Friday 30 May 2008

Do Some Good

One of our engineers posted this link on our internal forum and made a spirited appeal to our charitable sides in an attempt to stir up some volunteers.  I like to help good causes (we all have our favorites) and I would always rather donate my time - help out in a practical way - than simply giving money away.  I get more of a sense of satisfaction doing that and I don't feel like I've 'bought' my conscience off!

I’ve helped some charities in a similar capacity in the past and I have to say I found it curiously rewarding in a way I wasn’t quite expecting.  But even if you're just not that charitable then among the many, worthwhile philanthropic reasons to help out like this there are also some perfectly good selfish motivations - or maybe symbiotic might be a better word:

The thing you have to remember about charities is they are almost always terminally short of resources – most significantly cash and people – yet they still have the same IT challenges that a lot of small/medium businesses have. That means you’ve got to work with constraints you won’t be used to because you can’t just buy hardware, you can’t just use something commercial or licensed and you [often] can’t use expensive network connections or hosting. This means you have to be really creative with what you put together and you also have to exercise your end-to-end solution muscles because, chances are you won’t be able to assemble a reasonable team either – it’ll be all down to you.  This will be a totally different environment for you to learn to be effective in because most of us are in the fortunate position of having a budget that’s appropriate to the problems we're trying to solve.  Sometimes this 'plenty' can make you lazy – necessity is, after all, the mother of invention.

I guess the summary is you'll get exposure to a very different size and type of problem to the one you're used to working with every day and, because of the unique constraints, you'll really get to exercise your problem solving skills.  So give it a go, you’ll probably find it quite refreshing and might even learn something too.

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