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Ask Slashdot: Handing Over Personal Work Without Compensation? 848

Posted by Soulskill
from the donating-to-the-not-so-needy dept.
rsmith84 writes "I'm the Senior Systems administrator for a small trade college. When I was hired on, it was strictly for L3 related tasks such as advanced server administration, Exchange design and implementation, etc. They have no in-house programmers, no help desk software, and no budget to purchase one. I'm a moderate PHP and MySQL programmer on the side and am easily capable of writing something to meet their needs, but do not believe I should be A) asked to or B) required to, as my job description and employment terms are not based upon this skill set. I like a challenge, and since all of my goals outlined since my hire date have been met and exceeded, I have a lot of down time. So I wrote the application. It streamlines several critical processes, allows for a central repository of FAQ, and provides end users with access to multiple systems all in one place. I've kept a detailed time log of my work and feel I should be remunerated for the work before just handing over the code. The entire source was developed on personal equipment off company hours. My question is: what should I do? If they are willing to compensate me, I will gladly hand it over. However, it's been mentioned that, if I do the project, it is all but guaranteed that I will see no compensation. The application would streamline a lot of processes and take a lot of the burden off my team, freeing them up to handle what I deem to be more challenging items on their respective punch lists and a better utilization of their time and respective skills. I'm a firm believer in not getting 'something for nothing,' especially when the skills are above my pay grade."
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Ask Slashdot: Handing Over Personal Work Without Compensation?

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  • by Igorod (807462) <mikebolgerNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @09:19PM (#38509958) Homepage
    Just curious if you've even breached the subject with your boss or whoever is running things? It's hard to say what you should do if you've not even asked.
    • by Tsingi (870990)

      Well, yes. I'm Canadian, I expect that the laws in the US (an assumption) are becoming more draconian all the time, but I get paid for overtime or I don't do it. Or at least I wouldn't do as much as I do.

      This has not always been the case, I used to work overtime because the job needed doing and I did not care about the money. And professionals, at one time, were not considered for overtime at all. I think that paid off in different ways, but no more. As for what my contract involves, I usually figure

      • by travisco_nabisco (817002) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @12:22AM (#38511538)
        Actually within Canada, at least in BC, there are overtime pay exempt positions. Included in the category that cannot be payed overtime is High Tech professional. "The hours of work provisions of the Act, including those governing meal breaks, split shifts", minimum daily pay and hours free from work each week, as well as the overtime and statutory holiday provisions, do not apply to “high technology professionals." Labour BC [gov.bc.ca]
    • by HornWumpus (783565) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @09:48PM (#38510310)

      Two facts that are obvious to anybody (with experience):

      1. The cost of maintaining the one off custom software will far exceed the cost of buying the canned software. Even assuming competent development. Risk is high.

      2. The boss doesn't have budget to pay for the canned software. He won't have budget to maintain the 'solution' hacked up by the new kid.

      He won't pay the kid for the software. That's a given.

      The question is: Should the kid find a new job if the boss if fool enough to accept the software under any terms? I say yes, such a boss will teach the kid only bad habits.

      • by cjb658 (1235986) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @10:05PM (#38510482) Journal

        Does the software have any applications outside your organization? If so, you may want to at least work out the details so you own the copyrights, even if your company ends up not paying you.

        • by SomePgmr (2021234) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @02:13AM (#38512122) Homepage
          I don't know understand why this is so complicated. Perhaps I misunderstood some part of the summary.

          If you've developed something useful on your own time, well outside of any contractual obligations or restrictions, then you now have a product to sell. The terms and conditions for sale or use are up to you.

          But if the boss didn't contract you to write it, they're also under no obligation to purchase it. So you pitch it, and now you're over a barrel if they know it's whatever they offer or nothing. If they say "no, we don't have the money", then you're just plain out of luck. You've gambled with your time and lost, unless you can then sell it elsewhere.

          Don't like that arrangement? Next time secure a contract with a well defined scope and terms for compensation before you start work.
          • by anomaly256 (1243020) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @03:21AM (#38512454)
            Also make sure to read the nitty-gritty of your contract carefully. Many companies I've worked for try to sneak in clauses claiming they own the copyright for any and all code you write while employed by them on the clock or off, at the office or at home. I've had to ask for such clauses to be amended in the past. If you haven't been careful, they might just already legally own the software you wrote..
          • by Colin Smith (2679) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @08:25AM (#38513698)

            Good points.

            I would add that it can be worth developing an income stream which is unrelated to your primary work, a "hobby" income if you want. Something you enjoy doing and which can help when the TSHTF and your primary work vanishes. Better if you diversify; as unrelated to work sectors as possible but this is often not possible.
            If you are lucky it'll take off and you get to retire after a couple of hectic years.

