Saturday 24 December 2016

Great Expectations? A Christmas Carol? Miracle on 34th Street?

Nah I haven't really made it to Christmas Movie territory yet, but I thought it would be an interesting title to describe the last couple of weeks.

Well - the assignment was duly slogged through - and believe me it WAS a slog - It's been a very long time since I pulled study-nights as long as those ones.  And at the end there were some bits I couldn't answer, and some I simply ran out of time and energy to deal with.  In the end it was submitted with only an hour to the REAL LIFE deadline (Momma don't DO real-life deadlines normally, I've usually submitted to my own self-imposed deadline of the weekend before the real thing).

It was therefore submitted with no real expectations of grandeur, to be honest anything that achieved a pass would be awesome, given how much harder I'd had to work for this one.

So - you can imagine my surprise when:

  "On the twelfth of December, my tutor sent to me - an assignment with mark of 80" !!
    A miracle if ever I saw one!!

It therefore doesn't entirely rule out the possibility of a First - although I would need 90 and 85 respectively in the second assignment and end of course assessment to do it.

But to be honest I think the mental expectations are lowered, I will of course gladly take the First if such a thing comes my way, but this assignment and the stress I put into it have shown me that keeping the perspective is definitely the better option.  I will be overjoyed with a 2.1, the very fact that I have completed a degree whilst working and raising a family is a massive achievement in itself.

(It did also show me that I need to begin on the next assignments much earlier and pace them out more evenly - this module appears to require more time behind a PC than any of my others, but then I am trying to take on brand new learning at Level 3 and living up to it, so maybe that was to be expected).

Time for a Christmas break soon - although I am planning to get a little daytime study in throughout the time off, I think it will help the sanity if I can keep up without staying up till 11.30 to do so.

Sunday 27 November 2016

Chasing a finish

This weekend has been a slog, with most of it spent slaving away at the assignment.  Still not completed (or even close to it) by my own self-imposed deadline of the weekend before, and only 3 and a half more days in which to get there in time for the real life deadline.

I'm hoping that it all comes together at some point, and that progress becomes a little faster.  I certainly don't foresee a distinction on this one, maybe the pressure will be off a little if that isn't the case.  Maybe I might surprise myself in the end, but it's getting closer and closer to the deadline with slogging slews of slow progress, so I dunno?

Time to walk away for the night now, and back to it tomorrow night. (and maybe even lunchtime, an hour at lunchtime may be helpful when I am fresher in mind and body).

The Greater Washing Basket looks like a bomb dropped, I can see my 'week off' being spent putting it to rights again before Xmas.  Sigh - the joys of winter!

Monday 21 November 2016

Is Good Enough still GOOD ENOUGH?

That seems to  be the question that I've saddled myself with lately.  I think I am stressing more about the results of this final module than I have about any other part of my OU journey.  The fact that the result of this one will determine that final result seems to have endowed it with some extra significance, but that in itself seems to be creating a spiral of worry that I've not felt before.

Re-reading my old posts, whilst I have always strove to be the best that I can be, and would be disappointed with anything else from myself, I've never put pressure on myself to this extent.  I've found that those moments during this TMA when I can't see the wood for the trees (and you know I've had them in every module before too....) the small seeds of doubt creep in, that I've never allowed myself before.

I had a particularly bad evening's study last night and started to worry more, which of course never paved the way for coherent rational thoughts of any kind, let alone technical ones with data wrangling.

I HAVE to get my head back to the old thinking - all I actually need is 40% - that magic 85% would be awesome IF it happens, but I have to stop worrying about achieving the 85% as it's going to stop me from getting to the 85% with its stressful effects on my brain.

PS - much better evening's study tonight, found the answers I needed without too much fuss once I was less tired and stressed, hence feeling calm enough to put my feelings down in a blog at the end of the night.

All together now - "GOOD ENOUGH IS GOOD ENOUGH" - Aim for a good pass and be grateful if the Distinction finds me.  Lather, rinse, repeat....

Tuesday 15 November 2016

Procrastination, Panic and The Final Hope

It's pre - TMA time again - time for my body to shut down and decide that it's not really ready for all this study malarkey, and that there must be 25 million other things more important.

(Including apparently having a cold.....grrrr!)

I'm trying hard not to let the Procrastination Fairy in, trying to make small progress each day that I am capable of coherent thought after the rigours of travel.  But still I worry, is it enough?  Are those small concessions to 'self' and to downtime, too much, is there a brick wall with my name on it?

It's not helped by a particularly negative appearance on the Facebook page, which makes me worry about the final results, will I get the results I so desperately want?  People who were expecting high results barely scraped passes.  Think I need to speak to a tutor and get a little perspective on it all I guess, it may just be a few negative voices which are not reflective of the whole.  Meanwhile I think I need to remove myself from the Facebook group, as I'm not finding it helpful and it's proving to be a demotivator at the minute.

I think the fact that I can almost taste that First has me putting even more pressure on myself, the fact that this result Matters in the grand scheme of things.  Which is probably silly really, I'd still be immensely proud of myself with a 2.1, but the thoughts of a First are spurring me on like nothing else could do.

Saturday 5 November 2016

Making Lists

Well, you know it's "That Time" of year again (already??) - lists are being compiled to be used for inspiration for presents etc, who's getting what, what's been bought etc etc.

We were also talking about lists in our Weight Watchers meeting this week, namely the satisfaction of being able to tick off when something has been completed, and the sense of structure and order this can sometimes bring into the chaos.

Me - I alternate between loving and hating 'lists' - sometimes I can see them as just proof of how much is there as yet undone, sometimes they are the proof that I have 'done something' in amongst the chaos.  I think I like to focus on the achieved rather than the 'still to achieve', I think I struggle with the concept of a 'To Do List' as such as it never feels 'Done' - does that make any sense?

A virtual Kanban Board - completed items are dragged from one column to another to show progress

But one thing I found in last year's study, was that making and charting some kind of progress, whether that was on a physical piece of paper with ticks on it, or moving a virtual 'card' from one column to another of an online Kanban board, was something I did actually find motivational.

