People have often told me that computers were not for me. I was not “that kind of person” and programming was “too intense” for me to understand. Last week, I made a change in my life by believing that I could learn more, do more, be more, and change more.

I joined the Ascend Project.

We are 20 people (and many mentors strong!) with various backgrounds and experiences, coming together to learn as much as we can about programming. Our mission is to contribute to open source web materials in order to improve educational resources and web literacy wherever we can. As participants in the project and as new Mozillians, we cherish the thoughtful support of each of our teachers, and we are all grateful for the amazing resources Mozilla has offered us.

Thank you, Lukas, Kronda, Dino, Debbie, Katt, Shawna, and each of the Mozillians who have dedicated their time and energy to be part of these moments with us!

During our first day, we shared our expectations, hopes, and goals for what the project would look like. I was definitely nervous, and expecting a pop quiz in programming language, but I discovered that Day One was the Day of Strength. We took this day to create a community, empowering each other and providing support whenever needed.

After writing agreements for respecting each other (and ourselves) during the course, we were introduced to the StrengthsFinder assessment, created by the Gallup Strengths Center. We had 20 seconds to answer each question about our feelings and behaviors. It’s difficult to prioritize things with only 20 seconds! Each participant received a list of their Top 5 Strengths!

As an exercise in encouragement and empowerment, we discussed our Strengths in small groups, and came together to share what we learned. I learned a lot about personal strengths by listening to what other people received, and comparing those results to my own.

In the middle of reading my Strengths assessment, I felt like I was reading my own life, described on a piece of paper. Each one of the categories described my feelings and behaviors so accurately that I felt strongly encouraged to believe in my ability to succeed in Ascend. I also started crying a bit from the overwhelming sense that my emotions had been displayed before me in a way I could communicate to others.

My Top 5 Strengths are: Learner, Context, Individualization, Connectedness, and Relator. Each of these strengths empowers the others, and I love that I’ve found a way to explain my personality through these strengths.

  • As a Learner, I relate to the world by learning as much as I can. I’m not perfect by any means, and we all have differing phases of memory, but I love exploring new ideas and learning new things. I also learn by teaching, when I can.
  • In terms of Context, I seek to understand why things are the way they are, based on historical events that may have caused them to be the way they are. The StrengthsFinder accurately identified that I love researching ancient history!
  • Individualization isn’t what it sounds like. I didn’t like the name at first, but I agree with the Strength as one of my top 5. I strive to empower people as individuals, with unique lives, lenses, and experiences. In order to work well with multiple people, I make it a priority to validate their individuality.
  • Connectedness seems related to Context. I see events as connected to each other, and I seek out the “webs” connecting things. My learning style involves linking concepts together to create new things.
  • The Relator strength involves deconstructing information, to make it understandable for multiple types of people. I love this one, because I’ve been very inspired in my life to support people through tutoring and teaching. I really enjoy presenting information, creating concept maps, finding different ways to explore ideas, and brainstorming through creative methods!

One of my course goals is to share my Strengths with the combined Strengths of my fellow participants. We are forming a bond of learning which is changing us all.

To my amazement, we were invited to participate in the formal updates meeting attended by Mozillians around the world! Honestly, I didn’t comprehend most of the things that were said, because it seems like the systems and resources are so new to me. I don’t know these things now, but I will find out when I can.

Lunch was AWESOME! There was amazing, excellent, splendid kale salad! :) I also really appreciate the coffee flow…

We took a wonderful tour of the Mozilla office, as well (thanks, Katt!) and reflected on our first day together.

At the end of the day, I was somewhat confused, and very tired, but this is an amazing roller coaster ride!

I’ve known for a long time that I’ve wanted a long-term career in teaching, yet I also readily believed the people who told me that computers and computer science would forever baffle me. I was going through life just “accepting” the messages that this whole branch of information was completely distant from my experience, and impossible to understand. Mozilla thinks differently. Learning is everywhere!