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Rule 33: education is a life-long journey

Rule 33: Education is a Life-Long Journey

Katherine Watt is VP of Human Resources for a global hi-tech company in Silicon Valley and the proud mother of two beautiful and smart young women.

At 18, I was off to college; choosing San Diego State because it was the farthest I could get from home and still be in California (and it had a beach). The following couple years would prove I was no match for the party lifestyle all around me. My «Poli Sci» major and «Econ» minor soon became a major in beach and a minor in boys. While it came as a shock to my poor parents, it was no big surprise to me when I got the letter from school that I was out.

Fast forward eight years, an eternity to a 28 year old. I was a married, pregnant, bored Mom of a one year old in a track house in San Jose, CA. In an effort to find some intellectual stimulation, I went back to school. My one year old learned to walk in her babysitter’s dormitory while I was in class. She had more «friends» on campus than I did! My second baby was cooperatively born Thursday right after International Law and way before Tuesday’s Women in Literature. In three years I was back on track with a Bachelor’s degree.

I was on a roll. I decided to pursue an MBA. But facing a divorce and full-time work my MBA would be five years away! I would be an ancient 35 by then! When I landed my first administrative job, at $7.50 an hour, I figured I’d be working 40-hour weeks for a long time. I could continue at $7.50 an hour, or I could arm myself with the skills to command something more.

Being a single mom, working full time and going to school two nights a week took some juggling (to say the least). I quickly found that the advantages far outweighed the costs. By choosing class projects from my work environment, a first-hand application of the theories made the book stuff real while simultaneously impressing my bosses. I started to see my stock quickly rising in the workplace, and I truly enjoyed what I was learning in the classroom.

I don’t want to downplay the finagling it took to make the arrangements for childcare, and the impact going to school had on my young daughters. But there were some surprising by-products of this process that surpassed my own goal. MBA programs require a significant amount of group work. When my classmates determined we should meet on Saturdays it was always an annoyance. My children and I would trudge to the school and find the right classroom. Huge box of chalk in hand, my daughters would find an empty room and create murals on the chalkboards while I did my meeting thing. The girls spent many happy hours on campus. In their young realities, they went to school when Mom went to school. It was what people do. My daughters became life-long learners.

Today my oldest daughter is working on her PhD. Her sister earned her Bachelor’s and is considering going to Graduate School. Both girls study things that are just «out there and interesting.» The oldest has mastered Spanish and German and the youngest French and Italian.

You may be five or even eight years older at the end of the process. But you will be five or eight years older anyway. Will that time find you with or without those academic credentials? At times you might wonder if there is a light at the end of the tunnel or just another train. If you keep at it, you will find, as with many things in life, the joy is in the journey. Not the destination.

As excerpted from «42 Rules ™ for Working Moms» Super Star Press, 2008.

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