Dusty Hard Hat

2015-16 Term 2 Week 7: Learning Journal – UoPeople

It’s funny, I’ve been talking about how much I slacked on my blog in the last month, and the first line I see in my LJ from last term is referring to procrastination. It’s just never going away, no matter how hard I try… Oh well, as promised here’s another learning journal, and there will be one more tomorrow too. After that, we’re all caught up 🙂

I found this LJ worth posting too, but today instead of being focused on my CS majors, this sort of applies to everyone. Back when I wrote this, I had read post on reddit, and it just kind of irked me a bit. I ended up summarize how I got to where I am today, and I think there are some important things to take away from this post. So, here’s what I posted in my learning journal on Dec 30th.

Hmm… Procrastinate much? I’ve been meaning to slip into the journal and document my progress throughout the week, but the holiday pressure just doesn’t quit. However, I honestly have to say, that despite how tired and overworked I feel, this has still been one of the best Christmas’s I can remember having.

My son is almost three (next week), so he’s at the age where he actually understands that it’s Christmas and wow, did he get worked up Christmas morning 🙂 It was amazing.

Anyways the holiday’s aren’t over yet for us. It’s like this every year, since both me and my wife have split families, it makes for a lot of gatherings every year. Actually since we have family in the US, our holiday season really starts during the Canadian Thanksgiving, because shortly after is the US thanksgiving, followed by a dozen birthdays and then Christmas, and then after Christmas my son’s birthday. October to January is basically booked every year with events, gatherings, parties, or preparing for said events, gatherings and parties.

The only difference this year is that I’m also doing school on top of it all. Not that I’m complaining. I’m on a sort of “holiday high” right now. Sleep deprived, over worked, over fed, and WAY over caffeinated! I feel like – for the first time in a long time – I’m doing exactly what I should be doing. It’s been a long road to get to where I am, and I’m not about to quit.

I’m sort of all riled up right now because of a post I saw on Reddit. So my apologies if this is not sounding organized or on point with what is usually expected in the learning journal. This poster was asking what to do with their life, and asking about aptitude tests.

It brought me back to when I was indecisive about what to do also, and I still have the feelings of regret barring down on my soul every day for wasting all that time not able to make a decision. Hopefully this is acceptable for a learning journal post, because I do feel like it connects back to what I’m doing here now. This learning experience at UoPeople is just one more to add to my journey through this rolly polly roller coaster called life, and getting here took the small decision to just jump on with my eyes closed in a manner of speaking.

My reply to the Reddit poster:

I’ve wasted a lot of time not knowing what I wanted to do too, and I tried a lot of the career aptitude tests out there, myself. You said you just received an undergrad? So I’m guessing you’re not too old, which means I’d say it’s safe to choose literally anything. Just pick a job you think might interest you that you can get with your current degree and go from there.

Don’t waste anymore time being indecisive about it. The worst that can happen after making a wrong choice, is you move on to something else, or figure out what you’re really passionate about through real life experience rather than some test. Once you learn what really motivates you, you can always go back to school – maybe online while continuing to work.

I personally think our society makes too big of a deal about getting that “dream job” that we are supposed to love absolutely every minute of the day, when in fact that will never be true. No matter what you do, you’ll always have to work at times when you don’t want to. You’re always going to have to do boring monotonous things – even if it’s only once in a while. You’re going to go through doubts about your work, you’re going to experience depression and you’re going to want to call in a sick day when you’re not even sick – no matter what kind of work you do (even “life fulfilling jobs” have their ups and downs). The bottom line is that work is work for a reason. You get paid to do what ever it is you do, because there aren’t any people out there willing to do it for free. You have to accept that it’s going to really suck some times.

These aptitude tests are OK to help get some people pointed in the right direction (really just any direction), but you’re saying you literally have no idea what you want to do, and I think it sounds like you just need to get out there and experience the real world a bit. Pick anything, work hard at it, and work hard at understanding yourself, while keeping an open mind to what’s out there. You’ll figure it out. Just don’t stay stagnant – which it sounds like you’re doing now.