      • by dbIII (701233) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @02:35AM (#38512234)

        The cost of maintaining the one off custom software will far exceed the cost of buying the canned software

        If it's small, simple and well documented the exact opposite is the case. I've seen examples in every workplace I've been in since about 1987.

    • by Nursie (632944) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @10:22PM (#38510652)

      My thoughts too, but it could go either way -

      "I have this stuff I wrote in my spare time, it would make everyone's life easier, wanna buy it?"

      Responses are probably going to be as varied as -

      • "Not interested"
      • "Sure, if the rate is reasonable and we get the code and copyrights"
      • "Wow, you know your stuff, there might be a promotion and more cash in it for you if you bring it in (might be)"
      • "That does sound useful, but now we're going to price out the commercial alternatives"
      • "Uh, you signed this piece of paper, we own your soul. Hand it over or get out"
      • "You used knowledge gained here, of our systems, to write this. Hand it over or get out"
      • "Huh, really, you did this in your spare time? So you can do this stuff? Well, how's about your task for the next month is to write an identical (but newer) version on our time and equipment so we own it?"

      I have personally seen "Sure, if the rate is reasonable and we get the code and copyrights", but the guy that wrote it was senior staff and had been with the company at least a decade. I have no idea how often the others occur, likely they're not talked about so often.

      Me, I like to keep any personal coding and company work in completely separate domains, so that there's no question of ownership. I also make sure that any contract I sign does not try to claim rights over stuff I do in my spare time. I'll sign limited non-competes (i.e. promise not to release competing products during the time I'm employed, this provision to end when employment ends), but not more than that.

  • Career (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @09:19PM (#38509960)

    That's the diff between a job and career. People with careers invest their personal time because the reward is you get promoted for doing great work.

    • Re:Career (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @09:22PM (#38509994)

      You must be a manager.

      • Re:Career (Score:5, Funny)

        by vuke69 (450194) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @09:26PM (#38510050)

        You must be a fry cook.

    • Re:Career (Score:5, Interesting)

      by trout007 (975317) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @09:34PM (#38510144)

      Lots of variables here. If you have a good rapport with your boss you can bring up the subject and say that you noticed a lot of time was being spent doing routine tasks that you think can be automated. Give him a business case where you can figure out how much money that software can save him in his budget each year either by reducing downtime, staff, ect. Then say you would like a promotion and raise where you split those savings 50/50 (or whatever) over what you are making now. If that's not possible say you are willing to do the job on a contract basis where you do the work at home and bill them when the software is delivered.

      I was once an engineer at a company where we sent work out when we were busy. I saw how much they were spending to get these parts drawings made and I offered to do it for 1/2 the price at home. My boss refused. So I went to the job shop that was doing the work and offered to do the work for 75% of what they charged. Since I was familiar with the job I could get it done very quickly. The job shop accepted because they were getting paid for doing nothing.

      In real business it always comes down to peoples motivations. What are your bosses biggest headaches? To get ahead you have to figure them out and how much it's worth to them.

      • Re:Career (Score:5, Informative)

        by denobug (753200) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @11:50PM (#38511302)
        Dude I want to applaud your motivation and novel idea. However I can also see that it is possible the conflict of interest and violating engineering ethics written all over the place, especially if the work you perform for the other company is the same or similar work you are doing for the company. Depending on the term of employment but it is pretty standard to waive all the work to your employer unless they give explicit approval.
        • Re:Career (Score:5, Interesting)

          by trout007 (975317) on Wednesday December 28, 2011 @12:10AM (#38511466)

          Since we are talking ethics I'll use the real dollar amounts. I was right out of college in 1996. I interned for this company for 2 years and I when I was hired full time was getting paid $13.50/hr. I was newly married and I didn't want to spend 16 hour days in the office. We were a small office where we had a few permanent people and as jobs came in we hired temps or sent work out. This was standard practice. I saw this and went to my boss and offered to do the work for a fixed price at home where it was quiet. I took one job that was being sent out and I bid 200 hours on it at my regular pay of $13.50/hr and I'd have it done in 6 weeks. So fixed price. $2700 done in 6 weeks all to our company standards. He said no.

          They send it for bid the winning bid was 8 weeks and I don't know the price. One of the drafters was moonlighting as well with this company and he gave them my name. They called and asked if I would bid the job. I gave them the same numbers I gave my boss. These guys were very nice old Italian guys. He laughed at me when I gave him the bid. He said he couldn't in good conciseness pay me so little. So he gave it to me for a fixed price of $5000 and 8 weeks. So in reality I have no clue how much they charged I was just guessing.

