So what’s next?

Over the past two and a half years when I was asked “what do you do” (for work)? I answered, I am working on my Masters, which usually sparked a discussion about education. But it usually ended with “What are you going to do with that degree, or what kind of work are you looking for when you are finished?” This answer changed depending on my mood, how close I was to completion, and whether it was before or after my brain tumour situation.

Before I can answer what’s next, it might be important to understand why I went back to school in the first place.

When we moved to Victoria a city devoid of furniture manufacturing for my husband’s job I quickly realized that my diploma in furniture design wasn’t going to get me very far. I created a job for myself as a business consultant for a furniture dealer, and was later headhunted for a job in Vancouver. The company in Vancouver had a great education program, and I creatively earned a Bachelor of Design degree at night in hotel rooms.

Wow, I just realized how bad that sounds.

The creative part is that I could take all the certificates, diplomas and work experience I had, compile it all together and devise a plan to complete the academic requirements for a B.Des through Thompson River’s University. The hotel room resulted from a job which required weekly travel, and at night in hotel rooms I fervently worked away on course work.

Four years and one child later I graduated with a Bachelor of Design days before the birth of my second son. 

Knowing that a Bachelor of Design wasn’t going to change my situation much, a year and a half after my second son was born I applied to graduate school with the intention of completing a Masters of Business Administration, on a part-time (at night in a hotel room) basis. The universe had different plans for me and I ended up starting the September semester as a full-time student.

I rationalized the financial investment of an MBA by calculating the cost of childcare for the kids for the next three years and quickly realized that it was CHEAPER to get a MBA than it was to pay for care for my kids while I worked. That was a bit of an eye opener. I realize that there are lost opportunity costs, and other financial factors to consider but the decision to invest 40K in myself was easy to justify when I looked at the alternative of paying someone the same amount to change diapers. Plus, because it was an online program I could stay home with my kids. So, reason number two was to be more present for my kids.

The third reason was simply to see if I could do it. I have never been very good at math. Or at least that was my perception, being married to an Aerospace Engineer doesn’t do much for my math confidence. As it turns out my math skills are fine, or at least good enough to complete a MBA.

As I mentioned my husband is an Aerospace Engineer, and I am a furniture designer. It’s quite the combination, but not exactly a good combination if we are both wanting to be employed in the same city. Our careers, education and experiences are industry specific, and to broaden my career options I thought an MBA would open more doors. We have always had competing careers and something had to give, and that something was me.

For many reasons, I made the decision to pursue a MBA. But the question of what are you going to do after you graduate kept coming up repeatedly. So, what am I going to do next…

When I started the program 2.5 years ago, I was going to take over the world. Maybe not the world but certainly I intended to fully utilize the investment I was making in myself. But then I was diagnosed with a brain tumour, and that changed everything. What was once important quickly became trivial. The quest for money and a career with power died and was replaced with a need for wealth.

Wealth in the form of time. Time to do what I enjoy. Time with my family. Time to travel. Time to live. You might think that you need to have lots of money to be wealthy, I disagree. Quoting from Wikipedia is a major faux pas in academic studies which is why it gives me great pleasure to do it here.

“Wealth has been defined as a collection of things limited in supply, transferable, and useful in satisfying human desires. Scarcity is a fundamental factor for wealth. When a desirable or valuable commodity (transferable good or skill) is abundantly available to everyone, the owner of the commodity will possess no potential for wealth. When a valuable or desirable commodity is in scarce supply, the owner of the commodity will possess great potential for wealth.”

Time is a scarce resource, and even though my brain tumour situation worked out in my favour it is a constant reminder that time is limited. When deciding what to do after I completed the MBA program, I thought a lot about what is important to me. 

My life works better when I am home, at least part of the time. I have worked full-time with kids in daycare, worked from home, traveled for work weekly, taken full year long maternity leaves, been a part-time student, and been a full-time student. I have tried it all. Some options were more successful than others, and keeping this in mind I knew that I wanted a job that gave me some flexibility with my time.

As it happened, I was contacted out of the blue in February through my LinkedIn profile. I got a message saying that there was an opportunity would I like to come in and discuss it. Never one to turn down an opportunity I took the meeting. When I was asked, what am I looking for in a position once I am finished my MBA I explained that the most important thing to me was time. Ideally, I was looking for a part-time position where I would work school hours allowing me to drop my kids at school, go to work and pick them up at the end of their day. Surprisingly they said yes. Mid March I signed a contract and I start Tuesday.

