Friday, October 3, 2014

Wait, I Thought You Were A Music Major? Part IV

Continuing from Part III

Once we moved to Knoxville, we launched ourselves into finding a way to survive. Dave searched for jobs.  He interviewed a few places and quickly found a job as a middle school band director/high school assistant. He was in the sweet spot for getting hired, a couple of years of experience, but not too much experience. The new job even paid more than the old job.

I applied for graduate school on campus and was quickly accepted. I was offered a graduate assistantship which would cover my tuition and pay a small stipend on top. Since almost none of my previous college credits were sufficient to prepare me for graduate level computer science courses, I had to register entirely for undergraduate work. But all was well. We had taken a blind leap and landed on our feet.

Over the next two years, I took almost the entirety of the computer science requirements for a bachelor's degree plus numerous math classes. I enjoyed the logic of the work and the coding, but our program was very systems focused and I wasn't terribly interested in systems. I wanted a career that was broadly applicable and didn't involve endless time as a code monkey. I took a class on database programming and was thoroughly intrigued. I thought a blend of computer science with business would be a great combination.

I looked at the graduate program in computer science for which I had been taking all the prerequisites and realized it would take me another three years to get through the program. I hadn't set out to become a professional student. At this point I was nearly 27 years old. We knew we wanted to start a family soon. I started looking around at what was available for me to finish up a program, move into the direction of database work and get on with our lives. The available coursework in databases was spread across three departments: computer science, business, and information sciences. Information sciences is the new-fangled name for library science. N.B. I don't know if every information sciences program has an extensive catalog available in database design and implementation, but one of the profs in this program had a special interest in the area.

After examining what was available on campus, I decided to change my major to information sciences. There was a two-fold reason. 1) I knew with all my previous CS coursework standing as electives, I could finish the program in a calendar year if I took a very full load. I could not finish either of the other two options within that time frame. 2) I knew there would be some opaqueness into an employer's understanding of what information sciences is.  If the degree was still called library science, I would not have made the switch. Since I knew that I had the foundational knowledge for what I wanted to do, the name of the degree was not that important to me, but I did not want to have a degree that employers would dismiss out of hand. Library science would be dismissed. Information Sciences sounds techy.

I secured another assistantship and launched into Information Science taking all the database classes that were available on campus. I also took the core requirements for the library portion so, technically, I am qualified to be a librarian as well. I got pregnant partway though my coursework, planned to the nth degree. The last few months of school were grueling because I was very sick. I graduated in May 2005 with a Master of Science in Information Sciences. I had Grace in August.

When Grace was born I was overwhelmed with motherhood. I was not quite as sold on our original plan as I thought I would be, but I was managing the household and myself about as well as the mother in Simcha Fisher's classic essay, which is to say not well. I still struggled with the feeling of not accomplishing anything, feeling like I was shirking my duties, and just generally feeling lazy.

In the meantime, Dave had become extremely disgruntled in his work. The schedule was insane, the pay was terrible, and some of the students were unbearable. We actually had to swear out a warrant once, but that's another story. He wanted out, badly. I started looking for employment.

Even though I had some misgivings, it looked like our plan really was the wisest course of action to take. In October 2006, I accepted a position as a database analyst working directly under the DBA. Even though my title has changed, I still have the same job today.


Melanie Bettinelli said...

Jenny, I'm so glad you've started a blog. I've enjoyed reading your story. It's nice getting to know you a little better.

Jenny said...

Thanks! I've always felt a little strange in knowing so much about other people and those people knowing practically nothing about me.

One thing that typing all this out has driven home to me is that I change my mind a lot. I spend a few years doing something and then decide I don't like it anymore. I hadn't realized how often I have done that as an adult until now.

Melanie Bettinelli said...

Someday I should write out my life from college to marriage. I had a few jobs, went to grad school, had a few more jobs, then got married. Being a stay at home mom is definitely my longest gig. I wonder sometimes what I'd have done had I not met Dom when I did. Would I have applied to PhD programs and become an English professor? Or an out of work PhD? I almost didn't start dating him because I sort of realized that marriage would derail that possibility. Then I decided I didn't care if it did. But letting go of that dream was hard. In my case it wasn't so much changing my mind as trying to make it up. I always wanted to teach, but I also always really and truly wanted to be a stay at home mom. I'd really only fastened on the English prof gig because I felt I had to pick something. When I realized there was such a thing as homeschooling it was a sort of revelation because I realized it was what I'd truly wanted all along, I just didn't know it was real thing. I'd a thousand times prefer teaching my own kids to teaching other people's kids. Maybe that's selfish, but it truly is my preference.

Jenny said...

You should write it up! I love 'how did I get here?' stories. I understand having the need to just pick something. That's a lot of the reason I majored in music to begin with. I enjoyed it and it was challenging, but I've never had driving ambition about anything.