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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Public Speaking: The Icebreaker

I've recently joined a bilingual Toastmasters club to improve my public speaking skills. I was asked to introduce myself in my first speaking assignment, the so-called Icebreaker. Here it is:

My name is Zarah Minor, I'm 27 years old, and am working as a communications officer with an environmental organization here in Brussels.

This was the short story. However, I had no intention to end up in Belgium, and neither did I study anything remotely related to what I'm doing now. Let me tell you how it all began:

As a teenager, I didn't have a clue what I wanted to do with my life. So when they took us to the job information center, I sat down at one of these computers that would ask you questions about what you like doing, whether you like to work with people, etc. So I did that, and in the end the thing said: Zarah, you're going to be a university professor. Great, I thought. Now - which subject? But that the machine couldn't tell.

As I had Maths as a major at the time, I was happy when a friend suggested I try computer science, because I felt Maths would be too theoretical and out-of-this-world. So I went into Computer Science, but what I didn't know was that once you take a left turn at Safety Critical Systems, and then a right turn at Algorithms on Graphs and then go straight on to that door called Algebraic Specification - you're as far into the ivory tower of theoretical informatics as you can get.

So at one point I had to admit that this was not where I wanted to be for the rest of my life, and that I needed to find something else. But - I had done a gap year with an environmental organization before studying - and for some reason kept this engagement up since. And as this felt really meaningful to me, and was a lot of fun, I decided to give it a try and to turn this voluntary work into a paid job.

This was quite a scary decision at the time, but I've been incredibly lucky. I graduated two and a half years ago, and have been working for environmental organizations ever since.

My name is Zarah Minor, I'm 27 years old and working as a communications officer with an environmental organization here in Brussels.

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