I had James Bachs Secrets of a Buccaneer Scholar on my pile of books to read for a while. Actually one of my several piles of books.

I must learn to speed read - I can't seem to get through all the books I want to read fast enough. Keep hitting that one-click-ordering on Amazon..!

A few years ago James and I were in contact. Probably 3 years now? Through our conversations he had shown me a pdf which was a much shorter story of his book. It really touched something in me, mostly because I felt a lot of his experiences were similar to mine.

I enjoyed school until the age of thirteen (terrible teens?) ...ha! Perhaps a bit, but also part of that was a big move from Indonesia (where we had been for 4 years) to Colombia (my mother's country). I ended up staying there until I was 18 (first chance I got, I was out!). I was a good student before hand, but as a teen, not knowing the language, not feeling like I fitted culturally in and getting put in a so called bi-lingual school which wasn't really a bi-lingual school (they just taught alot of english!).

I completely disconnected at that stage. The only thing that I could identify myself with was maths and sports/PE. I got weird looks because I was really the only girl who was into sports, the rest seemed more bothered about their make up.

I stopped going within a few months. Got forced to go back the year after, didn't do much for the whole year. Didn't do work or tests. Perhaps I should have put more effort into getting a better grip of spanish and understanding what they were all going on about. But I just didn't have it in me.

At the end of the second year a teacher wanted to fail me. I wasn't really bothered, but they said I could take a test and if I passed I would pass the year. I took the test after studying for a few days and with a lot of luck passed. There was one teacher (who gave me the test) who was fuming at the result. I felt happy mostly because I knew I shouldn't really have passed and that the teacher was angry. I didn't really learn anything (that the school wanted me to) that year. I just managed to pass a test.

Then we moved cities. Opted for a school where students could complete each school year in 6 months. That motivated me. I thought that if I completed school quicker then it would give me an earlier ticket to do something else (like get back to the UK as quickly as possible).

I also found out at this school that if I got top marks in my class they would give me a scholarship (reduced fees) for the next year. I challenged myself for a few months and got the scholarship. Started the next year with the same, but then go the opportunity to go back to Indonesia for a visit via London. I jumped at the opportunity and had a secret plan in my head to not return to Colombia. I didn't know how.

It was 1997 and I now had access to email and internet. I tried emailing a whole bunch of boarding schools to apply for a scholarship. I ended up getting a 50% scholarship for a boarding school. I was 18 at the time starting my A-levels a couple of years later than most other students. Turned out the college was cr*p and I left a year later.

I settled myself down in Brighton, on my own (after couchsurfing for 3 months or so). Got myself a boring admin job that paid the bills.

I did complete a couple of computing Open University courses. There were a couple I started and never finished. I found I lost interest quite quickly.

I kinda felt lost at what I wanted to do. Felt all the stops and starts with 'education' were perhaps that it was something to do with me.

It was around 6 years ago where I found myself finding myself. Before that I would think hard about what I wanted to do. I'd browse books and just not really find anything I was interested in. Now through the experiences I have been through with testing, running my own business, communities, collaboration, coworking I just find that there is so much I want to do and learn.

However, I do not want to get qualifications. I feel it diverts me away from using where I am 'now' and what I want to 'learn' now.

This is perhaps why I have so many piles of books I want to read. Some I have started, not finished, but know I will pick it up again when I am ready. As a mother with two boys, if a book doesn't engage me at the time I just fall asleep (!).

It's also reason why I just 'do' stuff. I don't feel like I need a qualification to do the stuff I am or want to do. I learn as I go. Sometimes learn from successes, but often from failures. (Am not ready to talk about some of the failures yet!).

When I was applying for jobs in my 'youth'. It was all based around experience and qualifications - with a big bad recruitment agency building up the biggest wall in front of you because I didn't have the right keywords in my CV.

Since starting out on my own. No one has ever asked what qualifications I have. They don't really care. They just want to know I have a good reputation and can get the job done.

I like James' way of becoming aware of and classifying different ways of learning. It makes me feel good about quitting, plunging in, following my current energy, obsessing (and then forgetting) and procrastinating.

[Just a story with the hope that slowly people and companies will slowly open their eyes to different ways of learning]

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Comment by Kristine on February 26, 2010 at 13:34
Thomas, I now live in Germany. Sometimes it is SO hard to live and work hier...
Comment by Kristine on February 26, 2010 at 13:29
Thank you for sharing your story! That gives me hope that one day things will happend for me too :)
Comment by Markus Gärtner on February 20, 2010 at 12:04
The most striking thing is the fact, that experiences and keywords on your CV matter when applying for a position. If you're a consultant, this does not count at all - and get more money. I call this the consultant paradox...

Thanks for sharing your story, Rosie. I think I will give some more light to my story over the course of the next week or so...
Comment by Thomas Ponnet on February 20, 2010 at 11:17
Wow, I didn't know you where living in so many different places in your past! Very interesting story, thanks for sharing that.
I'd be interested in the failures as well, not only what they were but also about your strategies that you used to cope with them.
I found that coming to the UK has opened up more opportunities for me, the cultural difference between Germany and the UK in my perception is huge, especially when it comes to the job market. In Germany, without some sort of certificate you can't get into certain jobs.
At the age of 10 you decide into which school you go, one where you do A-levels (always 4 I think) - a pre-requisite for going to Uni, one for O-levels and one other that doesn't have an equivalent in the UK but where you basically have no O-or A-levels. So at the age of 10 it's decided what kind of jobs you can achieve in your later life. There are some ways around it but it's not straight forwards.
After working a year in the UK I got line management responsibilies as a research scientist, something that wouldn't have happened in my last job in Germany. If you had no PhD that'd be it.
I then moved to the IT department in the same company to work as IT admin, again something unthinkable in Germany (because I haven't had the proper certifications). In the UK people just wanted to know if I could do the job. I then got interested in testing and started reading loads of books about software development methodologies and testing and got my first job as a product specialist - half testing, half documentation, support, the guy who knows about that piece of software. Again completely unthinkable in Germany.
I got rather scared as this was my first "proper" testing job I got in a hardcore IT company (remember that I come from working in pharmaceutical research labs) and people with 10 years or more in IT asked me how they should go about testing! After the first shock wore off I got down to business, read more and slowly introduced some structured approach to testing (read, not formal processes but something that worked in more than one project).
I'm now working as test manager in that company with a team of testers. This is a far shot from where I started off when I came to the UK 10 years ago. It also taught me that I can't know where I'm going to be in 5 years time, I could be doing something completely different, and probably be good at it. The last part is the scary bit though that I often struggle with. Even though I know that making big changes becomes easier after I do them and found nothing bad happens but that it's a good step in the right direction. There's still some part of me that clings to the "tried and tested" part of me that asks for more security rather than taking a leap of faith.

But enough of that, your post brought all of this up and got me thinking about my next steps, thank you for that.

Thomas

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