Let me give you a bit of my own story on choosing a career as an anecdote.

I eventually gave up on making the “big choice” and decided to just run with the first opportunity – landscaping. A labourious job, but a lot of money in it if you work hard, and there was potential for running my own business one day. I did that seasonally for a couple years, and while I was doing it, I devoted all of my free time learning as much as I could about it – things like job estimates, natural lawn care options, customer relations, the horticulture side of it – everything.

I decided it wasn’t for me because of reasons, and jumped around job to job for a bit until I landed an opportunity running a CNC machine in a factory. I saw the potential for a real career starting as a CNC machinist, working my way up to a programmer, maybe slipping my way into night school and get a degree in engineering. Again, I devoted myself to this idea fully. I taught myself how to program a CNC machine on my own, I started learning all sorts of other things on my own too. Everything I was learning was related to machining, programming and engineering. I worked as much overtime as I could and ended up gaining enough experience and knowledge to get a much higher paying gig at as a “real” CNC operator without having to go to school for it – simply because I applied and they liked what I knew (keep in mind this job “required” 5 years experience and a college education, both of which I didn’t have).

After 2 or so years of CNC, I was laid off and had a hard time finding work, until I found an opportunity working for a high voltage electrical company. They were building the electrical substations for wind and solar farms all over Ontario Canada, so I got to be a part of that – working along side electricians, learning the trade, and working my ass off for a chance at an apprenticeship. I got to terminate 35Kv transformers, drive excavators and telehandlers, work inside of wind turbines and all sorts of fun stuff. It was a really cool job, and I worked with truly spectacular people. I was only a labourer but I was making close to a six figure income with all of the hours I was getting. Anyways, for reasons, the company down sized and of course with lack of seniority I was laid off.

The next opportunity was a chance to go to school, since we had a lot of money saved up (oh by the way somewhere in this story I got married and had a son too! Hence the we). I decided to go to school for my BS with a Computer Science major. A little less than one year in my program and I’m already working as a paid programmer – making twice what I did at my last job. Both my job and my school are online, which is a dream by the way! The job isn’t permanent, but now with the real work experience coupled with my self taught skills/knowledge I’m going to be able to find more work when I move on from this job – and probably keep my wages up there too.

Every jump from one career path to the other has only resulted in an increase of pay for me – perhaps mostly luck – but the point is now I’ve really found something I enjoy and I get paid well for it. If I hadn’t just started jumping at opportunities I wouldn’t have been a CNC machinist where I started learning how to code, and I wouldn’t have really made the decision to start learning computer science on my own, which means I never would have considered going back to school for it, and I wouldn’t be on the career path I’m on today. You really just have to pick something – anything. After a lot of trial and error, learning, working, and getting to know what you like and don’t like, you’ll find what you’re passionate about.

Just an extra note: (since I already wrote a book, might as well keep going eh?) I’m also now a well rounded guy in regards to soft skills and hard skills. I’m very comfortable making my own decisions and picking up new things. All of the different jobs I’ve worked (I skipped like 10 or 15 in this anecdote, including street musician), have taught me how to be a strong critical thinker, how to meet a ton of new people and remember their names and stories, and how to pick up new things and learn them well. I’ve learned how to jump into intimidating situations where I know no one and know nothing about the job I’m doing, and just do my best until I know everyone and know everything about the job I’m doing. No aptitude test, or school is going to teach you these things, and these skills are going to be valuable no matter what you do.

Good luck!

That’s where I’m going to cut it off. After that point, I go into details about my assignments, that probably aren’t appropriate for sharing here – that whole ethics thing…

So, take from this what you will. Everyone has their own unique path in life, and I don’t want to sound like somehow what I chose to do is better than the OP on reddit, or anyone else. I just think that in life, it’s beneficial to try out things, and to accept an element of vulnerability – don’t be afraid of failure. After enough trial and error, and a LOT of tenacity, you’ll wake up one day and look around, and you’ll think to yourself “Wow, how did I get here?”. Of course you can take shots of whiskey until you gain the same effect, but I think the former in this case is a little more rewarding – at least in the long term 🙂





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