Guest Blog and Interview by Anuja Singh
Welcome to our monthly CEWN segment about role models. We all make resolutions and set goals to improve ourselves– but somewhere along the way, life interrupts our plans, we find ourselves juggling different priorities and invariably things get dropped. What you will find in this segment is inspiration from ordinary people who have achieved extraordinary results. Everyone featured in this series has faced challenges and opportunities that the rest of us can identify with; let’s draw inspiration from the choices they made and aspire to the outcomes they created.
Amy Arnold – Amy’s twitter Avatar describes her as a senior network engineer generally amused by life. She is all that and a lot more. Nearly 9000 people follow her and her contributions on social media. You can follow her @amyengineer and read her very popular blogs on ‘Just another day at the office….’
Find out more about Amy here:
Cisco Empowered Women’s Network (CEWN): You grew up watching your dad doing technology, but that wasn’t your first choice for college – tell us about that.
Amy: My dad encouraged me to do just about everything possible. He gave me things to poke around, and break and make. He told me to take on things I knew nothing about. I never thought I couldn’t be in technology – maybe that’s why that wasn’t my first choice. I resisted following my father’s footsteps and wanted to do law instead. I had full scholarship to law school, but once I was in, I knew instantly that it wasn’t really what I wanted to do. Being at a crossroads that early in life is a great learning experience.
CEWN: It’s not easy giving up a full scholarship and finding something else to do, how did you make that decision?
Amy: Yes, it was scary to not have a backup plan when I decided to drop out of law school. But my husband was very supportive and told me to keep looking for something that I could put my heart into. As a stay at home mom, I started taking classes in a few different fields and got really intrigued by some networking classes I chanced upon. I felt I had finally found something that could challenge me and I started taking classes at night when my husband was back to take care of my child. Despite the fact that some people in class questioned my place, I didn’t second-guess myself and just kept doing what I had to do.
CEWN: Is self-motivation the biggest skill needed to be able to be a full-time mom in the day and a diligent student at night?
Amy: (Laughs) I call my self an ‘overcoming perfectionist’ – I’m trying to overcome being a perfectionist! It suited my intellectual personality to be around grown-ups even though I was exhausted at night. And since doing just an average job wasn’t good enough for me, I threw myself into the course work. I had grown up hearing a lot of ‘No – you can’t do this!’ in my life, and that gave me the motivation to be self-disciplined and not let anyone or anything put me down. Sometimes you have to do things you don’t like, but if you treat every experience as a learning opportunity, you end up being really well rounded.
CEWN: Would you describe this negativity to be your biggest headwind?
Amy: On the contrary, I would describe these ‘No! statements’ to be my biggest tailwinds! I was born with genetic bone deformity (many people don’t know this) and was told that there were many things I could not do because of the physical limitations. I was told my fingers weren’t suited to play a musical instrument and sports were out of the question. That was unacceptable to me. I learned to view my physical limitations as a challenge and decided to do my best to overcome them, taking up both violin and long distance running. Today, I may not be the best runner or the best violinist – but I sure know how to run and how to play the violin. I use the same attitude whenever someone questions my place in any field of life and I try to share that attitude for the benefit of my community through social media.
CEWN: You are an active blogger with nearly 9000 twitter followers – what message do you have for people who are trying to increase their social media presence?
Amy: I really enjoy writing; it combines my creative and literary aspects with my technical pursuits. Initially, I had set a goal to blog every week; but then I realized that I was putting too much pressure on myself. I didn’t always have that much time and I also didn’t necessarily have something that I thought was important to share every week. That was a maturity moment in social media. I have always been true to who I am and tweet and blog what I think is interesting and what would be helpful for the community that is following me. If you think of all the people reading your words it can be nerve-wracking, but if you genuinely try and bring attention to something that can help others avoid pitfalls or bring humor to them, it doesn’t matter if there are 20 people following you or 20,000. Write and tweet what you enjoy and what you are passionate about, and don’t sweat the rest. This for me is social media done right
CEWN: Leave us with your favorite Carpe Diem statement
Amy: Keep Learning – there is no room for complacency! Change is constant and you have to grow with that. Don’t let adversity or failures put you down – a great ‘I-can-do-this’ attitude can compensate for any challenge and for every mistake, you learn how to do better.
These days, my signature is: ‘A learning experience is one of those things that says, ‘You know that thing you just did? Don’t do that.” – Douglas Adams’
Thank you Amy!