So a new online board has been set up for my studies, with checklists and progress and things to do.  Hopefully this can help pull me out of this temporary slump that I seem to have landed in.  I'd so love to finish this module with a distinction and pull out a First at the end of it all!

Feels like I have made some progress this week, getting slowly caught up with the practical work, although I feel that I'll not be sure how much I've taken in until I start properly working on the practical parts of the first assignment.

Got some really good feedback from managers at work in the 'real world' this week, which helps the confidence immensely.  I know 'it's all just practice' in reality but sometimes just helps to hear how things are going from an outside point of view.  Might expound further on that in Beyond the Basket, so keep an eye out over there as I'm trying hard to keep up weekly updates.....

Sunday 30 October 2016

See saws again

It's a funny old time of year I think.  The balance between daylight and evening is all disrupted, and with it my body clock and emotions.  One minute I feel much more balanced, the next I feel as though I am spinning around out of control.  Had a bit more technical week at work, and I think occasionally, if I don't finish on a high at the end of my part-time week, then it colours my perception of my abilities for the rest of the week.

Keeping up nicely with the reading for OU, but this week I feel as though the practical has gotten away from me a little, despite best efforts.  So I will need to play catch-up a little this coming week.  Trying not to get behind, as there's a lot of new practical stuff that I need to keep my head up with.

Of course the procrastination fairy is waving her wand and trying to point out all the piles of clothing to be put away, the unwritten blog posts, the piles of piles.  I try to banish her entirely, but at the minute I either study, and feel bad about the other stuff not done, or do the 'other stuff' and feel guilty for not studying.

Looking forward to a life that will be really my own after this module, I can foresee many months of couch-surfing before finally settling into any kind of new 'routine'  I have to admit to a certain weariness now, between the (self imposed) slightly longer working hours, the commute, and the studies, I am worn out and ready for a rest.  My brains are getting used at work, on the plus side this makes the impact of study less hard, however, there's a tiny bit of me inside that says 'I was only doing this to keep my brains active, and I can do that at work now...'

Meh - I dunno - just in one of those odd moods I guess - this, like all things, will pass...

Tuesday 18 October 2016

A little bit of Column A, a little bit of Column B

More about balance which seems to be a bit of a theme for me lately (well technically I guess a lot of this blog is about finding those balances...).

TM351 is, I believe, the most balanced module I have studied so far.  There seems to be a good mix between reading and practical work, I don't sit on a metro and wonder how to schedule in the massive piles of practical between everything else, nor do I have acres and acres of dry paperwork (albeit electronically supplied now..) to wade through before I can get to an interesting practical challenge.

And the practical challenges are complex enough to keep me interested, but simple enough that my brain doesn't explode whilst trying to figure them out.

I don't know if this feeling is 'for real' or whether it's simply a matter of perception, I do think it helps that my practical programming brain is switched on during the day, so that it is less troublesome to make those connections on an evening when I am tired.  I know that in the past I have found it hardest to 'switch my brain on' when it hasn't had to work very hard in the day job.

Looking forward to finding out how the balance works during this final module.

The Seesaws of Student Life

At the beginning of last post I was feeling super-balanced - by the end of the week, I was feeling super-stressed.

I think that such is the way of the distance-learning student.  Nothing in particular was the matter, just little bits of everything that combined to make my head hurt, occasionally the pile of responsibilities (of which the OU and its deadlines and such are just part) seems a little too much.

We had household repairs to be done, and I'm the type that will stress over such things till they are done and out of the way (and maybe even for a little while afterwards until they have proved that they are no longer something to worry about!).

 In addition there were things of a technical nature that I wished to replace, but I needed to wait for the outcome of the household repairs before committing funds.  Which left me second guessing my technical requirements until I was finally able to make the purchase, and thus a head filled with specifications and price comparisons and availability checks.

With all these out of the way, I settled down to a quite pleasant weekend - seesaw on the up again.  A day of working from home yesterday taught me that all that glitters is not necessarily gold....the 5 second commute was very pleasant, but the feeling of being separated from the full support of the senior developer was less so, there's only so much we can achieve without sight of each other's code, so the seesaw tilted a little back the other way again.

Happy to report that once back in the office, I did finally manage to iron out any issues from my day working at home.  I'm also remaining ahead of schedule with the OU work, something I would like to maintain if I can!

Sunday 9 October 2016

Ironing out.....

Well - here we are a week and a day into the module, and I have just finished Week 1 exercises and made a brief start on the first TMA.  So, only a day behind schedule.  We've already had our first tutorial this week too, which was helpful in ironing out expectations and establishing where to expend our efforts.

If I was to describe it with reference to the washing basket, I think it would actually be the nirvana of washing-basket-balance, not too full, not empty, it's odd, I've rarely felt this calm and organised this early in the proceedings, managing not to procrastinate too awfully!

The course software, whilst giving me some headaches with regard to my old PC, is quite user friendly, and is apparently to be used as a 'notebook' too for our assignments, which are completed within the notebook and then converted into a Word format for sending on to the tutor - whilst a little nervous that this process will work completely, I am loving the idea of not having to deal with my perceived failings in MS Word and chopping and changing fonts after copy and pasting multiple lines of code.  So hopefully a step into the new world.

I've also come up with some ideas of what I want to do as a 'pet project' from a software development point of view, something that will allow me to practice the skills whilst being of some use to me.  Just in the inception stages at present, playing around with existing software packages and working out how I would integrate them, but enough to give me thoughts that there will, indeed, be life after the OU, and that I will find focused learning still possible.

Enough rant now, more later, let's see how week 2 goes!

Thursday 29 September 2016

And ....we're off...

Finally the module practical materials are installed on a working computer (see page 2 ...), the course written materials downloaded to my Kindle for reading on the long daily commute, and I am ready to be started.  I've started to read the first chapter, and am taking in some of the recommended familiarisation exercises regarding the software we'll be using and the Python programming language.

The module officially begins on Saturday.

