Despite having years of on the job experience with technology, I have always seen myself as a technical weak link among my college colleagues; this was true in undergrad and continued into my first year as a graduate student. I was the one who could offer time, energy, guidance and sometimes direction as long as it didn’t involve the use of computer software. In cases like that, I felt intellectually inferior and never volunteered my services.
My World View
My colleagues were younger, swifter and more adept. Therefore, I saw them as better at navigating technology and significantly more knowledgeable than I was. I am sixty and from a generation where nothing was as fast or complex as computers are today. I considered my computer skills to be basic and practical but not creative. Technology was more advanced than I was. My colleagues’ more tech savvy and creative.
I was in my second semester as a graduate student in the Master of Student Affairs Program at Carlow University. The course was Relational Practice and Leadership. I didn’t initially see how the course themes related to the assignment. However, both eventually changed my perspective and world view. My group and I were charged with creating a digital interactive module for Carlow University that could be accessed by incoming transfer and adult students. Its purpose was to act as an online advisor and post admissions orientation session. We decided to name it “The Celtic Way” after the school’s logo “Carlow Celtics”.
I agreed to research our school’s resources. I did this because it was the least technical work and it was information that I knew first hand, having been an undergraduate student at Carlow. The module design had been created by the group leader and I felt comfortable inputting information and depending on the more technical savvy group members to lead the way in creatively bringing the project to life. As fate would have it, the project design was devoid of the expected bells, whistles and pizzazz with just two weeks remaining. I would log into the template and just stare hopeful that something creative would jump out at me.
Going Beyond the Draft
I knew that the software program had creative capabilities. I just didn’t have enough faith in myself to believe that I could find and incorporate them in order to enhance the project design. I eventually convinced myself that I could teach myself the software and receive help and guidance from our mentor in Instructional Design. What I didn’t realize is that it meant assuming a leading position in an area that I saw myself as inferior. Suddenly, the courses theme and the assignment began to make more sense to me.
Hitting My Stride
In those days prior to the due date, I began to see skills and technical knowledge that had been lying dormant emerge. Suddenly, I didn’t feel so weak or technically inferior. I was still slow and methodical in comparison to my colleagues, but I no longer saw myself as a weak link. I began taking more creative risks that began to enhance the appearance of the original design. The final product was sleek in its design, capable of more interaction, included direct links to Carlow resources and locations and had a self-check questionnaire that included post admissions directions. The “Celtic Way” module was now complete, and I felt confident in presenting it to my group and explaining the changes to the design and why those changes were necessary. Their response to the final design and the adjustments that were made was a turning point for me.
My advice to any seasoned professional and older individual who is continuing their education is to not overlook their value and worth by selling themselves short among the young and more agile minds that we encounter in the classroom and on the job. Longevity in the workplace has placed untapped skills and knowledge within us just bursting to get out given the right place, time and opportunity. There is a season for everything and a time for the unveiling of wisdom that comes with age and experience. I happen to believe that if ever a time for wisdom and experience is needed to help shape the world we live, work and play in, it is now. I realized that learning to accept my own worth and value was important to me as a person, potential employee and as a student. How you see yourself matters.
Loretta Ellis is a second-year graduate student at Carlow University in the Master of Student Affairs Program. She is a former College and Career Advisor to Underrepresented Minorities and First-Generation students. Her passion is helping students successfully bridge the gap between pre and post admissions into higher education. Her favorite author is JD. Robb. Loretta can be reached at email@example.com.