How Did I Get Here?

1 Dec

If you looked at “About Me”, you’ll see a pretty eclectic array of previous jobs.  Part of that’s a function of the fact that I started working at 16, and part of it’s a low-tolerance for boredom :).  But both of those feed into why I’ve decided now to train as a user experience designer.

When you start working at a young age, you don’t map out a career strategy.  Your mindset is to work as much as possible to build up a stash of capital, and to figure out the details of what you’re building towards later.  Similarly, I went through high school with a mind to excel at everything, because the goal was simply to get enough to get OUT on the way to the best possible college.  Keep your head down, read everything, and don’t get pregnant.  It always surprises me when I hear that people defined their current passions as kids.

Imagine the shock, coming from that mindset, when you actually hit college and have no idea what to do.  So I threw the net broadly (which is apparently another thing you’re not supposed to do if you want a job).  Instead of double-majoring, I took courses in 15 different departments and declared a major at the last possible second.  It was a toss-up between sociology and English.  It’s only in retrospect that I can see in both a fascination with studying the human experience.

So I fumbled around, unhappy, doing an M.A. in English lit and working at a special collections library.  And I finally started to think strategically about a career.  The academic job market started limping in the 1970s, and the recession knocked out any last plans to get a PhD for a tenured job.  But the library had a lot of subject-matter PhDs working as curators, so I looked towards a library school degree.  And in the research (research!) about digitization, human-computer interaction, and information architecture, I found the job of User Experience Designer.

Books and storytelling have been a constant in a scattered life.  According to the Holland Type test I’m an Artistic-Investigative type, but I’m not an artist.  User Experience Design has a strong footing in the Information Age (according to CNN), it’s new and interdisciplinary, and the speed at which it’s developing tends to cancel out boredom.  I don’t know – I always loved the Old West, that classic American idea of striking out into uncharted territory.  Unless you want to go to space, there aren’t too many places to do that in 2012.  We’ll see by the end of all this if I hit it rich or get bit by a rattlesnake :).

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