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Recently I landed a part-time job re-sizing images for a local custom-printing business, and while I'm really excited to start working, I couldn't help but notice the obvious flaw in the fact that they're doing all of their re-sizing by hand. I haven't started working there quite yet (I start in a few days), but being familiar with their products, I decided to write up a photoshop script to automate the re-sizing process for their large stock of images to format them properly for every sort of product imaginable. Of course the formatted Photoshop files will need a human pass over to make sure they're up to quality standards, but the script takes a huge majority of work out of what I'm supposed to be doing (not to mention turning minutes of work into seconds).

My question here is: Would using this automation script be advisable?

I would argue that automating the busy work of my job shows that I am much more valuable than originally thought, leading me to be put on for more hours, possibly higher pay, maybe even the potential to sell the script to the company for later use. I was discussing this with some friends of mine, however, and they were explaining that I was "shooting myself in the back", and that in automating my position, I would have effectively replaced myself and would be out of a job shortly after completing my work load.

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marked as duplicate by keshlam, gnat, Wesley Long, Masked Man, Jim G. Feb 17 at 13:03

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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Sample of 1, but I automated my job and got promoted... started working on improving other things instead. – Ben Feb 16 at 20:06
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I think people here and OP are overestimating the value of a "script". It is just a sequence of operations you use to get a task done. It is not any different in principle to doing those things manually. The only difference is, using the script is smarter and requires less keystrokes and time. – Brandin Feb 16 at 21:30
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If you want to consider management in the future, then automate, do it for a few months quietly while keeping records of time saved, then brag very loudly. One must wonder why no one at the company has seen this page before. I have a need to resize images sometimes, numbering in the thousands, so naturally the first thing I did was search for a utility that would automate the process. There's tons apparently. – fredsbend Feb 16 at 22:36
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Cameron, this is Mike from management. I think this is a great idea! – isanae Feb 16 at 23:08
up vote 47 down vote accepted

My question here is: Would using this automation script be advisable?

It makes a lot of sense to me, but the real decision maker is your boss.

Once on the job, learn what they really want done, and how they do it. You may very well learn that what you imagine automating isn't realistic, or isn't the crux of the problem. You might learn that the real skill (and the part they are really paying you for) requires a human touch.

If it still turns out that automating part of the task is feasible and beneficial, then approach your boss and ask if they would like it done. Some companies are old-school and don't want to automate, some do.

If you end up streamlining their process, they may very well find other tasks to fill your time - and be very grateful as well.

maybe even the potential to sell the script to the company for later use

Tread carefully here. If you develop the script at their company, you can't sell it to them - they already own it.

If you develop it before you actually start working there, you could choose to attempt to sell it to them. But if you take that route, you cannot use it at the company without getting their permission first.

I don't advise this route. If you want to create a script for their use, then do so. If you want to create a script to sell, then do it before your engagement with this company starts.

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With something so simple to automate, this makes some sense. Give the employer the benefit of the doubt and assume, at least at first, that there is a good reason they are not currently automating. – fredsbend Feb 16 at 22:38
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By automating this you don't put yourself out of work, you make yourself worth vastly more because you can automate other things too. – JamesRyan Feb 16 at 23:09
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And this is actually something great for the CV and future interviews. "I have automated tasks that lead to save X hours a week, I estimate this made the company save XXXXX $ each year" – dyesdyes Feb 16 at 23:47
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Also, i think trying to sell it is not a good idea. It will replace the good action you did by automating the process, so something really positive to go up, with a customer/product vision of it. If you don't get paid for it, they will be grateful for it. If they pay for it, then it is a due that it works well and they won't feel as strongly about your pay rise. Selling it is a short term solution I think. – dyesdyes Feb 16 at 23:53

The question you have to ask yourself is "Do I want to do a job that can be trivially automated by a Photoshop script?" I hope that the answer is no. You are too good for the job as originally described. You automate the process, show them what you did, and if they don't have something that requires someone with your level of abilities to do, they might let you go. In that case, you really didn't want the job anyway. You can do better.

