Mummy is at School #12: Looking forward, F/T and women in tech

Talk about kicking things up a notch! This semester I am attempting 3 subjects; I am eager to graduate and get into the workforce… Both kids are now in daycare 3 days a week so I have more dedicated study days. It was just getting too difficult with Lilah wanting to touch my laptop all the time, or eat my pages of notes. As I type this I’m listening to my lecture on defining Operating systems.

This semester I’m studying:

  • Algorithms and Data Structures, aka Advanced C++
  • Operating Systems
  • Web Technology

I feel in my element this semester. It’s all the nitty-gritty technical knowledge that I love and do well in. I love learning how things work. I’m the kind of person who watches the featurettes and listens to filmmaker commentary of animated films. As a kid, I loved learning how they made animated movies, Pixar in particular.

I still don’t fully understand how we get from binary and physical CPUs to “Hello World” but I’m excited to find out. I was thinking about looking at some of the Unity tutorials and start looking at game development but after working out my schedule, I might have to keep that as a summer activity. The more I study, the more I’m seeing so many potential paths for my career in the ICT world.

I’m quite lucky in that many companies are recognising that gender gap in the industry and are working really hard to rectify that. Not just by “encouraging female applicants” or female-focused recruitment, but by looking at why women don’t take up computer science and why many leave the industry.

I don’t know where my IT degree is going to take me: I could end up writing programs for a huge company, or I could explore the world of small, indie based development. All I know is this is the industry I want to work in. This is what interests me and works to my strengths. I’m eager, if not a little impatient, to get out there and experience working again.

Birthday Loot!

On Sunday, I celebrated my 29th birthday!
I admit, I knew what I was getting because I sent a screenshot of an EBGames shopping cart with my games of choice…turns out they were having a sale ; )

image

I had been playing the trial version of Destiny leading up to my birthday. My initial impressions were that it feels like a cross between Halo and Defiance.  I didn’t completely suck at it either so that was nice. I’m more of an RPG player and keep shooters as a couch co-op experience with Timeoin…even then we often play on ah, easy difficulty.

No ESO, I need to study… I have a programming exam on Friday.

I also scored a copy of Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited for Xbox one. We have ESO on PC but that was back  when it was subscription based and we couldn’t justify the price for how much gameplay we managed to get. Nerdling bedtime coincided with the maintenance downtime.

image

artwork from ESO The Improved Emperor's Guide to Tamriel

Some of the artwork from the “The Improved Emperor’s Guide to Tamriel” ©Zenimax Online/Bethesda

Timeoin is a Bethesda fanboy so he’s been geeking out over the book and artwork.  I managed to have a bit of a play on ESO: Tamriel Unlimited. I’m a Nord Templar fighting for the Ebonheart Pact. When we got ESO for PC I was a High Elf. I’m liking it so far. I’ve not had any of the queue issues that others have reported but I have had it freeze mid-combat. My gear lost durability because apparently I died after the gameplay froze on my screen. That sucked. I had a similar issue with the PC version, my poor Elf fell into the sky and I had to kill her via console command.

But, I am a sucker for the Elder Scrolls lore so I’m going to push through the glitches. It has been an enjoyable experience so far. I am planning on writing a full review in the coming weeks.

I also received gift cards to EBGames from my mum. She knows me well, and has always encouraged my nerdy endevours. 12 years ago, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix came out on my birthday. She waited in line to get me a copy that day. I’m thinking of getting Witcher 3: Wild hunt with them (I scored $100 worth of gift cards).

Overall, I’m very happy and grateful for the gaming goodies I got. So many new games for me to enjoy. And, I’m also looking forward to my anniversary with Timeoin because …. FALLOUT 4! We did the thing and secured a Pip-boy edition as our gift to each other. We were engaged 11/11/11, any guesses why?
[Yes, Skyrim was a part of the proposal]

What games are you currently playing? What are you looking forward to? 

