Finding my passion has been relatively easy, I have loved computers and teaching from a young age. I was a computer mentor in school and at lunch time had the key to the computer room to allow other students in under my supervision. I also engaged in workshops where I showed the class what to do in these classes. One of the computer classes in school allowed us to play games and one of the games was a typing game where you'd type a sentence and the car would drive. The errors that appear on screen would appear as flies on your windscreen and you could make the car go faster, the faster you typed. So I learned how to type properly as I knew that would come in handy. It was free and in school so why not. I also had plenty of experience with other consoles at home but this stands out as the point at which I did a project on my cousin who was working for a games company as a 'Senior Test Automation Engineer' and thinking, WOW, what an amazing job. That is like a dream job, working in computers sounds amazing. In school we had to do a careers project to see what we would apply for after school and what Universities and Colleges we would go to. It was about finding out what our goals, dreams and interests were. I did the school careers project on him and all the while was encouraged by both School and home to pursue my interests. Things came naturally when setting up computers, pulling them apart, installing a new chip in an old Dell remanufactured machine that my sister had brought home.
I didn't stray too far and continued into studying Information Technology after school as a degree but I was left with this sense of wonder at how I was going to cope within this environment. The fourth year of the course was really challenging and I went through a lot in terms of the final year project. I had been studying away from the guys in my class as they were all into the 'one up man-ship' - see post below regarding masculine toxicity. The competitive, dominant and oftentimes, offensive nature of Information Technology often led me to have a low self-confidence. I worked hard. I knew what I was doing. I remember coming back after the Summer one year and I was chosen to be a mentor to the 1st years of the course. The University were going to pay us and we were going to give them classes in different topics. I choose to cover the Fundamentals of Electronic Engineering and came up with pretty unconventional ways of explaining AND, OR and different logic gates by telling a story of two people going to the shop (I always like real-life examples)!
Naturally I loved this as I had a whiteboard and blackboard at home when I was growing up and I tended to lean towards explaining things to others easily. It was logical. I loved it. It made sense! I finished up in the degree having mentored for a few years and started work in Luxembourg where I was left with a terrible taste in my mouth. It wasn't easy. My first month my boss was fired and so our department was now under one of the directors. I remember sitting at lunch and him explaining to me that the reason why he divorced his first wife was because she spent too much time with their new born child. I was stunned but okay, this was a different culture. It was pretty jarring to hear though.
I worked in a software security company as a tester and at the time we took it in turns to output the software onto devices for clients. It was my turn this one particular week and so I asked Franc where the sleeves were, he said check with marketing so I went to the marketing department and they said to check with HR and the chase went on until finally HR saw me walking around the office looking for the sleeves and said that is enough. Myself and HR marched back to his desk and demanded the sleeves and he opened his desk drawer to hand me them. I remember thinking - this environment is not for me. There was plenty of other things that happened but that was the one that really stood out as the entire company had seen me wandering around looking for these sleeves. I felt somewhat humiliated and I think maybe that was the plan when I look back on other things that were done. I didn't last long there. I wanted to move somewhere else and as I wanted to get into programming and never felt good enough I decided to go back and do a masters.
I started into a Masters programme and there was a taught first year with programming classes. I loved it. I got top of my class and started teaching computers in the evenings to older people part-time. It then came to the following year and we needed to do the thesis and work in a company full-time. I got a job in Dublin. It was time to move to 'the big smoke'. I had moved to Luxembourg to avoid this but as it was my Masters I had to go in the end. I remember thinking, I'll only stay for the six months that is necessary to fulfil the programme guidelines and then move back to Galway.
I enjoyed working there and loved the projects I was working on. We won the digital awards for our work on Project Maths resources and I learnt a lot while I was there. I was always thinking about whether I could get back into more programming though as it moved into using authoring tools to develop these as well as flash but little programming in the end. My title had changed three times my first day too so it was no surprise that the job was not what I signed up for in the end. I applied to do a PhD and developed my own proposal in the technology that I loved. I focused on gesture-based technology and had the privilege of getting a full scholarship based on this in 2012.
I moved back to Galway and lived happily for a few years working in the PhD room where I made and met some of the most interesting people who challenged my beliefs every lunchtime. They were so encouraging, focused and driven people. It was inspiring and motivating at the same time. We were all doing PhDs and all focused on finishing as soon as we could. Supervisor meetings, department meetings, side work as a lecturer, planning conferences, attending conferences, writing journal articles, developing pilot projects, developing focus groups and the next stages of the project, picking up work supervising students - I loved it. I loved all of it. I loved the fact that I could go into the PhD room at 8 or 9am, sit quietly working on my project until lunch and then continue until dinner before cycling home to cook a nice hearty meal.