          I have no ethical problems with this because I gave my company a chance to let me do it and save money. I also never signed a contract stating I wouldn't moonlight. I also never slacked at work in order for more work to go out.

    • If you turn the app in with hopes of promotion, the only way you will be properly compensated for your work is if you make it during your on-the-clock hours.

      You mentioned you have lots of downtime at work - start calculating how much downtime you have. Play lots of Angry Birds and stuff. When the amount of downtime equals the amount of time spent making the app, hand it to them and say "This is what I've been making when I wasn't busy."

    • Re:Career (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @11:23PM (#38511086)

      When I was hired on, it was strictly for L3 related tasks such as advanced server administration, Exchange design and implementation, etc. I like a challenge, and since all of my goals outlined since my hire date have been met and exceeded, I have a lot of down time.

      I'm more concerned with his statements (above). Is he getting paid for this "downtime". Personally, I don't want to work with people who are only concerned with "their job" specifically. I've been a Unix system programmer/admin for 25+ years at a variety of places. I've always done whatever was needed and helped whoever I could. I may have a specific job title, but my real job is helping the my team, co-workers and company be successful.

  • Been there... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by davecason (598777) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @09:20PM (#38509970) Homepage
    ...and you just need to eat it. Good things don't go unnoticed, though. It is these sorts of experiences that will separate you from the pack, later in your career. It will pay forward, one way or another. If you want to get paid, negotiate time at work to perform these tasks or don't do them. There are side-effects: once you make an app, you will be expected to support it forever... and likely you won't get any time to do that, either. I would make part of the agreement to hand over the code is that you will not support it.
    • by cjb658 (1235986)

      Not a bad idea - use the program as justification when you ask for a raise.

      Also, if you ever leave the company, you can get them to pay you as a contractor to support it and make a few bucks on the side.

    • by HiThere (15173)

      Good things don't go unnoticed, but that doesn't guarantee what the result of the notice will be. There've been times when my boss saw that and just thought "Sucker!", but another boss in a similar situation gave a fair reward. It all depends. And it depends more on the personality of the boss than on the quality of your relationship.

      It's a gamble, but OTOH, what is it you want to do? I generally liked to work on a challenging project. (Still do, but I'm retired now, so I choose my own projects.) If

  • by osssmkatz (734824) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @09:20PM (#38509976) Journal
    You should do what's required to make your stuff work. Ask for credit later. Document it and do it right. Writing scripts is part of the job, and reducing burden for your team is also part of your job.
    • by drainbramage (588291) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @09:26PM (#38510066)

      You had best enjoy how much it made your job easier and document what you did for use when you interview for your next job.

      OH! Welcome to the club!
      You will find that we meet most nights, at the bar.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @09:35PM (#38510162)

      Exactly. Especially if you have "lots of downtime".

      I certainly would not look well on someone that does their job "off the job" because it is not in their exact "work description" then want additional money for it. If you want to be a contractor, be a contractor. If you want a salary, then you are not a contractor.

      I've kept a detailed time log of my work and feel I should be remunerated for the work before just handing over the code.

      If someone on my team acted like this, I would most likely have to fire them. I wouldn't even care about the code. They could keep it. The entire psyche of "not my job description" just irks me. A salesman, not an employee.

      • by todrules (882424) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @10:51PM (#38510846) Journal

        If someone on my team acted like this, I would most likely have to fire them. I wouldn't even care about the code. They could keep it. The entire psyche of "not my job description" just irks me. A salesman, not an employee.

        Totally agree. The "not my job description" just pisses me the hell off. I wouldn't want anything to do with that kind of attitude. I would give them a new job description: flipping burgers. There. Simple. They wouldn't have to worry about doing anything extra anymore.

  • No budget? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by margeman2k3 (1933034) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @09:21PM (#38509984)
    > no budget to purchase one
    > all but guaranteed that I will see no compensation
    If they didn't have the money to do it, and you were told that you wouldn't be paid for it, why would you expect to be paid for it?
    • Re:No budget? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by freman (843586) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @09:36PM (#38510182)

      If you're not getting anything for it, release it under an opensource license - I've had this problem at work where they've desperately needed stuff that they didn't have time or manpower to do during hours, I've gone home and written it. We've come to the understanding that if they don't want to pay for it I will GPL it and they can have it free, with the usual constrains on GPL licensing.

    • by F69631 (2421974) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @09:55PM (#38510366)

      If they didn't have the money to do it, and you were told that you wouldn't be paid for it, why would you expect to be paid for it?