A new direction: meet LadyTimeoin, my gamer alter-ego

LadyTimeoin

LadyTimeoin – coffee time

I’ve been looking at different ways to expand this blog beyond just documenting my student life. Along with parenthood and student life, the other aspect of my life is my gaming. I do somewhat fit the stereotype of a nerd: questionable social skills, love of intellectual pursuits, can border on obsessed with their topic of choice. I also wear glasses, needed braces, and really do not understand fashion. I often joke that I don’t know “how to girl” very well. I say this with much affection and love for my nerdy nature.

I went through a period of my life where I turned away from my geek origins. I tried desperately to fit in and be like other young women my own age. I stopped gaming and I stopped coding. I watched what everyone else was watching, tried to dress like others dressed. I got qualifications in an industry I knew I wouldn’t be happy in because I thought that was what I “should do”.  I was desperately unhappy and it reallly was a pretty dark period of my life.

I missed the introduction of the Xbox360 and all the glorious games it brought. I missed a lot of the transition to Web2.0 and the increased interactivity that the internet could bring…

Don’t worry, this story has a happy ending…even a tall lanky prince charming ;)

Timeoin and I

Timeoin and I

I met my husband, who was dating a friend of mine, and we became fast friends. He sensed my geekiness and encouraged it. Down the track when we started dating he introduced me to what I had missed: games, movies, tv series, a general geek community. He set me up with some seminal games to play: Halo, Fallout 3, Morrowind. We binge watched Stargate SG1 and Battlestar Galactica. The nerd flame in my soul was replenished and I found someone who loved me for it.

Destiny [image from Wikipedia]

Destiny [image from Wikipedia]

Fallout 3 [image from fallout.wikia.com ]

Fallout 3 [image from fallout.wikia.com]

So, I am going to ranch into game reviews – both new and old. Like I said, I am still playing catch up. At the moment, I am playing Fallout 3 (on my PC) and Destiny (on Xbox One). As I get a bit further along, I’m going to start writng some reviews. I’m going to write these with my own slant – as a gamer, an IT student, and to some extent as a female.

What games do you thing I should try/review? What are your all-time favourites? What would you like to see in the reviews?

Mummy is at School #11: Exams are looming

Between sick kids and massive assignments, I’ve barely had time to breathe. You may remember that I had to do a switch around of my subjects because I want to take my networking classes on campus. Well, the subject I swapped in, Business Analysis, is my first 3rd year subject. It has been a bit of a leap in what is expected. The assignments are significantly larger than I anticipated and expected….I got my first 5/Credit for an assignment in this class. So, in true academic nerd fashion, I upped my efforts. So far it has paid off, I received a 7/High Distinction for my second assignment. Now, I just have a 2hr exam and I’m done!

I have 74 pages of hand-written notes for this subject, plus my typed tutorial work and exam revision. We received our case study yesterday so I am familiarising myself with it and going to write out a business report in preparation (so, a third assignment really). We’ve been told the 7 questions will be similar to the assignment work. It’s been a love-hate relationship with this subject. I’ve found it interesting but a little removed from the “exciting” parts of IT (well the exciting parts for me). It’s been my challenge subject…I can generally grasp a language pretty easily. But the business side of IT: the requirement specifications, system modelling, analysis, and report writing, not as intuiative for me.

My exam is on Friday (then it’s my birthday on Sunday – last year of my 20s) and my programming exam the following Friday. Tim has graciously taken those days off so I don’t need to try and find a babysitter. I don’t think the other external students would appreciate it if I brought along my two noisy toddlers ;)

I have procrastinated enough, I should get back to my study.

Good luck to my fellow students! How do you guys tackle study prep?

Mummy is at school #10: Daycare and Internet slow-down

I’ve been working hard at catching up with my study. We have had a few bouts of nasty flu like germs here. Lilah has just fallen asleep on the floor watching ABC4Kids. While Ethan is happy to go to Kindy 3 days a week so mummy can go to school, he isn’t so supportive of mummy sitting at her computer and not paying attention to him. So, study has been sneaky ninja sessions during nap times and bedtime.

