stances on, on this particular topic. But is that really true?

Debkanya: I think that's the problem with headlines today, right? And we were talking about this earlier as well. You unfortunately have only so many words you can add to your headline and hence you will only, you know, put the most, the juiciest bits there.

So Wipro unfortunately made the headlines saying, oh, we've gone and they've gone and fired so many people for moonlighting. But the story was actually very different because, you know, from what I've read, it's people who were working with competitors. So it was actually, you know, sometimes companies have to make these, these decisions because it just doesn't make sense to allow it.

Kiran I know you've had, you've, you know, we've discussed this as [00:11:00] well in the past and, and the other company that you mentioned, like Swiggy I think was one of the first few, Soumya, to have actually started talking about Moonlighting and then they came out with a press release and made a major announcement saying that they were cool.

But even there they have, if you read it, it's very clearly mentioned that it's up to an extent only, right? It cannot be with a competitor. It cannot affect your day to day work. So I think the problem with, you know, both of the companies actually have similar stances. It's just that one made headlines for a very different reason.

Kiran: I think, you know what, again, like Debbie said, I think it's been blown out of proportion a little bit from, from a media perspective. But when you think about moonlighting, if it goes back to the basics, it's when you're actually doing something that's, first of all, non-competitive, right? So if you are doing something with a company's competitor, then that automatically brings up a lot of compliance and a lot of, you know, ethical issues as well.[00:12:00]

So from, from that perspective, yes, moonlighting should not be just thought of as an opportunity to go and work with competitors. But I actually have another story, which a very, very senior leader of, of a company actually told me, I'm not going to name the company, but what was happening during the initial days of the pandemic was that his team hired four people and they were all kind of friends and they came in and you know, they all started working at his company.

And two months later when their official, you know, onboarding was completed, two months or three months later, three of them quit and only one of them stayed back. And that one person who stayed back kind of opened up to him and said, "Hey, did you know that all of us were actually working three jobs?".

Because everything was, you know, everything was completely digital. [00:13:00] And we were working three jobs and getting three pay checks and the first few months of a job is super easy. So we didn't really have a problem from that perspective either. We completed everything that we were supposed to do at each one of these companies, but it was an opportunity for us to really, you know, earn 3X.

So is that an ethical problem? Yes, a hundred percent. Is that moonlighting? No, I don't really think that's moonlighting in the traditional sense. So from, what we hear about the whole Wipro instance, it's, it's again similar, right? If you are working in a competitor organization, then it brings the question of ethics and compliance and things like that into play

where Moonlighting, unfortunately kind of, uh, was a word, but I don't think it was the appropriate use from, from that perspective.

Soumya: Right? So I think we, we really spoke about how moonlighting [00:14:00] is great in terms of unleashing our creativity and maybe earning a little extra and all of that. But Kiran, you are also saying that if, if you're taking two full-time jobs, is that what you're trying to say?

Taking full time jobs can be unethical or what you're trying to say is if, if it's in the same space or, or with the competitor that we are kind of working, that's, that would be deemed unethical.

Kiran: I think it's a little bit of both, right? Because by nature, when you think about moonlighting, it's not full time.

Moonlighting is supposed to be something you add on top of your nine to five, right? At least that's the traditional kind of sense of, of the word. So definitely having two or three jobs at the same time is definitely an issue. But at the same time, if you're working with a competitor and you're still actually moonlighting in the traditional sense of the word moonlighting and you're just kind of doing six in the evening to maybe 12 at night, you're working with a [00:15:00] competitor.

That is also a problem for an organization. You know, when, when I was moonlighting at my previous organization, I was not doing anything that was directly competitive by thinking about Tydy and how, and the different ideas that I had, right? So there was nothing competitive over there. In fact, they were very supportive of it when, when I started talking to them about it and saying, Hey, you know, I might actually want to go out and start my own business, which is in blah, blah, blah.

And I think that becomes more of a dialogue, that becomes more of a collaborative effort. But if you go and say, Hey, by the way, I'm working with your competitor and I'm potentially talking to your competitor about the same things that I'm talking to you about, that's a problem.

And I understand that from a Wipro perspective as well.

Soumya: In the same context then, because Wipro did also go ahead and fire, and a lot of people are talking about firing people who are moonlighting. [00:16:00] Is that the only and only solution that's out there? Or you as, as people who are managing teams yourself, Debbie and Kiran, how would you deal with a moonlighting employee? You know what, according to you would be okay. Not okay. And what would be like the red flag that you would look out for?

