I’ve recently been called out a couple different ways on Twitter about my comments around requesting to be paid for user group and conference talks and my strategy at referring those brand new to PowerShell to other resources instead of helping them directly. Here are a couple highlights from a couple people.
“I have personally shelled out well over £5k in travel and board costs to attend events that I have spoken at over the last 4 years> The way I see it is that expenditure is the single biggest personal investment I can make & I would not be where I am in my career without it”
“Perhaps we can discuss the difference between being a trainer and teacher this week…Lesson #1: it’s not about you!”
The replies haven’t painted me in the best light and have hit a nerve I didn’t realize I had. I realized that I was offended by these comments because they insinuated that I was egotistical and unwilling to spend my own money on presenting.
Let me explain a little about where I’m coming from as a self-employed tech professional in the form of a hypothetical situation.
Imagine a tech professional in a nice, comfy, secure job. He’s making a great living, providing for his family, is able to afford a nice car, toys and doesn’t want for much. He’s got some extra time on his hands since he works a typical 9-5 schedule so he decides to contribute to an open source project, do some conference talks and answer questions in tech forums. No payment is needed because he has a nice job to fall back on.
He could be spending his leisure time watching Netflix or working on his house but he decides to help out those in the community with no payment expected. It’s a great thing. Everyone is happy. He gets gratification from the light bulbs going off above his students’ heads and his students benefit from increased knowledge.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this picture fits most tech professionals reading this blog. I would guess 90%+ of you that are active in a tech community are in a similar position. You probably make enough money to live a semi-comfortable life for yourself and your family. Tech jobs tend to pay well.
Keep this picture of the gainfully employed, community-driven tech professional in your head. Do you have it?
Now, do you?
How about now?
Now, take that job away without severance where a 401K is a pipe dream and the only way for him and his family to eat is to hustle.
Do you think he will make the same decisions in life? Do you think he will now think twice about giving away his time to help others? Of course, he will! He’s in “hustle mode” now. Every hour he spends giving away his time is an hour he could be consulting, writing another paid article, promoting his business or authoring a paid training course.
This new internal focus on himself and his household does not make him an egotistical asshole; it makes him a good husband and father forced to put his personal well-being above others.
This is “hustle mode” and it’s a mode I’ve been in for a few months now. It’s a mode that forces me to balance the PowerShell community and new PowerShellers that I love with making a buck. It’s hard. It’s been one of the hardest positions I’ve ever been in.
I’m forced to immediately think of money before anything else and it pains me greatly. I hate money. I hate how it causes drama, how lack (or excess) of it paints a picture of that person to other people and how asking for it is considered taboo in some circles.
If you’ve read a previous blog post, I quit my high-paying job about a year ago to pursue self-employment. It was an emotional decision both personally and professionally but it was one I felt I had to make. I had enough in the bank to last for a while, a supportive wife and the entrepreneurial spirit to survive.
Eleven months later, our nest egg had been thrown out the window and busted on the sidewalk creating a yummy scrambled egg for some passerby. At least someone gets some benefit out of this situation!
Many 9-5ers cannot fathom the idea of quitting their job and trying it on their own. They protect their nest egg with vigor and will not allow anything to jeopardize it. It’s too scary and unpredictable. They’re right! But there are some of us that choose to push through that fear in hopes of achieving the freedom and autonomy that working for yourself can provide.
Unfortunately, that new position focused on money, some believe, conflicts directly with the idea of a free, knowledge-sharing community.
Some believe that exchanging money should never into the equation for any community efforts. Truth be told, that was me a year ago. Nowadays, I struggle with marrying community vs. paying the bills.
Those involved in any tech community need to understand the plight of the self-employed. They need to realize not everyone can be happy in a full-time job and have their needs met elsewhere. A successful community needs to understand that some people need the money and need their time more than others. They aren’t simply asking to get rich or to appear self-centered; they’re asking because their livelihood depends on it!