Ethan's help with my Business Analysis assignment

Ethan’s help with my Business Analysis assignment Photo from my Instagram profile.

 

Luckily, I have my textbooks in kindle format as well as paperback so I can use my phone/kindle to study while they cuddle me in their sleep. I also make use of the 10Tb of storage my uni has given us on Google Drive. A lot of my Business Analysis assignment involves researching Analysis tools, so that was something else I can do away from the computer.

This was all going well until we noticed Netflix started buffering more. The Xbox One was reporting our downloads at 0.25Mbps (Megabits per second). I do live in Australia and our ADSL2+ is about 20Mbps but >1Mbps is pretty slow for us (we usually average around 18Mbps on our Wireless Network). We get drop outs after heavy rain but we’d not had any bad weather to explain it. Another friend in the area was having similar slow speeds so we assumed it was an infrastructure issue. But, theirs sped up and ours didn’t. Turns out we had gone over our download allowance and had been speed limited to 256Kbps. That’s the slowest speed you can get on ADSL, so as someone who has been spoiled by higher speeds, it is quite painful to study with slow page loads. We’ve abandoned using Netflix and YouTube…and we upgraded our plan to an unlimited one. One of the downsides to being a tech savvy family is that you can burn through a lot of downloads.

 

We also celebrated Lilah’s first birthday last week. She was quite unwell so her party has been postponed. But, it also means her daycare place has become available. I chose to wait until she was 12 months so she could have her 1st MMRV vaccine prior to starting (we’ve had measles scares in the area). I’ve been looking forward to a dedicated study day for a few months now. When she’s particularly…”helpful”, like the time she deleted half my coding, I found myself reminding myself ‘Just x more months until she starts nursery’. And, now that it is 7 days away, I’m not sure I’m ready ;) I’ve studied with her home her entire life, even while I was pregnant. I handed my last assignment in a few days before she was born. She’ll still be with me on Wed and Thu while Ethan is at kindy but it’ll mean I am not having to stay up late trying to study.

And on that note, my lecture recording has finally finished downloading so it’s time for me to hit the books.

Mother’s Day 2015

Photo from pixabay.com

Photo from pixabay.com

This is my 2nd Mother’s Day (or third if you count the one when I was pregnant) and it still blows me away that I am a mother. I still feel like I am playing catch up with adulthood after having a good chunk of my adolescence interrupted by depression and bulimia. Now, I’ve been entrusted with the lives of two adorable mini humans for the rest of their lives. It can feel a bit overwhelming at times. Two years in and I honestly say, I am so grateful that I’ve been able to be a mummy. I love my crazy nerdlings – even when they trash my house trying to make themselves breakfast.

For Mother’s Day I received a brand new hair-dryer :D Nothing fancy but it’s something I wanted, my last one looks like the cord got bitten. Ethan made me an adorable card and some shimmery moisturiser. And, the boys baked me some choc-chip muffins. We decorated some photo frames for Grandma and Nana (Tim’s mum and my mum).

Crafting presents for Grandma and Nana

Crafting presents for Grandma and Nana

I’m so blessed to have such an awesome mum. I am one of 5 kids, I’m the 2nd eldest but grew up as the eldest of 4 (we have one of those slightly complex family setups). When I was 11, my mum became a single parent. She left my father, who was an abusive alcoholic. Most kids resented their parents’ separation, I was grateful. To this day, I am proud of her for that. I remember how scary it was for us at the time, so, I can’t imagine how much strength it took her. We live a state away from our extended family,except for one uncle who lived up here at the time. So, it was mostly us and her on our own. She did an amazing job and I really think she raised some great kids ;). We all graduated high school, some of us have gone on to further study, some have found their ideal career, some of us have had children of our own.