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I appreciate the sentiment, but having no previous professional experience means being "too good" for a job isn't really an option. Even retail jobs around the area are incredibly difficult to obtain, and I feel blessed to have even been considered for something both local and in my field of expertise. – Cameron Anderson Feb 16 at 20:01
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@CameronAnderson Another way to look at it is that a good boss will recognize that your value is greater than just performing this one task, and adjust your responsibilities (and hopefully your pay) accordingly. A bad boss will fail to recognize your value and, his immediate problem solved, will discard you. – Martin Carney Feb 16 at 22:06

To me, this sounds like such a trivial thing, really. It sounds to me like you are using Photoshop the way it was designed. You are doing the job you were asked to do. You are hardly "automating" anything. Using a script to do this is part of how it is done.

I almost feel like you are saying you've been hired to do someone's roof because nobody else at the company can get up there and you are asking, "is it okay if I use a ladder?"

Just do it. If you want to show them that you know how to do this, then just do it.

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This tends to create many isolated kingdoms within the company. Why not raise a suggestion to improve the process, and let everybody involved know about it in advance (with an option to help specifying what is done how). Then there will be less surprises should one key player want to leave the company. And less negative arguments in negotiations for a raise. – TheBlastOne Feb 17 at 7:59

Your question is basically one regarding a moral choice, and thus outside of the scope of this site.

However, I'll try and answer:

By giving them this script (maybe not the first day in, but after around a few weeks or so), you'd be proving that you're a smart person. Now that you've clearly shown that you can creatively overcome these obstacles more challenging tasks may be handed you.

You might be asked what other improvements you could suggest (and this is also why it would be a good idea to hold off on handing over the script - you could use this time to identify some other improvements or responsibilities you might shoulder when you have more time available).

On the flip side, however, they might get rid of you as no longer being necessary.

None of us can know how this will go down, all we can do is wish you good luck.

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If I could upvote this, I would. My original plan was to wait until my second day working, that way I could adapt the script and improve it to meet the business needs, then I would implement it after talking to my manager. I suppose even if I'm let go, I would still have a powerful reference and might be able to land an even better job. – Cameron Anderson Feb 16 at 20:04
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@CameronAnderson - that's a good approach. The reason I recommend waiting a 1 -3 weeks is so that A) your script can be as fine tuned as possible and B) so that you don't seem like a smart-ass who knows better than everyone else right off the bat. ALSO! When you present your idea list some other ways in which you think some process might be improved. Show that you can be useful/valuable to keep around, not just that you can fix one issue. – AndreiROM Feb 16 at 20:07
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@Brandin - when handing a certain technology over can cost you your job it becomes a moral choice. – AndreiROM Feb 16 at 20:45

It's a bit cynical, but I would just start using the script without telling anyone and use any leftover time to try and improve the quality of the product you're producing and see if there's any other systems you can automate. Don't advertise what you're doing and, if asked about the script, approach it like you assumed you should improve your workflow like that. If you find you don't have nearly enough work to do after a few days, approach your manager and ask for more tasks or responsibility.

In the meantime, get a feel for the people you work for, and whether they're likely to fire you if they can't produce more work or if they're likely to reward you for saving them man hours. If it's the former, you know to downplay your automation. If it's the latter, approach your manager and suggest other ways you could automate simple tasks (if you can think of any).

You should note, though, depending on your personality, fighting for a job that isn't keeping you busy can be an incredible source of stress. I know people that would love to put in an hour's worth of effort for an eight hour day, but I've been in situations like that myself and it was an incredible burden. Remember also, assuming your new job has a probation period, that this period is also for you to evaluate the position. If you find you're bored or stressed, you should act quickly to try and get another position elsewhere.

The most important thing, though, if you're worried about losing your job, is to get a feel for the people you're working for. Don't make any drastic decisions before then.

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I have personally been in a very similar situation myself, in the print industry. There are a few very important things you should keep in mind going into your new job, which would have helped me had I known them earlier.

Your Job Is Not Resizing Images

It may very well be that your employers need to have images resized to allow them to do their work. In the print industry, I can say with authority that this is pretty well a universally encountered job task, particularly in areas of design and "pre-press technician" roles (I've done both, and more).

The first task you have at a new job is to learn what they need from you, and how to do that specific job - and do it extremely well. Do the job with high quality, and learn to do it as quickly as is deemed necessary in your position.

