After being rejected during the application process for joining the Royal Navy (due to asthma), I was encouraged to explore my strengths by my PE teacher, and started a new course at the University of Essex in Colchester - BSc(Hons) Sport and Exercise Science. My main interests were in sport psychology, but at that time there were no courses at this level which offered the opportunity to specialise.
A change of heart?
At University I found a great opportunity to explore my interest in technology, and quickly 'fell in' with the geeky crowd via CompSoc and the Multiplayer Gaming Society. LAN Parties, Karaoke and many mad evenings ensued, and part way through my second year I faced a real dilemma - I was living with three guys who all studied computer science, and their courses seemed way more interesting than mine (plus they only had 8 hours of lectures a week compared with my 25 hour week!).
Again, I didn't listen to my 'intuition' and ploughed on with my Sport Science degree, while working part time as an IT Student Assistant and full time over the summer periods fitting out computer labs, installing networking in the student accommodation blocks and later working on the University Helpdesk.
On graduation I was something of a lost sheep. I'd got a degree in Sport Science but no idea what I wanted to do with it. I worked in a few gyms but didn't really enjoy it or see it as a long term job. I applied for an MRes in Sport Science and was offered a place, but I also applied for an MSc Physiotherapy which was an NHS funded, 2 year, accelerated course - again a new course at the University. The interview was quite possibly the most daunting experience of my life, with 80 being called to interview from a pool of applicants in excess of 200, and 20 places on the course.
I was somewhat shocked to receive the letter telling me I had a place on the MSc Physiotherapy course!
I really don't think I have ever worked as hard as I did during my Physiotherapy training. The course was relentless, with 9-5 Monday-Friday lectures and practicals, several hours of study per night, placements all over Essex, and two part time jobs to fund my study. While I enjoyed the placements I also found them absolutely exhausting and didn't feel like I was really engaging with the process of becoming a Physiotherapist - almost like I didn't really want it. To be honest, I didn't really know what I wanted, but this was an option that presented itself to me, so I followed it through.
In 2006 I graduated with a massive debt and no job - due to the fact that the health service was in financial meltdown; Agenda for Change caused the restructuring of every position in the NHS and stopped people moving jobs; and more Physiotherapy training places were created without a concurrent increase in Junior positions. The net result of this was that I spent the best part of two years trying to practice privately and voluntarily (I was lead physiotherapist for Ipswich Cardinals American Football Team for several seasons!), alongside working nights in bars and days in offices. Exhausting, demoralising, and really quite depressing at times!
Finally I was fortunate to get my first stroke of luck. A temp job came up at Ipswich High School for Girls as an IT Technician, and I was asked to start immediately. What an amazing place to work! I loved every minute of it, and as I was trained as a first aider I was often asked to accompany trips, including Skiing in Austria, Choir tour to Italy, and more. Here I picked up a bit of my web design knowledge when I was asked to redesign the school website from its frame-based Frontpage website to a more modern, up to date website.
I first encountered Joomla! during this period, so again I am very grateful to have had this opportunity, as it's most definitely shaped my future!