      It's difficult to convince managers to invest in software that might one day exist. They might invest your time but if they're not confident about your skills, they might fear that the project might take longer than expected and/or never get finished. Saying "We'll pay you if/when it's done" is also problematic (then there needs to time invested to crafting specifications about when it'll be done, there might be conflicts about that, budgeting money for investment that might or might not occur is a bitch, etc.). If you can show them a product and say "Here's a product that does X, if you're willing to pay Y, we'll start using this tomorrow" you remove the risk completely and it's much easier costs/benefits analysis.

      That said... I think that the OP is in a situation where he has no chance but to give his boss the product. If he says "Okay, I knew you don't have money to pay me but I still made this piece of software... Just to tell you that I'm not going to give it to you!" it won't exactly improve his status within the organization. So either he'll tell nobody about it or he'll end up giving the software to his employer for whatever price he might or might not be able to negotiate for it. If the employer really can't pay him with money, I think this would be a good chance to negotiate some non-monetary benefits. Think it would benefit both you and the company if you could allocate one day a week to any work-related project of your choice (Google-style)? It's a good time to make the case when you hand over that piece of software. Want an extra week or two vacation next year? I bet that's doable if the product really is as good as the OP claims. Want the office with the nicest view? It could finally be yours...

  • by TWX (665546) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @09:22PM (#38510000)

    Most organizations are not deserving of free work on the part of an employee, regardless of hourly or salaried compensation. The only two times I can think of that might warrant some kind of uncompensated work would be where either a a company is in trouble and employees pulling extra effort might save their jobs, or where the extra work is likely to result in a better position in the company.

    I don't see either being the case in the way you describe it. If you can't do it on the clock or at the office, don't do it.

    • by JoeMerchant (803320) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @09:39PM (#38510218)

      You shouldn't be too hung up on job description and title. You are being paid for your time at the office, if you can write the apps on the clock, then consider them part of your job and a demonstration of why you should be promoted when a position becomes available, or retained when layoffs come around.

      Oh, and don't write anything that makes your position redundant, that's just... the mark of a non-critical thinker. If you are writing apps off the clock, don't write them for work, find some other interest in your life and write apps for that - if you don't have other interests outside of the crappy job you describe, I'd consider getting out and living a life a much higher priority than trolling /. for advice on how to get paid for writing software that nobody asked for.

    • by iamhassi (659463) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @09:47PM (#38510294) Journal

      Most organizations are not deserving of free work on the part of an employee, regardless of hourly or salaried compensation. The only two times I can think of that might warrant some kind of uncompensated work would be where either a a company is in trouble and employees pulling extra effort might save their jobs, or where the extra work is likely to result in a better position in the company.

      I don't see either being the case in the way you describe it. If you can't do it on the clock or at the office, don't do it.

      My current position requires me to do some repetitive tasks. Rather than spend several minutes a day doing the same thing again and again I wrote some small VB scripts that can do the work while I grab coffee. I was not compensated for this.

      I wrote the code for a few reasons:
      a) saves me a lot of time
      b) I'm the only one permitted to use it since it's not officially "approved" (yet)
      c) I have it expire after a month. Doing this means no one can use it after the date unless they change the system time but no one in our department is given admin rights (shocker, I know)
      d) if i'm ever fired or quit they'll just wipe my PC and the program will be lost anyway.
      e) the program startup intro screen has my name and personal email address if they ever need to contact me to discuss purchasing

      If you can write something that saves you time I say go for it, but make it expire, or at least nag, and remember to include methods of contacting you.

  • by couchslug (175151) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @09:23PM (#38510018)

    Got another job lined up? Trade colleges know working there beats the crap out of a real job (especially the cake schedule, we worked four-day weeks) and they can get replacements all day.

    I'd use the app, and not disclose shit about it. If you get laid off they can write a support contract if they need to. Heck, customize everything you can to your benefit while you are there. All users want is an absence of hassle.

    Hoard knowledge, make YOUR job smoother, look busy, and remember you are in an ACADEMIC environment. Play that game and don't pretend you aren't in a trade school.

    • I'd use the app, and not disclose shit about it. If you get laid off they can write a support contract if they need to.

      If you've got that much time on your hands, you might just code it to periodically "expire..." since they didn't pay you to make it in the first place, they certainly shouldn't have a say in how it does, or doesn't work. Just don't expect to use them as reference for future employment.

      • by HiThere (15173)

        Periodically expiring is easy, and would hardly take any time at all to code. Obfuscating it would only be very difficult, if the code revealed source (like Perl or Python usually do). Even then....

