It’s not my job to do your job for you!


I’m currently drowning in a sea of requests for a number of things, including people wanting me to help them with specific issues, which feels a bit like they want me to do their job for them. I feel a little bit uncharitable saying that, but that’s how it feels.

Let me start by saying I understand what it’s like to be asked to do stuff in your job that you don’t know anything about, and also don’t care about. Sometimes, if you can Google a solution and move on it’s a happy day. Having said that, I’m also aware that I can’t expect every article and blog post I come across to contain exactly what I’m looking for. You have to do a certain amount of digging, mixing & matching and it involves a certain amount of trial and error to get to a solution.

Here’s an example I’ve had recently. I’m not saying this was a case of “do my job for me”. The person in question was very polite and not at all demanding, so I feel safe to use this example, and I’m hopefully not going to offend them.

The interaction started with a question about XMLTABLE. It became clear over time this was actually several points wrapped into one.

  • Basic usage of XMLTABLE, explained here.
  • Usage of XMLTABLE with a variable, rather than from querying a table, explained here.
  • Populating a variable (presumably an XMLTYPE) with XML from a URL, explained here.
  • Dealing with network ACLs, which was mentioned in the previous link, but explained more fully here.
  • Making HTTPS calls from the database, explained here.

All these pieces were already explained on the website, but there wasn’t one page that put them all together. As a result of that question I added a bunch of extra links between articles to make the situation a little more obvious.

People contact you and from their perspective it’s a one-to-one interaction, but from your perspective it’s a one-to-many, as they are not the only person requesting your time. You end up feeling guilty you can’t help more, and I’m sure some of them think you are being a dick because you are not helping them. This situation just doesn’t scale.

It’s almost impossible for anyone to be an expert these days. You have to mix & match information to get to a solution. If you want a job in IT, you have to develop this ability to find information from several sources and combine it to get to a final solution. If you are expecting someone else to do that for you, you are never going to get anywhere.



PS. In my response to a comment below, I am reminded of some words from Tom Kyte who said, “The more you do, the more people want you to do!” 🙂

Author: Tim...

DBA, Developer, Author, Trainer.

11 thoughts on “It’s not my job to do your job for you!”

  1. Thanks Tim, wise words. In my early days my other mentors (apart from your excellent posts) responded with a link to, which was a clear hint to try myself first. Thanks for everything, Peter

  2. As a long time consumer and oft-time dispenser of knowledge, I know exactly what you mean. A lot of the “requests for more” I see are barely intelligible too, like the question was floating around with a bunch of ancillary detail in the person’s head but completely failed to make the transition to a clear question on the forum. Tom Kyte had another famous response to those questions too: “My car won’t start, why?”…
    Poor Tom even blogged on that very subject:

  3. Tim,

    You alone have contributed more than anyone to the Oracle community. You deserve many thanks and you ask for nothing in return. I for one depend on your material as my go to source for documentation. Better than Oracle support.


  4. You need to try harder Tim, you wuss…

    I for one appreciate everything you do. As someone who is also, theoretically, a dispenser of wisdom and help, I come back to your pages a awful lot. One thing I try to teach people is where to go for help. Maybe I should add to that “Go there for help, read stuff, learn – ask a direct question if you really need to but always remember this guy/gal is just one person, helping lots of people, whilst doing their own job”.

    And happy New Year

  5. “I’ll tell you what I do know though. Every time that we let Brent fix something that none of us can replicate, Brent gets a little smarter, and the entire system gets dumber.”

  6. Thank you for your great work, Tim!
    You might want to add something like “if you have any questions, please do your homework first and then raise the question on / oracle-l / / …
    The resources and knowledge of people there are bigger than mine will ever be”
    Please don’t stop preparing the basics for us!

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