Debkanya: Well, considering Tydy itself is born out of a moonlighting project, how dare we say anything otherwise, right? I mean, well, I mean, I, I would say there's nothing wrong with Moonlighting.

And coming back to what I think Kiran um, mentioned that moonlighting should be only after your nine to five. I think there are different labels for this as well. There's some article which mentioned that there's like, Blue moonlighting, which is failed. Yeah. Moon lighting and there's quarter, which is the ideal scenario.

Kiran: What, what is all this? Explain to me what all of these means.

Pooja: Yeah. There are labels, a couple of different types of moon lighting.

Kiran: Really? Wow.

Soumya: Blue moonlighting is like a failed [00:17:00] moonlighting effort. Quarter moonlighting is, is exactly what you said, right? You have your nine to five, but then you are adding on something extra, which does not consume the same amount of time or your mind space.

And then there's what becomes like a dual employment where you are holding like full-time jobs with multiple companies.

Kiran: But this is the problem now, nowadays, we just love naming and maybe even shaming everything. It's, it's incredible. Like, like last week's quiet, quitting. But yeah, it's, it's incredible that we have to name everything and then like drill down into it.

Debkanya: Because if you name it, it could be on your Wikipedia page. In 2022, this was coined by Kiran Menon.

Soumya: Kiran, having a language for the thing that's happening is also important. Right. However, like you said, moonlighting maybe has always traditionally was traditionally meant to be that additional thing you do, which does not consume the same amount of time and resources as [00:18:00] your primary job, but now people are using it out of context.

Kiran: Yeah. I, I agree. I. Our next conversation should be about finding something to name.

Soumya: Are you planning to start a hashtag.

Yeah, exactly. Let's, let's do that and then source ideas.

Yeah, yeah. No, but I mean, coming back and see we did say that we will go off on a tangent, but you know, coming back, as managers, I think what is important for us to remember is, and especially in this world that we're in, which is hybrid and remote.

We have to keep those channels of communication open. I think the main thing is transparency. If you have that, then I don't see any harm with moonlighting, obviously, within certain guard rails. Because if it's something you, for example, you're passionate about, or if it's something you're building for your own future, why should it be something you hide or do secretly?

Debkanya: Right, of course. Unless it's like a top secret job, like you're an undercover detective, so you know things that you wouldn't [00:19:00] want to share. Otherwise it should be something you discuss openly and maybe even collaborate or, you know, be able to reach out to your manager or your boss, for example, and pick their brains saying, I'm working on this, and what do you think?

So that's, that's something that should be the norm. So automatic firing to your question only would apply if you're in breach a contract, right? So if you're using your skills for something that that gives you joy or an additional income - Great! Go for it. And, uh, you know, like you, like we said, some of the best known companies in the world started off as side hustles, right?

Tydy, Apple, Twitter, WeWork, Spanx, Khan Academy. So we are in really good company.

Soumya: I'm also thinking, Debbie, to what you just said, because to have that kind of a conversation with my manager, the culture within the organization also should permit that. So ideally, does it work to have a transparent, open communication that's on one side?

And a lot of companies are also turning to a lot of [00:20:00] surveillance based mechanisms. So there are productivity tracking tools that are in place and people are complaining on LinkedIn about micromanagement by their managers. So what really helps? Does that level of scrutiny kind of really help us better manage moonlighting?

Or do we build those kind of cultures where people can really have transparent, open communication with your managers.

Debkanya: Nobody likes living in a nanny state.

Pooja: Yeah, mind. There's nothing good that comes out of micromanagement and constantly poking at your employees. But that being said, I think, you know, employee wellbeing is also an important piece of productivity.

I think when you are constantly, uh, like scrutinizing and, and supervising your employees, it's almost, you're not necessarily measuring that person's outcome. [00:21:00] Rather you are just, you know, giving that that person an added stress over the work that they're doing. You know, when instead, that's when your managers can come in and help them with, say for example, like a goal setting or just open up the platform more to, to have that transparency.