What am I doing? If you have read my about page, then you might know that it has always been a dream of mine to be an Interior Designer. I have in various capacities worked in Interior Design but never in a 100% dedicated role. I am super excited that everything aligned and I can do something I love and still do what works best for my family.

Do I need a MBA for this role? No, probably not. Will I use what I learned? Everyday. Reflecting on the last 2.5 years the academic education wasn’t the important part, what I learned in the process of learning is the gold.

MBA=40K, what I learned in the process=priceless.

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Celebrating my brain
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Crawling out from under a rock

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I just finished writing four exams, and I feel like I have been in hiding for a month, or maybe four. I am so excited to be finished for the semester; it is hard to meet the needs of my kids, husband and myself as a full-time student. There is a reason why you are supposed to go to University before you have kids; it is easier without a posse in tow.

You know that work life balance or in my current case the study life balance that people speak of; I don’t think that it exists. It’s just a big jumbled up mess of life. Since I have had kids I have worked full-time, traveled weekly for work, worked from home, been a stay at home mom, worked from home and I have been a full-time student. Each has its own challenges but I have yet to find a balance that works, therefore I have decided that it doesn’t exists. I have given up on the notion of finding it. Continue reading

Relief

running_brain_cartoon_character_postcard-r2c634ae87ae046c795c1bddcee9cc90a_vgbaq_8byvr_324I received a call the other day from the neurosurgeon’s office about my MRI results after waiting nearly a month. I rarely have the ringer of my phone on so I missed the call. I was sitting getting my hair done (the old lady that lives at my hairline was back with a vengeance) when I checked the message. All I can say is that I have a tremendous sense of relief.

Timmy was fully evicted. The surgery was a success. No extra pieces of him are floating around in my brain. No subsequent tumours were found. My brain has “bounced” back to fill the void that was left from Timmy’s eviction. All that is left is a perfectly healthy brain. Fan_freaking_tastic. My next MRI will be in three years. My surgeon had told me as much after surgery but I didn’t fully believe him. Somehow knowing that someone else looked at a picture of my brain and they say that it’s all good makes all the difference.

Thank you to all of the good tax payers in Canada who have been funding my medical journey, I am going to stop spending your money now! My brain is as good as new.

Now on to the next adventure with my healthy brain.

P.S. I also have received all of my marks from last semester which was my first semester without Timmy and it turns out that I am smarter (at least in post-secondary education) without a brain tumour. Go figure. 😉 That bastard Timmy was dragging down my GPA.

 

Exams with a Toddler and a Brain Tumour

Study BuddyI have been busy studying for exams the past couple of weeks. Unfortunately because I had taken a 3 month hiatus from school after learning that I had a brain tumour I had to re-learn most of the content before I could write exams. I figured that it would be in my best interest to write the exams before surgery because who knows what state I might be in post surgery.

To progress in my program (Masters of Business Administration) I need a B in each course to move into the September semester which is a tad daunting without Timmy (my tumour) inhabiting my brain space. I also have dreams of winning a scholarship/award to help pay my ridiculous tuition, so the grades are rather important. When I decided to go back to school full time last year I did a little number crunching and determined that I would rather spend the $24,000 over 2.5 years on grad school tuition, rather than daycare. YES the cost of day care and university tuition for a MBA are roughly equal. The return on investment of grad school versus daycare is a no brainer but it meant that I had a two year old home with me almost everyday while I attempted to learn subjects which were foreign to me.

I have very creative background with a Bachelor of Design, a diploma in furniture design and photography. Over the course of my career I became more interested in the business aspects of the furniture industry and that is how I ended up pursuing a MBA. Most of the students studying in the MBA program come from with a background in business, finance or engineering (at least some prior education requiring the use of a calculator). With Economics, Statistics, and two Accounting courses on the agenda I knew that the math was going to be a bit challenging for me, and then Timmy showed up. Whoa is me. Thankfully my husband (who is an Aerospace Engineer) tutored me through Economics (we got an A) but for the rest I was on my own. I am not sure how I did in Statistics yesterday but the exam was brutal, my fingers are crossed for a pass.

Regardless I feel pretty good about completing the first year of grad school with a two year old at home and a brain tumour. I learned a lot about business and even more about myself both were worth the price of tuition. On a super positive note right after I got back from writing my last exam I received an email stating that I had in fact been selected to receive a $3,500 MBA Entrance Award, now all I need to do is pass that Stats course.