Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Undercurrents in My Job Journey

I have felt the pull of a couple of occupations even though I wasn't always 'involved' with them.  I think its important to acknowledge these undercurrents because they can sometimes turn into a 'mainstream' career path.  Be aware of the undercurrents in your life.  Keep them 'fed' if you can.  You never know when one can turn into a paying career that ends up being much more fulfilling and enjoyable than your current 9 to 5.

Some Job Journey Undercurrents I have are:
  • Teaching.  In high school my brother and I thought we should both be teachers.  He could teach Physical Education, and I could teach band.  We could travel the world during our time off in the winters and summers.  It was a great dream, but never fully came to fruition.
    I believe my interest and passion here stems from my experience with piano and school teachers growing up.  Of all the teachers I've had, there were several who had an impact on me.  Betty-Anne was one of my piano teachers who left an indelible impression (see this post for more details).
    Learning must be fun but practical.  As I leaned into the 'undercurrent' of teaching and finding ways to practice it, more doors opened up for me.  I've taught piano and guitar lessons privately.  I've been teaching part-time at SAIT for the past 10 years now!

    Lessons I've learned with teaching:
    • Be organized.  Have a plan.  Be prepared with your slides, curriculum, assignments and expectations (students leaving class, how marks will be allocated for assignments/tests, etc).  If you are confident and secure with your content, it will reflect in your teaching style and you'll ultimately be more effective.
    • Privacy is important in a formal teaching context.
    • Be patient.  Some people can pick things up quickly, others have to work hard at it (but when they get it, they'll never forget it).  Sometimes just the content itself can intimidate and create 'learner's block'.   Call it out - make your students aware of it.  Too many black notes on a music score or big new words in a new topic can be intimidating...
    • Class discussion and real life stories are paramount to the learning experience.  When your students realize you can relate to them, everything becomes easier.   
    • Get familiar with 'the outskirts.'  Find out what they aren't learning but they want or need to know.  Here is the place where you can move from good to great at teaching.  What do they want to learn?
    • Marking is tedious
    • Learning must be fun and practical.  You have to find a way to make the students see a reason for the mundane stuff (technique in playing an instrument).  
  • Music.  As I mentioned above, even before leaving high school I thought I might become a band
    teacher.  I took a year of music in college but felt that I wasn't learning what I wanted to (I was also rather burnt out on formal education at the time).  In most of the places I've lived I've been involved in a volunteer capacity with some kind of music.  

    For years I thought I should have been a music pastor in a church.  However that door never opened for me.  I now see how that being a music pastor may have not been the best option for me - there's parts of that job description I would have been great at, but other responsibilities I would have bombed.  And then what would I have done?

    Lessons learned related to my involvement with music:
    • What you sow is what you reap, garbage in, garbage out - even when you are talented.  Do your best, practice, and get better than 'good'.
    • Opportunities for engaging involvement are around, maybe just not where you thought they were.  For years I was discouraged because I couldn't use my music the way I thought I should be able to.  Particularly with Music, people have preconceived ideas about how their 'career' should progress.  Let go of those and open your eyes and your mind to other opportunities.
    • Keep it simple.  It took a long time for me to learn this lesson.  Its not about how busy or perfect you play.  Can you bring your emotions into the song?  Can you (yourself) feel and get lost in the music?
    • Rests are important.  Too much of anything becomes noise.  
    • Enjoy yourself and smile

  • Writing.  I first got 'published' in high school.  Our school district put together a small book showcasing student writing, and I had two separate works published in to.  I've kept a journal since high school, and I've had a short humorous piece published in Reader's Digest.  I'd like to think that this blog is a stepping stone to a book called The Grad Gift.  Time will tell.  The biggest lesson I've learned with writing to date is
    • Done is better than perfect.  Sigh.  Guess I'd better hit publish on this post then.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

A Career in IT (My Job Journey Part 7)

For some background on how I changed directions into an IT career, check out this post.  Working in
IT has been a great experience for me on several different fronts:
  • It has given me a bit of financial freedom.  We don't have to live paycheque to paycheque counting pennies like we did when I was a printing pressman.  We can actually afford to go on holidays as a family now.
  • It has given me the opportunity to start and run my own small business (in our 10th year of operations now)
  • Because most industries need IT in some form or fashion, I have experienced work in many different businesses.  To date, my IT jobs and contracts have had me working with hospitality, utilities, energy, finance, health, legal, construction, fleet and freight, telecom, and entertainment industries, with private and public companies, and also in provincial and municipal government arenas.
  • I have more job security.  Demand is high for experienced IT professionals.  
Some of the lessons that I've learned in IT (although I think many of them are transferrable across any career path) are:
  • You've got to look out for yourself.  Companies are only concerned about one thing and its not you.  It their bottom line - are they making money.  Be aware of the health of the company, your company's industry, and the economy as a whole.  Compare benefits and wages when and where you can.  Payscale.com, glassdoor.com, wageindicator.org, and salary.com are good places to start.
  • Soft skills are super important!  Manners, communicating clearly in emails, listening vs. talking in meetings, integrity, and a smile will open doors.
  • There are lots of 'unknown, un-posted, unrealized' jobs out there. New ones are being created all the time.  Some IT jobs you've probably never heard of:  puppet master, ethical hacker, environment specialist, agile guru, search engine optimization engineer, spring team lead....etc.
  • Be ready to learn.  It's always changing.  Visual Basic has gone the way of the dodo.  Ruby and Python are 'in'.  Companies need to say competitive.  Continuous learning will be a requirement of any professional regardless of career path in the future.
  • Don't submit to fear and intimidation.  Eloquent people intimidate me.  New concepts with big names give me 'learner's block'.  Don't give in to this fear.  
  • Volunteer to learn new things.  Early in my IT career, I hadn't work with Unix or Linux operating systems.  The company I was working with at the time was looking for volunteers on a project, and the volunteers needed to work with those operating systems.  I jumped at the chance and it spring-boarded me into many other opportunities.  I still use Unix and Linux every day at work.
  • Listen to your thoughts.  I found that I preferred to have 'the big picture' when working in an IT shop.  Coding on a small piece of functionality for one specific application wasn't for me.  I needed to understand the 'lay of the land'.  As a result, I choose jobs that gave me that 'view', and I've been much more successful and satisfied in my IT work.  I find I'm always poking new avenues for my career path in IT.   Don't be afraid to experiment a bit.
My Career Quest/Job Journey Links