Saturday, September 28, 2013

So..Your Parents Let You Get a Degree in French Literature II

I've already told this story several times verbally so I don't know how smoothly it will come out in writing--it may be a bit stale. In fact, I'm writing it up because I told this story three times in the past few weeks.

I will occasionally be asked by friends (usually engineers) why my parents let me major in French instead of "something practical." One of my friends went so far as to tell me about the conversation his parents had with him and his sibling about how they were happy to pay for education, but it needed to be in something useful.

After college--after I came back from France--I spent years running around crashing into walls/flailing because I didn't know what to do with myself professionally.  For a while I was a bit mad at Carleton for not insisting that everyone take a course in (say) Accounting, or something equally practical along with insisting that we learn how to swim, pass a writing requirement and take a course on the Recognition and Affirmation of Difference. I mention this because it would have been nice to have a straighter path between college graduation and happy/useful employment.

On the other hand, from the year and a half or so I spent in business school, it's pretty obvious to me that I couldn't have gone to a school that had a "business" major. It would have killed me/bored me to tears. And I loved French Lit--I never got As because I had a terrible work ethic--but I loved it.

Earlier this year I needed to meet with a rep from a software company my employers work with. I had expected this to be a boring sales call. The rep (let's call her Toni) showed up in my office, we called my boss (who worked in an office in another state) and the three of us discussed general "state of our two companies relationship" stuff for about 45 minutes at which point my boss said he was all done and left us alone. I spent the next 3 hours or so with Toni talking about all the cool stuff her company's software could do. It was awesome!

We got lunch and talked about more general matters. Toni's company is located in Toronto and she is Canadian. We talked about our undergraduate educations--it turns out that she majored in French too! (Although I gather this was more of a pedagogical degree than mine was.) She had done several other things (including having a career in fencing) before starting to work for the software company--first as a geek and now as a relationship manager.

Somewhere during the conversation I realized that here we were--two former French majors working as geeks for successful businesses.  Was the path as straight forward as that of Babson alums who went on to work as Business Analysts? No.

What's the moral of this story? It takes all kinds? Verbals make good geeks too? Smart people can pick skills up and reinvent themselves? Language geeks can be good at SQL too? I don't know.

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