Last week, I received word that my project paper for my master’s in Educational Technology was approved. I’ve been working on the degree since January 2018. During that time, I completed several certs and redesigned and replaced all wired and wireless infrastructure for my employer. I also got married and taught two foundational networking courses during this pandemic.

Achieving this degree was the capstone of a long educational journey, which, while it is never-ending, will at lease pause for a time. As part of this journey, I failed plenty, which I count as a blessing. Ten years back, during the recession, I fell at the finish line of a master’s degree in History. Mentally, it affected me more than I’d like to admit. I had to reevaluate a lot back then, and being unemployed gave me plenty of time to do so. Living with my uncle and grandfather, I spent a year trying to figure out what to do, and it honestly was one of the most challenging times of my life. I tried to get a local IT job since I had done plenty of desktop support and got rejection letters frequently. I felt entitled. Previously, I had taken university courses for eight years, studied overseas, received praise from instructors; none of this mattered. Like many students, I managed to rack up some financial debt in the process.

One of my buddies from graduate school got me a job at Office Depot back in 2011 as a cashier, and I can honestly say it was the turning point. Just receiving a paycheck, even if it was a humbling experience, was enough to rebuild my confidence. In mid-2012, A former boss got me connected to one of his friends, and I was able to land a full-time job with benefits as the sole IT admin at a local church. Moving on from that job, I did a short stint at a local MSP—not my cup of tea (I prefer coffee)—and landed my job with the university that employees me today in 2015.

The past five years have been the best of my career and possibly my life. I’ve been part of a larger team that supports what I’m doing. Although budgets are tight from the effects of the ongoing pandemic, the university has put considerable resources into improving network infrastructure, and I’ve been able to rebuild the network from the ground up. In the process, I’ve been sent to training, conferences, given resources and time to pass certification exams, and was able to pursue a master’s degree at little cost to myself. All in all, it’s felt like a continuous stream of forward-progress for the past five years. I met my wife back in 2016, which I count to be the most fortuitous and momentous event in my life. Despite the challenges of this year, we were able to get married and start our life together, for which I’m utterly grateful.  

I can hear you saying, “So, what Ryan? What’s the point of your exhausting autobiography?” I just wanted to reflect on how much has changed in my life in the past ten years so that I could better appreciate what I have. So often, I’ve been looking forward to endless pursuits without sighting shore, but I finally feel like I’ve arrived. By writing this post, I’ve been able to come to grips with that arrival and articulate my satisfaction and thankfulness for the result. I also need to thank all the people who helped me along this journey, and especially my wife. As I said in the acknowledgment section of my master’s project paper, I wouldn’t have completed the degree without my wife’s support.

My priorities for the immediate future:

  • Be the best husband I can be. Support my wife through her second master’s degree; she just started this week.
  • Prioritize time with my family once this pandemic is over. Work required a lot of sacrifice in this area the past few years, unfortunately.
  • Play more video games. I’m looking at you, Crusader Kings 3.
  • Where I am capable, mentor when and where I can.
  • Complete the CWNA certification by the end of the year.
  • Begin studying for the CCNP ENCOR.
  • Blog more.

If there’s to be anything edifying in what I’ve written, know that you can improve your life through hard work and self-motivation. I know it’s a cliché to say this, but at least in the realm of IT, career mobility can be achieved in a short amount of time if you just put the time and effort into learning. Circumstances can delay this progress most definitely, but we must never stop trying. Anyway, before I start sounding like some self-help proponent looking to sell a boxset of DVDs for self-improvement, I better end this blog post.

Ryan Brunkhorst

Categories: Blog

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