I have to admit, normally at this particular point in a module, just before I am due to begin, is when I suddenly feel the Procrastination Fairy beginning to stretch her filmy wings for a couple of weeks, but bizarrely, I remain enthusiastic.  I don't know precisely why, but I get the feeling it's because there is so much of this module that is absolutely brand new knowledge, and there's lots of practical exercises to be undertaken.  Maybe that practical bent is just what I have been waiting for to keep me enthused for the rest of the module?  I hope so!  (or maybe it's just because I am happy in the day-job and this feels like an extension of that?)

Anyway, not going to look a gift horse in the mouth...I will take the enthusiasm and run with it while it lasts, be it for 2 days, 2 weeks, 2 months, or the rest of the module.  It's a bit like housework and crafts, just go with it in earnest while the mojo is present, and get through it the rest of the time!

Soldier on, blogpeeps!

Saturday 24 September 2016

When the worm turns the other way

Now I have had many posts about how much my OU studies have helped in my career and how enlightening those moments are.

Until now I have not had the opportunity for things to work the other way round.  The software for the TM351 module (the last one!!) requires us to work with a 'Virtual Machine', kind of a 'computer within a computer' to simplify it a little.  I used these once before on a module and struggled a lot, however this time round we are using some of the software that I have been learning about at work!

Yes - the day job is helping with the studying!!  I can't tell you just how awesome that makes me feel, that I am learning such things out in the real world of work.  (I had very occasional 'moments' of that during training when practical learning would help to illustrate a theoretical concept, but this is the first time that practical stuff from work has bled into the 'night job').

Just starting to install software etc now, I have a little over a week left before the module begins, but I am keen to get installed and up and running in time for the start date.  (This despite the fact that my craft 'mojo' has come back just in time to make me feel less like study...)

Kind of raring to go now....just got to get through this installation stage first!

Tuesday 6 September 2016

That Back To School Feeling

From a washing basket all the uniform washed and ironed and ready to go?  Most importantly is everything labelled with names for when our kids strip off jumpers in the remaining heat of an Indian summer that happens for a couple of days before the frost hits?  Heaven forbid that they keep track of their own clothing!!

But the return to school brings with it a certain 'new beginnings' type of joy to it, where I am more inclined to make changes, or start new projects, or get stuff organised.  It used to be about having the right pens and exercise books, these days it's more about maybe planning a Christmas project, or making lists.  And of course for me this year, new job too, and all the extra new beginnings that brings with it.

It will also be the time where the new course materials will land on my doorstep, and bring once again that temptation for an early peek.  I'm looking forward to starting the next module, but I am just now starting to get my 'groove' back after the long period of full time work and travel, starting to feel like there is a life in work-life balance again.  A very little part of me will be jealously clinging on to that feeling and objecting to the new course as a way of interrupting the flow.  But then, I know, once it's all done next summer, I will feel like I miss the study.

I do think that I will still have plenty of learning opportunities at work, things that I can get my teeth into in a practical sense, both at home and at work.  (I will admit to maintaining a balance though, I don't do more than make sure I can understand what I did at work, I don't take 'work' home, I start the concepts at a much more basic level and recreate them for my understanding, it helps me to understand the grass roots of what I am learning without getting bogged down in the massiveness of the project itself).

Sunday 21 August 2016

More random musings....on busy laziness

I've felt the need more lately to be 'doing' again, although not quite fuelled by sufficient energy to be 'doing' a lot.

I call this 'Busy Laziness' - a need to fill the free time with a little more than casual tablet - gaming, but still wanting to maybe sit in front of a TV while I'm doing it.  So I am back little by little into my cross-stitching, enjoying a few projects simultaneously, one teeny and portable that I can do whilst talking to the BFF, and the others not so teeny, that require a bit more concentrating, these I am saving generally for when I am home and can give them my full concentration at the moment, till I am back in the swing and can be a little more automatic with such things.

Another little part of me is having such fun learning new stuff at work that I am keen to recreate it on a smaller more manageable level at home, so that I can get the principles into my head without worrying so much about the specifics of the implementation of the work project itself.  I also find this helps me cement my understanding of the software concepts.  I've discovered that my Raspberry Pi, a pressie from the youngest Big Little Brother, is ideal for testing out these concepts in a totally safe environment, not risking the breaking or corruption of a main pc, nor worrying about conflicts with work things on the Mac.

(I'm conscious that the last bit of update there is really more appropriate to Page 2, but I'm allowing it here as it's been a goodly part of my 'downtime' this weekend and is a slight step on from the lazy mooching in front of the TV).

Am I ready to get back into the OU swing?  Hmm sometimes yes, sometimes no, I have no shortage of things that I could be learning in the meantime (and will be learning in the meantime), but a little part of me is quite keen now to get into the final module and see how the rest of the journey ends.

Monday 8 August 2016

The Void Between

I'm in that funny place between modules again - with the added complication of readjusting to the 'New New Normal', my body and mind are not quite sure where exactly they want to be, I haven't quite the focus back for craft projects, but I'm bored with TV and the random games I'm playing on the tablet.

(Hence the random blog post about nothing really...)

Been into the domestic duties for the last week or so, hubby and I are getting a new mattress for our bed this week so I began a series of clearings-out to make for a less shameful reveal when the old mattress leaves the bed to make way for the new one.  I like the decluttering but I seem to be running out of energy at the halfway point - which is OK when you're dealing with a cupboard in the kitchen, but not so convenient when you've made a pile consistent with the 'Before' image on a 'Hoarders' episode on the top of the bed you need to sleep in that night!!

I know the new module will be upon me before I know it really, and I am determined to enjoy this downtime in whatever fashion my brain allows.  I think I've had just such a focused 5 months so far that I am feeling guilty over the seeming lack of focus at the minute.

(Crikey how am I going to feel at the end of the OU journey if I feel guilty during the 'guilt free' downtime period?)

I do keep updating page 2 occasionally, so don't forgetting to check it out to see how the Software Developer journey is going too...

