There are many reasons for why you should take the time to help out your peers in a professional or learning environment. Here are some motivators:
One: Helping others helps you!
If the person you help buggers off and you never see them again, you will at the very least have managed to solidify your knowledge of the matter of the problem by thinking about it again. This is great professionally as it helps make sure you really know how to respond when someone asks the same question later. Trust me, someone will! That’s the worst case scenario, the better is that you end up helping people again and again, until you really know what the hell you’re doing.
Two: Become the go to man!
I made ‘Easy, peasy, lemon squeezy’ my professional slogan. No technical challenge, problem or anything else was wrong to come to me with. However I would let them know if it was simply extremely unfeasible or overly difficult. On a whole, the whole point of the technical director/artist is to say “Don’t worry, I will deal with that problem for you” OR “I’m afraid that is not possible in this world”. As a technical artist/director, what you do is a kind of magic to everyone else, don’t expect anyone to know what that involves. It is either possible, come hell or high water, or it is not. Everything between is your domain (including how long it will take even if you don’t know). The guy that says “Don’t worry, I will deal with that problem for you.” is usually the unsung hero of the production, but everyone will remember him well later on simply because it is what everyone from producer to artist wants to hear, and you can deliver it.
Three: You can help the entire company by applying your thinking generally!
There is nothing wrong with stepping outside of the daily grind of rigging, programming tidbits and tools, or slowly moving vertices about, to take a grander view of the situation. Especially as a technical artist/director you are probably the most capable of doing this and even though the production staff might not appreciate it at the moment you do, they will (or should) kiss your feet when you save them from that 20th production problem that was narrowly avoided because of your clairvoyance. Make sure you have an understanding with your production staff that your role is not just that of an artist, but that of a scout and that of a strategist. I can guarantee you that every production that fails to invoke the use of their technical staff for these other jobs/hats, will fail in one or (much more usually many) more ways. If you find yourself in the need of having to convince a producer, let them know what amount of man days it would take for you to fix something, versus what it will potentially take everyone involved once they have walked into the trap already.
Four: You get a different satisfaction from helping someone else than yourself.
No shit Sherlock, said the bored reader, but it’s an important part. When someone else succeeds after having learned something from you, you feel good in a certain way. I distinctly remember some years ago when I helped someone, who was almost a complete stranger over the internet, understand some fundamental bits about lighting and 3d artwork in general, and then that person went on to produce better lighting than I ever did and ended up in Dreamworks and many publications within a few years, and even credited me in a ‘special thanks’ list in a publication. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t take credit for anything this person achieved, but the pride I felt for having helped was enormous!
Five: Being helped is also great!
When I started doing 3d professionally, I got a huge amount of help, artistically, professionally and just simply by getting work from another freelancer called Pål Syvertsen (Flottaltså). The amount of appreciation I still have for this help, as well as the others in that first year (especially William Eggington, David Maas, Christopher Lutz, Shane Ushijima, Brian Nicolucci, Peet Lee) amounts to the volume of a mountain in the Himalayas, if not more. One remembers the help one receives.