Today started much like the usual: I wake up at 5am and drag myself through the house and out the door to get in a good sweat before clocking into the day job. As I arrive to the gym, excited that I am earlier than usual and will get a solid hour in, I learn from the desk attendant that there is not heat or hot water as a result of a power outage the night before. She asks if I still want a towel, and I say sure. What’s the worst that could happen?
I enter the locker room and place my garment bag in my usual locker (#65) and decide to see just how cold the water is before I lift weights. Now just to give you some insight: the weather in Boston has been pretty normal for this time of year (30-40+ F) for the past week or so, except for today when the high was expected to be 29 degrees. So, as you can imagine, the water was freezing. I decided then to just get lightly washed up and go to work. I’m in the office at 7am, 2 hours earlier than my usual.
Now as you all will learn, I am very particular about how many hours I put in at work. I was the single girl that was in the office late and logging in when she finally got home. I was the closer, the one who would not leave until everything on the to-do list was done and my team could rely me keeping my word. Weak expressions of gratitude were enough to keep me motivated and believing that I was being appreciated for what I contributed. But nothing kills motivation like a string of lackluster performance reviews!
In 2014, I had one of the best years at my company, with regards to performance and accomplishments, and it still was not considered being more than what “meets expectation”. I won’t even get into the insult that was my “merit” increase. Unable to contain my thoughts, I asked my manager directly what my motivation this year is, since what I thought was working hard and accomplishing tasks that positively and directly affect the bottom line seem to mean nothing. I was met with a poorly rehearsed version of “your career is in your own hands”, as my manager had already signed the paperwork to move on to another role, abandoning quite a few endeavors that are on course to leave a bad name for our group and the company as a whole. I left that conversation angry, but motivated to leave.
Needless to say, I am now a clock-watcher. I get to the office and leave 8 to 9 hours from that time. I don’t bring my computer home and I am not taking any calls or responding to any emails. I have been putting so much time and attention into this company thinking that I was creating a career, but in reality, I was just trying to make the best of a losing investment. I was draining myself emotionally and physically, and the only reward I was getting was more work and even less appreciation for that. Additionally, with my focus on getting a new job in an entirely new industry (amongst the other projects that are feeding my soul right now) there are many other things that I can and will be doing with my free time now, and I sure as hell am not going to give them an extra minute more than they pay for.
So, 9 hours after I entered the office today, I was logging out and headed to the bookstore. My intent was to use the time before my swing practice to check out books on programming and starting a clothing line. Books on the latter were not in abundance, and anything closely related was frilly or touting being a “Girl’s Guide” (gag!). I did find a few good books on programming languages, and decided to purchase 2: one book focusing on HTML 5 and CSS and another book on programming in Rails. I know it just shows the geek in me, but I am super excited about these books!
I’m not sure what other people do when looking for a good reference/learning book, but I have a few things that are very important to me.
1. Table of contents
I am very big on a good table of contents. Before I land on any random page and start reading excerpts, I want to know that navigating to a particular topic won’t be cumbersome. The presence of an index is nice too, but I want to know how things are broken down and the approach that the author has with presenting the topic from page one.
Many of the programming concepts require a breakdown and definition of many different items, and the layout of this breakdown is a make-or-break issue for me. In a good layout (usually accompanied by a good table of contents), I am able to skim through a chapter and find the specific item of interest to me. While I intend on reading all the concepts included, I appreciate being able to read a book as I am learning it and not be forced to follow a sequence. On the contrary, a bad layout throws me off topic and forces me to read large amounts of text that may or may not be relevant, and generally the table of contents is weak as well.
How the author relays the information and transitions from concept to concept is probably the most important. Tone and pace are other major components of the flow, and if a concept that I feel may require greater understanding gets nothing more than a short paragraph and an example without any real-world applicability, I am usually inclined to put that book back. I am no dummy, but the author’s ability to relay the concepts to me in a way that I can learn and retain information (and make it fun in the process) is very much appreciated. Much of what keeps beginners from moving on to being intermediate is the intimidation of the material.
I feel that I have found all of these things in my new books, and while I don’t see myself cracking into them before this weekend (I have some busy days to round out the work week), I intend to use them to help create new projects that I can get on my Github account and begin building my portfolio.
Either way, I am a sponge for this information. Like with anything that you want to learn and retain permanently, I am taking my time and making sure that I know the foundations. I am still going to venture to try new things that are just a bit out of my reach in terms of knowledge base, but what better way to learn than to put yourself on the spot?
Well off to continue with my learning. Have a goodnight!