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I'm an entry level employee at a defense company and on a project I was working on I was tasked with adding features to a kernel module given to us by a third party. Prior to working on this project I had not worked with Linux or kernel modules and I was very lost. One employee working on the project, who knew a lot about what I was trying to do, went out of his way to help me. He is experienced and has worked for the company for 10 years. He works at different site from me, several miles away, and came out to help me several times. Every time he did he would spend hours with me explaining things and would help me write code.

I think he did a great thing in helping me when he also could have spent his time doing other things. I want to show my gratitude somehow and I think he deserves more than a simple "thank you". What is an appropriate way to show thanks in a professional environment?

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First things first: part of the job of senior developers is to mentor junior developers; to some extent, he was just doing his job when helping you. As long at the person I'm mentoring is trying to learn and get better, I don't mind spending time helping them as that's going to make the company better in the long run.

That said, if you do feel that the senior developer went "above and beyond" in helping you, perhaps the most important thing to do, other than letting the developer himself know, is to let his manager / team lead know how helpful he was: that's the sort of information which it's hard for a manager to find out by other means, and often they find out only when it's negative feedback. It's probably also worth mentioning to your manager that the other developer was helpful, for much the same reasons. In a purely professional context, I think that's all you need to do.

Other things like buying the guy a beer if you ever meet him in a social context are obviously possible as well, but I'd say should never be required - as noted in the comments on Herr Pink's answer, there are situations in which people may not want to mix their professional and personal lives for one reason or another.

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    In addition to letting his manager know, you might also want to give him a 'recommendation' on LinkedIn. (I mean the textual kind, not those fake 'endorsement' tags.) – Frank Kusters Sep 29 '14 at 10:50
  • +1 for public appreciation. It's nice to get a "thank you", it's better still to get a raise thanks to someone letting your boss know you've done a good job... – Jenny D Sep 30 '14 at 10:23
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    "the most important thing to do, other than letting the developer himself know, is to let his manager / team lead know how helpful he was: that's the sort of information which it's hard for a manager to find out by other means, and often they find out only when it's negative feedback." - absolutely true. +1000 if I could just for this line alone; and as a manager it is difficult to gain this kind of feedback. – Burhan Khalid Sep 30 '14 at 13:00
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    Two other thoughts for a great answer- pay it forward and help the next guy as well as you were helped. And figure that when this guy is struggling with something, you can get his back the next time. – bethlakshmi Oct 2 '14 at 5:52
  • I like the idea of letting his manager know, 1. because it lets the manager know what he's done with his time, 2. because it's good news and managers rarely get good news. Thanks for the advice, I appreciate it. – user1509669 Oct 5 '14 at 10:36
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I have never gone wrong saying "let me buy you a beer after work". It's almost always appreciated (if they say they don't drink, obviously look have a think for another small token of your appreciation - lunch is a good alternative) and it's a good way to make new friends and get to know your colleagues a bit better!

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    How is this not upvoted more? This is standard custom where I come from. (Software Developer in USA) – Kik Sep 29 '14 at 14:17
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    Because it is a bad idea? I certainly would never consider this as an option. But then women can't invite male colleagues for a beer without possible misinterpretation. – HLGEM Sep 29 '14 at 20:34
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    Perhaps, also tends to be bad if your coworkers are strict Hindu, Muslim, teetotal, LDS etc. – smci Sep 30 '14 at 2:01
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    @smci: or, indeed, recovering alcoholic. – Paul D. Waite Sep 30 '14 at 15:25

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