Thank you Madam Toastmaster. Fellow Toastmasters and guests, thank you for joining me on this fine evening. I’m going to use the next couple of minutes to “break the ice” and give you a better idea of who I am as a person.
I spent the first 18 years of my life in Chandler, Oklahoma. Chandler, for those of you who don’t know, is a small town located halfway between Oklahoma City and Tulsa along the Turner Turnpike.
I grew up in a family of four. I have an older sister, who currently lives in Chandler with her husband and their two kids. My mother recently retired from the First Bank of Chandler after working there for 40+ years. My father has been retired for a number of years now. He worked as a lineman for Oklahoma Gas & Electric (OG&E) for 30+ years.
Growing up in central Oklahoma, I had several experiences with severe weather. From an early age, I became fascinated with all things related to weather. I can remember several occasions where my family was forced to seek shelter because of an approaching storm. I would almost have to be dragged against my will into the cellar; I always wanted to be near the window or outside, so I could see what was going on. I am astonished by the power and beauty of nature. I have carried this passion with me for my entire life.
In junior high we had to start trying to answer the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” At this time, I knew I wanted to be a meteorologist. There was only one problem. I grew up a ravenous fan of the Oklahoma State Cowboys. The idea of attending the University of Oklahoma, to the immature mind I carried in those days, was dreadful. There was absolutely no way I could do that. Ignoring my passion, my senior year of high school, I enrolled at OSU knowing full well that I had absolutely no idea what I was going to study.
My freshman year at OSU was amazing. The friendships that were forged continue to this day. I met some of my very best friends during that year, but there was one problem. I still had no idea what I was going to do for my major. I still felt the call from the meteorological gods wishing I would come to OU and pursue a degree in meteorology. As tough as it was, I decided to answer this call and transfer from OSU to OU in the summer of 2005.
I went to OU with a single purpose, get a degree in meteorology. I didn’t care what it took, I was going to get it done. The first class I took in my pursuit of this degree was Calculus I. I was always decent at math in high school, but I never really enjoyed it. I had seen the curriculum for the meteorology degree though, and it was very heavy on mathematics. The goal now was very simple: learn mathematics.
I studied pretty much every waking moment. I lived with one of my best friends, but outside of hanging out with him on the weekends, I didn’t have much of a social life in Norman. When I had breaks from school, I would always drive up to Stillwater to be with the friends I had made the year before. This mindset of wanting to be somewhere else took its toll on me after a semester. I began to have panic attacks just from being in class at OU. I was not happy. I did not want to be there.
I decided to transfer back to OSU. The difference this time, I had an idea of what I could study in Stillwater and still stay on track with meteorology. Seeing how there was such a heavy emphasis on mathematics and physics in the degree curriculum, I decided to pursue a B.S. in mathematics and a minor in physics.
I completed this degree in the spring of 2008, and I was accepted into the OU School of Meteorology’s graduate program in the fall of 2009. Armed with the knowledge of mathematics and physics, I obtained my masters degree in meteorology in the fall of 2011.
Coming out of graduate school, I was met with the cold reality that the job market for meteorologists is down right now. There have been drastic government budget cuts to the National Weather Service. Most places in the private sector won’t even give you an interview unless you have 2 years of professional experience. I didn’t have any of that because I had been in school for 7.5 years.
Luckily for me, I had developed other skills along the way. A passion for computer programming was developed during my time in graduate school. I had very limited experience with programming until grad school, but you either learned it on your own, or you failed, so I learned how to program.
I currently work as a software developer for a company in Edmond, Oklahoma. The job has nothing to do with meteorology, but despite this, I still really enjoy the job because it gives me an opportunity to learn on a daily basis. I have a constant thirst for knowledge. Each and every day, I try to learn something new. I feel that when I go to bed at night, if I haven’t acquired some new bit of knowledge, I have wasted the day.
This thirst for knowledge is what has brought me to your group. I have always struggled with public speaking. Just the thought of getting up in front of a group of people and speaking conjures up nasty feelings of inadequacy. Usually once I get rolling on a speech, I can normally calm my nerves, but I really want to learn how to be more assertive in those moments leading up to giving a speech. I want to learn how to be more confident when I’m talking to my coworkers about an idea I have. I want to learn how to be a better leader. I want to learn how to listen to other’s before I form an opinion in my head. I want to learn how to better express myself to my family, my friends, and my girlfriend. I want to learn to harness the anxious energy I feel and transform it into charisma and confidence. This will not only help me in my career, but it will help me in my personal life. Standing in a room full of people that share the same ambitions is immensely motivating. I thank you all for allowing me to partake in this journey with you. Madam Toastmaster the floor is yours.