Sunday 31 July 2016


Well - thankfully, the powers that be allowed me to enroll on the module I want to study, so tonight, I finally pushed the big button, achieving the milestone I've been waiting for, of signing up for my final OU module.

Feels like there has been less pomp and ceremony than that actually warrants in my head, because of the convoluted route I had to take to get there.

So, come 1st October, I will be embarking on the final module of my OU journey.  Going to be interesting to find out what this course is like, and interesting to know what life will be like following the end of the journey!

Meanwhile the Software Developer journey is just beginning, I'm both excited and nervous to be doing it for real now, having just left the training room behind we are off to another one next week, albeit a brief one-day course.  Seems like that journey will be one of constant learning, something that excites me intensely.  (mind you I will be honest and admit that I would have liked a couple of weeks of 'new normal' before tootling off to do more's been lovely having time in the house again, and time to beat my son at cards, read him stories and take him swimming.)

Wednesday 27 July 2016

No further journey paused as another begins

Well, I have had to submit an appeal form to try and get onto the module that I need to study last - along with supporting documentation, for which I've used the massive training plan from our software developer training.

It's SO frustrating not knowing whether I can take the final step that I want along this OU road, particularly whilst 'real life' is going so much better.  But I am trying valiantly not to worry until I need to.

So - On the other side of the pond...

This week marked the beginning of the real road for the Software Developer journey - I've attempted a bit of an update over there on page 2 as I've been quite lax in my blogging commitments lately.  The first couple of days appeared to include lots and lots of software installation, not all of which went smoothly for some unknown reason.  Day 3 now, and starting to feel like I am settling in, although so aware of how much I don't know in comparison to the people I am working with.  Trying to maintain that confidence level that I built during training, there's nothing I'm not equal to learning even if there's lots of stuff that's not even vaguely familiar yet, I try to remember how overwhelming the start of the web services training was at first and how much it made sense by the end of the project.

It always was going to be a bit of an 'eek' moment this week, but I feel comfortable that I am in the right place to be making this journey, surrounded by helpful colleagues who thankfully know lots more than me, but don't seem to be averse to explaining stuff along the way (or leaving me to ponder when I want to too....)

Saturday 16 July 2016

Grr weekends...

Decided today to go 'push the button' to sign up for the final module, only to be told 'nope you don't meet entry requirements', there are courses which it says 'you would normally have completed x', but then that's been the case most of the way along, not once have I been refused entry past the gates.

And of course student registration helpline is helpfully open only 9 till 5 on a Saturday and not at all on a Sunday.  Which leaves me to stew over the weekend and contemplate whether any of the alternatives would be suitable.  Very frustrating.

Thursday 7 July 2016

...and the start of the end

In the next couple of days the button will be pushed to sign up for the final OU module, can't quite believe that a big part of my life finally has an end in sight!  I can't quite imagine the structure of life without it, it's been integral to how my life has been arranged for so many years now. (you don't plan a holiday when you have an assignment due etc...and don't get me started on bathing without a text book!!)

It comes at a time where, already I can't imagine what the next part is going to bring, a whole new world is opening in front of me, one I hope that I'm equal to, and that I hope to love as much as the journeys that have brought me thus far.

I still find it hard to imagine what 'real life' as a developer will look like, the training room environment has a shelter to it that I won't have in the real world, but that being said, the real world will involve returning to part time work which I am looking forward to immensely.  (Although I can imagine that at least some of my time may be spent hunched over a computer in exactly the same way on those 'non working days') It will be nice to spend some time just 'being' again, time with Phillip that I have missed out on, and time with both house and family and friends that I look forward to rebuilding after these long months of focus.

I've been taking 'baby steps' back into the real world, building up the activities slowly as if I were recuperating from something, it's kind of hard getting the brain and the body back into any kind of normality.  My BFF and I have gotten back to 'craft night' and very slowly I have picked up simple craft projects as something to do that doesn't involve a screen.  Until the end of the course I have been quite reluctant to do much more than this, as we still required excessive thought during the day, so the brain cells and body have had the night off most of the time since finishing the OU course.  Quite honestly I feel like it may be a while before I can tackle anything of complexity while I adjust to yet another New Normal, as yet unknown in structure and pace.

And then another couple of months and a new course to fill the 'spare hours' - I'm hoping that some of the structure of studying that I've built over the last year can stay with me, I've had to be even more disciplined with study time and how it fits in around the working life, so if I can maintain that, I can hope to go out on a high with a final Distinction that might swing me a good grade for the 'Honours Bit' and make that graduation day stand out in my mind even more next year.  Eek I get a ceremony next year!!

The end of the start....

Well a double achievement today.  Finished up my end of course project, with a day to spare.  Very happy with the final result, it's not spectacular but has been a major learning experience and one that I think can be built upon while I'm out in the real world.

That makes tomorrow the very last day of our training - we come in next week to review our work with the trainer, but after that it's onwards and upwards to the real world.  Visited with the team again yesterday while we were in the building for a meeting, SO excited to be going back, and they seem genuinely enthusiastic to have us come back.

So what about number 2 achievement?  Well - can't quite believe it, but I only went and managed a Distinction for TM354 - yippee!!  The results weren't due out till next Friday but something in me made me go check tonight.  Really happy, and very proud, feels like even more of an achievement this time round as I combined it with a massive commute and a full time intensive training schedule.  It was worth all the sleepless nights and lunchtimes spent revising as the only time left in the day where I was functional enough to take in information.

So - one smiley lady here!!

Sunday 26 June 2016

..And the start of a new era

Sorry it's taken so long to get round to posting, it's been a bit of a fuzzy-mind kind of few weeks!

I now have a placement arranged for the 'real life' portion after the training is finished!!   A couple of us get to go back to the team where we spent our mid-term placement, it was such a great experience that I am very excited to go back.  I know that it's going to be a constant learning curve to keep up, but that's part of the fun for me, that we get to keep learning new and exciting things.

Last week we started our end-of-training project, we have to build a web portal with a front end, middle portion and database back end.  It's quite an intricate challenge, have made a good start but there's loads left to do in the next fortnight.  It's making it all feel very real all of a sudden though, the things we're being asked to understand and utilise are complex and yet I feel as though I am starting to put them into context.

