It’s hard to believe but this journey, this tumultuous journey, is almost over. I started my part-time undergraduate program in IT Management at Ryerson in January 2004. Part-time because I had a plan for the next 5 years; a plan I knew would either elevate me or crush me.
Pardon me as I’m going to be talking about myself a lot, something I try not to do in my posts. I hope that my abbreviated story can help either by being an inspiration to others heading down the same path or a deterrent to those who have an opportunity to prevent mistakes.
Coming out of high school, I never really had a plan for life. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my career (even though I thought I did), I was lost emotionally, spiritually, and totally misguided. I thought “Hey Engineering sounds cool, I can make a chunk of change”. I my favourite subject at the time was Chemistry, I used to be able to fill in the entire periodic table, with atomic numbers and abbreviations. Now, not so much. So I, thinking I was smart, put two and two together and went into Ryerson’s 5-year Chemical Engineering program. Long story short, that didn’t work out — I hated it. It was all math, no interesting Chemistry = me dropping out after 2 years. Back at square one. To this day, I don’t regret it. I could not imagine myself in a career that I had no passion for.
To cut to the chase, I did some soul-searching, decided to re-dedicate my life to God, and really work on being a better person. I re-examined my priorities and what I wanted to accomplish in life and where my passions lay. I wanted to get married, have kids, be well off enough to be charitable and philanthropic, live a fulfilling life — I wanted it all and still do. So I came up with a list of goals I wanted to achieve in my 5-year plan, some of those things I mentioned before above like getting married and getting my degree were in there, others I knew where going to take longer. I didn’t want to be another statistic, another 1 of the majority of Black students in my high school graduating class that didn’t go to university. I know just getting an undergraduate degree might not be a big deal to some, but it was to me, so I’m telling my story.
Knowing I had to get my life back on track, I made the decision to enter the workforce full-time during the day and get my degree part-time at night.
- Wasn’t interested in taking anymore student loans.
- Needed a job (thought that if I was going to get married soon, I’d need a job).
- I recognized work experience as a valuable asset.
- I didn’t want to be forced to lease a laptop from Ryerson for four years that I wouldn’t even get to keep at the end.
It has been a rocky road, landing in crappy jobs, including getting screwed over by some. (If you want more details, contact me before you contact them.)
Nevertheless, I didn’t let anything hold me back. In 2006, I got married to the one I knew was always for me. And last year I thankfully took the opportunity to even start my own freelance web design business. Many of my goals were achieved, while some weren’t; hopefully this 5-year plan will be even more successful.
Here are the key lessons I learned (some I probably didn’t talk about directly):
- Set measurable goals, then make a step-by-step plan on how to achieve those goals.
- Get informed about career choices and don’t just go to a guidance counsellor, do your own research.
- It’s ok to change directions — plans can change, unforeseen obstacles pop up, its ok to adjust accordingly and re-evaluate goals.
- Find what you’re passionate about and do it — but if you can’t make any money off it, keep it as a hobby.
- Sacrifices may have to be made to achieve what you want — give up something in the present for a greater reward in the future.
One thing I can say for sure, I definitely won’t stop learning. Whether it be formally or informally, I’ll always be soaking up knowledge somewhere somehow. I want to get an MBA or some kind of Masters degree but at the moment I’m so sick of school — will wait till next year to decide. I’m hoping by then more distance education MBAs will be available, some are naysayers when it comes to that sort of thing, but I’m open to the idea, I can’t say I have the will to do it any other way.
Either way, it has to fit in with our plans for the future.
All I know for sure is that when I finish that exam on Wednesday, April 9, 2008 at 9:00pm, it will have all been worth it.