Tech volunteering – why do it?

I was at a horse show this weekend where they had this sign up on the wall of the secretary’s office:

“Volunteers are not paid. Not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless.”

 This got me thinking about the aspects of volunteering I’m involved in our industry and the reasons behind why any of us volunteer.

Personally, I am involved in VMUG and WhatMatrix. As a VMUG member I am no longer a leader, but still volunteer my time in some ‘behind the scenes’ aspects, such as speaking, helping local groups secure sponsors and being on the committee for the new board selection process.

I’m also a community board member of WhatMatrix. If you’ve not heard of – or used – WhatMatrix, you don’t know what you’re missing! WhatMatrix is the independent technology comparison and analysis site. The site is the first crowdsourced-powered IT comparison community and all involved are volunteers, from the board to the category owners and contributors.

There are other communities, such as Spiceworks, “a professional network for the Information Technology industry”. Many people contribute to the Spiceworks community, while as an organization Spiceworks’ revenues are in excess of $91M. So even when an organization is making money, volunteers are still willing to contribute – for nothing.

I remember at London VMUG the chair presenting a slide for VMUG Advantage and declaring he wasn’t a sales person for VMUG or VMware, but that the deal you get from VMUG Advantage is well worth the investment. Sometimes there is a fine line between being a volunteer versus being seen as a mouthpiece for the technology you’re involved with. As long as your involvement is for the benefit of the community then you’re going to get a buzz from being involved. There is the aspect of ‘paying it forward’ by being involved and, of course, it raises one’s own visibility. I think we all want to be involved for the betterment of technology use versus being a particular vendor fanboi.

So, if you were considering being a volunteer in tech, I’d encourage it. The rewards are different for being a volunteer in a charity aspect, but the tech community is a great one and one that needs continued volunteers to – perhaps – keep the vendors honest too!

Being a community volunteer can yield a higher profile, but the biggest benefit for me has been observing my involvement being seen as a contributing factor to others’ career progression and success. Recently a tweet was posted about my VMUG involvement to encourage a VMUG member to apply for vExpert status:

For me, this epitomises the “priceless” part of the original quote in this post 🙂

 

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