Monday evening, as part of BYU’s German Week, I listened to a Fireside / FHE from Elder Kopischke, who is currently serving as the Area President for the Church’s Europe Area. As part of this fireside, he took questions, and someone asked him how he chose his career path ans what he had learned as a part of that. He then told a very interesting story about his life, how he had always wanted to be a teacher, but did not have the money or ability to go to University in Germany, so he decided to join the military and use the military to get his college education. He prayed about it and received no answer. Believing that no answer was also an answer, he decided to go for it. After just a week in the military he had the overwhelming feeling that this was the wrong career choice, so he left. He ended up self-employed, selling insurance to support his family, and only twenty years later was he approached by the Church to be a Seminary teacher, finally having the opportunity to teach.
This was a fascinating story, and he emphasized the fact that despite his life not going according to the plan he had chosen, the Lord had been in charge and had given him the opportunities he had needed.
This story reminded me of a similar story that a professor I had once told. He was teaching Family History at BYU, but had gotten his PhD from OSU in Germanics and Second Language Acquisition (just what I want to do). But after graduating, he couldn’t find a job, so he moved to Salt Lake and started working in Family History as a researcher, especially of German lines. He told this story in class to show that he had years of experience as a professional family history researcher, before becoming a professor. But I took away a different lesson.
Both of these stories were floating around in my head as I have been working on getting my applications to Grad Schools set these last couple of days. And the phrase that keeps coming to mind is “I’ll go where you want me to go. I’ll do what you want me to do.”
I am a little worried that my life will not go exactly as I hope it will. That I will not be able to teach Germanic linguistic classes at the college level. But, at the same time I am reassured that my life will work out. I will definitely find something to do that will allow me to support my family. And I will probably find something that I enjoy doing. I have enjoyed immensely my time that I have worked doing tech support these last four years, and that is a career where I could make good money, and do a lot of good.
And even my skills in tech support are attributable to the Lord guiding me to a job I didn’t think I would get, but a job where I learned many valuable skills. I originally saw the job posting looking for a German speaker to help with computer support, and I applied because I wanted a job where I could speak German, even if I did not have much skill with computers or troubleshooting.
I went in for the interview, and the main question of the interview was a game of Yes and No. The interviewer had chosen an object in the room and I was to determine what the object was by only asking yes or no questions. I had the opportunity later to sit in on other interviews and watch other people respond to this activity, and apparently I answered in a the perfect way. I immediately launched into binary troubleshooting, where you take the problem and ask a question that splits it in half – Is it in front of your desk? Is it to your right? Is it above the level of your desk? With these sorts of questions you can very quickly narrow it down to know the exact object or cause of the problem. They didn’t really care that I had not experience with computer support, or much knowledge with computers, they could teach me that. They were looking for the ability to ask the right questions, troubleshoot in the proper way, and narrow down to find the root cause.
A few months after I was hired, though, they told me that they were not actually going to be supporting German officially, so I never got to use my language skill much more than the occasional call that I happened to be lucky enough to get from a German. But I learned a great deal about computers, about troubleshooting, about KCS, and I now have a valuable skill that will allow me to get a job pretty much anywhere I end up going. There are always people who need IT guys.
And so, as I move forward with my academic career, I am hopeful that I will be able to do what I want, to be able to help students learn the German language. But I am also aware that life can take interesting turns and present you with opportunities that you had never imagined.