        But for a compiled language, that's a trivial effort, unless your language doesn't give you access to the file system. And I think even JavaScript gives you *that* much access.

        But if you don't own the rights to the code, this might put you in a bit of an uncertain legal position. It could be seen as analogous

  • by wbr1 (2538558) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @09:24PM (#38510026)
    Remember that if you hand it over, YOU will be expected to administer, troubleshoot, maintain, and improve a system that you did not and are not getting paid for. The only work around I see is for them to update your paygrade as renumeration then add those taskes to your new job description. Otherwise you are in for a trampling.
  • Get it in writing (Score:4, Informative)

    by techno-vampire (666512) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @09:25PM (#38510032) Homepage
    Before you actually start coding, discuss this with your boss and find out if he/she wants something like this badly enough to pay you for it. If so, negotiate the terms under which you'll be working just like you would if you were an outside consultant. Once you have an agreement, get it in writing and make sure it's signed by somebody with the authority to sign things like that so there's no chance of misunderstandings later, or room for them to wiggle out of paying you properly later on. If they're not interested in paying you, or in putting the agreement in writing, you shouldn't be interested in doing the work.
  • How dysfunctional (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bigredradio (631970) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @09:25PM (#38510040) Homepage Journal
    Wow, how dysfunctional.

    You have no interest in the success of your company and you would hold this project over their heads to get a short-term payoff.

    Sadly, if your employer was better to their employees, they might see the benefit it working as a team to make the company succeed.

    Seems to me that neither of you have each others interests at heart. A good place to work would be one where I am striving to help the company succeed and my company is sharing is that success. Sounds like you need a new job.

    BTW, you have added more work to your schedule fixing bugs and adding features to your "new system". Good luck with that!

  • by rhizome (115711) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @09:25PM (#38510042) Homepage Journal

    Which is it, did you have a lot of downtime or did you write the app entirely on your personal time and equipment? Did you use your work time to test and/or determine features?

    • by decora (1710862) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @09:32PM (#38510116) Journal

      "since all of my goals outlined since my hire date have been met and exceeded, I have a lot of down time".

      "The entire source was developed on personal equipment off company hours"

      these two statements make absolutely zero sense when placed together.

      if the guy wrote it and actually TESTED it on work time, then he owns exactly fucking 0 of his source code. he is considered a 'work for hire' employee.

      of course, there is a chance that the administrators are too dumb to understand this. he could claim he 'registered copyright' (a phrase which has no actual meaning) and see if they will jump.

      on the other hand, this is a 'trade school', which could in theory mean one of the diploma mills owned by hedge funds who are betting on the education bubble collapsing and betting against the student loans they pump and dump during day-time tv commercial hours. Im thinking ITT or DeVry here.

      in that case, their corporate HQ will probably have some highly educated, experienced lawyers who will be able to run a truck right over any bluffing he tries to do.

      lastly, im completely talking out of my ass. but it all sounded so good, right? right?
      parts of it have some resemblance to reality, id wager.

  • Give it to them (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geek (5680) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @09:29PM (#38510098) Homepage

    You get promotions and raises by going above and beyond and making yourself valuable to the company. If you "stick to your pay grade" then that's all you'll ever be. When I look to promote someone I specifically look for things they've done to help the company/department. I look for innovation and drive. If you took the liberty to do it, you're reward is in the good faith you generate with your superiors. That will eventually pay off big when it comes time for a raise or promotion.

    A job title and description is not a contract meaning "this is what I do and nothing else." If you choose to do nothing else, you'll never be noticed.

    • Re:Give it to them (Score:5, Insightful)

      by arkhan_jg (618674) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @10:23PM (#38510662)

      And in every company I've ever worked, going above and beyond resulted In absolutely nothing back. Pay rises go on nepotism and to suck ups, not to those actually doing the most or best work. The only person getting a promotion is the manager, and then you get told how to suck eggs by his replacement until he figures out you do actually know your arse from a hole in the ground.

      I generally get on well with my managers, especially the ones that actually good at their job instead of just telling me how to do mine, which is about half of them.

      I've long since given up believing that all that unpaid overtime I put in to keep the show running with half the manpower it actually needs actually is anything other than a mugs game. but then I'm a sucker for caring about whether I do a good job. I can't knowingly do it half arsed even when I wish I could so I could go home. Case in point; my boss texted me on xmas morning because email was down, and he wanted out fixed right then and there, despite the entire company bring on holiday for another week (private school). And that we have no on call or out of hours support requirements. He pulled my mobile number from the emergency contacts file for life or death situations. Fortunately he just ducked up his iPhone and email was fine. I know this because I checked. On xmas day while on holiday in another country with my wifes family.

