I’m now working full-time as an IT Helpdesk officer for a local company. They also have an in-house software team so I provide both software and general IT support. And, I love it! The others within the support team have been wonderful at taking me in and showing me the ropes.
It is my first exposure to enterprise level computing – Citrix servers and Active Directory and the sorts. I’ve been with the team a fortnight and it’s reinforced that this is what I want to do “when I grow up”. Everyone has been so welcoming – they even threw a welcome morning tea for me.
I am still studying at the same time. In the afternoons the volume of calls goes down so if I’ve finished all my administrative tasks I have time to study while waiting for calls. A lot of my subjects relate to the job so it is still somewhat work related.
It has been an adjustment for the kids. But, mostly, they seem happy to go to kindy the extra two days a week.
Semester 1 2016 is here! Well, it’s now week 3 but I’ve been trying to get everything organised for uni so I haven’t really had a spare moment to update.
Now that I have some niggling health issues under control I feel like I can give full-time another try. This semester I am taking:
Networking Fundamentals and Routing
System and Security Administration
Networking: It is based upon the first 2 modules of the CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate) training. So far we have learned about the OSI Model and the TCP/IP Model. It also has a practical component…and this year we were able to work out a way to get me up there! Every Monday I travel up to Toowoomba to attend the labs (I live 2hrs away from the main campus). I have completed two labs so far, we configured Cisco Switches and Routers as well as making a small little network between two PCs.
System and Security Administration: This is the second part of the Linux subjects. Between this and the other subject, I should be well prepared to sit for the CompTIA Linux+ certification. I have been using Debian as my preferred OS for a while now. But, generally I have been using mostly GUI programs and not really delving into bash scripting or the CLI. So I’ve had to read a lot of man pages to refresh my memory.
Database Systems: This one is a theory based look at relational database management systems. It actually came with a little warning that it’s not a practical database skills.
I am enjoying all the material. It’s nice having 2 very practical based subjects as well. It’s nice to sit in actual classes as well. I’ve been studying with USQ since 2012 and this is the first subject I’ve taken on campus – well, technically I am an external student for networking. Mostly, so I don’t need to travel up for my exam.
If I am able to keep up a 3 subject/semester study load I should be able to graduate by the end of next year! And by the end of this year I should be able to go for two professional certifications.
Semester 1, 2016 is fast approaching. I had my exam for Summer Semester way back on the 5th of February. It was my first one since they moved our exam centres to the campuses. I opted for the one closest to me at USQ Springfield. I’ve been there a few times to study or pick up books but never taken a class or exam there.
I felt pretty confident about my exam – I had been studying hard the last few weeks leading up to the exam and my grades were pretty good. I got my first grade under 80% in my first assessment. I admit it threw me, I thought I was on top of the material. It was something I was excited to learn about. But I just couldn’t focus. I found myself trying to tackle 100s of projects on top of study, housework, and looking after the kids. In the end nothing was really accomplished. But, despite all that, I did feel confident that I would do well in the final exam.
I was more worried about not finding the exam room, or walking into the wrong one. I found the venue and discovered the building map had the same room codes as my exam timetable. Problem solved! I sat with a few others taking the same and different exams. I even saw another woman from my course – something I didn’t often see. Not because I’m the lone female of the degree but because I must have been one of the only ones in my courses who used my old exam centre.
Like Semester 2, I struggled with the course. Not the material…That I understood really well. We looked at SQL and database design. Parts of ICT that come easy to me. It was more my ability to focus and retain the new information. But, I’ve worked out what was the cause (a previously undiagnosed condition had reared its head) and I have managed to get that back down to a more manageable level. Also, I was trying to juggle study and job search activities. In my previous post, I mentioned that I lost my disability pension. Because of that, I’ve had to change my plans.
I felt like I was flailing in the water. Desperately sending my resume to every retail and entry level IT position that didn’t require a license or tertiary qualification. I became panicked and unsure of my abilities as an IT professional. My experience is limited to helping a few friends and what I have studied. And, I think my desperation was showing through in my applications. I was just trying to get them out the door and hope someone would take a chance on me.