It's going to be hard being split up from the team I think, we've become quite close-knit over the training period - on the other hand as I am now starting to dream about them at night, I think a bit of space may well be recommended!!

Soon I will also be embarking on the final OU sign-up, one more course between me and Honours!  I'm becoming fairly certain that I would be leaning towards practical learning once I have finished with the degrees for good, I think I like the idea of the Masters etc much more than I like the idea of the work involved.  So unless I'm actively encouraged in that direction by work, I believe that taking on new practical code challenges may be more in my future.

I need to update page 2 again soon, but I need to work out what day numbers we did what on....

Friday 17 June 2016

The end of an era...

It's our final day of learning today on the course, after that no more new knowledge to be crammed in, just a consolidation period with a mini 'project' to pull all our learning together.

It's been an amazing ride, and this is just the entrance to the amusement park, we have many new exciting things ahead.  Sometimes I still can't quite believe it has all been real, feels like I will wake up and return to real life.  But other times it feels like I've never been anywhere else, so much so that I am dreaming about my colleagues and my work at night!!

Yesterday I found out where my 'proper' placement will be.  More about that in the next post....

Saturday 4 June 2016

Survived to tell the tale

Phew, exam over and done with, and for a couple of months my time is my own again!  Well....what little time is left over after training.. But you know what I mean!
The exam was OK, feel like I did more than enough to pass, don't feel like there was a distinction in there, but still hoping that I could surprise myself!!
Feel like I will really enjoy the rest this time round.. What is it with life, we always think we were busy, and then a new regime or temporary change in routines comes along to show us just how much free time we still did have?
Starting to really feel the ache of being full time at the moment, the little things become big things because they are taking up what's left of an already depleted pot of free time.  Stupid things like leftovers in the fridge become a battle of wills as to which exhausted partner will deal with them first.  Problem is, we're even too tired to fight about this stuff, so it just sits there instead.  (I hasten to add that I have lost the battle of wills and am off to clear out the fridge in a moment, before reverting to standard 'collapse on couch' post-exam mode.......I can't take the sight of a fortnight's worth of expired sandwich filler any longer!!)
And only about 6 more weeks of full time work to go I think, which is a very nice thought.

Wednesday 1 June 2016

T minus 2..and counting!

Yeesh - 2 days left till the exam!  I've prepared probably as much as I can manage in the limited time left to me while I'm doing the Software Developer training.  Still doesn't feel like enough practice, but what can you do?  I have tonight and tomorrow when I shall look at a couple of past papers, the morning of the exam on Friday will be spent on the couch staring at the TV.

I've completed a full set of revision notes from my course materials, that will be my commute-reading on Friday on the way to the exam.  I'm not a 'crammer', if I don't know it by now then I will never know it.

I'll just be so glad to get it over and done with, it will be nice to just have my brain full of the 'day job' and maybe even a teeny little time left for hobbies outside of a computer!  Looking forward to the summer 'break' from study (it's in quotes because I think this summer may well be full of work-related learning, but at least it will be to my own deadlines).

And soon I will need to push that final button, to sign up for the database module, the final sign-up of the degree.  Possibly my last OU sign up ever, unless I decide to take the plunge into Masters territory.  (still only a tiny seedling of thought, and to be honest I may be better spending some money on more practical learning that I can take into the day-job too, not sure about that one and not even pressuring myself to think about it as a serious decision yet).

OK blogpeeps, see you on the other side (I doubt I will get back here before then....)

Thursday 26 May 2016

The Good the Bad and the Java

Whew it's been a hard couple of weeks on the training journey.  For me it's very familiar territory and a reminder of what I learned on Java, for most of the class it's been an uphill challenge.  Slowly the confidence in the room is growing, but the general feeling is that this part of the course was way too short for the amount of learning that we needed to cram in.

For me it's involved lots of the stuff I like best, troubleshooting code and figuring out why things aren't working in the way that they should.

(this afternoon was hard even for me though with problems installing software - why do things still have to be installed from 'command lines' in this day and age?  (me, I'm a button-clicky girl, I like buttons that do stuff, not typing in lines of instructions only to realise you got a minus sign in the wrong place or some such...).

Personally I feel like my own confidence is shooting up, both in the fact that I can trust my own knowledge and understanding of the code, but also in that I am competent enough to share that understanding with my peers, in maybe a more understandable way than the trainers at times.

One week and a day to the OU exam, and whilst I am not over-confident, I do feel like my revision is on good track despite the lack of time to devote to it.  Maybe it's being so happy in the day job, that the exam scares me a bit less?  Who knows, but I'll take it anyway!!

Friday 13 May 2016

Shifting my own Goalposts?

Almost ready to sign up for that final course now so of course my brain is doing the 'what next'.  My own chance remark in yesterday's post has planted some (albeit it very small) seeds of a possible desire for postgraduate study.  It appears that student loans may be available for post-graduate study too, and as I don't have a current post-grad qualification then I may be eligible.

Is it for me?  Too early to tell, and too early in the software development journey to make that judgement based on an unknown amount of stuff I would need to take in during the day.  But food for thought at least, not something I thought I'd even be thinking about...

Thursday 12 May 2016

Encouraging Results

TMA results are in for TMA3, 87%!!  Well chuffed with that, considering I had both assignment and project for work happening at the same time.

It gives me a level of hope for the exam, that I have actually retained some information.  I just need 40%, I keep telling myself, but I know that I want more than that, I don't want standards to slip this close to the end goalposts.

Soon I will have to push the button and sign up for my final ever OU module!  How freaky is that man?  (now if I can just get work to sponsor a Masters....definitely IT related job now though...).

Having a brief celebration inside my head before picking up the books again on the commute home.

Tuesday 10 May 2016

Eek its almost upon us...

A quick post at lunchtime...the only presentations remaining now are from people on the same team as I went to, so it's going to be interesting to see the variety of different thoughts on the experience.

