Two things I get asked a lot are, why do you do what you do and why work for yourself. Both of which are really good questions, I love the word ‘why’ because it’s full of possibilities.
Why do you do what you do?
To start with why, I need to go a step behind and cover ‘how’, as in how did I get into the field I’m in.
To get there, we need to get into a few basics. I didn’t go to university. I don’t really know why I didn’t go, there wasn’t one specific reason more an accumulation of reasons. Much like why aren’t I a mother (story for another time perhaps).
My dad got sick when I was finishing secondary school, so I got a handful of GCSEs which meant I could go to sixth form college to do A-Levels. I got accepted to do art, but picked A-levels out of laziness, the college was a 15 minute walk from home. I only ended up with one A-Level as I found I enjoyed working more than I did studying.
Factoid: in the UK we go to secondary school from the ages of 11 to 16, when we sit GCSEs, after we’ve finished these exams we can go to sixth form college and get A-Levels – which leads to university, go to further education which is normally a vocational college where we can get trained to do things like be a secretary, electrician, hairdresser, plumber etc. or go out and get a job.
I had a series of what would ordinarily be considered Saturday jobs, but I somehow managed to make full time. Sales assistant in a newsagent chain, box-office cashier & usher at a cinema, curtain sales person, pizza waitress & cook, and my final retail job, working in a computer shop.
Working in a computer shop doesn’t seem like a big thing now, but in the 1990s, in a small town in Somerset in the UK, it was kind of a big deal. Selling them didn’t interest me as much as fixing them, and from there, I started my career using a technique I would expand on over time – I blagged my way into an interview with the company that did technical support for the computers I sold. I got the job.
I spent the next 7 years doing tech support, starting out working in a call centre and then moving onto doing deskside support for a number of companies. I essentially blew my 20s in a series of dead-end jobs that sucked the life out of me.
It did however teach me how to interview and listen to people – the only way you can diagnose a problem with a computer is to ask a series of questions that helps you uncover what’s going on.
Biggest life lesson here – what people say and what they do are often two very different things.
I kinda fell into what I do now, and kept falling into it. I wish I could say I had this grand plan to build something with my life but I didn’t for many reasons.
Having been out of work for about 3 months, I needed a job, and found myself at another interview for a tech support job. I was asked what a highlight of my previous role had been.
I explained that I had re-written some installation notes for a piece of software, because the ones I’d been issued were awful and I felt I’d end up with more work because of it. (This was me being lazy – I didn’t want the work of doing every install in the building because the notes were poorly written).
Needless to say I didn’t get the tech support role, but I did get an interview (and the role) of what was a technical translator. It was actually great fun.
From there I had a number of different roles that had job titles like Project Manager, Business Analyst, Change Manager, Information Architect, User Experience Consultant.
Why do you work for yourself?
Something you should probably know is that I’ve worked in IT Support and Digital Design fields for about 22 years. In that time I’ve spent more than half of it working as a contractor / freelancer. I get experience by jumping from one job to another and going after things that look interesting to me.
I do find it a bit weird to read and hear that women for the most part will need to see that they can do 10 out of 10 things on a job spec, whereas men tend to go for 6 out of 10. I’ve always been in the ‘I can do most of what they’re asking for easily, the other stuff I know I can learn as I go along’.
I like to hop from one thing to another and pick up things I can learn as I go along, and to do that contracting has always made it easier. It’s also meant not having to deal with office politics. Something that usually ends up getting me fired.
Don’t ask me why, but I really don’t like office culture. I think it’s because of being bullied at school and having to deal with the popular ‘cliques’. Where you need to fit a specific type of personality to fit.
About 5 years ago, I had to have a hysterectomy to remove a massive fibroid (non-cancerous tumour). I’m not over exaggerating when I say it was massive, it was the size of a honey dew melon according to my surgeon. Then two years ago I was (finally) diagnosed with premature ovarian failure related to the surgery.
I used to be able to get up at half 5, commute 90 minutes in each direction, do a 9 hour day in between, come home and do the housework type things, then repeat. Now, I can’t. For whatever reason, going through the menopause when you’re in your 30s tends to fuck your body in ways I can’t explain.
In the last three or four years I’ve felt that the direction I want to take has been somewhat confusing. A little like my life lacks purpose. Perhaps this is an existential crisis associated with having defective reproductive organs, maybe it’s about hitting my 40s. Who knows?
All I do know is that I find it calmer and easier to focus on getting jobs done when I work from my own office rather than someone else’s. I find having Bertie as my colleague helps my mental wellbeing.
It’s not to say that I don’t get on well with other people, I do, I just have one of those personalities that absorbs the mood of whoever is around me. I find it more and more overwhelming the older I get, so I ration myself when I’m around others.
So for the last few years, I’ve been thinking really hard about what I can do, what I have to offer and how I can use both to keep a roof over mine & Bertie’s heads.
One thing I love more than anything is helping other people. Using the skills and knowledge I’ve built up over time to help make someone else’s day a little less stressful. If I can do one thing to make someone else’s day better it makes my day better too.
So from there, Angels Playing Skittles has slowly started to form, much like wings unfurling and flexing, it’s taken a while to get used to it.
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