I’ve gone back to the drawing board and have worked out a different plan. Financially, it will be difficult with a single income. And, I do keep an eye out for suitable positions in both retail and IT. But, I need to focus on having something tangible to prove my skills: vendor certifications and a portfolio.
I have signed up with LinuxAcademy to work through some Linux based certifications. I’m nearly ready to sit the Linux Essentials Exam and after this semester should be prepared to sit the LPIC-1. I’ve also been working on a digital resume to showcase my front-end web design skills. Finally, I’m going to start adding to my public GitHub with some small scale programs…
If anyone has an idea of something they think would be cool/useful/interesting for me to develop, let me know.
Sticking with the philosophies of Linux it’ll all be open source and freely available when I’m done. I might keep it study themed and develop an awesome study app. hmm…
I have been sitting on this post for several weeks now. Do I post it? Don’t I?
I am not ashamed of my illnesses. I have chronic depression coupled with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and an eating disorder that’s been in remission for a few years now. I was diagnosed by a qualified psychiatrist, and a team of qualified psychiatrists support her diagnosis. I’ve had a few diagnostic changes as my symptoms changed. But, the depression and the PTSD are the ones that will probably be with me, in some capacity, for the rest of my life. I’ve accepted that.
Last year, the Australian Government decided to “crack down” on those of us under 35, and those of us with a psychiatric disability often got a special mention. Using the revised tables, all of us DSP (Disability Support Pension) recipients got to undergo a review to ensure we are actually eligible for disability, that is have an impairment of 20 or above on the tables.
My review was in June 2015. I knew I wasn’t as sick as I was in 2010 when my DSP was granted. But, I was still disabled. I was so terrified of losing my payment and leaving us without enough to cope with bills and expenses. I blamed myself. I started having panic attacks randomly through the day. I thought about withdrawing from my degree entirely and trying to get back into retail. I started to feel disconnected from my family, a month after I sent away the medical review forms, I was re-diagnosed with Major Depression. I had my medication increased and my husband tried his best to comfort me or dispel the increasingly negative thoughts I had about myself.
I cried through my entire review. The reviewer kept telling me “DSP is not a lifestyle payment”. And every time she said it I wanted to scream. I brought in copies of my transcripts to show them how I was trying to get back into the workforce. I told her the plan my treatment team had come up with to get me off DSP when I graduate. I was honest about how unwell I was… And, her response was, “Maybe we will put this [a less severe response] so they don’t think it’s just a temporary exacerbation because of the stress of the review”….
I was rated as having an impairment of 10 for my illnesses.
On November 2, 2015 I got the call to say I was being taken off DSP and moved to Parenting Payment. The same day the headline in the Australian read:
Disability Support Pension burden hits $17bn a year
Social media had people telling stories of a ‘mate’ that gets DSP for a dodgy back or they ‘know a girl’ who gets DSP for being a little sad….DSP is not a lifestyle payment. No, it’s a lifeline. It enabled me to get the treatment I needed. It reduced the financial stress for our family while I improved my health. It was the financial support to help me get through my degree and back into the workforce. I want to work. I can’t wait to get back into the workforce…
For me initially, being placed on DSP was a bit of a kick to the ego. I was too broken to work; damaged goods. I had become a burden on society, according to the Australian and other media outlets. It was both a relief and a sense of disappointment to be approved for DSP. So, the shame tactics are really not needed. I am well aware that I was not contributing financially to society.
As someone with a mental illness, this isn’t how you get people back into the workforce. Making people feel like crap isn’t going to motivate them. Making people stressed about finances isn’t a good motivator either. Nor, is moving us from one payment to another. The way it looks is: “You have done a lot of work in therapy, here take a $200/ft pay cut”.
