A Reskilling Story by Ioana Oprea

From Broken Pieces to Stained Glass Art

Broken Pieces

I woke up one morning  recognized the unfolding grief pattern with all of its phases: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.

For the first time in my career, I would be ‘unemployed’. The dreaded word we always think happens to other people. ‘It will go away in the morning’, said the inner ostrich hiding deep in the ever shifting balmy s of ignorance.

Stormy thoughts started to question the sense of justice behind it. They taught us life is a reflection of the stands we’ve accepted, in other words, we get what we deserve.  This made sense for the winning years.

Maybe it was the wrong company, or time to switch jobs. Maybe I should go back to the previous IT consulting company and renegotiate. Luckily dignity steps in when sense takes a ride, the faithful watcher is a pro at guarding the doors of the past well shut.

Glass Window of Opportunities

Once my full cycle of grief was over, the old me decided to return from its temporary emotional exile, with a new career in mind. From plentiful amounts of free time and seemingly small tragedies, crazy ideas are usually born.

Art and spirituality, among other smaller hobbies, have been a constant centre of interest in my life. The beauty of art was an undeniable source of beauty, nourishment, awe and creativity.  spirituality helped make sense of the whirlwind of good and evil out there, why we are here, what we are looking for, why even bother.  it has always been a refuge and a hiding place whenever the world got too noisy or too damaging to bear.

While indulging in my emotional catharsis, I accidentally (or not, if you believe there are no accidents) ran into an article about the old art of stained glass. I dived in the process thirstily and digested all the technical details, then decided to apply what I learned and use it to build a new career. Literally from (glass) scratch.

Chosen field: cyber security, the mix between my past technology taste while joining the fight to defend and protect in the present, sounded divinely.

Customized Tools & Materials

Just like with art, I started to get useful info, sources and contacts to dig deeper into the structure and steps of a new career. Time was generous and the job market was frightfully static and not much was happening socially in Covid world in general. Isolation is fertile ground for previously postponed yet constantly craved-for life changes.

Glass Design

From all the gathered info, the most suitable one in my case (a seasoned professional already, I wanted a short-term intense training, remotely) was a Cyber security Boot camp via Ironhack on a Cybint training platform. This was a new partnership and we would be the first series of cyber graduates in Europe. Fear and doubt rushed in; being a pioneer comes with a certain sense of responsibility, extra pressure adds in and giving up can no longer be an option. Perfect: risky and intriguing enough to go for it.

Arranging the Glass Pieces

The next three months had been a constant ride on an unstoppable emotional roller coaster. From the deep abyss of utter despair and frustration in front of Terminal errors to the exhilarating heights of Linux sudo magic. The teachers were very kind yet severe, most had been in the army and the schedule and program reflected that military discipline, slightly challenging for a night owl like me. You woke up exhausted, thinking of giving up every morning, you went to bed exhausted, questioning your sanity, thinking how silly of you to think so in the morning.

There were rivers of specialized info and time-limited labs, showers of exercises, new tools and apps. School was challenging enough in general; during Covid isolation it was almost unbearable. Though remote, the team was very supportive and while we started out as colleagues, we ended up closer to Friends. Worries connected to the lack of jobs harassed the brain constantly, we all knew how hard it would be to start a new career in a challenging field. Personal issues added to the daily burdens also: some colleagues were going through beak-ups, others were going through depression, some needed to take some time off to recover and then catch up, others have never made it back…

Framing it all together

Our perception of time is subjective. We got suddenly at the end of the boot camp with a sense of pride, resilience, hopeless optimism, like wounded soldiers whose scars remind them they made it out alive. There was a touch of regret also, we knew we had to say good-bye. Career week at the end managed to structure our ideas and prepare us for a more specialized path we would be taking some day, once we get snugly comfortable in a more general cyber position. What seems like the end is sometimes just another milestone.

Works of Art

The stained glass windows were meant to bring the divine stories to life in the Medieval age.  No color is accidental: violet stands for Suffering and Endurance, gray for Humility, green for Growth and Rebirth, blue for Hope. Also because of its fragile and easily breakable character, glass was a reminder of how ephemeral most things in the world really are. Including Us and what we’re going through.

We all have a life story to share.  It usually starts messy, in confusion, on rock bottom. Some of us stay there for a short while, the time to recover and bounce back. Others for a longer time, lost in the questioning and the hunt for answers. The painful grieving cycle is different for all of us, the recovery time also.

When we do mend, the pieces are differently assembled, it’s the same old pieces of us but in a different order and with an extra layer of strength grown into them. Colors change also, depending on what we’ve been through. And while the process is anything but easy, we just know now, that we are quite ready for a new adventure.

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