A Stepping Stone

On average, we spend 40 hours per week at work. The location of our work depends on the type of work we do. It supports our job functions and often reflects our personalities.

Beginning in June 2004 — just one month after I graduated from college and one month before I made my first rent payment — the location of my work was an old faculty building at the northwest end of a state university campus. My office was on the third floor of the six story building and had windows overlooking the bus station and the library. My desk was located in the same area as a conference table that tilted if you rested too much weight on its surface and two intern desks with smudged computer screens. Dusty lamps and fans were stored in the corner alongside stacks of university publications. A dry erase board hung from the wall, unused. The temperature outside had no relation to the temperature inside. In the winter, it was too warm, and in the summer, it was too cold. In both situations, I had to leave the window cracked just slightly. The overhead fluorescent lights were unflattering to both the graphics on my computer screen and the freckles on my skin. Despite the less-than-inspiring atmosphere, I had the tools I needed to support my job functions: dual computer monitors, an external hard drive and a scanner, a stash of CDs and DVDs, digital voice recorders and cameras, a tripod and lighting equipment, extra microphones, and a portable podcasting studio. I had a pile of notepads with scribbles from meetings and interviews and online tutorials. A row of photographs from my semester in Europe lined my bulletin board, along with a note from my Grandmother, and a phone list. My padded swivel desk chair was rejected by my colleague, but graciously accepted by me. Sometimes the space felt comfortable and cozy, especially when I set Yahoo radio to “cool as folk” and dove into a web project. During my three and a half years in the office, I led the redesign of two major websites. When immersed in those projects, minutes easily turned into hours. However, there were also many many days when the minute hand moved like cold molasses. Those days seemed even less bearable when both of my only two colleagues were out of the office. Unless I made an effort to interrupt the folks down the hall — and because I live alone — it was possible to go an entire day without opening my mouth. Which brings me back to my point about work reflecting one’s personality. This was not a perfect match.

However, it was an ideal stepping stone between college and career. Upon graduation, I had little direction. Would I be a writer? Or a public relations professional? Or would I return to school and become a teacher? If I hadn’t accepted the offer in 2004, I would not have developed an interest in technology and media. I would not be familiar with PhotoShop and JavaScript and sites like CSS Zen Garden and A List Apart. I would not appreciate clean code and style sheets, heck, I wouldn’t even know how to view web code. I would not have attended and participated in meetings with university administrators. I would not have interviewed scientists about global warming and hydrogen energy. I would not have traveled to conferences in Chicago and Seattle.

I matured in many ways during the the past few years. I polished obvious skills like organization and communication. But, more importantly, I learned to be confident in my ideas and opinions and to interact with diverse personalities. And those assets are applicable far beyond the workplace.

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