Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Too Cool For School

Aside from a couple of aborted attempts back when I was a teenager, and therefore incapable of making good decisions or long-term thinking, I haven't had any formal college-level education. I found myself incapable of following instruction sets, which was odd because I rapidly got involved in the IT industry which is effectively all about following instruction sets. And so I skipped the college degree in order to accrue a significant amount of experience in the IT industry in general and in Operations in specific, spending most of my time hammering away at various architectures and ticketing systems and in the meantime teaching myself how to do things like ssh and grep and write SQL queries. 

I had a string of good colleagues and mentors that turned me into a valuable and capable Operations person, but it's also managed to leave big holes in my experience and my brainmap, so while I know where to go to get the information, I often don't have it in my brain on recall at an instant. Those holes are often why and how I get tripped up in technical interviews, because if someone handed me a keyboard and a problem, I could fix the problem, but asking me to have the answer in my head gets me tied up and confused and that always looks great over the phone or in an interview setting.

My partner and I talked about it at the beginning of the year, when I realized I was about to run short of UI, and so I've taken steps to get me on the road to starting school in March. Not a Masters or a Post-Bac, but an actual, honest-to-glob first-level Bachelor's degree in CompSci or CIS (depending on how I do on the placement testing). A chance for me to fill in those holes in my brainmap and get a solid foundation of long-way-round answers to go with my head full of shortcuts and quick tricks. It didn't feel really real before, but now that I'm signed up and scheduled for stuff and I'm getting my ducks in a row, it feels more and more like a good decision, and maybe the best decision, even though it means a bunch more debt and a big swath of tight times in the near future. 

It doesn't mean I wouldn't take a job if someone offered; I would, because two incomes make life easier than one. But I also am committed to school, so if I end up with a job it'll be in addition to my school work, rather than the other way 'round. It's time for me to get some paper on my CV to go with all the experience. And maybe this time I won't get distracted by shiny objects and actually make it to class and do my homework. I've learned a lot since I was 16, including the value of putting in the work to get good at something, and the understanding that following directions even if the directions are stupid is a valuable skill to have (and can often teach both myself and the direction-giver something important). 

I'm at a point where I'm waiting to hear back on several things, and while I'd love to say "yep, I got this gig" in the next couple of weeks or months, I honestly feel like right now it would be OK if that didn't happen. We have made a plan, and we will see it through.


Hey, a Daily Jukebox entry right there at the end!