When a walk reminded me that oh, by the way, you’re a girl

Tonight I had a mad craving for milk tea.

So I went down from my apartment, took my first step on the pavement… and I shuddered.

It was pretty chilly.

I looked around, and realized it was much later than I thought. Maybe past 9 or 10 PM? I had been reading a book, and must not have noticed the time pass by.

Whoosh went a gust of wind, as if to interrupt my thoughts.

I smiled. In retrospect I hope I did not look creepy smiling by myself like that.

I smiled because it was exactly my kind of weather. Slightly chilly, but not enough to need a coat, with a gust of wind every now and then.

It was the perfect weather for a walk.

So I took another step… and I shuddered again. This time it wasn’t the weather.

A girl walking by herself at night, are you crazy?

Shuddered. Again.

Had I missed out on so many great walks like this, just because I’m a girl?

I looked around carefully:

Yes it was “dark”, but when does it really get dark in the city? The street was lit well-enough, and there were more than enough stores open.

Yes there were less cars, but wasn’t that part of the charm of a walk?

Yes there were less people, but finally it would be the chance to hear myself think.

I walked ahead, determined to enjoy my walk. Every now and then I would fall into habit.

Cross the street because the other side is better lit.

Check the pavement ahead of me for shadows.

Check the windows around me for movement.

Ugh. How can I enjoy my walk when I’m fighting paranoia at every step?

I had been so focused on trying to enjoy my walk, that I nearly missed the milk tea shop. Which was closed. And apparently had been for some time, given it was all boarded up with a notice at the door.

So I walked to the next nearest brightly-lit public space: a convenience store. And grabbed whatever bottled tea they were selling. It may not have been authentic tea. I didn’t care anymore.

I didn’t want to pretend to enjoy my walk anymore.

I walked back faster than when I came.

I was mad, furious, but most of all sad. The thought of past walks missed, the thought of  future ones I may never have… all because I’m a girl.

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Thinking out loud: College Education

Writing that last post about reconsidering a post-graduate degree made me uncomfortable. I’ve always been a good student. I went to highly competitive science/technology/engineering schools. Many of my friends are in the midst of getting their master’s and doctorate degrees.

So I always get asked, “When do you plan to get your Master’s?” As if it’s already expected.

I struggle to explain that I have no interest in returning to the academe, except maybe to teach.

My need for constant stimulation coupled with poor memory (which is why I write everything down) made for poor exam scores. In a lot of ways, engineering was a good match for me: we had more problem solving-type exams rather than memorization or comprehension. I managed to get by because I had good study habits. But, I didn’t really learn much.

I hated lectures. I hated sitting in class. I hated having to wait for classmates to catch up when I already knew something. And I hated having to slow everyone else down when I didn’t understand something. I would take down notes, but the real studying always happened after I was home. I would read through books and do the chapter exercises. Again and again. If anything, my true lecturers were the textbook authors.

Being in the corporate world has also jaded my view on education. I have been impressed by the academic backgrounds of people I met through work, only to be unimpressed by their actual skills (on that note read: CS degree holders who are not able to code).

They would ask for training, reference materials, a go-to person… and I wanted to tell them,

You’ve got a brain, right? Put it to use.
Try to figure it out yourself first.
THEN ask.

It made me think how much the local tertiary education is spoon-feeding. With the lessons laid out for consumption. With the students conditioned to swallow whatever the teacher gave them as fact. As if the school owed it to the students to pass because of their exuberant school fees.

And because they did so well in school, these students have an expectation that the corporate world will praise them as well. That they’re already competent.

And dangit, the local workforce culture actually supports this thinking!

I was confounded when, during a recent big data conference, most of the speakers’ answer to the lack of analytics talent was the need to re-calibrate tertiary education. I mean yes, we have to do that anyway, but REALLY? That’s all you’ve got?

Have I been alone in dealing with this overeducated but underskilled workforce???

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