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THE Lowly Peon


Working after Work 
20 June 2010, 3:21am

I like my job because after 5pm, I can forget all about it. In fact, I think that most Americans tend to choose jobs with that in mind. And I say Americans because, after living in China, I don't think it's a global phenomenon.

In a great Curb your Enthusiasm episode, Larry asks a doctor in a locker room to take a look at something on his back, to which the doctor responds with advice to get an appointment. Larry is shocked, thinking your expertise doesn't require an appointment, so the doctor tells Larry to write him something for free right now.

And then there are all those law firm people with five hundred word email signatures saying their advice is not to be taken unless it is intended for the recipient by some law.

I've always been sensitive to asking people advice in their field without some kind of compensation. For example, my aunt is an immigration lawyer but if daisy and I were to need one, I would only assume that we'd pay her for her advice and time.

But just today, I realized that I've not been all that sensitive with regards to some people or some professions. Specifically, I've never felt the need to somehow compensate tech people for helping me out with some problem I'm having, whether it be benji helping with one of my websites, hulkamaniac with some Apple stuff, or saulemander or simonite offering their design/art advice.

I think tech people, especially in the IT realm, have always been a bit burdened with this. In fact, I say that i like my job because i can leave it at 5pm, but I hardly leave my job. Perhaps it's not people from my company calling with questions, but i get people asking me stuff all the time about computers, mostly apple, or a few people asking me website questions. And it never really bothers me. In fact, I kind of like that at least someone thinks I have enough expertise to offer any advice at all.

And that got me thinking even more. I don't think it's a financial thing that most IT guys have no problem assuming they'll be the go-to guy for their mothers' computer problems. It's clearly not a liability thing, the way that doctors don't want to get sued for not taking the proper steps to check something out. And frankly I don't get why lawyers are so paranoid in their email signatures, but I assume it's either financial (their advice took money to acquire) or liability (like a doctor).

So why is it that most of the tech industry people I know have no problem at all helping? (To be clear: I have my limits too. If solving a wifi problem over the phone takes me more than ten minutes, it's your problem, not mine.) In fact, if someone sends me their code and asks me why there's a problem, I'll dedicate way more time to it than if someone at work sends me the same problem.

Perhaps it's because we've always been the go-to guy for a lot of these problems. Perhaps we don't feel our expertise cost us anything to get other than time and curiosity, which we already had. Perhaps it's because we know the feeling of being helpless when technology doesn't work and we know that a small problem that would take us ten hours may take someone wiser five minutes.

Or perhaps, and this is what I think, it's because we just like solving problems. I think IT guys are just problem solvers by nature. We don't see some interesting coding problem as a task, but rather a puzzle.

BE WARNED, however. If I advise you not to get a piece of junk computer because it will save you time troubleshooting later, and you get a piece of junk computer to save a few bucks, don't come crawling to me. And if you ask me about your problem, unless I take a keen interest in it, it's still your problem. And i don't like wifi problems because no one knows how to fix them because every case is different. (Maybe I should out that in my email signature.)

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comments

Benji!

[22 June 2010]

Well, my opinion is that I don't want web development as a job precisely so that when I do web development after work, it isn't "Working after work"!