My Journey Through Education and Academia
“Mike Rother says that it almost doesn’t matter what you improve, as long as you’re improving something. Why? Because if you are not improving, entropy guarantees that you are actually getting worse…” — The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win
I have always loved computers. From the moment I owned my first ZX Spectrum, I have been on a mission to learn more. Like most children, my journey through education started in Play School, or more accurately for me, a big double decker Play Bus. I enjoyed helping the staff and doing practical things, more so than playing with the toys.
During my years in school, there were several significant life events that meant that I was missing from school for long periods. I repeated year six and left school in year 10 without any qualifications. I wasn’t going to let this hold me back and I was determined to continue learning. A deal was brokered between me, the school, and the local college. I decided that I wanted to leave school and study at college instead.
College was much better than school, I was treated like an adult and given freedom for the first time. I was learning because I wanted to learn. Instead of studying for 10+ GCSEs, I was able to focus on the subjects important to me: Maths, English, and IT. I completed my GCSEs nine months later with the grades to unlock the next step in my studying.
As a condition to starting college, I was also required to get a job. Just five days after leaving school, I was sitting at a Tesco checkout serving customers and handling money. It was an excellent boost to my confidence and great opportunity to gain work experience.
I would spend nearly six years in this part-time job, learning how to work in each department, and never content that I knew enough already. I even trained up to be a semi-skilled baker for the only reason that I felt the physical environment to be a challenge and one that I could overcome.
After completing my three GCSEs, I studied for a GNVQ Intermediate in IT, followed by a BTEC National Diploma in IT. My four years studying at college ended with work experience at a Land-based Technology College. I decided that this was the type of job that I would both enjoy and thrive in, so I returned to help out and learn the ropes during my days off from the bakery, with cakes and sticky buns.
The persistence paid off, I was now working full-time in IT, and the sticky buns stopped arriving. Learning quickly, I worked my way up through the levels of IT support. I worked hard to improve everything that I came across, ensuring stability within the desktops, servers, storage, network, and infrastructure.
Roughly half way through the decade I worked at my first Higher Education institution, I had the most rewarding nine weeks working at another University. Amongst other things, it was enough to prove to me that I was doing a great job at the college, so I returned to continue what I had started.
My third Higher Education institution was another Land-based Technology University College. My role here was to quickly understand their environment and migrate from Novell NetWare to Microsoft Active Directory, something that I had completed previously. I learned a lot about people and soft skills in this role, helped by a lecturer, who later became my manager. I am grateful to him for his advice and support.
The migration was a success and life was changing direction, it was time to move on. My fourth Higher Education institution was much larger with 32,000 students. It was great to use all the skills that I had learned previously to solve new problems. I continued to learn and grow as a person. It was great working by the sea, but the time came to move on again.
My fifth Higher Education institution was much smaller, but had the ambition and determination of a large university. Specialising in IT Security and Systems Reliability, I was able to do what I enjoy – identifying and solving problems, and making improvements. I also enjoyed supporting and mentoring colleagues, and sharing knowledge across the entire IT department. I made communications a priority here, helping to change the cultural perception of IT Security.
My journey through Higher Education has been extremely interesting and rewarding. Working in five Higher Education institutions has allowed me to learn so much more than I ever could in a single organisation, working alongside, talking, and most importantly listening to hundreds of colleagues about their experiences. My travels have definitely allowed me to meet some very interesting and talented people.
In June 2017, I left Academia for a new job in the private sector. The decision was based on location and the perfect job coming up at the right time. It’s a great to opportunity to work within a similar sized IT infrastructure outside of Education and I am really enjoying the Mail and Logistics industry.
My studying continued with the Open University soon after college. After ten years of part-time study, I was awarded a Diploma in Higher Education, as well as a Certificate in Social Sciences and a Certificate in Humanities. I also studied German, Maths, and IT. The subjects both interest me and relate to the skills that I felt I required at the time.
Learning is still very important to me and I dedicate a large amount of personal time to learn new skills. I am using Raspberry Pi computers to learn about the Internet of Things and building a robot with various sensors and computer vision. Much of my programming is in Go (GoLang), although I also code in PowerShell and Python.
I have always been a computer geek, even as far back as age 14. I was lucky to own an IBM PC-XT computer. This is a video of me showing a program I had written to convert measurements, followed by a program to read the pin status on a parallel port and switch a pin output between high and low.
I am happy to share my Insights Discovery Profile, as I believe it is important to understand other peoples preferences towards communication. I am a Creative Observing Reformer.