3 month update for my “One Year Challenge”

It’s hard to believe that we’re already nearly 25% done with 2014; pretty soon they’ll have the Christmas decorations out…kidding (but probably not…)!

As they say, time flies when you’re busy or having fun, and I’ve been both:  very involved at work, and having fun pursuing my “One Year Challenge”.

For those of you who are new to this column, at the end 2013 I made a New Year’s resolution that also coincided with the end of my graduate studies.  Figuring I’d have a lot of spare time and wanting to keep pushing myself to learn new things, I promised myself that I would teach myself programming and build an app.  To hold myself accountable and hopefully motivate some readers to join me, I also promised that I would keep everyone updated.

Incidentally, I had a few other goals too, and here is my full list as it appeared three months ago:

  • I want to continue on the path I’m already on, which means earning my Professional Engineer (PE) license in petroleum engineering; that one requires work and dedication, but it’s pretty straightforward
  • I do want to broaden my skill set and learn something completely new
  • I want to say that I have the skills to build something on my own, from the ground up
  • I want to be more involved in the technology community

You can read the original post here.

So how has it been?

In short: really, really excellent.

I did in fact just last week turn in my application to take the Professional Engineer exam; if anyone reading this is thinking of taking that test, make sure you work in plenty of time to apply, because it really did take three months to get everything together.

The efforts to learn programming have been even more fruitful:  I started out wanting just to program a simple app, but in fact I managed to create not only the beginnings of quite a complex tablet app but also oil & gas use cases for Google Glass!

At first the learning curve was awful:  I had enough concepts left over from school that teaching myself basic Java was ok, but then making the leap to Android was crushing.  For about a month and a half I was almost mindlessly copying tutorials, just hoping that things would make sense.

I was also determined not to fail or quit, so I stuck at it, putting in 3-4 hours a day, far more than the 1 to 1.5 I had pledged in that initial post.

Then literally from one second to another, things clicked for me.

I actually wrote the date down:  February 19th, 2014.  I remember pulling into my parking spot after a day of work and all of a sudden thinking “this all makes sense now!”

Finding a support network was also crucial in the process.  Around the time I picked up Google Glass, I joined a Meetup group focused on the device.  Everyone there was so friendly and eager to help when I had questions, and the fact that I had put in so much work before arriving to my first meeting meant that I didn’t feel overwhelmed or underprepared.

Incidentally, two of them in particular I got along extremely well with, and the combination of their technical expertise with my oil & gas expertise means that you’ll be seeing some really, really game-changing stuff from our team on the Google Glass front in the next few weeks…

Getting back to my progress over the last 3 months, why is this all of this relevant to you, the readers of this column, which is supposedly focused on energy matters, as opposed to technology?

Well, “Building Hydrocarbon Bonds” has evolved into a forum for young professionals to ask not only how to join the oil & gas industry, but also how to increase the potential for a successful career in the industry once a job has been secured.

Granted, I haven’t earned the CEO title yet, but I have done well since I left university, and I attribute that to my philosophy on personal growth, which I’ll sum up in three bullet points:

  • Never become complacent:  if you want to advance your career, at some point that’s going to involve overtaking someone else.  If you’re ok with that, you should also accept that someone may also look to overtake YOU.  Don’t like that idea?  Then always look to learn new things and improve your skills so that you’re always pulling away from the rest of the pack.
  • Never give up:  whatever your goals are, I can’t guarantee that you will reach them overnight, but I CAN guarantee that you will NEVER reach them if you quit trying.  Keep pushing forward, don’t quit, and eventually good things will come.
  • Time is going to pass by regardless of whether you push yourself or not.  To the extent that the hardest part of any project is just starting, the sooner you get going the more likely your chances are you can look back and say “yep, that was hard, but it’s over and I can move over to the next thing now”, rather than “well, another year’s gone by and I’m still not heading in the direction I’d hoped for myself”

I accept this advice sounds a little cliche, but ultimately learning new things involves “simply” getting going and then sticking with it.

Are you struggling with your engineering studies?

Stick with them, they don’t last forever yet the payback lasts a lifetime!

Wondering whether or not to apply for that “stretch” position at work?

Why not go for it:  yes there will be a learning curve, but once you’ve scaled it you’ll have gained a new set of skills with which to move your career forward even further.

The point is this:  you just have to make a goal for yourself, put your head down, and push through.

Tell as many people as you can so that you stay accountable and on track, and reach out to people more skilled than you so you can stay motivated and push past the gaps in knowledge and ability you’ll inevitably face as a beginner.  You might feel intimidated at first, but I’m confident you’ll end up being very surprised at just how willing to help people are, and actually it was joining up with those two other technical professionals that is really turbocharging my efforts to reach the goals I set for myself.

Also, make sure that you always keep the end goal in mind:  the engineering degree should not be seen as an end, but rather just the beginning of a career filled with awesome opportunities, and the new position at work isn’t the last one you’ll take, but rather just one more step towards reaching whatever your final goal happens to be.

Always keep the end in mind:  quitting might be tempting when things get tough, but if you quit, you prevent yourself from reaching your final target.

In the future, when you look back that hurdle that lead you to contemplate quitting will seem really trivial and you can see it either from the perspective of someone that did quit and stagnated, or someone that conquered it and just kept going forward.  After all, Michael Jordan was never the greatest basketball player, and Einstein was not always a brilliant scientist.  They both had to start somewhere and then work at getting better.

I’d love to hear about your own goals, whether you’re just starting out, or on your way to reaching them:  feel free to get in touch with me through my website, LinkedIn, or through email.

I’ll write another update on my progress (6 months) at the end of June, and I’ll see you all next week with another installment of “Building Hydrocarbon Bonds”!