Fly robin fly – taking a chance in a whole new direction

People talk about kids leaving the nest all the time, but what they don’t always mention is how the momma bird occasionally has to leave the nest too.

Her babies are hatched, though because they not self-sufficient, it is critical that she spread her wings and brave the unknown in order to ensure everyone, herself included, reach their full potential. Baby birds have to eat, but also they need to be shown how to be the best sort of birds, which means, eventually, Momma bird has to get over her fears, remember how to fly, and lead by example.

“Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.” – Robert Fulghum

People aren’t all that different. More specifically, I’m not that different.

My nest, however, isn’t made of sticks or straw. My nest is a series of jobs I managed to pick up over the years and a career I built up along the way. And I’m not complaining about my nest. The people I’ve met along the way have been great. I’ve traveled the world and got to see first hand how things were made. It gave me opportunities I might never have imagined for myself. I am as proud of what I built as I am of my other accomplishments.

However, my nest no longer fit like it once did. While it still kept the cold out, the straw I’d grown so comfortable in over the years no longer provided the same amount of cushioning. The sticks I’d woven together itched my feathers in ways I couldn’t fully explain and the gaps in my nest’s construction were no longer something I could ignore.

“Don’t get too comfortable with who you are at any given time – you may miss the opportunity to become who you want to be” – Jon Bon Jovi

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Just another normal day at the office.

I was left with two options: rebuild it by re-weaving together bits and pieces of my existing nest, hopeful that the results would prove adequate for my needs, or I could take a chance, stretch my wings, and try something new.

An opportunity appeared and I took it.

This month, I am starting a new job with a company I’ve never worked with before. It is the first time I’ve been able to say that in more than fifteen years.

I am frankly terrified. What if I am making a mistake? What if it doesn’t work out? What if I fall?

“Too often, the opportunity knocks, but by the time you push back the chain, push back the bolt, unhook the two locks and shut off the burglar alarm, it’s too late.” – Rita Coolidge

I don’t know how these new sticks will fit together or how well they’ll prove to keep out the rain, but I’m excited to say that I’ve tried.

When people ask me what I do, I will be able to say I’m a full-time writer (though I’ll always be an author, engineer, project manager, designer and a self-professed geek too – once you have the knack, it never leaves you).

What will this mean for my blog?

Hopefully nothing other than my blog becoming an on-going example of someone who chose to take a chance on themselves, which in a way was the point of me starting in the first place and why I’ve always been drawn to topics about goals, and risk, and determination.

But that’s the thing about chances – only time will tell which way they’ll go. You have to take them anyway if you ever want to grow. One thing’s for sure though:

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” – Wayne Gretzky

I will be taking next week off to give myself time to say my goodbyes in and around the office while preparing for my next step forward, but I hope to report back from the other side very soon.


quotes provided by http://www.brainyquote.com

 

It’s all in a day’s work

I don’t tend to write about my day job. There is the obvious reason –  while I have no reason to suspect that my boss reads anything I write here, he is, at the end of the day, literate, and I appreciate the whole being able to provide food for my children thing. There is also the less obvious reason – the stuff of my day-to-day usually doesn’t make for great story-telling (and I may or may not be bound to secrecy under non-disclosure agreements for the stuff that does).

On this particular day, I was tasked with inspecting non-conforming material. What is that? I’m glad you asked. It’s the junk that doesn’t make the cut on a production line. When product gets chewed up, blown up, or otherwise ruined on an assembly line it is moved to the side rather than simply thrown away so that people like me can periodically go through it and say, “yup, that’s a pretty expensive paperweight you have there,” and then, in either a threatening or collaborative tone depending on audience and/or situation, ask “how did it happen, how can we improve our process or how can we ensure our suppliers improve theirs so it doesn’t happen again?”

See? You haven’t missed much.

Reuse Recycle
How these days can make me feel (image courtesy of flickr)

After authorizing the final piece of flawed inventory to go into the scrap heap, I drove to a nearby university and met with a relative who’d nearly completed her first year. She told me she was considering changing her major to electrical engineering.  As we talked about how much fun she was having solving problems and programming devices to compete in various robotic challenges, it made me a tad nostalgic for my college days. Building a remote-controlled robotic monstrosity that was able to pick up tennis balls only to then shoot them at high speeds at targets on the other side of the room while being attacked by a rival team’s robot (which was as awesome as it sounds) suddenly seemed light years away from the type of engineering work I was now doing.

After my day, a part of me wanted to tell her, run! run while you still can! At the same time, I know that STEM fields need more women like her, and so I smiled and nodded in encouragement instead.

Gradually, we talked about the friends she was making on campus who hailed from other parts of the world. She asked me if I’d ever studied abroad. The answer is no. At least, that was the answer in regards to her specific question about my experience in college. However, I have studied abroad, albeit not through an accredited educational program.

I’ve visited places several places around the world for fun, but I’ve also experienced the joy of eating a saffron flavored risotto featuring fish freshly caught from Lake Como in Italy and climbed the to the Peak of Hong Kong in between touring factories. I’ve been to several places and met hundreds of people I wouldn’t have ever known even existed had it not been for my day job (even if I sometimes go kicking and screaming – reference most posts I’ve tagged as travel).

Finest women become electrical engineers

However, my day job is more than being crammed into the cattle class of an airplane or overcoming jet leg. I also get to enjoy all the routine mind-numbing exciting things that come standard with most office jobs: emails, deadlines, phone calls and meetings . . . so many meetings . . . (whoops, I started losing my train of thought thinking about where all my time goes).

But, thankfully, there is usually more to it too. An engineering background has taught me all about the wonderful magic that can be performed with a strong cup of coffee, a roll of duct tape and/or a decent soldering iron. I understand why the it’s not the voltage that will kill you, but the current, and how arcing means more than character development. Even better, I’ve seen how the things we take for granted are made and have had a front row seat to what is coming next in the pipeline.

In the years since I decided to really pursue writing, I’ve found myself occasionally wondering if I would still pursue engineering were I ever able to crack the mechanics of a functional time machine. How would I advise my younger self? Would I have chosen a writing path back then, or would I have picked something entirely different like design? But then it hits me that the hypothetical time machine built in my garage would not exist were it not for the choices I made back then, choices that have made me the person I am today. Lost in that particular paradox, I can only come to the conclusion that while I am a writer, I am a STEM lady as well and equally proud of it.

As we enter the graduation season, I know that there are several others out there contemplating their next moves and worrying what might happen if they make the wrong choice. Don’t. There are few constants in life: death, taxes, and possibly, the speed of light. You can always change course if you need to. If I have learned nothing else in my pursuit of both engineering and writing, it is this, all things are possible provided you are willing to do the work.

This is hilarious in my work circles. (image from xkcd.com)