My sister and I have both given her grandbabies. I can only speak to my own experience but I often find myself referring to my own childhood for parenting advice. “What would my mum do here? What did she do with me and/or my siblings?” And, when I feel like I’m in over my head: “Mum raised four of us on her own, I can get through this moment”. She’s my parenting inspiration, in so many ways.

She’s also my motivation in my studies. She always encouraged my nerdy interests. Letting me spend my weekends at the library, buying me my first computer, and talking to me about the computer work she does. She taught me that gender is irrelevant in technology skills – in fact, I was genuinely surprised about the stereotype that IT and computers are a “boys thing”.  When I was younger, my mum attempted to get the degree I’m currently studying. She was getting awesome marks too – I remember bragging at school to my teachers. But, unlike me, she didn’t have the support of her husband (my father). So, I am getting my Bachelor of Info Tech for me and for her. “If mum can get HDs with 4 kids, I can while looking after 2″

How was your Mother’s Day? What influence has your Mum/mother figure had in your life?

Mummy is at School #9: Support

Things got really hectic here at the house of nerd. Tim’s job had him working crazy hours with little in return, the joys of commission-only positions. It was wearing him down and that effect was trickling down to the kids and myself. House of nerd became a house of stress. I started looking into entry level IT positions for myself to help with the finances. I sent out a few resumes but was not successful. I don’t have the experience needed. I am keeping my eye out for ones where there is full training and experience isn’t necessary.

Anyway, I was prepared to put my study on hold to go to work and help Tim out. Luckily for him, he found a full-time position as a salesperson (well I think it’s technically part-time but the hours are really good). He comes home from work happy and loves to tell me about all the cool things he has in store. Tempting me with cookware and furniture…practising his sales pitch on me.

But, during this whole time I’d say “I’m studying to get qualified so I can gain a professional career and contribute financially. But, if you need me to I can take a job in retail and put my study on hold”. This was met with an emphatic “No, you keep studying. When you’ve finished there will be no shortage of job opportunities for you. Not only are you female [in an industry trying to move towards gender equality] but you’re a female who is f-ing good at IT”

That support gets me through. When I feel guilty about splitting my time between textbooks and Lilah. Or, putting Ethan into day care. My husband is my biggest cheerleader. With playful quips like: “You’re a nerd” which is taken as a complement of course.  He’s going to talk to his boss about taking half-days or days off when I have exams so he can mind the kids.

But, last week I also received support from my university. Each semester they offer a $1000 book bursary/laptop scholarship to those experiencing hardship. Financially, I was struggling to afford textbooks. So, it was amazing to discover that my application was successful and I now have $1000 to go towards essential textbooks. ICT books aren’t cheap. This semester cost me $250 for 2 subjects…that’s a good chunk of my fortnightly income.

Having the support of my family and my university motivates me to do well.

Planned works

image

One project I had set for myself earlier in the year was to move to a self hosting site . I am pleased to say this is currently in the works.

I have installed a LAMP (Linux, Apache, mySQL, PHP) stack on my computer [a huge thanks to Digital Ocean for the tutorials]. I’m using Debian. So, I have a local server to test out my upgrades to the theme. That way I don’t bug my faithful users as a tweak things. I am very well versed in HTML and CSS but I’m still mastering PHP (incidentally – feel free to recommend any books/tutorials/websites).

I am still looking at my hosting options; any recommendations are welcomed.

I have also changed my URL. I have decided to use this site as an example of my skills. Dovah is from the Elder Scrolls and I didn’t want to risk any chance of litigation, should I decide montetise the site. Also, we are a family of four now. So, my url is now:

keiraowens.com

Please update the address if you need to in your readers/email subscriptions/favourites/links.

