What is your job teaching you today?

Reginald Dumas -
Reginald Dumas -

NEWSDAY · BitDepth1324 Narration - 18 - 10 - 2021

A MONTH ago, I wrote the story of one of the great journalism experiences of my life, the creation of the tabloid daily, The Wire (https://j.mp/3nxO6jw).

I left much of what happened out of that account, but there's one experience that's worth mentioning – the lessons it taught me about digital asset management (DAM).

The system was crude by DAM standards, but it allowed a small newsroom to move pictures around fluidly and fast.

It was a problem to solve, but it resonated well beyond that experience.

The lessons in managing a large photo archive guide me to this day.

I now think of problems, particularly the big, insurmountable challenges, as a degree-level education opportunity, although it's never going to be one you'd willingly sign up for.

Life-long learning has become important enough to earn a proper name, heutagogy.

Every job, no matter how stressful, difficult or distressing, offers education, but the world of business is designed to lead you away from that schooling.

Bosses want to keep you “on task.” Trade unions advise against engaging in work that's off job specifications.

You are supposed to do what you are supposed to do, not drift off into intriguing little gyres of problem-solving.

In that horrible cycle, you can spend ten years at a job but earn only one year's worth of interminably repeated experiences.

The most useful lessons in the workplace are usually in the dark alleys and dead-ends that litter most workdays.

I learned to type on my own, using a beat-up old Pitman's handbook and a typewriter that punched holes in copy paper.

So at my very first job, doing PR work for Clico in their library, I brought my own portable typewriter to hammer out text.

It was there that I was coached in addressing a proper typewriter by another organisation structure refugee on the IBM Selectric that sat in that space.

A few months ago, Newsday asked me to narrate this column for the website. That particular adventure rekindled old lessons in voice presentation I got from an unforgiving Jimmy Maynard while contributing to Ample's The Week at a Glance radio programme some four decades ago.

Today's colleagues cheerfully pitched in with advice on phrasing, tone and adding colour to my delivery.

My first narration job was reading science fiction novels onto a portable cassette recorder for Archie Edwards, the blind history teacher at Trinity College four decades ago.

I didn't learn much during his General Paper classes, but he told me something I've never forgotten, that "We go to school to learn how to learn."

It's been the most important lesson of my life, coming to an understanding early on that my future would not be in certification and diplomas, but in an endless cycle of submitting to ignorance and learning new skills that stomped roughshod over old knowledge.

Sometimes new skills aren't work-related, at least not directly.

I've emerged from terrible workplace scenarios with a better understanding of the dynamics of power, ego and race-first behaviour.

With that came the importance of empathy, not just understanding the perspective of your nemesis, but accepting that they are, despite all evidence to the contrary, being heroic and committed to their own worthy ideal.

I'm currently enrolled in another course I hadn't planned for; this one in zen-level patience tutored by a ten-year-old.

The illusion of our education system is that education is a race with elimination rounds and pole positions, but the successful practice of life is a marathon, a continuous acceptance of our limits while powering into the next stage.

Mark Lyndersay is the editor of technewstt.com. An expanded version of this column can be found there


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