Being vulnerable and terrified

It’s been a few days since WDS finished and one thing that keeps coming back is how awesome it was and how much I learned about fear and about how to slap the bitch in the face and make her go away.

Tess Vigeland’s presentation at WDS is still making me think and question my assumptions and certainties.

What if you were to leave your dream job after 10+ years to start all over? What if you had to leave at any point on any job and then had to spend years putting the pieces back together?

Certainties: I was absolutely sure about what I wanted to do

I look back at things now and I can’t help but laugh. Where I thought I would be when I started high school and where I’m at now cannot be any different.

Ok, let's start from the beginning.

Ever since I was in 8th grade I knew I was going to live in theater. I was going to sweat undergrad and then work in my MFA in directing before working in experimental theater which was just getting started again in Chile

I guess my first warning flag should have been waved when I didn’t make it into the theater program at ARCIS. But I was a man on a mission; I was going to do something else and then take the SATs again so I could apply for the theater program at Universidad Catòlica.

Then mom happened.

I was given the choice and the chance to start again and resume the pursuit of my dreams.

So I went back to pursue my dreams.

I was happy for the most parts. I kept working on theater but I discovered anthropology and rekindled my affinity with technology when I took an educational technology as an undergraduate.

The more I explored the more I discovered that theater was not my only passion. I loved technology, I did my school’s first web site as an internship, I loved anthropology (who can take a class with Ybarrola and not fall in love with the subject?!)

Late into fall semester of my junior year I had a major fallout with my advisor who also happened to be the technical director for the theater program. I decided I was not going to be pigeonholed into one thing, so I switched majors to general studies, also known as the “I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do in 4 years” or “I must go to grad school” major.

Well, it wasn’t that so now what?

When I did the switch I was ambivalent. I’ve committed all my time in school over almost 10 years and now that driver is no longer in my life.

If I had stayed an extra semester I would have graduated with 3 degrees: general studies, anthropology and Spanish.

That wasn’t in the cards either. We couldn’t afford the extra semester so I packed everything and moved out to California (not Vermont where I had originally moved to when I got to the US)

That’s how I became involved with SJSU. I took my last 2 classes for the degree in California as I got used to a whole new way of looking at things.

I continued my love of technology and sharing with other people who worked there. It turned into a career, the people who I worked with referred me to the manager of the instructional design / technology manager who hired me with little or no interviews and technicalities.

I remember that time being one of the happiest in my life. It may be that I didn’t know any better to be stressed and the responsibilities were just what I needed at the time. It wasn’t all rose colored. After the supervisor who hired me left I had to work from the lady from hell (and I do use the term ’lady’ loosely). I quit shortly thereafter.

I stayed with technology for the next 12 years or so. I can’t tell you why I did that or where would I be if it hadn’t been for technology.

Switching gears mid stride

When I was in college I picked web design as a hobby. I will never forget how we hid stuff that we had installed in the lab computers from the computer center’s staff.

Looking back, I realize that I’ve always had an affinity for technology. I loved working in the computer lab in high school and I always took to technology with ease.

I didn’t capitalize my facility with technology until much later.

My graduate degree was almost a forgone conclusion. I was working in instructional technology with a degree in “I have no clue what I want to do” so it was a no-brainer that I would go back to school (another thing I said I would never do) and beat myself up for the equivalent of 3 years (spread over 6 years) to get a MA in education with emphasis in Instructional Technology.

I continued to grow in the education field. I made great friend and I got laid off more than once (get your mind off the gutter people), had my ups and downs and was happy for the most part.

Looking at Act 3.5

I didn’t become really unhappy in higher Ed until I moved to Georgia. I went in with the wrong attitude and the wrong disposition, that’s true, that said it still sucked the way I feel I was taken for granted and the way in which they let me go.

But the more important realization of my year I Georgia was that I didn’t want the politics associated with higher education. At least where I’ve been in higher education, the pettiness has be unbelievable. Victoria, Janet, and many more. Te need to address things about you behind your back rather than to you directly.

I’ve learned over the years that talking behind people’s back is not the solution to a problem and not the way I want to communicate. I tend to err in the other direction. I tend to avoid confrontation but not shy away from it when it’s needed.

I was torn. I know it caught a lot of my Georgia friends by surprise and they asked me what was I going to do and offered a lot of very useful and tempting suggestions and possibilities. I was torn and almost stayed but in the end I decided I could do better that working in a field where people are treated like shit. I came back to California about a month after I broke my leg.

I’ve always loved having time to play and time to grow and I did a lot of both in the time I was out of commission. When the doctor finally released me from the knee stroller the first think I did was sign up for PG with Team in Training… it’s been a humbling and learning experience.

Act IV is still being written

October of last year (2012) I reconnected with a friend who offered me a job that I can say I’m happy with.

When I first got FireEye’s offer I was flabbergasted. In my Higher Education world only managers and tenured full professors make the amount I was offered. And the written offer was even better than the verbal offer I was first given… crap.

As with everything else it hasn’t been all rose colored. I’ve almost quit several times but what has kept me there is that, despite the big periods of stress there is a lot of fun to be had and a lot to learn.

As nice as money is; it’s a means to an end. I can travel and stay in a place for a couple weeks while working remotely. I can save a few weeks and make a big purchase without stressing about where miserable I was but then, as I am now, I’m too comfortable for change, even when I know that change is inevitable.

But WDS also taught me that change is not always negative and that some uncertainty is good for the soul. It taught me that if you give your best effort to what you plan then it’s ok to fail.

I’ve planned very carefully what the next 24 months are going to be like and, for the first time, I’m actually sticking to the plan. I’ve planned where and how I’ll spend money and how much I expect to save in the next 2 years.

Plus I have a fallback I’ve never had before: I have stock options in my company. Assuming it ever goes public 🙂

So the question is really where do I want to be… As Tess put it: Act IV is still being written