What is the reward for empowering others?

This post originally appeared on the Software Carpentry website.

Following a few round-table discussions with Software Carpentry instructors, I gained some insight into what drives so many of us to volunteer our time so enthusiastically. I came to the conclusion that many of us share a sense of accomplishment when we empower others through mentoring and education. Software Carpentry gives us a fountain-full of opportunities to contibute through community developed lessons, community supported workshops, and world-wide community conversations. We start out volunteering a little when there is time, but we soon carve out more and more space in our schedule for Software Carpentry events and activities that provide the opportunity to empower others.

I can’t help but wonder if this is driven in part by a lack of reward for empowering others in traditional academic settings. Compare the motivation of learners in a required semester-long class introductory class to learners in a intense two-day workshop teaching best practices for domain-specific research. Learners in a two-day workshop are more highly motivated. I prefer to teach the highly motivated because I’m more confident that it enhances education and research. Furthermore, we all know that many professors are rewarded for research while paid for teaching (something I know but still don’t quite comprehend). For many of us, Software Carpentry is where we hear most clearly that our teaching really is valued.

I wonder who else shares a rewarding sense of accomplishment for empowering others. I’m also curious to know what other commonalities unite our global community. What are your thoughts and comments on the subject?

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