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I am new to the software industry, having worked in the manufacturing field before now. Currently I work on a project which is almost 50% completed, which means I have to grasp the technology faster and make my efforts be useful for the project as I am a contractor.

Recently, a colleague at the office was discussing a technology with which I had good experience, so I joined the chat. The next day he called for a meeting with his team, which I attended. Since then, there have been a few email exchanges and meetings every now and then. Since it all started unofficially, I didn't think about informing my immediate supervisor about my involvement in the project.

Now, how should I go about with this ? I really want to help my colleague, but not at the cost of my job.

  • Where I work, this is not just acceptable but strongly recommended! Working in other projects, that is. To fill up your weekly hour report. – Juha Untinen Oct 30 '15 at 7:57
  • You should not ask us, but your manager. – user8036 Oct 30 '15 at 8:00
  • @JuhaUntinen I never had/will have any intentions to show the hours spend on other projects in my weekly hour report. Its only out of interest I got involved. – San_man Oct 30 '15 at 9:32
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    @San_man: "I never had/will have any intentions to show the hours spend on other projects in my weekly hour report". Careful now. Quite aside from any legal obligations there might be, employers commonly want your timesheets to be accurate because they want to know what hours you're putting in. If you're spending time at work and not logging it, then they probably want you to log it. If you're spending time at work and logging it to the wrong project that's even worse.... – Steve Jessop Oct 30 '15 at 14:32
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    ... Unless they say otherwise, assume your employer considers the fact you spent X time in a meeting, contributing your experience, to be part of the internal cost of that project, and they want it logged. Otherwise you get projects that look as if they were cheaper to complete than they really were, because they relied on the "kindness of strangers". Of course time spent below the margin of error in your time reporting is too trivial to worry about, but if it's ongoing then eventually it will become significant. – Steve Jessop Oct 30 '15 at 14:34
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You should tell your project manager. There are a number of reasons.

  1. In large companies different departments are given different budgets and objectives. Your project manager has budgeted money to pay your salary for your time. The other team has not.

    It is fine to help other teams, because in the grand scheme of things you all work for the same company. However you want to avoid a situation where your current project is impacted. Even if you are not the cause of the impact, it could impact your career.

  2. The worst thing you could possibly do to a manager is blind side them. They should be aware of what is going on in their team. Imagine your manager gets invited to a meeting where you get mentioned as being instrumental in a project he is unaware of.

  3. It's good for your career. Someone who is helpful and open about what they are doing in your team, means if/when you move or are promoted, the more likely you are to help them later on.

  4. It can help your manager build goodwill between teams, allow better sharing of resources.

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    I'd agree with this answer but note that half an hour here or there is probably fine (a half hour meeting once followed by a handful of emails a week, for example, is very unlikely to cause an issue). If you find it taking regular meetings, though, or more than a handful of 5 minute email responses a day, I'd consider at least informing your line manager and checking it's okay with them. The chances are they'll be fine with you putting a set amount of time into other projects, but it's not your decision to make. – Jon Story Oct 30 '15 at 11:33
  • For #2, it could tarnish your reputation if you make your direct boss look bad by helping other teams without his knowledge. It's always a good idea to just shoot your manager a email or drop by his office just to explain you are about to help someone with something quickly. That way if in a meeting something is brought up about it, he/she can make good praises or recommendations. – Dan Oct 30 '15 at 13:36
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    It's important to note that as the OP is a contractor, the 'rules' are a lot stricter than they would be for a normal employee. When a contractor is hired to work on project A this cost usually comes directly out of project A's budget, so project A's manager should decide how the OP spends his time, even in small amounts. In the OP's situation I would simply go to my manager and explain the situation. As he's already mentioned that he won't be billing the time spent on project B, project A's manager is likely to be fine with it but they should still be told asap. – Cronax Oct 30 '15 at 16:51
  • @Cronax Yes what you pointed out is quite true. Will say my manager soon and let him decide how to proceed with it. – San_man Oct 30 '15 at 17:11
  • +1 "The worst thing you could possibly do to a manager is blind side them." – Lindsey D Oct 30 '15 at 17:52
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Depends on the culture in your company, but it won't hurt to just tell your supervisor that your colleague could need your involvement and if he's OK with it. Having a chat in the coffee break probably doesn't need your supervisor's OK, but attending meetings is a little more involvement.

In my current company it is encouraged to help each other, but as we account every single minute of our worktime to a project, sometimes there are agreements needed, if the involvement takes a certain amount of your worktime.

  • Yeah as you said I'll have to mention it to my manager. Now I'm little scared for not informing her earlier before I attended the meeting. :( – San_man Oct 30 '15 at 9:38
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    I wouldn't be scared: this kind of "appropriating of resources" happens all the time. Remember, you're all in the same company! Worst case, you've accidentally walked into a slight political issue between managers, but it's very unlikely to rebound on you over a single meeting. For all you know, the other team had already cleared it with your manager. – Jon Story Oct 30 '15 at 11:35
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    Depending on corporate culture, a single meeting (or maybe even two) isn't something urgent to tell your manager. That's usually what it takes to get an idea whether there's any value in you being involved at all. After that, you've got a better idea what the other team is asking for and can have a clearer discussion with your manager. – Alan Shutko Oct 30 '15 at 14:08

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