Now my situation is a little unique in that I have two small children under 6 so there is no push for me to go to work. So there was no “support” to get me back into the workforce. There was just a reduction in payment. One that ultimately means I do need to go back to work. But, I’m not eligible for a lot of the support available because I have no Mutual Obligations. I can access 6 months of job seeker support, but they can’t help me get a licence so I can apply for on-site tech support jobs. The funding doesn’t include us voluntary job seekers.
I’ve been applying for everything I’m qualified for. And, I’m finding I may be “overqualified” (and too old) for the jobs I was once working in. I have applied for entry level IT positions to be told I need more experience. I applied for data entry positions, only to find my info was passed on to a number of “tertiary education centres” trying to sell me a diploma to go with my bachelor degree.
This was not about getting us “back in the workforce”. It was about finding a scapegoat to justify a budget deficit. “Look at the bludgers, sitting on the highest rates of all the welfare payments.”
It’s actually created additional barriers, above and beyond what my disability brings. I can’t afford to sit exams to gain certifications. I’m not able to show future employers my best because I’m so worried about if we will have enough to cover the bills.
Like I said at the start, I was hesitant to post this. But, I really felt it needed saying. I am trying really hard to overcome the barriers my conditions create—and I am not going to let this set back push me too far backwards. I have a wonderful support network of friends, family, and professionals. I am not writing this to garner sympathy or donations (currently this blog is not monetized in any way). I am doing this as a form of advocacy. To speak up as someone who accessed the disability support pension.
“A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.”
~ Mahatma Ghandi
“The measure of a society is found in how they treat their weakest and most helpless citizens.”
I have been sitting on this post for a few weeks now. I wanted to give myself some space from the New Years Resolutions excitement. It helps me make sure these goals are what I actually want to achieve and not me being swept up in hype. I’ve decided to drop “health” as a goal for that reason. I found the self-imposed pressure was detrimental rather than helpful. That being said, I have been working on some health stuff. And, I will continue to work on them. But, it’s not something I can confine to a year or a single goal.
A popular idea is to sum up your goals with a single word. For me it’s:
All of my goals this year are about making changes, big changes, fundamental changes. Circumstances that came around at the tail end of 2015, and a blog-post is in the works for that( I’m still working the tone and detail). But, in a nutshell – I need to find a new income source pretty soon. Which leads nicely into my first goal
I will be employed this year. Getting that out there into the universe. I’m currently on the search for a job after a few years out of the workforce. I was sick and became too unwell to work. It was this that sparked the shift from psychology to Information Technology.
I’m not having much luck in my earlier industries (Retail). I’m often not the type of candidate they are looking for. I do keep putting in my application on the chance that someone will take an older worker (who knew 29 was ‘old’).
I am also applying for IT jobs as well. This is where the bravery comes into it. I have loads of IT knowledge and many years of personal computer usage under my belt. But, I am yet to work in a professional IT capacity. It’s been a bit scary to put myself out there for a job I really want to do.
2. Get my Licence
Yeah, I’m 29 years old and don’t have my licence. I had my learner’s and took lessons but never actually took my test. Then, I just used public transport. But, now I’ve got two small children and a lot of entry level IT jobs need me to drive from site to site (and perhaps lunch and coffee runs).
I’m trying to save up to sit my test, and pay for lessons. Once I’m a little more confident, I can ask Tim to sit in the car with me so I can get my hours up…yeah, I need to do 100 hrs before I sit for my driving lessons.
3. Continue working on my portfolio
This year, along with this blog and a personal page, I am hoping to reach out and do some design/coding work for others. There is only so much content I can get from my own life. I was doing a bit of design work for a family member and her friend but everyone’s plans changed. I still have all the images and designs ready, aside from doing a little more colour work.
I’ve also downloaded Unity and Unreal Engine to have a play in a games development environment. I have been brainstorming an idea for a game for a little while; a platformer.
These are my 3 brave goals for the year.
