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"How" is Temporary

By Ryan Lambert -- Published October 17, 2013

Jeff Atwood said "In our field, how only lasts about five years, but why is forever" and I agree. I love learning so much that often I get distracted from a real task with a real deadline because something I saw, read, or thought about interested me at least a bit and I want to know more.

Learning is fun, and in IT related fields, constant learning is a requirement to not being left in the dust. I've gotten to where I am today based on my ability to learn, my ability to take on new challenges, and my ability to say "we should be able to figure something out" and then figure something out.

My Higher Education Path

One topic I typically skim over whenever possible is my formal education, because I firmly believe it tells an inaccurate story on the surface and I don't like the first impression it gives. After high school I immediately started an internship at a professional recording studio where I served as an intern for 9 months followed by being employed at the same studio for another two years after my internship. I think that experience in a small business (me and the owner) was the best education of my life, seeing first hand the inner workings of a business and later realizing the complete dysfunction that existed. While working there I started taking classes at the local community college where I was working towards a general business degree. When I was a little over one semester from having my associates degree I made the brilliant decision to move out of state. Immediately. It was time for me to leave. Driven by my love for being outdoors, camping, hiking, and snowboarding I moved to Colorado where I promptly discovered that they wouldn't transfer but the smallest fraction of my earned credits and I had to start over again. (I learned that look before you leap thing in the process...)

Frustrated, but still determined, I applied at Colorado School of Mines (CSM) for the Electrical Engineering program. I was quickly accepted into the program, but I was smart enough to know that my high school calculus course from five years prior had long since left my brain. I again enrolled at a community college (instead of CSM) for the pre-calculus course and ended up loving the school and getting my Associate of Science degree in preperation to transfer to CSM. I ended up not ever enrolling at CSM because their class schedule wasn't flexible enough to comfortably work around my full-time career (which was enabled by my community college education, thank you very much!). Instead I enrolled at another university and switched my major to Computer Science and Engineering which matches my career better than an EE would. (Though, getting my EE is still a goal in my life!)

The first course I had to take at this school irritated me because they required me to take a "higher level enrichment" course. (Higher level meaning they wouldn't accept credits from a community college to satisfy the requirements) My three options were: music appreciation, art appreciation, or theater appreciation. I have played piano for over 20 years (at the time I was even a part-time piano instructor with a dozen students!) and I also play guitar, drums, and bass to various extents. I asked why they would require me to take one of these courses and the explanation I received from the college was "to expand horizons, open your mind to something different", etc., I wasn't amused.

I do understand what they're attempting to get at, but I could have taught the music appreciation class which I ended up taking. Now, you being an objective and attentive reader, are probably saying "But Ryan, you took the class you were most fluent in, you could have challenged yourself and isn't this post about learning?" No! I do NOT want to take an art appreciation course. I enjoy looking at art. I enjoy being able to look at art without analyzing it because I am happily ignorant. The only other thing that I can really look at without getting super analytical is the the night sky. Taking an astronomy course would only ruin that, just as taking an art appreciation course would ruin art for me. Same basic thought on the theater version as well. The second and final course I took at this university was Discrete Mathematics with Graph Theory and was a course that I was actually interested in. The problem with the course was the pretentious, and incredibly rude, instructor. She had many more issues than the two I listed, but that would be a story on its own and that's not what I'm writing about. That was the end of my most recent college experience.

Final Thoughts

I don't recommend my path of dropout, associates degree, and dropout to anyone; not having my bachelors degree does limit my job opportunities. However, I have a full-time job, a "part-time" job with a small start-up, and I have contract work seeking me out. So I guess maybe I'm not as limited as I feel I am. I'm going to keep learning, keep exploring, and when the time is right, I'm going to get my bachelors degree. Just not yet!

How does learning play into your career?

By Ryan Lambert
Published October 17, 2013
Last Updated October 17, 2013