My family and I recently relocated for my husband’s new job. On my commute to work I pass under a well-known bridge in Houston that is covered in graffiti art. The artwork that resonates most with me reads, “Be Someone.” I view it as an everyday reminder to create a new goal for myself between my home and the office. A few of the daily goals I’ve set for myself have been to:
I’ve been juggling family, work and school for the last 5 years. I’m grateful to have 3 great kids and a husband who have supported me in my goal to return to college for my bachelor’s degree. Yes, you heard right, my bachelor’s degree.
When I was 18 and graduating high school. I didn’t have a lot of motivation to go to college. I was ready to be an adult, start living on my own and I felt that I could get to where I wanted to go without going to college. My parents didn’t go to college and they seemed just fine so why did I need to go? Those were my exact thoughts back then. Thus, I went straight into the work force in the oil and gas industry.
I worked hard to differentiate myself by taking on tasks that no one else wanted to do. I put in extra hours to make sure everything stayed on schedule. I trained others that were in the same position as I was on other projects to make sure the company was successful. I took every opportunity to attend training events to improve my skill set.
Eventually, I met with my department chief and showed him a job analysis to prove that my position had evolved beyond my job description and my current salary. This helped me progress not only to a different title but also to another pay grade (without a college degree.) During that time, I worked alongside degreed individuals and made the same amount if not more money than they did. Although this gave me a sense of accomplishment, I knew in my heart that it wasn’t sustainable.
When the oil and gas industry is good, it’s great! When it’s bad, it’s terrible. When a downturn hits, it doesn’t matter who you are, there is always a chance that you will be laid off. That is exactly what happened to me in March of 2016.
At this point, I had to really dig deep to figure out what I wanted my future to look like. After doing a little research I found this study on the income gap between young college and high school graduates. On average, those with only a high school diploma with the same amount of experience will make $17-24$k less and have a higher unemployment rate than those with a bachelor’s degree. The issue of whether it should matter if a qualified candidate does or does not have a college degree is debatable. However, there is no black and white answer and it often depends on the company and the industry.
What I really wanted for myself and my family was a management role and a competitive salary that was sustainable. After much reflection, I knew that I was about as far up the ladder as I could go without a college degree. My chances of landing a management role with a new company were slim to none.
We all know there are several variations of a glass ceiling, some we can control and some we can’t. At this point in my life, I did have some control. I researched a ton of online programs because I was looking for a curriculum that would be immediately applicable to the oil & gas industry. Realistically, I knew I couldn’t commit to an in-person program because I was juggling a full-time job and raising a family.
In the fall of 2013, I started pursuing my BS in Industrial Engineering Technology through an ABET accredited online program with The University of Southern Mississippi. I grew to love the flexibility of going to school online, but it’s important to know that it is not easy by any means. It takes a self-motivated and dedicated person to be an online student and you must have excellent time management skills.
This December when I walk across the stage to receive my diploma it will be exactly 20 years since I finished high school. I am a true believer in that it is never too late to go back to college. As I push through these last couple of months, the graffiti message I read each day has taken on a whole new meaning for me. I will Be Someone my 18-year-old self never thought I could be.
What type of Someone have you Become or what Someone do you aspire to Be? Share your thoughts by replying below.