Lessons from a non-graduate creator

Edu, 24 now, finished high school five years ago and joined an ICT institute where he learnt basic programming, web design, and entrepreneurship and communication skills. Since then he joined an apprenticeship track at the same institution to hone his skills in the following areas: web design, bookkeeping, and meta-learning. 

So far, he has designed and developed a dozen of websites, led a team of editors to review and edit digital content for a community e-learning platform, leads a project that uses space science to get young people excited about science and technology, and leads a sales team at the same institution. 

Straight from high school. No college degree.

Well, Edu is actually me.

I have developed a good network. I have had fun working on various projects. I have failed bluntly and I have greatly learnt from those failures.

Honestly, I have failed in each of those roles. Sometimes, I get embarrassed when I remember how arrogant I was when starting out. More often than not, I thought I was right with my decisions. The opposite was true. I always thought not many people were working as hard. I was definitely wrong – the majority, if not everyone, was working hard. I thought for me to succeed, someone else must fail. I had such a fixed mindset.

As someone who often prolongs the regrets of past failures, I’ve always tried to find reasons to convince myself that I might not be on the right track; that I could have taken the other route of attending college. Or rather prioritize attending college. Especially when things are not working as I expect them to work. That has, however, not been the case so far.

Currently, as time passes, I’m thinking less and less about the college situation. I remain a big believer and supporter of education. I suppose one day if things align themselves right I’ll attend a college. I’m a lifelong learner anyway.

For now, I choose to channel my energy to reading relevant books, listening to insightful podcasts, watching videos, attending educational events, consulting and learning through observation from my masters, and actually applying what I learn.

What’s the difference between my current path and that of someone who is attending a formal college? The latter spends more time in a classroom and gets a reputable certificate at the end of the syllabus. Also, s/he has a chance of getting a job faster than me – because of the certification.

I agree with the reasons above (and some more important ones  that I left out). However, having known those advantages, I have been trying to leverage myself and get the same benefits as someone who has attended a formal college. Here is how:

Firstly, I constantly read books. At college, you’re taught particular subjects in detail – be it economics, political science, business administration, et cetera. I’m always learning subjects of my interest.

For example, I like blockchain technology. Hence, I have been reading articles and books on that subject. I also like economics, finance, and entrepreneurship; I’m currently reading The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith.

In addition to reading books, I’m listening to podcasts and watching videos in line with the above mentioned subjects.

Secondly, I’m constantly updating my work portfolio. I tend to keep evidence of all the work that I have done. Even more importantly, I always try to eloquently speak about my work.

For example, I can direct you to the websites that I have designed and developed. I can direct you to Wikonnect to see the digital content that I have developed and edited. I can tell you the number of clients I have secured as a salesperson. Any KASA representative can tell you about my accomplishments with the project.

For the short time that I have experienced how to maneuver through “the industry” without a college degree, I have learnt the following:

  • I need to work twice or thrice as hard as someone with a college degree to level up in the social status. College degree holders start their careers on a higher pedestal than a non-college degree holder. I kicked off by apprenticing for about a year before actually starting to work on projects that bring in money. Then I proceeded to work on projects that paid the least. That again took me about a year and a half.
  • Crafting great relationships has hugely moved loads off my shoulder. I have a privilege of not paying rent as a result of a cordial relationship with a friend. This has been of great support –  I get the ample time to learn new things, put them to test, and fail without worrying about rent, water, and electricity bills. 
  • I need to be accountable and respectful of myself. In college, the learners are held accountable mostly by the lecturers. Majority of them do assignments to pass tests and make the lecturers happy. That’s not the case for me. I have to set my own goals, be accountable and respectful of them. Otherwise, I’ll find myself in a dark place; I have not mastered a skill, and as a result, I don’t have enough money to cater for my needs.
  • I’m not afraid to fail. I have learnt a bunch from failure. I push myself to try things out. To me, failure is a result of inaction.
  • Life is a single player game. I don’t have to compete with anyone. Naval Ravikant perfectly nailed it when he said “escape competition through authenticity”. I’m good so long as I’m genuinely authentic with myself. I define what I want, set goals, and go for it. At the end of the day, compound interest will favour me if I consistently work to push forward the goals.

I hope you’ve learnt something or got inspired by my story.

By Melkizedek Mirasi

Lifelong learner.


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