Why I Went Back to School (plus how it’s going so far)

So it’s no secret that I’ve started taking courses at Arizona State University’s online program aiming for a B.S.E. in Electrical Engineering. I already have a B.S. in computer science, finished in 2011. And I get a few questions every now and then, so I thought it’d useful to elaborate on the why, the how, etc.

I want to be an IoT engineer when I grow up

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to, well, anyone really — I’ve spent so much of my free time on NodeBots in the past three years that it manes sense to try to turn it into a career at some point in the future. I’ve got a good balance going at the moment — working for Auth0 and doing work for Webtask.io gives some really great ways to bring IoT into my workday. But as time goes on I’m going to need to be more of a stand-out asset in this field to stay competitive. I need to be able to dive deeper into hardware, and an EE degree is one part af an ever-evolving plan to keep me in a place where I’m considered credible, etc.

I also want to continue growing diverse IoT communities, and I think the skill set addition will help me in this initiative by making the IoT field more accessible, more open, more fun even than it is now.

…now what?

Another part of my decision has to with a feeling of stagnation. I’ve been pushing to learn more about hardware, but it’s been a slow slog without further education. I needed an answer to ‘now what?’ And I think I’ve found a good answer to that in going back to school

I’ve also fallen into a bit of a weird pattern where I start something new, get to a point where I’ve exhausted my knowledge and luck, and sit back and watch as others take my experiments and turn them into something great! And while this is certainly a good problem to have, I’d like to flesh out my skill set so I can follow through on these experiments.

Finally, I’ve gotten lazy. It’s all NodeBots and neopixels. I needed a metaphorical kick in the rear to widen my perspective. So far my engineering classes have done exactly that — I now have several projects on my docket that will really pull me out of that comfort zone.

If I’m comfortable, I’m uncomfortable

I have pretty bad anxiety to begin with. When I’m not actively constantly challenged, it’s doubled. I need to be in a place where imposter syndrome nips at my heels to keep me running, or at least jogging (Note: this approach is not for everyone and can cause burnout — take caution if you think walking my path is right for you).

I’ve gotten comfortable in my role as someone who knows NodeBots. So it’s time to push on (not that I’m leaving NodeBots of course; this is about improving myself so I can make NodeBots even better)

How it’s working out so far

That’s…complicated.

Turns out a couple of factors have made the bureaucracy of this difficult:

1) When you go back for a second bachelor’s degree, you’re judged as a transfer student, so your credits transfer, which would be great…
2) …if 18–22-year-old me had taken grades seriously. But they didn’t. So my transfer GPA wasn’t up to snuff

So I’m technically not an EE major yet — I have at least a few more hurdles to jump. I’m an engineering management major, which is allowing me to take the EE classes I want to take until I jump those hurdles.

As a result, I spent the weekend admonishing myself for getting a B instead of an A in Calculus II for Engineers — hilarious to me considering I got a D in regular calculus II the first time around, and this class covered way more. So by all other metrics, I should be jumping for joy. Ah well.

And I won’t even go into the very long story of how I’d be in a better place than I am now if I’d gotten a D in Physics my first go-round than the C I did get. Because I get frustrated thinking about it.

Anyways, I’ll keep y’all updated, and my NodeBots Lab Manual will remain open for all to read as I learn more and stretch my wings in this exciting field of hardware.

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