Did you make resolutions? Comment below with your “word of the year”
It’s every students’ worst nightmare. After an all-nighter writing up a HD-worthy assignment, disaster strikes! Suddenly, your computer doesn’t want to turn on; a nasty malicious bit of code has corrupted your local save file. Or, you mistakenly place your laptop on an uneven shelf and watch helplessly as it falls to the ground…your heart breaks as the part of your HDD that stores your OS is damaged and your entire semester’s work is trapped, possibly damaged as well. Yeah, even us IT students have tech-disasters that are completely our own fault.
Learn from my heartache. Embrace data backup! One good way is to have your data saved locally on your computer and on a removable storage system. Be it USB flash-drives, larger External Hard-Drives, Re-Writeable DVD-ROM, or even a Floppy Disk. Most university lecturers, while understanding that technology is still fallible, do assume students take certain measures to ensure they have protected their work from disaster.
I have tiny nerdlings who have destroyed many USB devices and water damaged cables. So, physical backup systems are still risky for me as a student and a parent. There is nothing worse than having your computer die only to discover your USB device has also suffered a horrible fate. So how do you protect your precious assignments from the world? Cloud Storage!
Many universities now offer cloud storage. If not, these are the three I have personally used. USQ offers Google Drive and when I was at a different university we had Microsoft OneDrive.
My recommendation would be to look into cloud storage/backup. Personally, I use Google Drive as my university provides us with a student account that gives me a whopping 10TB of cloud storage. It is linked with my student gmail account which the university administrates. One downfall I have found with Drive is that support for Linux operating systems. I have to use the web-based interface to manually upload and download my uni files…which did lead me to lose an assignment last semester.
I use it on my laptop, the computers in the university/library/public access ones, my mobile phone (I have an Android device), an old tablet I got a few years back, etc. Basically, I can access my data from a variety of devices.
To overcome the Linux issue, I am seriously considering a switch to Dropbox. It was our go-to when I was briefly at RMIT (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology). They have a desktop-based application for Linux/Unix systems. And also, Dropbox are developing their own word-processing web-app to rival Google Docs and Microsoft Word 365.
Devices Supported: PC, Mac, Linux/Unix, Android, iOS devices, Kindle Fire, Windows Phone DropBox (opens in new tab)
3. Microsoft OneDrive
Microsoft has their own cloud storage called One Drive which you can access from the Microsoft Office Suite and your microsoft account. I currently have Windows 10 running alongside Linux and OneDrive was included with the operating system. For students that use Microsoft Office and have a Microsoft account, this is a really great option to keep things together. Office365 allows you to quickly access your document via their web-based document processing apps e.g. Word, PowerPoint. Having a current Office 365 subscription gives you an even larger storage amount as well. So, that is something to consider as well.
All of these have free options, and many universities have partnerships with various organisations to give their students the best. All have additional storage plans that come with a monthly fee, and in some cases additional capabilities.
Now, storing it to the cloud does have its risks, which is why I recommend having more than one backup source. Depending on how large, work-intensive the assessment piece is. That Masters Thesis, I’d be doing regular backups to cloud storage, physical removable storage device, and local storage. The 500 wrd first assignment worth 5%, maybe just cloud and local.
Do you backup your uni assignments and material? Do you use cloud storage?
You know that really annoying kid/student in the class that gets good grades but completely panics becuase they think they have failed? Yeah, turns out I am that person. My friends, husband, doctor all endured me hyperventilating because I was so sure I had failed that exam/test/assignment/subject. Reading back over the last few posts in this series, you can see that Sem 2, 2015 was really difficult for me.
Yeah, I finished up the semester with 7’s (High Distinctions) for each of my classes.
I don’t know why I doubt myself so much. It’s prety pervasive across my life. I doubt my ability as a parent, as a wife, as housewife. I tend to search for external sources of validation of my ability. I am working on it and I have made progress, I can now accept compliments about my ability. And, I don’t take constructive criticism as evidence of total failure. It’s not necessarily me attention-seeking, “Tell me I’m awesome” but that I need someone outside of myself to help me counter some of the harsh self-criticisms.
It is part of the insidious nature of mental illness. I have perfectionistic tendencies and for years my need for perfection meant I gave up because I didn’t believe I could. “I just can’t do it!” But, what I should have been saying was “I can’t do it to the excessively high standard I place upon myself.” I have been able to use that desire in a positive way.
