Sunday, August 26, 2012

Random ramblings: career change decisions


When my son was 3 (he is 20 now for those just joining us), I distinctly remember him climbing up to my then boyfriend's computer and quickly picking up the nuances of AOL to get to the areas he wanted to see. I said to myself, "Self, you need to get back on the computer train, if only to keep up with him." Fast forward 17 years and I've made a very lucrative career in the IT industry that ordinarily would have been difficult for a single mom with my background to achieve.

Computers were not alien to me at the time. In fact, my mother will gladly retell stories of me helping to get our school computer to work when I was in the 2nd grade. I was probably 9 or 10 when I stayed up long nights pounding away on my beloved Radio Shack TRS-80 CoCo. CLOAD indeed my friend (don't feel bad if you didn't get that reference, it was an old BASIC programming command). After diving back into my beloved computers, I realized quickly that a career in technology was the fast track to a decent paycheck with the least amount of effort. Something important when your plate is already full with raising a child on your own and working.

I love technology and as a career it has been very good to me (aside from the gender issues I have run into a few times.) Though it took me awhile to get my bachelors degree from a local college (due to the  aforementioned single-momhood), I was able to complete my IT degree and even get some graduate level courses under my belt (A's of course) in an integrated program that was available to me as an undergrad. Suffice to say, not only have I enjoyed IT, but I am pretty darn good at it.

However, as my son entered his teenage years, I realized that I no longer had a passion for it. I still loved technology, but I didn't feel the excitement I once had. Ideas of going back to school for another career started entering my brain. I knew that if I did a complete career change that I would more than likely need to take some more undergrad courses, so I planned to start my new path once my son graduated from high school. That would be the first time I could take the hit in time and downgrade my income.

Life has a funny way of changing your plans. A little over 4 years ago I decided to have a surgery that would help me with painful issues, but would also guarantee (or so I thought), that I would not have anymore children. I began to contemplate on entering the veterinary field vs the neuroscience field. Both of which, in all likelihood, would have me making less at graduation than I made currently. A few months later I met my future husband.

From the beginning we discussed the "having children" issue and I had to make a big internal decision: mainly to give up changing my career. It was my decision solely to make and I more than willingly made it, a testament to what a wonderful man my husband is. After our marriage we sold my house, bought a much bigger house in town (3x the price my house sold for), and my son started college. In our minds, we naively thought we would get a surrogate pregnant the first time and it would run us around 30K - 40k tops. I almost laugh now about those initial thoughts. Almost.

But having been off work for the last six months has reminded me how much I no longer enjoy my field. It's a niche field and quite frankly I should have been studying this entire "sabbatical". In my field, not only do you have to know a mountain of base level stuff, but you constantly have to stay updated. Blink and everything changes in the field of IT. Especially my area. The amount of time a techie reads to keep their skills updated would stagger many.

Part of me is tired of the gender issues, but more than anything else, I just hate spending so much time doing something that I don't love. No longer do I fantasize of becoming a vet or finding a cure for ADD, but now I am lost in the dreams of making a difference in the world. I want to work with people and do "something that matters", and not just by working in some dimly lit cubicle in some office where I don't fit in.

When I have volunteered in the past is when I was happiest, but I no longer want to "just volunteer". Besides, wanting to have a child means that I will have less time to do things like that. So how does one reconcile extreme looming bills, the probability (hopefully) of LESS time, and the desire to completely switch fields to one I have no experience in, but I believe would provide me more happiness in the end?


  1. You sure have lots to think about!! The never ending struggle of balance in life is something we can all relate to. My husband and I are always wondering where we will be at this time next year as life continues to evolve and change - but hey, thats the fun part right? :)


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