Generosity In Tech

by Jess Brown

I recently spoke at Tech Talent South which is a school that teaches an intensive course on Ruby on Rails. After meeting the students, I learned that most in this particuar class were not only new to rails, but were mostly new to the tech industry.

My presentation was about independent consulting and how I make a living doing it. I shared a lot of things I was a little uncomfortable sharing (income, struggles, advantages, disadvantages, etc). I wanted to be honest, open, and helpful.

I'm not quite sure why I was chosen to speak, but my reasoning for going was I wanted to do what I could to help others...just as so many have helped me in my career. During the presentation one of the topics I spoke about was generosity and giving back and how awesome our industry is at sharing and helping others.

I've never seen another industry that shares like we do. Our sharing through open source (Rails), blogging, (Rails Tips), teaching (Rails Tutorial), willingness to help one another with a troubling issue (Pair With Me), conference speakers (Ben Orenstein), screencasts (RailsCasts), sponsors (Mailchimp), workshops (LessMoney), organizations (RailsGirls) and more. Startup incubators like Atlanta Tech Village and FourAthens continually echo the idea of paying it forward. These are just a very small set of examples that are close to me. There are tons and tons more.

When I first got into this industry, I always wondered why people would share something so valuable. Why would people give away their secrets, knowledge, and experience for others to profit?

I recently read a blog post by Seth Godin about Generosity. It may be the best way to answer the question. It was so short and sweet, I can quote it here:

The generosity boomerang

Here's conventional wisdom:

Success makes you happy. Happiness permits you to be generous.

In fact, it actually works like this:

Generosity makes you happy. Happy people are more likely to be successful.

I really believe that is how it is within technology circles, especially on the creative side of things. Technology people are generous, they are happy and they are successful.

I'm reminded of an acronym we have in Christianity: JOY. It goes like this...The path to Joy is focusing on


I expect other religions have a parallel idea. Whichever way you look at it, there's a connection between helping others, happiness, and success. What are you waiting for...Go be generous!

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