Reading is Fundamental

Some of my earliest memories involve learning to read. Cuddled on the couch next to my mother, she reading Dr. Seuss, me following along, my fingers under the words on the page repeating each word and memorizing the patterns of the letters that made up those words, with a bowl of Jiffy Pop next to us to snack on as I learned. There are other memories of times snuggled in my grandfather’s lap as we sat in his old black recliner, more Dr Seuss, “Inside, Outside, Upside Down” the rumbly baritone of his voice, the smell of the peppermints he always kept in his pocket for 3 year old me, the low drone of the television in the background… a hockey game, or wrestling match. I still associate those smells and sounds, with reading and learning. Throughout the years, between then and now, I have always been an avid reader, but those memories are the key. By the age of 4, I was the one reading to them and by the time I started kindergarten I had stacks and piles of books in my room, and read everything I could set my eyes on. Reading seemed so important, though I still didn’t know why. The more I read, the more I learned, the easier learning became. The reading experiences of my childhood were significant because they taught me to think things through, helped me learn to look at problems from many angles when seeking a solution and helped me to achieve a position in the world of IT management.

In my adult years, this love of learning, brought on by reading, helped me to establish myself firmly into the world of management. I attribute my rise through the ranks to my ability to think things through, clearly and effectively choosing the right path to reach the desired end, and solve problems as they arise along the way, skills I learned as I learned to read and write all those years ago.

I learned critical thinking skills, as I sought ways to help my favorite characters out of one difficult situation after another. I learned to expand my imagination, to ask “What if..?”, and to follow through on those questions to determine likely outcomes.

I learned to assess the needs of others, to ask the right questions, and turn the answers into actionable decisions as I pondered the lives of Tarzan, John Carter, and Carson Napier as I wandered the worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs. I’m a Support Center Manager, one of the areas I am responsible for is the Helpdesk. People frequently call for assistance, and while they think they know what they need, they really only know what end result they want. For instance, I recently was approached by a senior partner who insisted he needed a laptop for travel that was equipped with certain software, and entire databases of data he would need for a trial. By asking the right questions, determining what he was attempting to do, and showing him how to use a web-based interface to access our network I was able to convince him that while he needed the laptop, he did not need all of the extra programs and data installed, making the laptop more efficient, and preventing loss of data if it were stolen.

I learned to look for clues, and pay attention to details as I followed the adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Hardy Boys and The Three Investigators. Just last week I was, by pure chance, included in a conversation concerning a problem with our wireless network in the St Louis office. While not normally something I would be involved with, the topic came up while in a meeting with several other managers. I asked how long this had been going on. “About 2 weeks or so.” was the answer. I thought back, wondering what had changed two weeks prior. Attention to detail saved me, and I pointed out that the new clinic on our floor had opened at that time. Something that should have made no difference, yet it was the only change, the only new detail in our environment. Two hours later I received an email saying that the clinic had been tied into the wrong network, and was using the lion’s share of the bandwidth that was meant for our wireless system. Thank you, Sir Doyle and Mr. Hitchcock, for teaching me to pay attention to the small things.

I learned to never give up, to follow through and achieve my goals following Melville’s characters in Moby Dick. This dogged insistence that there must be a way to achieve my goals has led me to the path I am on now. Learning for the sake of learning, learning, to be able to move forward, to have more answers at my fingertips when presented with new problems to solve. Higher Education is now my White Whale.

As I said previously, the reading experiences of my childhood were significant because they taught me to think things through, helped me learn to look at problems from many angles when seeking a solution and helped me to achieve a position in the world of IT management. In the end, it was reading that taught me the skills I needed to succeed in my chosen career. By following the lives of the characters in my books I learned to think, to assess the situation and look for critical clues. I learned to ask the questions that would lead to the answers I needed and to never give up, because there must always be a solution to the problem if you just look hard enough.


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