A young man from South Africa, William Boshoff, recently wrote me with a familiar story of trouble in school…
School! Nobody could ever justify why knowing the structure of fauna RNA is vital to my future. Solving problems which had no relevance to my life was one thing, but something else really bothered me: If I solved those problems with answers not found in the book, I was automatically told that I was wrong. No intellectual debate, second thoughts, or checking of sources. I was just “wrong.” I quickly lost will to do homework or pay attention in class. The teachers told me that I would get nowhere in life and that I was doomed to sweep the streets.
William didn’t accept that.
I spent my time teaching myself anything and everything that I could get my hands on about computers. I tinkered, toyed and experimented and when I had run out of material to go through I would break it and try to fix it again.
I grew up in an exceptionally poor home. It was to the point where we were forced moved to a farm house because that was all that we could afford. No background, no financial help, nothing. Even when faced with a bleak future I still continued to educate myself. Not to change my future, but because I loved what I was doing. I was growing stronger every day and with that growth passion followed.
Finally, I was old enough to spread my own wings. We moved to another farm close to the city. I bulked up on self-help-get-employed information and set out to find a job. No job experience. No qualifications. Not even my own transport. I went to half a dozen interviews. Minimum pay and long hours never scared me. I just wanted to do what I love. Regardless, nobody was interested.
William’s experience to this point seemed to justify the predictions of his teachers. But notice what he does next. This is a classic buccaneer move…
I was at an all-time low. I decided that whatever my next interview would be, I would get the job. I saw an ad in the paper for a “technical call center agent” and decided to apply. I remember walking into that office like it was yesterday. This company had a library full of books, a server to test things on and more than enough room. It was my dream opportunity. Right there and then I decided that I had enough. I told the interviewer that I knew on paper I was not much to look at. “But,” I said, “I promise that if you hire me you won’t regret it.” I told him about my thirst for knowledge and how my passion drives me. Five hours later, I got the call: I got the job.
It was only as a Technical call centre call logger but I was proud. My employer nicknamed me ‘future’ which I wore with a smile on my face because on that day of the interview I promised him that I would be the future of the company. Let it be understood that I was not seen as arrogant: because I fully believed every word that I said.
In four years, William has gone from being a call logger, to a call center consultant, to a junior systems engineer, then systems engineer, senior systems engineer, messaging architect, and technical manager.
Today it’s nearly four years later. As I’m writing this I am sitting in my own office, with technology that I helped build from the ground up and an e-mail signature that reads ‘Technical Manager’ which will soon change to ‘Technical Director’. Today as your reading this I am more driven than ever and doing what I love. I can say with full conviction that I am William Boshoff and I am a buccaneer!
I have never been wealthy by American standards, but William was downright poor. Still, he doesn’t see poverty as a barrier.
In today’s world, there is no excuse not to learn. While living on a farm, I didn’t have access to libraries. But even when I had nothing, I would go to an internet cafe and download ebooks.
I love hearing stories like William’s. I dip my colors to you, fellow buccaneer!