“I never let my schooling interfere with my education” was something Mark Twain once allegedly said. Well it certainly sounds like he had an easy ride!
Infrequent readers of this blog will know that my education and my schooling (clearly different things) have been recurring subjects of this blog since the start.
From bypassing content filters, to satirically moaning about institutional IT to rants about utterly useless courses and teachers and finally how I got first got hired, my schooling and education did not get off to a symbiotic relationship.
Recently I helped Richard Smedley with an article, which appeared in Linux User and Developer Magazine (issue 125, page 57), about my route into industry.
For me, the main thing that keeps hitting home is how little things had a big effect later on.
- I first got into the technology community through Manchester Free Software Group – Matthew Bloch from Bytemark Hosting was the first speaker I saw at the group. He’s now my boss. (Equally, other speakers I saw at the time are friends and/or customers).
- I first played with the Asterisk PBX software when I was ~14-15 or something. I never really got it to work. My first job was supporting it. (I’m still not sure I got it to work though! )
- At the first Barcamp I went to (Barcamp Manchester 1!), I met someone who’d later employ me as a contractor at a big corporation and for a period of time, be my first flatmate. In return, I may have saved his life.
- Several years ago I attended lots of technology community events to help myself learn stuff quickly. I still attend lots of events, but these days I can support the community, wearing my Bytemark hat.
- At one point I found myself supporting a cluster of Xen hypervisor VMs using the xm-tools package, later, I found myself working alongside the original author.
Of course, this isn’t all that surprising, nothing is stunning unlikely, and of course, one builds on previous achievements and contacts, but up until after it happened, I wasn’t even aware it was possible.
It is not an understatement of my naivety when I mention that I thought schooling and careers had a linear aspect – get good grades in this, to get a good degree in that, to get a good job there, and be happy(tm).
If you approach it like this, then you can start to understand threads like this: Those of you who did not do well in their GCSE’s, how did your life turn out?
with comments like:
I did alright in the mocks, got a mixture of A’s and B’s. I was wondering if they actually were important for after education seeming as my school is trying to convince me that if I get less than a B on my Biology test then I will be homeless.
One of the other arguments people used to persuade me I should go to university was that they themselves, made some really good friends at university – “the best friends of their lives”. This argument is relatively watertight, right up until the moment where you ask yourself whether people who didn’t go to university, really go through life with no friends at all… and then it unravels.
As it turns out, actually I’m a member of three university clubs or societies, across two geographically distinct, higher education establishments in different cities. Furthermore, I keep an eye on things that are going on in several other university’s clubs/societies. Hum, clearly no opportunities to meet people if you’re not at uni then!
It’s easy to say “Wow, Tim, you’ve done really well”, but this isn’t about me – it’s about the young people, stuck between by terror stories of university fees and threats that a “B in Biology” will make them homeless, making the right choices about what’s best for them.
I do various odd bits of mentoring but that makes a limited impact here – this is something that needs to be addressed at a higher level and as I’ve no idea how to effectively do that, I’ll just be sporadically blogging here as usual… unless anyone has other suggestions?
This Son of Dork song is a bit of an anthem for me: