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the price of volunteering to an engineer

So, you’re a level-headed person that wants to see your co-workers / group / community do well, right?  That’s great, you can pat yourself on the back and admit that you're a fairly good or at least level-headed person.  However, give some serious though to your actions before you volunteer for everything, being all you really can be - or if you do, put a cap on it so that you don’t paint yourself into a corner over time.

What’s a good example?  Well, according to a friend, it could be trying to convince your development team to stop re-using a certain library or piece of code because while it’s the neatest thing around, it ends up costing you more time and providing a worse user experience because it’s overkill; don’t use huge javascript libraries if you just want to hide or show a div layer.

Another good example is hinting that you know something about IT in a very non-IT environment.  Anyone who has non-technical friends or relatives has certainly been asked to ‘come over and help solve a problem’ or ‘just give them a call and help out’.  Again, doing what you can in your own philanthropic solution is one thing, but clearly this can get out of control.

When the next opportunity to help out comes up, before you raise your hand for the common good, think about how much someone in your position would charge to do it professionally, how much your own time is worth to you, how easy or experienced you really are for the task, and how you benefited from the last time you helped out.  Unfortunately, there’s usually not enough time or karmic payback to justify the completion of everything you think you can do.

Write a script to do it, document it well, and refer all interested parties; how’s that for a legacy?

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