I’ve received this question a few times now so I figured it might be time to write a proper answer down, with my thought process and reasoning fully documented.
Let’s turn back the clocks to January of this year, which was when I initially applied for the University of Essex to study their MSc Psychology conversion course. It was before receiving my results for the first semester of my final academic year and I was feeling very under-confident in my abilities as a software engineer, and whether my ambitions to attain a First in my degree were even remotely achievable; it felt as though all of my peers had pulled substantially ahead of me and despite my best efforts, I felt that I was becoming disheartened with the discipline and this was especially the case with my Ruby on Rails web development module that I was having a hard time in, when web development is typically my forte. You can imagine what kind of number this was doing on my Imposter Syndrome, which is something I have a hard enough time with anyway.
I’m the kind of person who likes to put safety nets in place, or to have some kind of redundancy plan. Perversely, it goes against my natural inclinations towards spontaneity, but like a dog who learns to slow down after running into a glass door one time too many, I’ve become more methodical in my decision making. My best friend is also very strategic, so it rubs off somewhat on me. To cut a long story short, I had planned to use my expertise and enthusiasm for mental health, Active Listening, and student welfare to springboard myself into a psychology-oriented career path should everything turn sour. Several years of volunteering for a student helpline is nothing to scoff at, along with various volunteer undertakings in the name of student welfare and mental health, and I wanted to use these potentially to my advantage.
The cherry on the sundae was my running the Students’ Union student elections for the position of Welfare Officer around March. Sure, it would mean deferring the Master’s by a year, but it would put me in good stead for such a career and be a year of concrete, paid experience. I came third place, which is still really good, but I’ll admit, I was really disappointed. I’ll update this blogpost with a link to an article I’m writing about my experiences running in that, what I learned, and what I took away from my brief stint in student politics.
Eventually, I got my semester results. I did tremendously, despite all of my doubts, and what this really did was restored a lot of my faith in myself. But of course, there was still one more semester to go, and it would involve the largest software project I ever embarked on – a PHP based tool for extracting data from FGM-3 magnetometers, rendering the data using Chart.js, and also making datasets available via POST request, kind of like a diluted RESTful service. It was a great success, netting 77% for it, with my department planning on using it as the basis for another undergraduate project next year.
If that was just a big whirlwind of jargon, let me break it down for you. After struggling for a semester and having my confidence really stunted, it made a rapid recovery following my results and then my success with my dissertation. Not to mention my degree overall! It rekindled my desire to learn more, and despite the sleepless nights and the hard work I put into my program (and its mountains of documentation), I look back fondly. It was a lot of fun.
Ultimately, I decided that mental health activism, Active Listening, and Nightline helpline volunteering would remain as hobbies, and that it would be more fruitful for me to continue pursuing what I set out to pursue in the first place. It was no fluke I achieved what I did, despite the Imposter Syndrome in me trying to persuade me otherwise. I really hope that this year will continue to build my confidence, along with a badass portfolio. More on that tomorrow.
Thanks for reading. If you’re interested in more posts, including ones that don’t focus on me (I promise!), follow me on Twitter! I always tweet whenever I’ve written anything new, and you won’t want to miss my retweets – they’re great.