This post is in the same vein as my previous post about inspiration from conferences being your responsibility, and it was inspired by a conversation that happened on Twitter. A person asked if all the people attending a particular conference were being sent by their companies since this person was planning on paying his own way. This sparked a short conversation about companies sending their employees to conferences as training opportunities and whether this is the company’s reponsibility or not.
Build me a house
Imagine you want to own a house, and you want to hire someone to build it. You hire a person who has photos of houses he or she built before. You are now this person’s employer. Now imagine this person tells you that he or she needs you to send him or her to some training courses on how to read blueprints and how to operate power tools and the like. Is it your responsibility to pay for the training this builder requires? I imagine you would say no.
The same is true for software developers who get hired at a company based on code samples or projects on Github or the like. The employer is not responsible for training the developer on how to to do his or her job better.
What? Employers should not send developers to conferences?
No. That is not what I’m saying. In fact, I think all employers should understand that software developers must continuously learn and improve. There is a lot of value in conferences for software developers to get involved with the community. However, it is the responsibility of the software developer to continuously learn and therefore directly the responsibility of the developer to get himself or herself to conferences.
So, where does the employers paying for conferences fit in? When an employer is willing to foot the bill to get its developers to conference it is a sign that the employer has embraced reality and understands that developers–and many other professionals as well–simply cannot stagnate on education. A responsible manager, company, and employer will understand the benefits of and plan for training their developers.
Ultimately it comes down to ownership. Who owns your career? If you own your career you will realize that your job as a professional developer is to continue to learn so that you are able to provide solutions to problems your client (or employer) presents that are the best possible solutions given the current understanding. The fact that your employer is willing to pay for you to continue to train is a bonus, not an obligation.