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Geometry & Other Things I Learned in School

I vividly remember the first time I consciously used geometry in the workplace.

I was in my mid-30's, working as the customer service manager for a small company that manufactured luxury bird cages, and our perches were designed to go from one side of the cage to the other. A customer called and wanted to know if she could get a perch that went from corner to corner instead. I was nonplussed for a moment, until it clicked... "Hey! Pythagorean Theorem!" Presto, Math-o, we found a perch that fit her needs!

Not only was the customer delighted, but I literally called my kids right after I hung up with the customer. "I used math in the real world!" (They were oddly unenthusiastic about it!)

Unfortunately, until recently that's been the highlight of my "practical application of stuff I learned in school", and that torqued me a great deal.

I coasted through my AS and BS degrees, leveraging decades of actual work experience (and actual work ethic - surely I'm not the only one with Group Project Horror Stories?) to finish my (nontraditional) undergrad education while managing a full time job (and full schedule as mom!). I learned that in traditional brick and mortar schools, throwing a temper tantrum can take the place of doing actual work, and that professors were all too often driven by keeping their ratings high enough to remain employed rather than imparting actual knowledge. I learned that "No Child Left Behind" left a legacy of teaching to the test that we will struggle as a society to recover from, if we ever do. I got jaded, but I got The Degree.

Somewhere along the way, I also rekindled my thirst for learning. I lucked into a great job where I work with Really Smart People who do Really Cool Stuff. I have no desire to be a biologist or analytical chemist, but I really enjoy being surrounded by them and soaking up new information organically as I support their work streams.

I knew there was no way I could manage a traditional Master's Degree program and work full time, and I had no interest in an MBA (no offense to my MBA peeps! It's just not my dance!), so I asked around. I knew I had friends who were pursuing graduate programs, and the same opportunity kept cracking the door open, so after (literally) the 27th person suggested the same thing, I decided to look into Western Governors University.


I know online education gets a bad rap, and in some cases, that's warranted. I have to tell you, though, the information I'm getting from my "Management & Leadership" program is already in play, and I haven't even graduated yet. Unlike the stale and outmoded information in my undergrad classes, these courses are filled with real-world issues to drive a well-designed, experiential application of tools and, more importantly, paradigms, that apply in my every-day work experience.

  • Ethics in Leadership: Check

  • Data-Driven Decision Making: Check

  • Strategic Change Management: Checkity-Check-Check!

And so on, and so on. The hits just keep coming! I feel energized when I dig into the coursework, because I know I'm going to find another nugget of inspiration or another tool or approach that I can take with me to the office and create that innovative, collaborative, supportive space where the Other Smart People I work with can do their best work. (I even had a group project that was productive and fun!).

WGU might not be a perfect fit for everyone, and to be fair, they do focus on specific career trajectories. Lucky for me, they had one that piqued my interest. If you are not a self-motivated, intrinsically-validated person, you'll have to work a little harder to stay on task. You do get a mentor to help guide you along the way, though! (And feel free to ask me about the nifty little tracking grid I came up with!). Oh, and when Life gets crazy, I can schedule my research and studying around things like high school graduations or surprise birthday parties. I'm in control! I like that!

If you're looking for an opportunity to really sink your teeth into some exciting and, more importantly, applicable, content, I suggest checking it out. These are my new favourite words...

"I was just reading about this, and I think..."

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