Two Steps Forward

I’m a Beaver now…

So I started my OSU journey with the Post-Bacc Computer Science, one to be more marketable in an ever changing world, two, because it was the Pandemic and what did I have to lose, and three because I wanted to see if I was any good at this stuff.

I liked computers growing up. I liked learning. I liked logic. Sometimes I liked maths. What could go wrong?

Going back to school and working full time was challenging and taking two classes at a time was difficult. I made it through Discrete Maths and CS161. I made it through with a 4.0 and thought it might be good to slow down to one class at a time, which I did. CS162 was still challenging (remember I’d not coded before I started all this and I was starting everything after a heavy life reset).

At the end of CS162 I had switched to a new job (still not computer/science related, but paid the bills) and I was learning a lot. But life stepped in again.

Taking a step back…

Before the end of CS162, my mother passed away. It was still the pandemic (although she did not die of Covid) so I was not able to be with her or my immediate family. It was devastating. My mom was my Rock and my best friend. I had to grieve and something had to give.

Classes at OSU were a test. They were a test of “Is this right for me?” and “Can I really do this?” I was doing well and understanding things and enjoying learning, but without mom… I needed a break.

Getting back up

I took a year off. I still worked and did life. I grieved and did things I loved and things I think mom would have loved to see me do. It was a hard and good year.

After challenges and trials I decided to start things back up again. Could I really do this computer stuff? I had tried to do some coding in my year off, but really my heart wasn’t in it. Still I wanted to continue the journey I started. I’d start with Data Structures and if I wasn’t any good, I’d just say I gave it a try and call it good.

Starting back up was… difficult. I started all the assignments early. I did all the introductory review modules and at the beginning, I still felt lost.

And then… I didn’t. Things started to click and make sense. Pycharm debugger became my best friend. I poured over time complexities again and again. I drew out trees by hand and clicked through left child, right child… on and on. I made it through 261 and I honestly, thoroughly enjoyed it. I love Data Structures. It turned out to be a challenging and wonderful quarter and started an adventure in being a ULA for 261.


I pressed on with again another new job, taking two classes at a time, always with the idea. Let’s try this and see if I’m any good at it. I pressed on and I continued to enjoy things. It’s not that I didn’t struggle. OS nearly crushed my spirit (and it did crush my 4.0). I made it through.

When I started this program I had no idea what I wanted to do with it, other than I wanted to increase my chances of more gainful employment. I started becoming interested in cyber security and looked into adding that as a certificate.

Then I thought well, I’ll try Cryptography and if I like that then I’ll keep going. Again, it nearly crushed me, but I do enjoy those proofs. They are a pain, but thinking about things in a different way… I like it. Who doesn’t love a good XOR?

Here I am. I’ve extended my time with OSU for an additional year to get all of my Cyber Security credits for the certificate, but where once I was aimless, just trying things out, now I have purpose. I may never get a job in Cyber Security, but I want to try. I will continue to try and push and struggle and learn. This may never be my career, but I am enjoying the journey and will continue to learn and grow along the way.


What am I doing here?

This is a line from, perhaps, one of Ryan Reynolds lesser known movies, Definitely, Maybe. Reynolds’ character utters this phrase at different points throughout the movie in utter exasperation and bewilderment as he finds himself in a role that he never intended to be in… in a place far different from where he had planned to be.

This is the utterance of imposter syndrome at its best and it something that I often feel and I know I am not alone.

Mickey’s Space Adventure

I am a child of the 80’s (and yes, I know I am dating and aging myself). Growing up, computers were a special thing. They might have been something you had in your household, but then again, maybe not. It wasn’t like today where everyone has a computer in their pocket connecting them to the world at a moment’s notice. We were lucky to at one point acquire a Commodore 64. I don’t specifically remember the details of it, but I think my dad wanted my brother and I to have some experience typing and being somewhat familiar with the “up and coming” technology of the time.

My first taste of computers was the Commodore 64 and Mickey’s Space Adventure, a wizard typing game, and the glorious 5 1/4 inch floppy disks that held worlds of adventure. Those were glorious days and they were my first taste of working with computers.

You’ve Got Mail

I probably should have been one of the Oregon Trail children, but I honestly don’t remember playing it or even really having computers in school. No, wait. I take that back. I do remember doing some sort of household energy projection project on a computer once.

In high school I became interested in an engineering program, mostly because it would allow me to spent part of my school weeks working in an office/engineering setting essentially reducing my time in a classroom by half. Don’t get me wrong, I loved learning, but I didn’t like school.

I was really lucky. I had the chance to essentially intern while I was in high school. I got a taste of logic programming and even interned at a small aerospace company where they had me building computers from the ground up and even soldering motherboards and other electrical components for the computers and other aerospace testing equipment. (Ah the 90’s).

However, I was teenage girl in the 90’s in a field dominated by men and unfortunately while many I came into contact with were very helpful and kind, I was also hit on and dismissed as a teenage female, and well, I didn’t feel completely comfortable in that world.

Ultimately, although I enjoyed science and math and working with computers and logic, I felt completely out of place and uncomfortable in that world. I felt much more comfortable in the world of letters and theology and art and so that is what I pursued after high school.

Xena Linguistic Princess

Really I went from one male dominated field to another, but after pursuing ministry and a Masters of Divinity, I found a home doing social work. In the back of my mind though, I always wanted to do more.

I loved working with my hands and logic puzzles and languages, so eventually life led me to pursue another Masters in Applied Linguistics. I love learning about languages, but I don’t speak different languages, I just like learning about them. Unfortunately, this did not lead me into a career path that I was hoping for. I ended up in San Diego with the goal of working with refugee diaspora communities to help bring further literacy to minority language groups. Ideally I had wanted to go overseas and work with minority language groups, but my chronic illness did not allow me to do this.

Unfortunately, as I said my linguistic endeavors did not work out and I ended up leaving the organization that I had come to San Diego to work with. Needing to pay bills and eat food, I found another job that allowed me to do that and provide for my medical insurance as well. Happy days! This was an office job and I was incredibly overqualified, but it was also a government job, so it was a stepping stone into potentially other roles. However, Masters degrees in Divinity and Linguistics are very focused degrees and don’t provide a lot of job opportunities.

Enter the Pandemic. As I said, I had an office job and well, when the Pandemic hit, that was not such a good thing. I began to re-examine my life and I remembered how much I enjoyed learning about computers and logic all those years ago. Could computer science be something that I could do? I love languages and learning languages and computers use language. Is this something I could do?

I decided to try things out and started my journey with Oregon State. I had no grand plans or goals other than to try and see if I was any good at this and if I would enjoy it.

I had to go back and relearn my maths skills. I had ended my Calculus journey in high school a little early when I decided to shift from Engineering to Theology as my focus for college. I was definitely rusty and discrete maths was challenging, but I did really enjoy it. I enjoy learning Python and C and JavaScript and assembly. It also turned out that I wasn’t too bad at this stuff either. I had a 4.0 until OS. My A- ruined it for me.

I am bragging a bit, but I sincerely found joy in learning and doing what I had closed myself off to all those years ago. It also turns out, that I am not too bad at this. I am by no means a brilliant computer scientist. I think I am probably average at best, but I am doing what I didn’t think was possible and I can’t wait to see what comes next.