Education inspiration Reflections

An Overarching Theme

Praying mantis (Hierodula patellifera) Macro shot with wide-angle.

I feel tremendously fortunate that when I write something I’m hesitant to hit “post” on, people leave these amazing comments that make me feel like less of a failure and like whatever it was I wrote, was worth sharing. Having a crisis about not finishing grad school, I wrote Being Human, and then Dropping Out when I came to the conclusion that I can register for another semester at uOttawa this will be the same story, the same crisis, 3 months from now.

Meggin left this comment:

OK, this might be a rambler, but I feel the topic warrants it.

Wednesday night, I was sitting in a bar in San Francisco with a very close friend of mine. It was an important night, as right now she is in surgery having a portion of her breast removed.

Why the heck am I telling you this? On that same day (Wednesday), she shared with me some good news about her work. (She is a scientist for the Google-equivalent of cancer research.) For the past year, she has been managing a team, and been having to put most of her time into the projects under that team. In her heart though, she is a horizontal thinker (incrementalist is another way of seeing it). She doesn’t see herself in one project, but looks across the horizon and sees patterns and relationships.

Her own boss has been encouraging her to move away from this and get more involved with management (as there is serious potential for a directorship in her career path).

But my friend believes full heartedly that she wants ot make strides in science, in her papers, and in looking across the horizon – not in some title that is given to her (and probably with a serious large paycheck).

In the middle of all this crazy going on in her life, the CEO of said major company met with her with a couple of VPs, both of whom want more of her time, and he asked her point blank what she wanted and she said that she wanted to pursue the science, that she had an inkling about certain relationships, and that by dabbling in a range of projects, she would be making strides in some serious stuff.

He agreed that she was making the right choice, and now he is making it happen for her.

You may find that now you need to walk about from your dissertation, as you are still in that discovery period, that time of absorbing all and anything that comes your way. But later in life, when you have accumulated enough of a horizontal view to see a pattern. You will have something truly meaningful to your type of thinking that gets you excited to finish. And really serious people, like CEOs of major companies, will look to you as the real deal (which they probably already have a hunch you are).

Enough said (probably way too much).

I used to know who I was and what I was doing, but somewhere along the way I got lost in details and I forgot. Meggin reminded me, and I can’t thank her enough for that.

I have an overarching theme. And it might not connect what I’ve done enough to make a masters thesis out of it, but it connects it enough for me to make sense of it. Here it is:

How is technology changing the way we interact?

And that means it makes complete sense for me to be interested in programming education – programming is a technology and an interaction, education with technology is another interaction. And as we produce reams of user generated content, we (or companies) need a way to make sense of it. As our interactions take place online and off, trying to find patterns with which to characterize our online interaction types, and extract our online communities is working on that question. I got interested in visualization because I was trying to work on teaching programming in a visual way. The way we run Awesome Ottawa and CompSci Woman, even, leverages this change to create something – a platform, a community, some awesome.

I feel less schizophrenic realizing this, I’m building upon the things I do, just in an incrementalist way. It may not make sense to other people. It may not get me a masters degree. It makes sense to me – and that’s a start.

My boyfriend, ever the geek, describes my crisis as a “resource allocation problem”. It helps me to think less about what I’m failing at and more about what I’m saying yes to as a result of saying no to the thesis. Yes to other projects. Yes to things I’m actually interested in. Yes (maybe) to a better school and a different kind of masters. Yes to the bigger, overarching question.

2 replies on “An Overarching Theme”

You are on to something here – something very cool. Social interaction through technology is very much starting to change, and not just in the online dating, political blogging, facebook-befriending ways that people usually refer to in relation to this subject.

Little bio – I am the principal tech writer for a software company in the human services industry – I have been writing about and thinking about technology from a social angle (but one very different to the facebook model) for over 10 years now.

When I took my daughter to her 18-month developmental, the doc was struggling to work with his laptop, and he made a joke about how Steve J. should design a simple app (the design of which he rambled out off the top of his head) and all peds across the US would be delighted.

In 20 years, we are all going to be interacting in a mixture of machines and human contact that will be seemless – how that looks is very much dependent on the people, the innovators behind it. I believe the world would be a much cooler place if natural communicators from all walks of life actively participated in the discovery.

Happy (and flattered) to be part of this conversation in any way.

Coffee sounds good –

The chiro I go to has a vision for some calendaring software that would make running his practise so much easier. My boyfriend’s dad is a vet and he is using Gcal to the max (for a practise of 10+ vets) and has this vision for what he would like it to do that it’s nowhere near achieving (dynamic scheduling with the travelling salesman problem thrown in). Small, specialized businesses don’t have the resources to build their own technology vision and what comes off the shelf doesn’t fulfil their needs. In the case of the chiro, they are tied into this product which has a mediocre calendaring component, but unless they open an API to it practises are stuck using it – and why would the company making the software do that?

So I agree with you – the world will be a much cooler place when people like your pediatrician, or the local chiro or local vet are empowered to create the technology solution that works for them – rather than accepting the 80% that is given to them and creating workarounds for the missing bits.

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