The older get the more I come to realize that education isn’t a state, it’s a process. You’re never done; it’s a life-long process.
I believe that many people — perhaps even most — take their education for granted, and as a result fail to take advantage of the many opportunities available. Certainly those who have basic education available — much of the world still does not — are very likely not to realize what a wonderful gift it is.
I try not to. In fact, I try very hard to be grateful for all of my education – past and present.
Eight years of Catholic grade school followed by four of Catholic high school served me well. Even though I’m no longer a Catholic, I believe that I received a better education in that system than I would have otherwise. From nuns and priests to lay, my teachers mostly “above average”.
The education wasn’t perfect, but then what is? Some teachers weren’t really up-to-snuff, and there were certainly areas of study I perhaps wish had been emphasized differently, but I can’t really complain. Most of the decisions I’d change in hindsight were my own, not theirs. (Taking Latin, instead of Spanish; advanced Algebra; “more” English; perhaps a handful of other minor changes.)
Landing at the University of Washington, as I’ve related elsewhere, turned out to be a perfect mix of serendipity that changed my life forever. Besides tech skills and knowledge, I learned better how to self manage, and how to learn.
Education didn’t stop there. I’ve occasionally joked that I learned more in the first few weeks in a real job than I did in four years at the U. That’s only partially facetious — there’s no substitute for the real world. The classes I took in college that perhaps best prepared me for entry into the workforce were those structured to simulate the work environment. If I had to do it again I’d consider interning during the summer rather than continuing to work at the grocery store.
One thing I walked away with was a sense of how important learning would be. It’s one of the reasons technology appeals to me so — there’s no end to learning; there’s always something new and exciting to catch up on.
I took that mindset with me to Microsoft. A few years in, once I had enough tenure, I began to evaluate opportunities presented not by what technology might be involved, or the visibility that might result, but by the opportunities it would offer me to grow as an engineer and/or as a manager.
One of the things I truly enjoy about my current situation as a solo-preneur on the internet is that I’m once again presented with a wide variety of opportunities to learn, every day. Not just that but I’m in a position to “cherry pick” and simply choose whatever strikes my fancy.
I’m convinced that lifelong learning is one key to a long and healthy life. I’m grateful for the formal education that set me on that path, and the opportunities that continue to present themselves every day.