      My reward? A meeting to discus how we can avoid this 'gap in our defences', I.e. have us do official unpaid on call duty over xmas. When I already had to cash in one week of holiday as I never got the opportunity to use it due to the same manager booking new it purchases during school holidays which is the only time we're allowed to take our legally required minimum.

      And yes, I could get another job; in a shitty economy, and what's the point when it'll just be the same there?

      To the original question Asker; you did the work without being asked, when you knew there was no money for it. Your odds of getting paid for it are basically nil.

      You may however be able to trade it for some extra time off holiday, or something else you want, such as time or opportunity to do skill training in an area you want to learn more. Be flexible, and if your manager is half decent, he'll at least try to chuck you a bone.

      If not, you might as well cough up the code. At least it'll make your co workers life easier, and friends are all you have in the workplace, the company itself won't give a monkeys.

      And lesson learned for next time. If you're going to do work for nothing because you can, at least do it with your eyes open.

  • by loteck (533317) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @09:32PM (#38510114) Homepage

    Happens to the best of us, in fact we tend to work ourselves right out of these in-house positions.

    You should probably find something else for yourself to do (say, like, implementing your side project), or start looking for other jobs. If they have no budget to implement core systems, they certainly have no budget to hang on to Sys Admins with "a lot of downtime".

  • What a job (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hawguy (1600213) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @09:34PM (#38510142)

    I wish I had a job where: "all of my goals outlined since my hire date have been met and exceeded, I have a lot of down time."

    At every SA job I've ever done, the work never ends, there's always more to do - I've never ended up with true downtime to let me pursue other projects.

    And what does this mean: "do not believe I should be A) asked to or B) required to, as my job description and employment terms are not based upon this skill set."?

    Outside of union work, I've never seen a job where you can say "Hey, that's not in my JD, so I'm not going to do it, instead I'm going to sit on my butt and enjoy my well earned down time". If it's something I could do, I'd do it. Otherwise I'd ask for training (or books), then do it.

    But then, I've always worked in the private sector, never in education or government.

  • by SilverJets (131916) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @09:34PM (#38510150) Homepage

    Did you write it to get compensated? Or did you write it to help your team?

    If you wrote it hoping to get paid and they say they won't pay you then put it on the shelf and forget about it.

    If you wrote it to help your team ...streamline a lot of processes and take a lot of the burden off my team, freeing them up to handle what I deem to be more challenging items on their respective punch lists and a better utilization of their time and respective skills then hand it over knowing that you've done something to make your workplace a little better. Next time you have a performance review with your boss make sure it is discussed that you did this on your own time and that the staff are benefiting from it. It will only help your career to show your employers that you are willing to go a little further than expected.

    But, if you are one of those people that just work 9 - 5 and walk out the door at the end of the day not thinking about or not caring about your job (and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, different people have different priorities) then shelve it and forget about it.

  • Personal anecdote (Score:4, Insightful)

    by b4dc0d3r (1268512) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @09:36PM (#38510180)

    I got my job by going above and beyond, programming when I was supposed to be simply a walking reference book. It made my job faster, and more available. The more I automated, the more time I had to automate more things.

    I got hired on a help desk team, 12 or so people like me who just wrote stuff and gradually became a recognized team. The team didn't set out to get recognized, just get faster. Management did not realize how important it was to automate until it was already done. Then we were indispensible, actually before I even joined the team.

    But, they didn't pay to retain, and the team fell apart. We were all essentially help desk people doing real programming work, above our pay grade. Many people went for better opportunities when upper upper management had to meet stock-related goals, some involuntarily.

    You can know the people are better off, no matter what you get out of it. You can know when you leave, the system you built will be virtually unmaintainable even if you document the crap out of it, because whoever tries to replace you statistically won't be a good code reader. You can know that you could have helped, but didn't because it didn't suit your philosophy.

    I suggest proposing the system, with statistics on how much money will be saved, and most likely how many jobs can be eliminated as a result. If it is approved, negotiate payment and come up with the solution well under the deadline. If not, do what you feel is right.

  • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @09:39PM (#38510216)

    Speaking personally - if someone with no track record volunteered to give me a piece of software written in php that requires access to a mysql server, I wouldn't accept it. That's a gigantic security hole just waiting to be exploited.

    Lots of people "know" php and/or mysql because they're easy to learn - but that doesn't mean they know how to write even marginally secure code.