By all means, use tools to help you do your job, but please remember: they are just tools to help you do your job. If a tool chews up an image or forwards a file on to press that was not within acceptable specifications, who's fault will that be? The company did not buy a tool, and will not blame it. Your job role is likely to "ensure all files comply with required specifications", and a tool can help you do your job faster, more accurately, or even make your job a bit nicer to perform, but it will not take responsibility to ensure you are doing your entire job well.

Some Tasks Are Easily Automated

I personally wrote a script that massively decreased the amount of time it took to take a customer file and set it into an appropriate format for printing. It sure made setting those kinds of files nicer, and it was sent out to many other people who began to use it in their jobs too. I liked that, and realized I really liked working with tools that made people's job better.

My job did not go away, because that was just one tiny task in a large operation.

Most Whole Jobs (That Still Exist) Aren't So Easily Automated

Oh, you're done setting the files already? That was fast. Here then, I'll show you how to use the proof printer. Once you've got that figured out you can help with color-matching palettes, contact sheets, and running basic setups on some of the machines. Maybe we'll show you how to run a machine, help with finishing, help the design team, refill ink, or heck - here's a broom, maybe you can clean up around here. In most places there's plenty of work to be done, and when you run out and they don't have tasks for you right now - well, there's plenty of questions around here about that!

Always Learn More About What You Really Want To Do

There's a key problem with a lot of advice on this subject - which is that there are people who's job it is to develop custom software applications and automation scripts. They are not the same jobs as pre-press technicians or graphic designers, and they do not get paid the same, and they are generally not employed by the same people in the same businesses, either. A pre-press tech who spends all his time trying to automate things may come to be viewed as someone who isn't doing the job they were hired to do, and that's usually when things don't end well. And the employers aren't really wrong - they want someone to do a specific job that fits the needs of their business, not the needs of someone else's business.

If improving your tools makes the job you do better and faster, great! Understand the work output is still your responsibility, and don't think the entire job was really suppose to be open/resize/save all day. If that's all previous people did all day your employers will likely be thrilled you want to do better, learn more, and provide more value to them - at the same low, low price they hired you for a few weeks ago! Your job can grow with time - learn your new job, get good at it, and keep expanding and learning more.

You Might Find Out a Different Path Is Better For You

Now, my issue in the past was I fell into the earlier category - someone who really wanted to spend his time developing automated solutions, researching process improvements, and developing new methods to do work better and faster. My earlier employer did not offer that job, and I had to have some less than pleasant sit-downs to understand that the job I wanted to do was not what they hired me to do, so I had to put aside my interests and do the job they had available. Click-click-click, stare...click-click-click, stare... It was honest and fair work, and I was bored stiff.

It turned out I loved research, working with technology, programming, and designing new methods for work. So that's what I do now - back to school, different day job in programming, and published my first research paper. That path might not be for you - but realize that every job you have includes a lesson about what you like, what you don't like, what you are good at, and what you aren't.

Focus on doing a great job, take personal responsibility for your work, and play the rest by ear. Do things the way they teach you, test out your own faster/improved methods, and see how things go. Maybe you can automate, but pay attention - there might be a really, really good reason someone else hasn't done that already. It might just be that automation is 95% accurate, but if you process 100 files a day they are going to be livid if you screw up 5+ jobs every single day - but sure did that work quick! In which case you will use automation but still have to hand-check every single file - because sometimes that's what they pay you for.

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Is automating my job a good idea?

Not at first, get a feel for your job at first. See what other duties if any you have, and what other duties you could take on if you had more time. I have seen more than one person automate themselves out of a job because there just wasn't enough other work to justify it.

If there is room to grow then talk to your boss and showcase your script as a time saving efficiency measure and move forwards from there. This gives the impression that you are proactive and keen to do more.

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I think you are missing the important part of the job.

Of course the formatted Photoshop files will need a human pass over to make sure they're up to quality standards

By automating the re-sizing, you will be spending less time actively looking at the image, thinking of the product it is going on etc. For example sometimes a image should be cropped before it is resized.

I expect that some of the job can be automated and that a system can be put in place so that when an image is used on a product, the resized image is stored. But you will not know that until you have done the job for some time and understood what the real requirements are, not just the steps you have been told to do.

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