Without a Plan: Bootcamp

When I left my job, nobody was surprised. As it turns out, nobody had expected that I’d be happy seeing out my early 20s in a smoke-filled office chasing up suppliers for a small electronics firm. They were even less surprised when I told them I was going to pursue a career in IT.

In my hopeful fervor, I remember telling them excitedly that it was a great field to go into, because you can never hope to know everything about all that the field encompasses. There’s just no way, which means there’s the option for endless career and knowledge advancement, should you wish.

It’s a sentiment I still share with my colleagues today, and is more true than ever with the rise of cloud computing and ‘Everything-as-a-Service’. I think it’s a good motivational point to make, but it also serves as a bit of a ‘get out of jail’ card – you can specialize in an area, sure. You can become very very knowledgeable about a lot of things, but that usually takes a lot of time and experience. In IT, nobody has ever criticized me for not understanding where a truly weird errant behavior is coming from. In fact, sometimes I find that it puts people at ease when the ‘tech guy’ is as confused as they are. Usually when you have a problem with something, you want the expert to go ‘Aha! It’s this doohickey’, and fix the doohickey. I think that computers are so commoditized now, so commonplace, that to some it’s almost embarrassing when they have to ask for help, and the ‘tech guy’ being stumped with a problem reassures them that they’re not just making an idiot mistake.

Most of the time, they are making an idiot mistake.

So, I left. I packed up my things and moved on, quite literally. The training center I was leaving to join was a couple of hours North East of where I lived, so I would be staying there during the week, in housing that the company owned.

As I mentioned in my last post, the training center I was going to was primarily geared up – and marketed accordingly – to resettle ex-Forces personnel. This means a bunch of guys and girls who are interested in the tech sector mustering out of the Army, Navy, or Air Force, and coming to this company for an intensive seven week bootcamp on all things technology. Mostly focused on Windows, it was a very “back office, operational IT” curriculum, which is exactly what I’d been looking for from University (albeit clearly with much more depth). It promised to equip a person with all the basic skills needed to apply and get hired to a role in the tech sector, with the assumption that you had actually used a computer before, and were already reasonably technical.

It’s probably not a stretch to say that everything we covered on the course was already known to me. Up to that point I’d already been running an Active Directory domain with my own mail server running in my bedroom, on an old (and resprayed black) Dell Optiplex desktop for a year or so, and I could walk you through Windows XP blindfolded.

What was new to me was essentially “How to write a resumé.” We took our existing documents and ripped them up, re-writing them to focus on all the skills that interviewers were looking for and that the company was teaching us.

Of course, a seven week course is absolutely not enough to learn about the technical concepts in depth, but as I mentioned there was an assumption that everybody on the course was already pretty tech savvy, and that the curriculum was either showing them new stuff that they could grasp quickly, or dusting up old already-learned skills.

From what I remember of my class, there were definitely some people who were less technical than the others, and I wonder how they fared after the course was over.

I must say, I enjoyed my time there more than I thought that I would. The guys I was in the shared house with were good fun, and it was fun to be in a place with so many other geeks of different degrees. I only made the mistake once to go drinking with them. I was peer pressured into drinking stronger beer than I usually would have, and ended the night very drunk. I was up at 7am the next day to be in class, and was probably still drunk, until about half an hour into the day when I had to rush to the toilet, feigning a phone call from a recruiter, to projectile vomit three times. I resolved the lingering hangover with a bangin’ fish & chip lunch, and had a pretty good afternoon after that. Sometimes, vomit is the only way.

I didn’t “graduate” the course officially. I didn’t even attend the last two weeks. Yep, I dropped out again! This time though, it was for a good reason. I got a phone call that would prove to be another one of those Significant Life Moments.

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