Al Del Degan Hosts Danielle Barker
Listen to episode 147 here: Podcast
[00:00:00] Al Del Degan: Hey everybody. Welcome to the show. I'm really excited today to have one of my colleagues. Danielle Barker is here and Danielle is one of the valued and favorites of the learners that inceptionU. She's helping us with, the, facilitation of the inceptionU program. but she was also a learner in the program in the previous cohort.
Danielle, thanks so much for being here.
[00:00:23] Danielle Barker: Ya, thanks
[00:00:24] Al Del Degan: We talked briefly, one day about your past, and I thought you had this incredibly fascinating story that I think people would really enjoy hearing. So why don't you tell us a little bit about where you came from and how your life has gotten you to where you are today.
[00:00:40] Danielle Barker: So it's a really long story, butI'll tell a short version and you can ask more questions based on that, I guess. Yeah. So I started to get an interest in software development in, actually in high school in grade 11, they had,one of the options that we were allowed to take was, software development.
So we learned to visual basic and C plus plus, I really loved it. this might be something I want to do for a living. Yeah. So I went to a university for a year and really struggled and I had to work at the same time. So I wasn't able to, you know, keep up with my studies and didn't do very well.
I kind of gave up on that dream. I thought that was the only way to get in is to just, is to get a degree, otherwise I have to do something else. So yeah, I, ended up just having jobs, like customer service jobs, and I was a school bus driver, warehouse job here and there. And eventually I ended up, Being unemployed for a while, five years, I was unemployed for a, I was just on, on welfare and, I got called it to the welfare office and they said, we can't keep you on welfare forever.
You're going to have to get a job. And like, if you need help getting a job, there's resources and they said, you either have to get a job within the next three months, or you can take this, employment program. So it was like, employability skills. program through Alberta works. I ended up going to that and that's where I learned about InceptionU .
And, yeah, so I thought it was a really cool program sounded cool. And I decided, yeah, I want to take the leap and try by best and do what I can and it ended up turning out really great for me. That's how I ended up where I am today.
[00:02:22] Al Del Degan: Now you had mentioned to me that not only were you on welfare, but you actually spent a little bit of time homeless, correct?
[00:02:28] Danielle Barker: Yeah. So I lost my, my job as a school bus driver. That was my last job I had. Kind of just a bunch of other bad things happened at the same time and just kind of hit this point where I just wanted to give up, so I didn't want to go find another job. So I just ended up, taking what money I had and buying a van, and I just lived in the van for six months.
[00:02:52] Al Del Degan: That must've been, quite a struggle.
[00:02:54] Danielle Barker: It was at times ya, there's not a lot of places that let you park a van and sleep at night. And so, you know, like they'd wake you up in middle of the night, Hey, you gotta move. You can't be here. There was some times where I forgot where I parked and ended up having to sleep on the street I'm terrible with directions.
I get lost very easily, so I thought someone stole my van. I was just like, guess I'm on the street now.
[00:03:24] Al Del Degan: I guess there must've been a little tiny piece of that, that was very free though?.
[00:03:30] Danielle Barker: Yeah, there definitely was parts of it, of the experience that I enjoyed. Like I took the van and I actually went across BC.
So I drove to Nelson was the first place I stayed. Nelson's really nice. I went to Vancouver. And then I stayed in Victoria for quite a while and I got to go and be on the beach every day and sleep by the beach. Yeah. So there was some nice parts to it, for sure.
[00:03:57] Al Del Degan: I'm guessing you're back in Calgary now when you're,living on welfare and did they provide, any sort of housing or anything?
[00:04:04] Danielle Barker: They don't provide housing, but they, they give you like, they give you $350 a month, and you can use that towards rent. Yeah. So I found a place that was $350 for rent.
[00:04:18] Al Del Degan: You can't eat, but at least you have a roof over your head.
[00:04:21] Danielle Barker: They give you, they give you some other money too. It's maybe three 50 for rent and then 400 for everything else. So it wasn't I wasn't living the high life, but I had my basic needs.
[00:04:35] Al Del Degan: The other interesting thing, is that you had mentioned to me that you were also on the autism spectrum, what's that been like on top of all this other stuff?
[00:04:43] Danielle Barker: Yeah so for me, that comes through mostly with, having sensory sensitivities also, especially when I was younger with social, social norms, like understanding them and following them.
Yeah. So I struggled with like making friends and socializing with people and knowing what to do in social situations. And so that was a struggle to kind of learn. Stuff that comes naturally to most people. Yeah. And then like this, the sensory things like being sensitive to certain textures sounds sensitivity to bright light, that kind of thing.
So yeah, it, it definitely adds some extra struggle on top of the regular stuff.
[00:05:29] Al Del Degan: It's amazing how resilient you've been. Like from, where you've come to where you are now, you know, I'm sure that some of the InceptionU, learners past and present are probably going to listen to this episode. And I mean, they all love you.
