In my experience, I’ve always seen the story of the successful alumni. This is my semi-average adventure into being alumni – the ups and the downs.
I graduated from Dalhousie University in May of 2016. It’s been what’s felt like a long journey in technical learning and self-development since I’ve left the comfortable walls of my Faculty.
Chatting with some of my circles I had started journaling my experiences and progress through post-grad life. Someday with the hopes that I could share my experiences and perhaps help someone else who might be in the same boat.
Since graduation, I’ve struggled with my identity, how I wanted to shape my career, and losing interest in things that used to give me joy. It eventually got to a point where nothing seemed to help and I had a bit of an emotional break two years ago that saw a lot of change in my life.
The journey never ends whether we’re talking about being thrown into new, uncomfortable experiences or mental health journeys. I’ve always loved trying to help people, and having people who share their experiences is so important in tech. But I needed to take some time to work on me before I could begin to help anyone besides myself.
Hopefully, this is the start of sharing my story and experiences to help the next person. It’s taken me a year since first writing this post to want to make it public, but I think it’s time.
In the meantime, I’m always sharing stories and perspective from other awesome people in tech on Twitter who deserve to have their story heard.
Follow me there at @compchimera
This was prepared as part of a short talk done at my University where I felt attendees would get more out of this than talking about the technologies I work with.
- Identity Crisis
- My sense of identity was gone. Before graduation, I was a Dal CS Student – president of WiTS. My “elevator pitch” and short and perfect. And I had been some sort of combination of such identities for so long, I had nothing else. I had also let my hobbies drop in favor of time for school work and work work.
It took time for me to feel comfortable in my role at my new job before that could become apart of who I was. So, it meant I did a lot of soul searching that summer directly after graduation. I could do an entire other post in regard to my mental health journey I started and continue to this day.
At my first job after school I didn’t vibe with what I was doing, so it didn’t feel right to me for a long time. Which might be fine if you are in a stable place mentally, but where I struggled with anxiety, depressive feelings and feeling lost, it was too much to also not feel invested in my work.
- Now I’ve specifically carved out time in my week to work on me and my brand. This included doing some design work which has encouraged me to start drawing again. I find that this has helped a lot with not just my anxiety but it reignited an important part of me again that went missing.
I’m guilty of using my ‘free time’ as a change to just scroll my social media and enjoy funny memes. While I think it’s important to relax, it’s as important to work on yourself in ways that take some work.
- University to Full Time Work
- It’s easy to get stuck in the routine of work and home, especially when working for 37.5+ hours a week. For me too, the gym takes extra time out of my week which is good but also isn’t necessary the most social. In my experience, it was difficult to stay in touch with friends (who were even still in the city) but it’s hard to get out of the routine. Also wanting to just relax and be home after a stressful week.
- Starting back at the bottom of the “food chain”. You’re suddenly (likely) the least experienced person in your work circles and potentially may feel intimidated with how smart those around you are. Even with a strong foundation in whatever you’re working with, you’re still the new the team and company. Some of the best advice I’ve heard to combat some of these feelings (at the start of a job and anytime after) is you’ve worked hard through your university/college program/bootcamp and earned a degree and have a place there. Or you’ve worked hard building your other skillsets while self teaching tech and building a portfolio. You were hired because people believed in you – you need to believe in yourself to flourish into your position.
- Becoming involved in your work place culture can help with making you feel like you belong. I’ve managed to get involved with our social committee and we’re working on more inclusive events and getting more people to participate.
- Job – to – Job
- This was a complicated move that involved me giving my two weeks at one job and having that tough conversation with my manager. It’s often difficult to have to explain over and over why you’re leaving, because it’s not always for exciting new opportunities. In my case it was an atmosphere I was no longer comfortable in, and was unhappy with the work that I was doing. It was a combination that was throwing me into a depressive-like state. My anxiety hit an all-time high to the point where I ended up crying at work. But in this situation, I knew I had to do what was going to be good for me – and good for the company. If I wasn’t passionate or at least good at my work that’s not great for the company – so they should have the opportunity to employ someone good. At least that’s what I told myself to worry less about the whole situation.
- On boarding into a new company, a new team meant that the 6 months I spent developing post-graduation Brittany was reverted- back to the last commit. I quickly had to learn and be comfortable with a set of new technology I hadn’t gotten I experience yet. Using Java we work with AEM with is an Adobe CMS called Adobe Experience Manager. And I learned all new front end technologies. Before T4G I had never really touched Gulp or Grunt for building my front end before. It took me a long time to get even remotely comfortable since all my other experience was mostly dated – or I never was introduced to how to foundation worked so it I just did was I was told by the senior developers and it just kind of worked and I was fine with that.
- Skills for dealing with your manager will always be useful and important. Whether it’s getting advice from a mentor, a trusted colleague, or professional development books it can help ease some worries about bringing up tough topics.
For what it’s worth, I think this applies to all stages of where you could be in your career. Highschool to University or college. School to jobs. Going back to school for graduate studies after working and possibly being out of touch with certain technologies and having to learn them, back to being new at whatever job you may be at. It’s the same cycle, and we all experience it. I think sometimes people can get out of it sooner if it’s a good fit – but it still happens. Or they worked hard and found the ‘perfect’ spot, and had to deal with struggles before transitioning between phases in life.
It’s hard because what inspire some people won’t inspire others. Personally, hearing how others have overcome their own struggles, and even knowing that they’ve gone through them is comforting. I hope that something I’ve said resonates with peoples making big leaps in their own life, or encourages you to find something that does. There’s so many lovely people on Twitter and books out there that if you’re interested. Some books that influenced my colleagues can be found here: http://www.t4g.com/great-books-changed-way-work/
More than happy to chat if you have any questions! Find me on Twitter at @compChimera – I share other awesome people in tech, art and gaming news.
Brittany is a Web Developer with experience all over the stack, bringing ideas to life and tackling whatever is thrown her way.
She likes to code, design, and draw. Flexing her creative muscles both with visuals and creating beautiful code is where she’s happiest. The chimera moniker came from her having a variety of interests, most of them revolving around technology. Plus, they’re pretty fun draw. 😉
During the last two years at University, she was introduced to the Dalhousie Women in Technology Society and found her place she belonged within the faculty community. In those two years, she sat as first the Vice President of the society which had at most 4 active members, and then led the society as the President in her final year. By the time her position ended the society had flourished to close to 25 active members.
The women in tech movement has been the driving force for staying in Computer Science for Brittany after starting to struggle after second year. After attending Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Tech in 2015 she felt an inspiration that was unlike any other event she had ever participated in. She wants to share that drive and passion with prospective women in tech, and those currently in it.
Ask her anything! Contact at hi[at]computationalchimera[dot]ca
DISCLAIMER: The opinions and posts expressed on here are solely my own work and do not reflect the opinions or sponsorship of any companies, except where explicitly stated. If you have any questions, please email me at hi[at]computationalchimera[dot]ca. Resume available upon request.