What I've Been Learning

A few weeks ago I came across this article, advocating the benefits of being a lifelong learner for both the learner and companies. One takeaway was that hiring managers should ask how candidates schedule and document their learning, which means that we, as potential candidates should be able to show how we do so.

Reading this made me think-I do spend a lot of time learning, but I'm definitely not the best at talking or sharing it. So I thought "Why not change that?"

So folks, my name's Dom Patmore. This year, I've started my masters in applied mathematics.

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*Photo by Yogendra Singh on Unsplash
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When I mention me, studying, and mathematics in the same sentence, I normally get two responses-one is "I hate math." The other is "I really hate mathematics." I get it-I've had moments when solutions pour out of my pen like water to the tune of the universe. I also have kept a past mathematics exam which, if required to solve at gunpoint, would make for a very messy end.

I earned my first degree in mathematics about 7 years ago which left me feeling "Is that it?" However, I had just spent 5 years part-time studying and I was looking forward to having evenings again.

As time went on, I started to miss things. Being able to partial differentiate. Simple Modelling. Laplace Transforms. Group theory-nope, still don't miss that. Like the melody of a song you used to know, I felt this longing to study more, but for what reason? The Venn diagram between mathematics and web development is two circles that never overlap.

I started exploring programs, including one in Germany-you know, back when that was a possibility. Trouble is,a postgraduate program is a great way to waste a lot of money if you're not sure why you're doing it.

However...

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*Photo by Edwin Hooper on Unsplash
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Thanks to a tiny virus, I found myself with plenty of time, and a real need to keep my mind busy. A fellow lifter suggested the OU, which I thought was a good compromise-I could see if these mathematical feelings were real at a lower price point, and I could direct my feelings of existential crises into equations.

Five months and a 24-hour exam later,here's some of my takeaways:

  1. Math (and STEM for that matter) is hard. You're not stupid

    Remember, I hadn't studied math for 7 years. You know this because I've told you. However, I forgot to tell myself, and there would be many times I'd get down on myself because I wasn't getting the grades I expected or instantly recalling trig functions from high school. For my own sanity I just dropped that baggage and accepted that what I taking all the mathematical knowledge I've accumulated to this point and building upon. That's no mean feat and as it's my first time doing it, I'll make mistakes. Challenging, but not impossible. Having healthier study habits kept things in perspective.

  2. I enjoy studying solo, and I really enjoy talking out ideas

    Turns out I thrive on independent studying. However, not being able to reflect back on what I thought I learned made things difficult, and as it turns out, my cats do not care about calculus.

  3. Still don't know what I want to do with mathematics.

    Assuming I've passed my exam, I'll continue with another module. The strange thing is other than a desire to learn more, I don't have a direction. Is it worth the time and energy? I don't know. Do I have any better ideas? Not really, especially when we're still battling variants.

  4. Studying out of passion vs. profit

    When the goal was employment or to get a promotion, education has a clear focus. It also means there's less opportunity to explore what resonates with you. What I'm feeling is an internal drive-I'm not studying for work, it's for mastery; any bonuses is secondary. I recognise there's a privilege in that and I'm also wondering if education to go back from commodity to curiosity.

So over to you. What have you been learning, and more importantly, what has it taught you about you?