  • by Tourney3p0 (772619) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @09:43PM (#38510256)
    We had a project that required scrubbing widget X from a file. Widget X was identified by headers within that file. It was absolutely vital that the content referred to by those headers was also missing, so simply looking at the headers was not good enough. People had to go through the file byte by byte to verify it, and it took a long time. No need to get into details (though it was fairly easy), I automated the task on my own time since I wasn't part of that group, and I provided it to them.

    About 6 months later, I had a 500 dollar bonus on my paycheck and I was bumped up a step in my pay grade. It was little, but I certainly appreciated it. At no point did I think, "I could probably double dip as a consultant here." Had they asked me to do it on my own time, things may have gone differently.

    Not offering any suggestions on what to do one way or another, but that's my experience.

  • by cryfreedomlove (929828) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @09:43PM (#38510268)
    I'm a hiring manager. If I see a resume that tells me the candidate went above and beyond their original job scope to create innovative solutions to old problems then I would definitely be interested. If the resume implies that they withheld good ideas and innovations because "It's not my problem" then I'd pass.
  • by Dishwasha (125561) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @09:55PM (#38510368)

    It is not very often that a company gets software designed for exactly what their needs are. Put together a decent package, i.e. licensing terms, costs (licensing and buyout), feature list, benefit comparison, maintenance fees. Spend the time and put together an LLC (sole proprietorship would likely be a little too risky in this instance). Don't be lazy and put it in to a nice professional looking folder. You'd be surprised how differently people respond when they receive something that shows some effort and professionalism compared to some guy saying "hey I've got this thing, you want it then give me money". The best part is they already know you and know the quality of your work rather than the line of some sleazy sales guy.

    Lastly, don't expect them to buy. Just because you see the need and it may be the perfect product for the company you work for doesn't mean they will want to buy it. At least you will provide a view of a compelling product and you're giving them the opportunity to consider things in a format that they are accustomed to and gives your supervisor something more tangible to give to his/her higher-ups. Don't nag and be sure to do some follow up in 2-3 weeks if you haven't heard anything from them. If they indicate they're not interested, don't bother pursuing, but if they say maybe or better just hold the line and keep following up every 2-3 weeks. Sometimes other cogs in the organization have to spin before a decision can be made and that can take time.

    Also don't be unwilling to negotiate. Perhaps you can show them the maintenance fees and say that you'd be willing to waive them with a minor change in job description that fits the necessary duties and a modest raise to make up for the difference in cost (perhaps that raise matches the amortized maintenance cost over a 12-month period...) which would also allow for performing maintenance and minor feature improvement during normal working hours.

  • seriously? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @10:01PM (#38510430)

    You say that it "isn't part of your job description" and that you've got tons of down time, but you developed this on your own time and equipment. That all sounds like a monumental cop-out to me. If I were your boss and I saw a posting like this, I'd probably fire you just as a matter of principle. That whole concept of not-in-my-job-description is just so much crap. Odds are very good that you did plenty of thinking about whatever this solution was during your copious down time during work hours, and in all probability, you spend plenty of work time doing things that polish the skills you used to build your solution, even if you didn't actually work on that specific solution at your desk during business hours. It'd be one thing if this was a general-purpose solution to a common problem that wasn't specifically related to your job - then, by all means, quit and productize the thing, and keep the fruits of your labour to yourself. But this sounds much more like a custom solution to a very specific local problem and you are just trying to muscle some cash out of your employer for work you've already performed that has no utility outside of your job. Imagine if every software engineer tried to bill his boss for the thoughts he had on the drive to or from work, or in the shower, or wherever. Most of us do the vast majority of our creative thinking away from our desks. Your employer didn't require you to do the work and you sure as heck aren't entitled to compensation for it. By all means, refuse to turn it over, but as an employer, if I've got an employee that has a better way to do something who refuses to do it that way because it 'isn't part of his job description,' then I won't keep that employee around for long. Just long enough to have HR deliver his severance information, basically. Fundamentally, if you've got copious down time, then you should have been spending that down time automating the task that you chose to do in your off-hours instead, no matter what your job description says. Look at it this way - in the long term, doing that will actually provide even more down time, so it is a net win for everyone.

  • by ajdub (520241) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @10:07PM (#38510520)
    You're looking at this the wrong way... You have obviously done the right thing by taking the initiative in the first place, but now, I hate to say, your attitude is all wrong.

