Wednesday, March 10, 2010

questions and answers

People have asked me some questions. I have decided to answer them.

1. Are you glad you're getting your advanced degree?

Yeah. For sure. I mean, on a day-to-day basis, when I'm bogged down with school work and the house is a mess and my weekends are shot and my friends haven't seen/heard from me in months and I realize that I've used up my twenties with my nose in a book? Then I kind of get bitter about it. But in the Grand Scheme Of Things, it's a good thing. I'm in this degree program by chance. (Did I mention it's a brand new program? I don't know if I have mentioned that. But it is, and I am one of two who got in. And the other one changed programs, so now it's just me.) I wasn't sure if I wanted to do it, but I knew that I'd kick myself for it later in life (when I had kids and was all out-of-practice, schoolwise) if I realized that I wanted the degree. Also, I really love my adviser: he is an excellent mentor and a great example of what I'd like to be in the future. Just being in the same room with him makes a person feel more excited about the topics. He's that passionate, that knowledgeable. That was a big factor in my choice to apply. I figured that if I was going to get the degree, there's no one else I'd rather get it from. When I walk up on the stage and he puts the funky hood on me I'll probably melt into a hot mess of sobs.

So yeah, like I said: I wasn't 100% sure I wanted to do this. And I don't really have an "itch" or "yearning" to do dry academic research. The literature says that people with attitudes like mine often fail at their degrees. What the research doesn't know is that I have a pretty good track record for not failing at things. I also don't like to drag things out or put things on pause, and I'm not a quitter. My current plan of action includes taking my comprehensive exams in the fall and plunging into full-time dissertation-writing by this time next year.

I should also note that I haven't had to give up much (aside from money, brain-power, free time and sanity) for this degree. I still work full-time, 8-5, on a normal schedule. If I did have to give up my job for this degree, I don't know if I'd be doing it.

Anyway: I'm excited for when Mr. N and I will be "Dr. & Dr"!! (Did you know that the formal way to address a couple with those titles is "The Doctors LastName"? Hah! I totally want a return address stamp that says that.)

2. Why do you want to want to be a University professor? What are other careers you've either had, or thought you'd have?

Well, I'm pretty good at teaching people stuff. But the people have to be somewhat mature otherwise I might cuss at them. So, I figure that teaching graduate school might be a good choice.

But seriously: I think it'd be a good fit for me for several reasons. One is that I just like the academic environment. I've had a myriad of jobs on three different college campuses. I'm comfortable on campus. I am still learning to enjoy research, but I can feel a spark of something there. Like I might actually be starting to 'get' why people do it, and develop a research niche of my own. I hope I do. I know I am at least not feeling as ambiguous toward it as I was just a few months ago.

I am also drawn to the idea of a flexible schedule. Aside from class times, departmental meetings and office hours, most instructors (at least in my field/campus) can set some of their own hours. I'm pretty versed in the ins-and-outs of online and hybrid instruction as well, so that could also afford me some flexibility. Flexibility's really important to me because I do think we'll have kids in the future. While I've resigned myself to the fact that I'll be a 'working mom,' I hope my advanced degree and academic career path will afford me more freedom to be with my family.

Now... what other careers have I had? Well I'm 26. So not many. But let's talk jobs. Since I was 15: I've worked in website design, technical support (hardware and software), digital photography and classroom assistance (for technology use). I've also been a TA, a GRA, a modern-day "office grunt" (cut and paste HTML codes, etc...), and the online editor/webmaster of a daily newspaper. Oh, and I also sold computers, iPods, routers, software and other electronics at a reseller for a few years. During that time I was an "Apple Product Professional."). But that stuff was all before 2007. (Wow, I had a lot of jobs! But I at any given time I had between 2 and 3 of them.)

2007 is really when my "career" started. Without disclosing too much, I've been in a "supporting" staff role in a large organization since early 2007. (I finished my M.S. in 8/2007.) What I do isn't tech support - there are others who specialize in that. It's more of a guidance. Think about it this way: the organization has all these technologies its employees can work with. My coworkers and I inform and educate them on the technologies and their proper uses, and help them figure out if and how they need to use any of 'em. Then if the user (or we!) have trouble with anything, our tech support gurus can swoop in and save the day. I also make cool video tutorials, write what we call "job aids" (instruction sheets, basically) and stuff like that.

So that's been my career. I've moved around in the company, but I've pretty much been doing the same types of things these last three years. When I finish my doctorate, I'll eventually be looking to transition into teaching others how to do what I do now.