Kiran: If you look at it, most of the companies that will support Moonlighting are, and, and I would kind of, I don't know how else to term it, I'm very bad at naming things, but it's, it's kind of like the start-upish world, which will allow moonlighting more or support an individual who's moonlighting versus your traditional big, large businesses. And I think that's also a lot to say with, you know, how much catching up your traditional businesses have to do with the way the work environment is changing so quickly. Right. So while we are talking about moonlighting specifically because it [00:22:00] came into the limelight, because of two companies who talked about it, I think if you look at it traditionally, it's also been companies who have been very supportive of individual growth that really kind of support moonlighting, and I can for one, vouch for that with my previous employer as well. Large organization, but was very, very nimble and had the culture of a, you know, start-up, as cliche as that is. I think it is a unavoidable reality that every organization should brace themselves for, but at the same time support. That's when it becomes much better for the organization.

Soumya: So Kiran are leaders also actually talking about moonlighting offline?

Kiran: I think some are kind of looking at it. If you look at the whole process of recruitment and onboarding and all of that, there's a huge amount of, I would say, huge amount of [00:23:00] time given to background verification. Which they're assuming and hoping will bring about, you know, some of these sort of insights about the individual. But it's also a little stifling because if you find something that is probably encouraging and you know, Kiran has gone out and started working with an, you know, on an AI/ML product that he's building himself.

I don't have the skills for that. I'm not near as smart to do that. But let's assume I did and someone is hiring me for a sales role. That is something that you should actually applaud Kiran for and say, you know, it's amazing. Why don't you go and try building your own AI/ML whatever it is. Right?

Debkanya: We'll applaud Kiran if you go and learn AI/ML, we really will. Yeah. Oh man. . Let's, let's see. Maybe that's the next conversation. What should Kiran learn next? But, but I think, you know, that's, [00:24:00] that's primarily what I would kind of say is that some companies are trying to unearth all of this information through verification and those kind of things.

But I don't see most companies actively worrying about it. It's always been something that they try and figure out through verification and through other methods. But I don't think the recent moment in the sun that moonlighting has got, has resulted in any extra conversations around it or concerns.

Pooja: And it isn't illegal, right? It says nowhere that it says that it's illegal to to moonlight. It's just about possibly reading that confidentiality clause or whatever it is that is in your contract.

Debkanya: I think there, there's going to be a lot more noise about the legality of moonlighting now, but yeah.

Soumya: Cool. I, I think my bunch of questions for all of you is [00:25:00] kind of come end.

Debkanya: But before we the end, I just quickly wanted to say Right, like, again, as, as a, as closing thoughts. I think Moonlighting is something, it's time has come. You can do it out in the open now with so many opportunities out there, often it's a, it's a shame and with so much talent out there, it's a shame for you to not explore the other side of you outside of your nine to five.

Like for example, I, I'll call out Pooja here. Pooja is our, you know, designer. She's a social media strategist, and she's also into conservation. So she goes and she does design work for, for a conservation NGO. And, you know, I, I love that part about her. You, yourself, Soumya, you've been, you know, you work with multiple other companies because you know you love writing and you've told me this so many times and that's the one thing you want to do.

And the freedom to do it is what, you know, kind of helps you grow and get better and better, right? I think that's stifling anyone and putting anyone into a box and saying, this is what you're going to do, and that's it, is never [00:26:00] going to work. And especially in today's world.

Kiran: Yeah, I, I agree. In my, my parting words are that if, if there's anyone who's trying to go out there and build something on their own and, you know, needs time to do it, it is the prerogative of the current employer to try and support that.

And, and given that was how Moonlighting was, you know, understood, I think that is something that most organizations should really start understanding and building that culture of support. Right? And, and again, everyone knows entrepreneurship is the way to kind of grow the economy, uh, preaching to the choir when I talk about that.

But, uh, you know, I think there is a lot of opportunity for us to help our entire organization and each individual within it grow, by supporting Moonlighting.

Soumya: Absolutely. I think for me, I have been [00:27:00] working on multiple projects. I have been moonlighting as well and it's only added more value to everything that I've been doing.

And from an organization's perspective, to be accepted as a whole for everything that I'm doing and not have to do these covert kind of activities has been really helpful. So I think both sides - having a supportive organization, having a supportive team, having a supportive manager is very important in this journey.

Excellent. Great. Thank you, Soumya. Thank you so much for this. What have we figured out what the next week's conversation is going to be about? No, not yet. So we can open that up to, you know, everyone who's listening in. If you have an idea in terms of, you know what we could talk about, something that's been bothering you, something that's intrigued you.

Let us know. You can write to us, or just leave a comment here or you know where to find me on LinkedIn. And we'll be happy to invite you to speak as well. Yeah. [00:28:00] Until then, I think it's goodbye from us.

Pooja: Like, follow, subscribe!

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