Towards the end of the PhD it was back to Dublin and getting back into industry. I worked in a technology company and for the first time I found myself in a company where I thought - wow - this place is great. I love the people working here. They all want to be here and are all nerds like me. The technology company in Dublin was for a while and I also kept on teaching on the side as a lecturer in Pulse College teaching C# programming in Unity to develop games. It was a lot of fun but I couldn't manage to keep both and had to give up the Saturday 11-5 lectures. It was too much. I wanted to put in more time and I usually had games to teach the students game programming too but every evening I ended up doing something.The technology company in Dublin took over and it was full-time. I spent a lot of time at work and it was enjoyable most of the time. We had game nights, poker evenings and beer o'clock every Friday. It was great and I am still in touch with the people I worked with to this day. It was a 'work hard, play hard' mentality and I loved it. We were a team and we really were like 'team work makes the dream work'.
To clarify, I have worked with inspiring men who have also forged my outlook in life. I want a respectful environment and workplace. Somewhere that respects both genders equally. No one is shouting at the other or disrespecting them and I have worked in those places too. I have worked with men who want their daughters to also get into technology and want it to be a better environment for them too. All equal, all treated with respect, all kind to one another - that is possible, I have worked in those companies as well so don't get me wrong when I am painting the highlights of my career so far. I am advocating for a better environment for everyone. Freedom for both genders in terms of expression and respect in the workplace.
I have since been very successful in other companies with a better environment and enjoy working from home quite often and this allows me to code without the nonsense of these males thundering on their chests like the primitive apes that they are. It is like being in a real life Jungle, it is how I see them when they are thumping your chest after solving a problem - an ape in the Jungle - a primitive being who has not evolved and a repressed male who cannot be vulnerable even when true strength and courage is in vulnerability and having the integrity while having the convictions to follow through. Being angry doesn't solve anything. It's a case of learning and remembering the lessons, forgetting the rest and focusing on overcoming the obstacles. It is a case of creating and becoming a creator in your own life and what you want to focus on.
It is a case of finding the right environment, creating the best version of yourself and focusing on your own goals, thanking them for making you realise what you don't want and finding where everyone is working as a team, the level of cooperation is high and you work together to achieve a common goal. This is what I had initially and unfortunately we all stumble across the 'primitives'. Once you find an environment that is willing to work with you then you will thrive. It is a case of being open and free to do your work to the best level that you can. It is also a case of gaining perspective when it comes to working in an environment that isn't working for you and that means engaging with programming groups online - helping others - seeing where you can contribute.
I am now an active member of a number of Java programming groups where people ask many questions online and I have had the pleasure of getting to know a lot of lovely people in technology. I love technology. I love the people. I love teaching and I love what I am passionate about. This is not to be confused with preaching. You can do whatever feels right for you but for me that is a case of thriving in an environment that works best for me so I can shine. It means working with people that I can call 'my Uruguayan brother' (referring to my previous colleague) or 'best boss ever' (referring to my previous boss) frequently and stay in touch after work. It is having the freedom to take on other projects and look at working on other things as well as work and wanting to work at home. It is getting the time and space necessary to complete the job that you are passionate about and contribute to communities around the world. It is about producing and creating your best code and learning from others. It is engaging with others and being able to communicate and lift each other up when you find yourself taking longer to solve a problem than normal. It is about being in an encouraging environment that inspires you to thrive. It is having constructive feedback of where you can improve without unhelpful feedback or confusion. It is about knowing where you stand.
The contrast is there and I will strive to be in a good environment where I can thrive as I continue working in technology. Move on with your life - create what you want, take responsibility and put the past behind you. Some people are not nice and it is taking back the power and moving on. Forget about them and create the best life and success you can imagine! You can create your best life yet. Take back your power! Thank them for showing them exactly what you don't like and giving you the strength that it gave you. I love technology and I love teaching technology, they are my passion and they are what make my heart sing.
In the news:
Rising above a Toxic Workplace - Gary Chapman, Dr. Paul White, Harold Myra.
Women in Tech - Tarah Wheeler, Esther Dyson
Mindset - changing the way you think to fulfil your potential - Dr. Carol Dweck
The power of positive thinking - Dr. Norman Vincent Peale
Comebacks at work - Kathleen Kelley Reardon, Christopher T. Noblet
Emotional Intelligence - Prof. Daniel Goleman, Ph.D.
Dodging energy vampires - An empath's guide to evading relationships that drain you and restoring your health and power - Dr. Christine Northrup
The Universe has your back - Gabrielle Bernstein
The Ultimate Happiness Prescription - Deepak Chopra, M.D.
You can heal your life - Louise Hay
The gift of forgiveness - Katherine Schwarzenegger
How to be human - Ruby Wax
The Highly Sensitive Person - Elaine N. Aaron
Burnout - the secret to solving the stress cycle - Emily Nagoski, Amelia Nagoski
Grit - Angela Duckworth
Braving the Wilderness - the quest for true belonging and the courage to stand alone - Dr. Brené Brown
The Happiness Advantage - How a positive brain fuels success in work and life - Dr. Shawn Achor
I have listed some videos of the summaries of some books that I have read that I have found useful and one that summaries lessons learnt from 134 books. Brain chemistry plays an active role - so take care of your brain chemistry - eat healthy, exercise, take vitamin D.
I highly recommend reading the Growth Mindset - it is related to business and is lesson 3 in the video below. This is where companies like IBM have grown and reduced their toxic culture of competitiveness and status and incorporated a culture of cooperation and teamwork.