Have you ever hung out with people who all belong to a different professional circle than you and they crack ‘industry specific’ jokes? You can feel clueless and a total ‘div head’ (English slang for a rather slow stupid person) for not getting the joke. In the same way I am also sure we have all been involved in conversations even within our own companies where people are talking about something that we don’t understand. Even though we may never admit it, we have probably played along with the conversation pretending to be in the know, nodding with a sense of confidence backed with extreme fear that we may get caught out.
This is one reason I decided to take the ‘Introduction to Web Development and Design’ course at BCIT. As a designer in my 30s I was trained and bottle-fed on print design and not web design (the web will never smell as good as a freshly printed ink drenched brochure). My lack of knowledge and understanding for coding and web standards was starting to be a hindrance. Sure I may have nodded my head with understanding as our web guys talked about divs, WC3 and some guy called Zeldman, and as Art Director in a company that focusses on web and print design my knowledge was lacking, so it was time to go back to school.
I have a successful career, am married with a kid and I can afford more than just plain pasta for dinner and here I am at 37 being a student again. I know this is all in my head but it was for sure a little bizarre going off to class once a week. I was also concerned before the first class that I would be the ‘old fart’ in the corner trying to keep up with all the young ‘whipper snappers’. In fact there was a great diversity of people there, from younger people who were just starting their careers; people who were hired by their companies to maintain their corporate website (and needed training) and people like myself.
The course was hard work. It was like learning a new language, something that doesn’t come easily to me. Remembering when to use absolute, float or relative positioning sometimes ‘mashed’ my brain but at the same time the problem solving part of my brain enjoyed figuring-out solutions to why the code I just wrote didn’t do what I had expected (damn those closing tags).
I procrastinated (well actually avoided) taking this course as I had to admit to myself that I was not perfect, or that times had changed and that I needed to ‘catch up’ a little. But I am glad I did. I can now participate fully in conversations, give better strategic direction to my entire team and am able to challenge my web guys and know what I am talking about. I don’t pretend to know everything about web and programming, but investing in this new knowledge has given me new tools and confidence.
One unexpected bonus of being in college for me was receiving a student membership card where I got a killer discount for trendy clothing shops selling 80’s style clothes (that I unfortunately remember wearing the first time I went to college).
In conclusion, I would invite you to ask yourself if there is room for you to improve or to be better in your job. It’s OK to go back to college or seek private one-on-one training when the opportunity arises. Don’t be a ‘div head’ and let your ego or some other reason prevent you from growing in your profession.