Am I nervous...erm yeah but not as bad as I expected, I've gone into OU exams with much more terror than this, so I can take that as a positive anyway.

Tomorrow back to some learning, not that we really stopped learning for the time of our placements, but back to the formality of structured days etc.  A few days on UNIX/LINUX this week and then into the main course of Java which actually lasts around 3 weeks, I think.

By the time Java is done with, I will at least have been through the exam and come out the other side, my 'free' time will be my own again to fill up with the delights of what I've learned during the day!

Monday 9 May 2016

Back to the future

Nah, not the 80s movie so much talked about last year.

Back to the revision morning and night, for another few weeks, and back to the training room today, to the remains of our training which will shape so much of the future for all of us.

Today and tomorrow we get to do 'show and tell' presentations about what our experiences were like out in the real world.  I don't think that anyone else's was anything like as involved as ours, and to have come out of it with a product that could add real value to real people is actually quite an amazing feeling.  Typically I have been allocated the final presentation slot tomorrow afternoon.  On the plus side this gives me the chance to listen to everyone else and amend my notes last-minute.  On the minus side it gives me SO much more time to fret about getting it all wrong!!  I don't feel too bad at the moment, this may have been helped by the 2 glasses of wine sitting in the sun at lunchtime though!!  (First day back, who can refuse pizza and vino...?)

I think I am slowly coming to the conclusion though that 'suck it up and get on with it' is the new mantra for stuff in my life, actually - no - that sounds negative -

'Feel the Fear  - and do it anyway'

is much more like it.  I'd once never have been comfortable putting myself so much out there, but by doing just that I have opened doors for myself (and maybe even for others?) and found myself on a journey long dreamed of.  So maybe the presentation will be not so scary after all, and I do look forward to sharing the product we've been working on, I'm very proud of what we achieved in the timescale available.

And a little part of me thinks that graduating last year has been partly the catalyst for that internal change, I've been feeling it coming for a few years, with more 'management thoughts' creeping into my head, but I think it may have been the final proof that it was all real, that I haven't just imagined all this, that there is some knowledge retained in there somewhere (despite my best efforts to push it out with new stuff...) and that finally someone can make use of that knowledge in a constructive way.

(wow I am full of random introspective thoughts lately aren't I?)

Sunday 8 May 2016

When enough isn't enough

Having one of those times at the minute with regards to revision, or the lack of time thereof.   My usual strategies for revising rely on those extra two days at the end of the week to allow a balance where I can walk away for a few hours as part of the schedule.

My last week has involved very long days at the office - loved every minute of the work we've been doing out on project placement, but it doesn't fit one well for turning on the study brain.  I've tried to do as much as possible on the commute, but there have been a couple of days where my body has just entirely objected, with the result that I stare out the window of the metro vacantly.

Having to reassess my revision style this year, therefore, I am now looking immediately through past papers to try and find the common ground, then I can concentrate more on those areas covered on the exam papers rather than try to wade through the entire set of textbooks.

I still need to keep remembering to strive for the 40% and work up to the rest.  I don't feel as though failure would be imminent, I just can't see how I can fit everything in that I need to without making myself ill in the process.  This week is usually still part of my 'oh my word I don't even want to be anywhere near my studies' period following the TMA, add in the extra pressure of the extra time at work and it's not surprising my body objects so strongly!!

OK that was a very rambly post, maybe it gives you some idea of where my head is anyway?  More some other time when I can actually think straight...

Monday 2 May 2016

Procrastination Over...almost...

Well, the bell has almost rung to signal the end of the Bank Holiday weekend, which can only mean one thing as far as the OU journey is concerned - yes tonight is the start of revision planning.  With less time available to be taking notes etc, the commute is going to need to  be utilised to its fullest, taking on as much information as I can manage and then working on notes and examples on the evenings.

I'm as stressed as I ever am about revision time, there's never enough time left to try and cram in everything that I feel I need to know for the exam, but, to be honest, the 'Day Job' is kind of taking over at present, so I'm hoping that extra focus will actually help me to keep my 'study brain' turned on and not make me feel like I've no escape whatsoever from the studies.

It also occurs to me that, as the Database module doesn't have an examination, instead relying on an 'End of Module Assessment', this will be my last OU exam before I graduate fully with honours next summer.

People ask how I'm managing it all, I'm not entirely sure that I ever have 'managed it', just feels like a constant state of 'muddle through' with regards to time available etc.  But I am proud of myself for both my OU journey, and the new Software Development journey that it's given me the opportunity to be part of.

I get the feeling that the Software Developer job will be one which requires an almost life-long commitment to ongoing learning, the technologies change and adapt so often that there's a multitude of things to learn about on a daily basis, not just the software to program in but the other packages and tools that support the process.  So I don't think I'll ever stop learning, not till I'm old(er) and grey(er) anyway, when I might have a couple of days off and learn to hang-glide!!

Saturday 23 April 2016

Pre-revision time!!

Well, the assignment is packed up and on it's merry digital way.  So now it's onward, ever onward towards the exam.  But first I am allowing myself a week of 'just play', to take in all the learning on our project placements, get that straight in my head and to be allowed just to pick up a computer and get creative, playing nice with coding rather than being on a computer 'because I have to be'.

Hopefully that sounded less waffly on the virtual 'paper' than it did in my head cos my brains are addled I think.

There's been SO much information to take in this week, around how the Agile development environment is structured, how a real life project would work, and even new bits of languages creeping in there to mix it all up.

This time next week - start the revision plan and work out how all of that will fit together with my life once I get back into the training room.  Basically losing 2 days of 'daytime revision' a week to our training.  I think I need to keep reiterating the old mantra - 'good enough is good enough...'.  I just need to pass, how good a pass is almost irrelevant (only a matter of pride really).  As long as I feel as though I could get a good 40% out of the exam, then I will be happy.  I don't usually lose too many marks on the assignments so I feel fairly confident in that, despite the lack of enthusiasm and energy I've had to put towards this one.

And then.....eek!!  Almost time to sign up for the final course, the final piece of the BSc Hons jigsaw.  And beyond that - a graduation ceremony next October!!