If I find myself judging myself harshly I reframe it:
“Would I think this way about my husband or my child?”
Then I ask myself how I would approach my husband if we switched places.
I will always have my pefectionistic thoughts, but now I channel them towards doing well at uni. A little stress can help with study. I just need to keep it realistic and in check. So, I don’t berate myself for a 97% or even an 80% – I try to aim for 86% and above and I use the feedback as a way to improve rather than as a weapon to berate myself.
I’ve been able to tweak some of my compulsive behaviours to make them work for me. I have spreadsheets and planners to help me organise my study. Breaking a task down into little tasks is actually a great way to manage assignments. So, the routine I have helps me to do that. I might share with you guys some of my strategies to study as part of the “Study with me” series. With downloadables for you to use as you see fit*.
*I am actually going for a position at uni to help other students with their study skills so I’m hoping to have some resources up here to reference with them.
Death of a loved one is one of the hardest things to try and explain to a child. A parent’s natural instinct is to shield their child from anything sad or potentially distressing. When my Mother-In-Law was moved to hospice I realised that I am going to have to have that conversation with my nerdlings. Ethan often asks me to visit “Papa and Gran” so this wasn’t a distant family member he has never met. He will notice her absence and he deserves to know where she is and what has happened.
Being the academic mind that I am, I madly researched parenting blogs, child development abstracts, berevement web pages and forums…looking for that magic formula to tell my young children that Gran has passed away. I will post a short list of the things I found during my research. But, there really was no “one way” that you are supposed to tell a child.
Things to remember when talking to very young kids about death:
Try to avoid using euphamisms or idioms when explaining to your child that a loved one has died
Using the words “death” and “died” can help your child understand it
Be prepared for unexpected reactions and questions
Ethan keeps asking me if “Papa hurt?”
It is OK and healthy to show emotion/cry when telling your child. Use your own emotions to help show your child that it is ok to feel sad about this and to cry if you feel like it.
They may not yet understand the concept of death and it might take a few times for it to sink in.
I still struggled with working out how and when to tell them when she did pass away. Ethan needs multiple cues. He has a bit of trouble focusing when I talk to him, especially about new concepts. She passed away on a Wednesday but it took me until the Monday to work out how to tell him. That is where Up came into it. We sat down after lunch and I told him we were going to watch a new, special movie. We described the things on the screen together until the scene where Elle is in hospital. This is where I jumped in.
Me: “That looks like Papa and Gran”
Ethan: “Papa, Gran”
Me: “Yeah, Gran is very sick here. Just like your Gran, remember we visited her”
Ethan: “Gran sick”
Me” “Yeah, Gran was too sick and she died. That’s why we can’t see her anymore. See Papa by himself”
Ethan: “Gran gone…Papa sad”
Me: “Yeah little dude, Papa is sad, so is mummy and daddy. Gran has died”
Ethan: “Papa hurt?”
We sat in silence for a bit. Until we got to the scene with the balloons, Ethan loves balloons and anything colourful. I could see his mind ticking but decided to leave it at that. I don’t want to overwhelm him. We have watched the movie a few times since. And each time we get to that scene, we run through the script. Each time he understands a little bit more. I now have some photos so I can help him associate the Gran on the screen with the Gran we loved dearly.
Ultimately, we decided not to have our children attend the funeral. It was a beautiful service at the church. My main reasoning was that I didn’t think I’d be able to support my husband through the service while trying to amuse 2 active children. We brought them along to a family dinner after the service so they could see Papa and give him hugs.
I guess my take away message is, there is no one right way to tell your child a family member has died. This is how we chose to do it and I do hope it helps someone else as well.
Exams are finished and semester 3 has started for me already! Summer semester is going to bring down the length of time it takes me to finish this degree.
