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Leverage

How do I leverage what I love, in order to make it what I do for a living? This is the question I’ve been asking myself for years, but much more so in the past few months. As I talked about in a previous post, I have a few main things that I need (or, really, really want) out of a job to be happy and fulfilled. One thing I’m going to add to that list now, unequivocally, is: building something.

What excites me most in life is bringing people together for some purpose that I really believe in – generally this has something to do with education, and usually technology (can you really have one without the other anymore?). I love every minute of putting together a class or workshop for people who want to learn skills relevant to today’s needs (and tomorrow’s, although I think that sounds lame). It begins with discovering a fundamental need within a large enough group of people, then (my personal favourite part) connecting people together who have a mutual interest in the subject and a reason to want to help out (sometimes you have to make that reason for them, which is more difficult as it’s technically sales, but if you really believe in it that’s no problem), and going from there. Sure, there’s bits that aren’t as great as others, for example the finances (ugh), writing formal ad copy, and so forth. But the small bits of work that actually feel like work are *far* outweighed by the absolute thrill of providing people with relevant, quality education that empowers them in their careers and personal lives.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have had many opportunities over the past four or five years to teach in one way or another, and, in addition, have my worlds collide in this fascinating point between librarians, educators, and other info pros and who I’ll call “technical people”. There’s already a lot going on in this space, from Canada’s plethora of amazing edtech startups and products, to teachers flipping their traditional classrooms, to the awesome code schools teaching the way we *need* to be teaching. Thing is, they’re “just” doing it for code.

Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that learning to talk to idiot computers is the absolute most important skill someone can get today. And, due largely to the fact that it’s such a marketable skill AND to the incredible developer communities, it’s being taught the right way (just a few Canadian examples are places like Ladies Learning Code / HackerYou, Bitmaker Labs, and for the sciency-folks there’s Software Carpentry). So the first thing this makes me think is: is there a market for librarian/infopro specific code workshops as an ongoing, standalone thing, kind of like Software Carpentry but for our field instead of science? Second…and a much, much larger idea…is:

Can we do what code schools are successfully doing for post-secondary education in general?

All I’m doing here is attempting to tie together the problem I tried to solve at the iSchool with my Peer Led Workshop Series with what’s going on in these code schools now, and I hear about the same issues happening in both colleges and universities all over North America – namely that university programs teach way too far to the theory side, colleges teach skills that are way too limited and often dumbed down, and both are behind in *everything* they’re teaching, especially when it comes to the rapidly-changing world of tech today.

With the “economy” the way it is, we suddenly have an influx of very bright but heavily under-utilized professional young people. What, exactly, do you do with all of these “useless degree” graduates (myself being one of them)? It’s my firmly held belief that most of them shouldn’t, in fact, be headed for a “career” in sales. That they should be able to pursue their passions. But to do this, they need to have come to the realization that the world operates on marketable, useful skills, not “I can do it if you teach me and give me a chance”. And then, once they’ve come to that realization and want to do something about it, they need somewhere to go to *get* these skills. They just. Want. Jobs. It’s almost a feverish desire. It’s palpable among my brightest, most promising friends (which is almost all of them). But they’re struggling with what I started this post with (many moons ago, sorry): I’ve got the passion, the drive, the desire to work to build a career…how the heck do I do this as a retail sales associate?

I’m impatient. It’s my worst, and best, quality. I have a compulsive need to solve the problems I see around me. The biggest one that I see, every day of my life, is these young people going to waste. Give them real, relevant, now-appropriate skills to build on their frankly world-class liberal arts background (which taught them to think critically, work in teams, write, pitch, and on and on so don’t discount it) and they WILL make something of themselves. Give them the tools they need to build. That’s what I want to do. And I want to do it with amazing people…are you interested?

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