Mummy is at school #8: Careers Fair and Campus Visits

For those who may not know, I have been an external student at USQ (University of Southern Queensland) since 2013. I do all my subjects via the internet on StudyDesk and sit my exams at an external exam centre (mine is at a church). I’ve briefly popped into my local campus (Springfield) to pick up books and other material. But, I’ve not been to the campus where my degree is taught (Toowoomba)…until now.

careersfair

Email from USQ Support inviting me to the Careers Fair 2015

I’ve been studying for a few years now and I thought “Might be a good idea to find out where this degree will lead me“. It’s on a Wednesday so Ethan would be at kindy and we have a free inter-campus shuttle bus service. I had a chat with Tim who insisted I go. So, he arranged a day off to look after Lilah and it was settled: I’m going.

Oh god. What to wear?
My staples at home are nerdy t-shirts and daggy pants. I have a few nicer outfits to wear out but nothing that says “I’m a professional”.  I got myself a nice top and knee length skirt. I thought about trousers but I felt they made me look too masculine and I just didn’t like the look (I also have short hair). I didn’t want to hide my femininity.

Smart Casual wear at the Careers fair (photo by USQ Marketing team)

Smart Casual wear at the Careers fair (photo by USQ Marketing team)

I got up super early (like 4 am early) to get ready, packed some study materials, my resume, and my laptop. Cue the rain when we are due to leave. The one time I actually wear make up and it rains ;) Tim dropped me off to catch the 6.45 am shuttle bus.

I was very excited to discover the bus had WiFi

I was very excited to discover the bus had WiFi

I think I got more study done in that 2 hour bus ride (sans the kids) than I have at home. Wed is a study day for me so I didn’t want to fall too far behind. I have mastered the art of writing my notes in a moving vehicle – I often study on the train/bus/car when travelling.

Can I just say…Toowoomba, you are beautiful! Don’t get me wrong, I love where I live but gosh, it’s pretty nice out there.

I did the “new kid on campus” thing and downloaded the campus map and wandered around until I found a library and coffee. I was only an hour and a half early for the Careers Fair…so more study time!

Coffee and Study time @ the Hub

Coffee and Study time @ the Hub

I managed to have a good chat with the Australian Computer Society (Hi Des) before it was time for the IT, Engineering, and Science Q & A panel. I went in armed with a trusty notepad and pen. This fair was all about information gathering so I wrote comprehensive notes. (I have 5 A5 pages of hand-written notes from that 45 min session).  The main points I got from the panelists were:

  • Transferable skills like communication and adaptability are valued almost more than current tech skill levels
    • “Are you motivated?” and “Will you fit into the workplace team?” are what employers are looking for
  • Try not to be too rigid in your expectations
    • embrace change and be willing to learn rapidly
  • The industry (STEM – science, technology, engineering, maths) is becoming more pervasive and is changing rapidly
    • Be willing to learn new things quickly

After that, I made a beeline for the Student Services booth and got some great advice on my resume. The biggest thing I got out of that session was how to include my time as a parent who isn’t in the workforce. I maintained my study during my employment gaps but as I learned in the panel, honesty is key. Yes, I am not in paid employment right now but I am doing other activities to keep my skills relevant: this blog being one of them.

I got a professional LinkedIn photo taken (eagerly awaiting that one) and said had a chat to the various employers who had come out. I’m armed with loads of potential future employment choices – places I didn’t immediately think of like Heritage Bank and Australian Tax Office.

Overall, I got so much out of the day. I got to practice communicating in a professional environment. I now have a great resume and some ideas on how to make me more employable. And most importantly, I feel confident and excited about going into the IT industry. I felt like this is what I am supposed to do with my career. I’m bubbling with excitement and can’t wait to graduate and work!

Daddy got a new job!

A little break from the Mummy is at school series to totally brag.

A few months ago now, some things happened at hubby’s workplace and it resulted in him no longer working at the store or company. The family is working on moving past that moment in our lives so I wont rehash it here, nor will I give any details. Hubby works in retail and found himself trying to find work at Christmastime: after the Christmas recruitment had well passed. But that is all in the past now because he is now employed as a Salesperson.

Ethan, Lilah, and myself are all very proud of him!
It’s a much more professional position than his previous one so it’s weird seeing him in business attire every morning.

Now…back to the books