    Here's how it works:

    1) You get some job
    2) You "beast" it. That is... you do what you're asked very well and you take the initiative to use the extra skills you have to wow everyone by changing everything
    3) You ensure that it is known that you are responsible for your work
    4a) They offer you a payrise or more responsibility and pay
    4b) They don't, you stick it on your resume and you get a better job somewhere else with a beamingly positive reference

    Do the right thing, make sure there are no problems of attribution and it will pay off in the end. Do not crap up your reputation by trying to strongarm more money out of them upfront. Keep a good attitude and it will pay off in the end. If I had tried to extract extra pay for going above and beyond every time I did so in my career, I can all but guarantee I would not have done as well as I have.

    Do interesting stuff, be unbelievably useful. The money will follow, it always does.
  • by wisnoskij (1206448) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @10:27PM (#38510700) Homepage

    "I like a challenge, and since all of my goals outlined since my hire date have been met and exceeded, I have a lot of down time. So I wrote the application."
    "The entire source was developed on personal equipment off company hours."

    If you have so much down time on company hours then you why not work on it during company hours?
    Part of getting paid a salary, and in particular server administration, is that you can have a lot of free time if you do your job correctly. You are supposed to fill this is useful projects not play WoW on company hours and then work on projects very related to your job off companies hours and ask them to pay you extra for that.

    But regardless, salary workers in general do not get to do contract work as well for the company on the side (and there really is no off company hours in a salary type job). They are paying you a set fee for all the work you do. If you have too much work or are more useful to the company then your pay warrants then ask for a raise but I do not think that asking to be paid for completing a project is to way to go.

  • by Culture20 (968837) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @10:27PM (#38510702)
    RT (Perl) or Traq (PHP) will both track tickets well enough. There are plenty of other open source web-based help desk programs, and installing such software and configuring apache falls within your sysadmin role. Yay.
  • by kiwimate (458274) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @10:29PM (#38510716) Journal

    If I read this correctly:

    * you saw a place where some software could really help;
    * you knew they wouldn't buy it;
    * you were told they wouldn't pay you to write it; and
    * it wasn't in your job description to write it (side note: seriously?)...but
    * you wrote it anyway; and
    * now what?

    With all of this, I'm left wondering why you wrote it? You say you like a challenge, but was this the only way? You further write:

    am easily capable of writing something to meet their needs, but do not believe I should be A) asked to or B) required to, as my job description and employment terms are not based upon this skill set

    Well, hey there, genius - you said you weren't asked to, or required to. So, again - why'd you do it? What did you think would happen? What did you expect? Your whole story really confuses me.

    Oh yes, to get back to a recommendation about what to do: I don't have one. Your attitude is petty and small-minded, and I can't give any suggestion that would fit in with that attitude. If you had some decency, you'd go to your management and show them what you'd done, maybe get some kudos, and use it to boost your resume. Taking initiative looks good. If you had some entrepreneurial inclination, you'd start a small company and market it.

    But I think you'd rather just maintain a constantly surly attitude and fold your arms and huff "I'm not gonna get paid for it? Well, screw you". Squandered opportunities, dude. Sometimes you have to take a risk, you know?

  • by Vellmont (569020) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @10:47PM (#38510828)

    A lot of people think that "code" is worth something. With very few exceptions, the code itself is almost worthless. Code is only worth something when there's people around to support it and make it alive. Without those people, it dies.

    Your college is unlikely to buy your code base from you. It's certainly possible they will, but you lack all the support structure a normal software vendor has since it's just you. If you decide to walk away all of a sudden, what the hell do they do since they don't have any kind of software development in house? What seems more likely is that the college might be interested in your code base if you gave them the code (GPL it if you think it's useful to anyone else). Then parlay this into a new job with higher pay where you continue to support and develop the infrastructure. If they're unwilling to do even this, then forget about it, and chalk it up to a learning experience.

  • by lucm (889690) on Tuesday December 27, 2011 @11:39PM (#38511196)

    There was a guy just like you at my job a few years ago. He created a lousy wiki-ish software to maintain ISO-9000 procedures, on his own time, and he offered to sell it to the employer, who declined. Then he "licensed" it for free (which was a huge PITA for everybody) and left a few months later to peddle his masterpiece. Last time I checked he was fixing beepers and unlocking playstations in a shitty electronics shop.

    On the other hand I know another guy who created a "suboptimal" Access horrorware to deal with complex inventory management. He not only gave it for free to the employer, but happily supported end users for a while. This was basically a POC and later a budget was allocated to create a more robust software; the guy did not have the skill set to write that one but he was identified as a SME to define requirements and provide guidance, and a year down the road he had his own team to manage the inventory project.

    Your software is worth nothing, it's your experience that is valuable. My advice: give your code for free to the employer, call it a pilot, and even if this leads nowhere, it will be a good bullet point on your resume.

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