How common is this? Sounds really strange to expect something like that from employees.
I work in a large organization that employs a lot of programmers. There’s definitely pressure to do professional development outside of work hours. No one has ever said it’s mandatory, but people are encouraged to do some udemy courses are their ilk and are praised highly and publically for completing them. No one has ever been fired for not doing that but depending on how cynical you are this can come off a lot like “putting in hours outside of work is how you advance”. It’s a little different than what’s described in the article as my employer actually discourages open source contribution (they issued a (in my opinion) fraudulent copyright complaint against one of my github repos that was subsequently reversed) but the idea that you need to pick up new skills relevant to the company’s work on your own time is definitely there.
This definitely isn’t universal but I’ve heard similar stories from elsewhere fairly often.
You can see why it makes sense, training people at work means giving up productivity, it’s expensive, and it generally doesn’t work very well. If you can actually get people to do it on their own time that’s a massive benefit you don’t have to pay a penny for.
And I’m someone who enjoys working on hobby projects and using new stuff for them at home, but even I loathe the de-facto policy. It makes something I do for fun feel like rendering unpaid services to my employer.
When I worked as a consultant, the only hours that counted as work were the ones I logged at the client. Besides that, meetings were in my own time. We also had some mandatory evenings for information, and some semi-mandatory evenings for learning new technologies (I did attend them at first, but things didn’t really work out between me and that employer for various reasons, and I stopped attending them).
At one client, there were a few eager people who shouted that they put in extra time at home to learn. This can create an atmosphere in which it’s expected that you work some more at home (though I never really experienced it this way).
Some other times some of the management hinted that you should put in more time than what’s in your contract. Sometimes subtly (“you should only log the hours you worked, unless you messed something up and need to repair it”), sometimes more blantantly (at an intake for a potential new client: “tell them that you may not be familiar with all the technologies they use but you will spend the evenings learning them if this happens”).
All together, it’s not that common in my experience. I’ve heard much worse stories in other lines of work. I was more annoyed by managers with manipulative tendencies (when I worked as a consultant – it might have to do with them literally getting payed for every hour I work, no matter the quality of my work).