For those who aren’t aware, I send the nerdlings to daycare on Wed-Fri from 8am to 4.30pm. When I first chose to send Ethan, I felt incredibly guilty; he was only 18months old and I wasn’t working or even taking on-campus classes. I was sitting at home, in front of my computer watching lectures, writing assignments/code, and reading my textbooks. Why couldn’t I just do that with him there with me?
I tried! I had him set up with his own books, his own calculator (I was learning Discrete Mathematics), and pencils. That lasted a couple of minutes and then he got bored and wanted down. I was getting too tired at night to study after bedtime and his naps were/are erratic so it was getting too difficult.
Not pictured here is my growing baby bump as I was pregnant with Lilah while I was studying this subject. I got my assignment in two days before my c-section and ended up deferring the exam because C-sections hurt for a while.
Ethan is not the kind of child to sit quietly while I do something. If it’s quiet, there is mischief. Now that I have my nerdling duo, it’s twice the fun…and twice the mayhem. So, to get the most out of this degree and make myself as employable as possible. I needed “study days”.
At first, when they cried at me, I questioned whether I was making the right choice. Now, that I have both of them in for 3 days I wonder whether it’s a justified cost.(NB: I do receive reduced child-care fees due to our low income and we satisfy the required hours: my study is 20hrs/wk and hubby is full-time).
But, both my kids love going to kindy. Lilah runs at me with her bag and shoes most mornings. Ethan tells me about his friends. Even in rooms with other kids, they are still getting more one-to-one and quality fun than I’d be able to give them if I tried to combine the two. I see how much kindy days are helping them socially; both kids have “best friends”. We are hoping seeing peers will help with potty training and some other social behaviours. I’ve read their reports, I’ve sat in and watched my kids playing, and I have chatted with their teachers.I know everyone there is looking out for my nerdlings and I know they feel loved and cared for on those three days. My little ones are quite physical–they need cuddles and they get that from their teachers. Both are greeted with a warm cuddle and big smiles.
Now that I actually am looking for work, we already have child care sorted when I am hired by someone awesome.
So, if you are studying at home like I am, don’t feel guilty about needing to use child-care. My kids are thriving in their environment while I am thriving in my own study environment. My kids know that “Mummy goes to school it’s boring for them” and they’ve not indicated they aren’t happy with it. Just because you are at home doesn’t mean you aren’t doing a lot of hard work that requires concentration.
To migrate from WordPress.com to a self-hosted site
Well, I am super happy to say that the first one has happened! I have moved from wordpress.com to my own droplet with DigitalOcean. I even have a nifty referral code that will get you $10 credit! That works out to be one month free for the 1GB droplet, an ideal size for a WordPress blog like mine. Referral link! Full disclosure, I get some bonus credit when you spend $25 with them. But, hey, free credit for all!
Ultimately with this move, I decided to change the blog name. We no longer refer to Ethan as our Dovah and we are a family of 4 now. LadyTimeoin is my gamertag/username for most gaming platforms and social media sites and I refer to my 2 kids as nerdlings. Plus it makes us sound like a cool band or something…
Apply for summer internships in the IT industry
I did research summer internships. I went along to the careers fair at uni and had some wonderful conversations with people in the industry. I’ve been getting updates from GradConnections about IT specific internships. But, I have hit a snag, or two. The big one being most want me to be studying full-time and towards the end of my 2nd year. I’m part-time and half-way through Year 2. One of the issues I had last semester was lack of time. To do full-time, I would need to up the kids hours. I do not get enough of an income (I am currently unemployed so my personal income is social security payments) to afford that.
I am still working on a coding portfolio, starting with this blog. It is currently exam block for me so I’ve been busy studying Operating Systems for my exam on the last Friday. My next exam is Web Technology, so I am going to create a child theme for here as part of my study; we learned HTML, CSS, and PHP.
I have also added some topics, I’m hoping to start writing some game reviews – I’m thinking of using the Xbox Backward Compatibility to try out some games I missed during my nerd hiatus.
I have one more exam tomorrow and then I will have a chance to get down and style this place, making it my own. So, keep your eyes out for a new pretty site soon!