OK enough waffle, I'll leave you to read any extras over on page 2!!

Saturday 16 April 2016

And today I get to play...

Only after a lot of hard work catching up on my assignment.  But today I got to play nice with bloggy stuff, and to fit in an extra bit of 'work' learning something called AngularJS.

Experimented with layouts of images and background stuff etc on my blog here, the purple is very much an experimental thing, not entirely convinced it will stay the course, that and the changes to layout.  But as a trainee IT Ninja Monkey, I need to be brave and experimental, and the purple was changed by directly accessing the source code of the page rather than clicking on pretty buttons, so it fits the criteria of 'learning' too.

Hoping that the real life IT stuff still allows a little 'playtime' as I think I cram in more learning when I play than I do sitting in a classroom situation.

Trying hard not to think yet about the OU exam which looms ever closer, or how I will need to structure life to fit in revision after the assignment is over.  I'm enjoying the real life stuff so much that it's getting increasingly hard to focus on the theory, however much I know it will benefit my journey in the long run.

Monday 11 April 2016

Over the hills

..and far away!

Yes we have climbed to the top of Mount Project, and come back safely down the other side.  Feeling a good buzz at having finished it, combined with a hefty dose of 'argh now I have to get on with the OU again'.  OU assignment is due in 16 days, it's the final TMA so no extensions allowed, and I think I'm behind on not just the assignment but the work to catch up to it.

So it will be the old 'read what I need for the assignment and come back to the rest' workaround, I need to make a good plan for what to do and when to do it, make promises to myself about both achievements and rewards - and then stick to the plans and promises.

Next 'hill' to climb - we are shortly off to the big wide world of live development work.  How much we will get our hands on, how much of an Agile environment it will actually be, what do we put together for our 'show and tell' presentation afterwards?  There are a few of us going to the same team, so I know that I won't be alone, which is nice.  It's another of those 'unknowns' I guess - with as many questions as we have answers at the moment.  Looking forward to putting on my climbing boots and navigating the hill though, if it's been as much fun as the developer journey so far, it will be worth the climb....

Thursday 7 April 2016

A matter of timing

Feeling very arghy today - all my deadlines are approaching all at the same time and I am tired tired tired.

OU pre-assignment panic meeting up with Software Developer project week panic meeting up with 'why the heck do we have to complete annual reviews anyway they're c**p', how do I fit it all in and still even manage personal hygiene let alone a 'life'

Don't get me wrong I am loving every moment of the developer journey but it all feels like too many deadlines together today.  And meanwhile my friends and family get what's left of me....which to be honest isn't a lot at the minute.  (So I feel guilty about that too...go figure...).

Right that was a quicky to keep my blog up to date - go check out page 2 for an albeit brief update on the developer journey so far...

Sunday 20 March 2016

A little more balance perhaps

I think I've managed to find a little more balance over the weekend - yesterday I didn't actually do much coding at all, although I did do a little work to set up a webserver on my PC so that I can view and share my work between devices, particularly in order to see whether my designs have been responsive enough to cope with mobile devices.  No coding today either, just lots of blogging to catch up with the posting I didn't do last week - check out Beyond the Basket for more insight into the crazy world of the trainee Software Developer.

Yes - officially I am a 'trainee software developer', in conversation with someone at the folk club someone asked what do I do in the civil service, and I could say straight off "I'm a trainee software developer".  Eek - it's really real - little parts of me still can't quite believe it, even though my body is aching from all the extra time spent in front of a keyboard, and my brain reeling from two extra days in the week having to get up early.

Dunno if I'm going to suddenly have a realisation that things are harder than I expected, or whether my OU studies have just prepared me really well for the journey I'm on now.  Up to now I feel confident in my coding and my knowledge - yes sometimes I have those moments in 'practice' where I expect too much of myself, but in reality those moments are things that nobody else on the course would be expected to know at this stage, knowing how to put the different pieces of technology together and get them to talk to each other.  We've really been given just an introduction to most of the stuff that we'll be using in the 'real world', so I think most of the pressure I'm feeling is from within to be honest.

Looking forward to a couple of weeks 'revision' time, chance to do a bit of OU assignment, and take a bit of downtime too.  As well as no doubt cramming lots of coding work in.

Monday 14 March 2016

Trying to balance - the tightrope of study-study-life

Tightrope walker
It's a tightrope....

Having a few of those moments where I'm feeling out of whack lately, new working pattern and my body don't entirely agree with one another just yet.

I'm loving the training, and I'm loving the chance to put into practice the skills I've learned in my OU journey, but with that comes a balance to be found which I've not yet quite managed.

So far the days pretty much look thus:

  • Study OU on the train on the way to the office.
  • Spend all morning training
  • Spend lunchtime playing with the stuff we just studied or the 'play code' I've worked on the night before
  • Spend all afternoon training
  • Study OU on the train on the way home (nah who am I kidding, listen to an audiobook because the train is too busy to sit down)
  • Get home, eat, wash up
  • Upstairs in the study to 'play' with the things I've learned during the day.
  • 9pm TV time with hubby
  • 11pm bed.
And so on for 5 days in the week - the weekend looks pretty similar with lots of 'playing'.  Somewhere in the mix of all that I fit in church etc.

I'd like to find a balance between the desire to 'play' with code, and the need to study and complete assignment work etc for the OU.  Oh and somewhere in all that I would like to breathe and wash my hair!!

I expected that it was going to be a tricky balance to achieve, and I suspect that I may only master it after another couple of months when the OU exam has been and gone (eek where do I fit in revising for that?)

Monday 7 March 2016

Thank you Open University!

Had a real booster of a day today - training was intense as ever,  but some of the concepts covered called once again on the knowledge I've gained from the OU courses.  We covered core programming concepts such as loops and conditional statements, and installed software and moved files etc from the Terminal.

Given how nervous I've been around the 'people skills', it was nice to feel like I had learned something besides the theory from my study years.  And at the end of the day (at home) I managed to solve a complex issue that had been bugging me in some of my 'play code', and which was a step or two further on from where we're currently studying in the 'day job'.

