Besides knowing about how your company works and needs to work in order to survive, I think an important note about this editorial is in regards to the side project.
Taking on a side project to further improve your skills outside of what you would use everyday in your work is essential. It can bring a different perspective to help improve how things are done in your workplace. Think about it as a means of improving your skill set and a means to become a better data professional.
Might I also add that taking on a side project can be great because it may expand your experience and skill outside your role as a data professional. We find this in non-IT staff today where business professionals take on more and more of the knowledge and understanding of IT, data, and programming. Often we see those people transition from their field of training into the now field of choice IT. Likewise we should and do see data professionals moving into development, project management etc. As well as developers moving into other areas as well. HOw better to show your worth and possibilities then by taking on a project that illustrates those skills.
Not all gray hairs are Dinosaurs!