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 Written by Ray Herber - iXperience '17 

There is a pivotal virtue that contributed to my successful experience attending iXperience. I found a combination of an environment facilitating a shift in the way I think, and me embracing the change invited by this environment.

In university and the years before, I had a very warped view on admiring and being inspired by others. In my mind, someone had to be absolutely superior to me in nearly every way imaginable before I started treating them as a role model. Likely related to this, was the fact that I was very fragile to criticism, and couldn’t stomach the feeling of being more competent in the domain I was criticised in than the person doing the criticising. With such a handicapped sense of admiration, I’m pretty sure the only people I looked up to as an university student were those like Richard Feynman or Albert Einstein.

iXperience disrupted this self-defeating paradigm, and presented an opportunity to mature.

In a sense, the transition was made gentle by my initial exposure to the absolutely amazing people, who would have probably won my admiration when my thoughts were governed by the less mature regime just described. This had the consequence of nudging me to leave behind these unrealistic standards, see myself in a more humble light, and find things in individuals that were worthy of admiration.

When considering the superstar's, Andrew is at the top of my list! By week 2 of class, I already regarded him as an amazing human and scientist, based solely on the clarity of his presentation that revealed his absolute mastery of Data Science. I later found out he holds a Ph.D. in Physics, with a career in the research and lecturing thereof.

The fact that Andrew never introduced himself as, nor wanted us to call him “Doctor Collier” left a lasting inpact on me. Instead, he earned my respect simply by owning the material he taught, and wearing his passion for it on his sleeve. This made me consider that perhaps my attitude towards finding role models had been skewed and naive, and I needed to change the way I look at others.

The path towards taking inspiration from others more readily was paved by more amazing people. Without going into too much depth, people like Donovan - a highly personable individual who had leveraged his skills to have a very successful career in management consulting - and Aaron - the iXperience CEO who impressed me from the first day by knowing the names of all the students arriving - made it easy for me to transition out of only holding dead, theoretical physicists in high regard.

When my eyes started opening in this way, I quickly found admirable qualities in nearly everyone. From the teaching assistants, all  at  the start of exciting and rewarding careers of their own, to my peers, who came with a great variety of interests, from a wealth of different fields of study; everyone had different things to offer. I just had to open my eyes and look.

Outside of the classroom, I found myself admiring the Urban Rangers, who led us on weekend excursions. Hearing their own stories, the things they cared about in the world, and their plans to do good was very inspiring.

It might be the case that everyone in the world has something to offer, but I’m hesitant to get fully behind that point of view. I think in a way it devalues places that truly have a landscape of excellence. iXperience succeeded in bringing together a community of capable and inspirational role models, probably more so than a random collection of people would have been offered. This might be a sign that I still have a bit reprogramming of myself to do, but I do think the community here is something special.

Not only did I learn to value others, but also to respect and receive mentorship from them. After completing the Data Science course I walked into the Applied AI course, taught by another industry expert, Raymond Ellis. Unlike with Andrew, we did not have a common background in physics making communication inherently easy. If I had come into the course with a more closed mind, I probably would have found it hard to learn from Raymond. Thanks to the transformative experience of my first month, I found Raymond to be a just as valuable source of knowledge, even if the two of us tend to say the same things in different ways from time to time.

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