Have you ever hung out with people who all belong to a different professional circle then you, and they crack “industry-specific” jokes? You may feel clueless and a total “div head” (English slang for a rather slow, stupid person) for not getting the joke. In the same way, I am also sure we have all found ourselves in conversations even within our own companies where people are talking about something that we don’t understand. Even though we may never admit it, we have probably played along with the conversation, pretending to be in the know, nodding with a sense of confidence backed with twinges of fear that we may get “found out.” One reason I decided to take the Introduction to Web Development and Design course at BCIT is due in part to this.

As a designer in my 30’s, I was trained and bottle-fed on print design, not web design (the web will never smell as good as a freshly printed ink-drenched brochure). My lack of knowledge and understanding of coding and web standards was starting to become a hindrance. Sure, I may have nodded my head with understanding as our web guys talked about divs, WC3, and some guy called Zeldman, but as the Art Director for a company that focussed on web and print design, my knowledge was lacking, and it was time to go back to school.

I found myself at a moment of reflection. At that point in my life I owned a house, had a young child, could afford more than plain pasta for dinner, and there I was at 37…a student again. I knew this was all in my head, but it was certainly bizarre going off to class once a week. Before my first class, I felt concerned that I would be the “old fart” in the corner, trying to keep up with all the young “whippersnappers.” In actuality, there was a great diversity of people there; younger people who were just starting their careers, individuals who were hired by their companies to maintain their corporate website and needed training, and people like myself.

The course was hard work. It was like learning a new language, something that doesn’t come easily to me. Remembering when to use absolute, float, or relative positioning sometimes “mashed” my brain. At the same time, my problem-solving side enjoyed figuring out solutions to why the code I wrote did not do what I had expected (damn those closing tags).

I procrastinated (well, actually avoided) taking this course as I had to admit to myself that I was not perfect, or that times had changed and that I needed to “catch up” a little. But I was glad I did. I could participate fully in conversations, give better strategic direction to the entire team, could confidently challenge the web guys. I don’t pretend to know everything about web and programming, but investing in new knowledge gave me new tools and confidence.

One unexpected bonus of being in college for me was receiving a student membership card where I got a killer discount for trendy clothing shops selling 80’s style clothes (that I, unfortunately, remember wearing the first time I went to college).

In conclusion, I would invite you to ask yourself if there is room for you to improve or to be better at your job. It’s OK to go back to college or seek private one-on-one training when the opportunity arises. Don’t be a “div head” and let your ego or some other reason prevent you from growing in your profession.