So thank you OU for managing to plant all these seeds of programming in my brain, somewhere there is a magic beanstalk beginning to germinate!

More days like today please!!

Sunday 6 March 2016

Survive - and thrive?

Well - I survived the week intact after my momentary lapse of confidence in my 'people skills'.  I've come to the conclusion that I just need to practice my interactions, and be as proactive in meetings as I can be.  I guess it will come with time and practice.

Feeling really good about the coding side of things, I've practiced a fair bit over the weekend, and am working out ideas for some simple projects just to get myself into the hang of practical coding rather than reading about the theory again.

I've started with just a very simple web page, on which I am practicing skills of structure and layout to see how a page should look.

I also have a more complex idea in my head which I might work on as I go along.....a very simple (in look not programming skills) program to generate word search puzzles for my little boy to complete.   Need to think about the steps involved and get some idea of the structure.

It's exciting to be looking forward to 'work' again tomorrow - I use inverted commas only because it's so much fun - we do work very hard, the days are very structured and long (as are the 5 day weeks - crikey!!).  But it feels like something challenging and exciting and well, exactly what I wanted it to be!

The Greater Washing Basket looks a tad chaotic, not quite worked out how to structure my weekends to cope with the stuff I haven't done on a Thursday or Friday yet.  I'll keep you posted on 'developments' either here or on Page 2.

Thursday 3 March 2016

Realisations of a developing developer

Well, yesterday was day 5 of training, and it's led to lots of different ways of thinking about stuff.

I'm feeling like the biggest challenge for me is not going to be the coding itself, but the confidence part, the confidence to speak up in daily 'stand up meetings', the confidence to know when to speak and when to stop speaking, and the confidence not to replay every single conversation over and over and analyse what I said and what I thought people thought about it...

(slept badly last night as I was analysing in my head what to talk about in this morning's meeting) - so I need to get it out there in the meeting and talk about it.  It's something I'm determined to work on, and I'm starting to feel that it's much more important than I realised!

Tuesday 1 March 2016

Finally Beyond the Basket!

Well, finally - Page 2 has a purpose - head over there to check it out!  I've put a link below to take you there.

It's amazing to finally be on the journey I've been waiting so long for.  I think we all still have unanswered questions, but feeling loads better about the stuff that I have had answers to - it's unlikely that I will have to cancel my exam, for example.

Today is our first day where we've actually coded anything, I think we all left work on a buzz tonight as a result.  Finish time is not as scarily late as we were led to believe it would be, which means that we got home at a sustainable time, boding well for actually having a life outside of training.

The training facilities are not the greatest, with 13 people crammed around a conference table on laptops - but we're civil servants, we can deal with a lot, and I think are willing to overlook a bit of physical discomfort for something which is such a massively worthwhile career move.

My OU assignment was completed well within my self-imposed deadline, I've allowed myself a few days off the studies whilst I take in the beginnings of new learning. After that it's back to the proverbial grindstone, with another assignment due in a couple of months there's not really much let-up time.

Beyond the Basket

Saturday 20 February 2016

One to go...

Well thankfully having stuck to the plan of attack that worked for me last assignment, TMA02 is all completed and submitted, and I have survived to tell the tale.  The washing basket is under control, we seem to be working well as a team in that area with no sock left behind..

Which leaves just the final TMA in this course, and of course the exam (watch this space on the exam and whether I can actually attend...).

And then again just one to go more module between me and BSc Open (Hons).  Having perused the available courses (there are now an additional 3 to choose from), I'm still quite settled at present at the idea of TM351 - Data Management & Analysis, database work being the one major gap in my technical know-how.  Mind you, a few months down the line when I have been training in the 'real world', that gap may not be so wide, and another option may creep in.

If I'm honest, I also like the thought that TM351 has an End of Module Assessment rather than an exam at the end of it all - so when it's done, it's done.

And then when it's done, what then?  Well for that I have to admit I don't know - a lot will depend on how the software developer training goes, whether I am then let out in the world as a trained IT Ninja Monkey.  I guess if I have truly earned my banana, then I will be learning every day at work, from what I gather the life of a software developer is a constantly changing one, that needs a lifelong commitment to learning.

My OU journey has certainly been at least partially responsible for the new challenges I'm about to embark on, and for that I will be eternally both grateful to the OU and proud of myself for having the guts to stick with it.  Bring it on....and I'll let you know more in the next couple of weeks!!

Monday 15 February 2016

Frazzles and 'pressing pause' and 'pressing fast forward' not the good old bacon-flavoured potato snack:

Image result for frazzles

Sorry, where was I?

Oh yes in the midst of everything, and feeling a tad frazzled by it all.

I have a few more 'knowns' to fill out the information, I now have confirmed dates and locations for training.  So why all the frazzling?

Image result for pause buttonWell one of the most intensive periods of the training happens to be right around the date of my OU exam for this course, with a complete ban on 'time off' during classroom periods.  So I am faced once again with the possibility of having to 'press pause' on my studies - known as 'Assessment Banking' - this is a way to save your progress so far in the module and then complete the rest in the next presentation of the course.  I'm not quite prepared to ask that question before the training begins, so it's a kind of 'find out the details and the how to do it' beforehand, with great hopes that I don't actually have to use the facility.

I've come so far and am SO close to the end of the OU journey that it's massively frustrating if I can't sit the exam, but on the other hand the Software Developer opportunity is the chance that I've been journeying towards, so I know it would be the right move.

My weight-loss journey also needs adjustments to fit in with the new plans, not a major thing in the grand scheme of things but another thing to have to 'organise'.

Image result for fast forward button

And finally...It all begins at the end of next week - so of course I would like to just be able to press 'fast-forward' on life and get there quickly, so I can iron out the remaining unknowns and just be on that Brand New Journey.

Speaking of which - therein (finally) may lie the potential contents of 'Page 2' - I think the OU/Washing Basket journey and the Software journey, inextricably linked though they may be, could warrant separate spaces in my blog?