Like, you're such a huge favorite with all the learners and with all the staff at InceptionU, I know Margo. She, she adores you and doesn't want you to go anywhere. She wants you to stay around forever. you know, you've really come full circle back into. you know what you could clearly qualify as success. You've made a success out of your life coming from, literally nothing to, where you are today, that's an amazing accomplishment.
[00:06:12] Danielle Barker: Yeah, it feels like I've found my place in the world, I guess,
[00:06:17] Al Del Degan: You've found your fit. And so now, you are, like myself, you have a part-time contract with InceptionU, and you're doing, an amazing job with facilitation.
You've been actually teaching some classes and for someone who's, you know, been very shy and introverted, what's it been like actually teaching classes?
[00:06:37] Danielle Barker: Yeah, the, the very first one, I was so nervous. I was like shaking and just, yeah, I had to keep notes on like every single sentence that I was going to say to remember it all.
And it was very nerve wracking, but it just got more and more comfortable every session after that. And now it's like, I still get nervous leading up to it, but then once I'm there, it's just about like having conversation with people.
[00:07:02] Al Del Degan: And you're in your element because you're talking about, software development topics, right?
So it's kind of like it's your gig, it's your fun. And the other thing too is now, hopefully I don't get this wrong, but you're also a Scrabble champion of sorts. Can you tell us it's a bit about that?
[00:07:20] Danielle Barker: Yeah, so I played Scrabble competitively. I'm a member of a scrapple organization, North American Scrabble Organization.
The club gets together twice a week to play scrabble. So when I didn't, back when I didn't have job, that's what I was. That's what I spent my time doing is studying Scrabble, playing Scrabble. I would play on average, three games a day, every day. Yeah, one of the things, one of the common autistic traits is, having, special interests or like kind of like a hyper-focus on and only do one thing.
That's the only thing you care about. I don't know if it, if it got to like, like a bad point or anything, or like, I wasn't doing things I needed to in my life because I was playing Scrabble. But like, yeah. It's was, yeah, I've been like, I've been playing, probably about three times a week since I was like six.
Yeah. So I just started like, I was always afraid to, to go to the like Scrabble clubs or like join tournaments and stuff. and then, you know, I was, I was like, really down point in my life, I was just like, I gotta do something rather than just sit at home all day, doing nothing. If I don't have a job, I might as well do something, take a risk and see, see what comes of it.
So I went to my first,Scrabble club. It was in 2018. Yeah. I went and showed up and I was like, Hey, I'm here to play Scrabble. And that's when I started like, learning like the, the ways that the pro's study. It's totally different from how like a regular person might think to study Scrabble. Yeah.
Just like you said, you, you said I was a Scrabble champion. Well, I haven't won like a national championship or anything like that. I'm not better than everyone in North America, but I have won in my division. Several times.
[00:09:15] Al Del Degan: Well, I think that qualifies maybe, the word champion itself is maybe not exactly right, but like serious competitor at the very least right? Like you'd probably kick all our butts any day of the week right?
[00:09:30] Danielle Barker: Yeah, anybody who doesn't play competitively, I probably easily just because, like I said, like the study, the way that, the way you study, it really impacts and the strategy there's like, it's not just playing the highest scoring words.
That's not the strategy. There's so much more it's so much deeper than that. And so willing to learn all that and the regular like kitchen table, Scrabble players struggle to keep up.
[00:09:58] Al Del Degan: So did you ever see the, television mini series? The Queen's gambit? The one about the chess I would imagine. And maybe after you watch it, you can let me know what you think, but I imagine it's kind of on those lines or cause it's competitive, like high-end competitive chess. but yeah, it'd be, it'd be fascinating to know if it's anything like that.
[00:10:18] Danielle Barker: There's quite a big crossover actually, between the chess world and the scrabble world, like people that play in both. Yeah. It's interesting to like, you'll see a mix.
There's lots of chess players who play Scrabble. There's lots of Scrabble players who there's actually quite a few Scrabble players who have been on Jeopardy. It's like, it's, it's weird. There's like, if you're good at chess, you're good at memorizing things and logic stuff.
[00:10:45] Al Del Degan: Looking for patterns and thinking of strategies and stuff, oh, that's fascinating. When you graduated from, the InceptionU program, you did, obviously come back and start working for InceptionU as well, but you got some gigs off the ground, right? Like, freelance consulting gigs right away, didn't you?
[00:11:02] Danielle Barker: It's been interesting. It was, what was the first jobs I got was I was working on WordPress. I'd never worked on WordPress before. I had no idea how to do anything in WordPress. And they were like, yeah, can you do, can you like fix this problem? I'm like, Al?, like I had that like beginner developer feeling your again where it's like, oh, I don't know anything.
Why are they trusting me to do this?
[00:11:32] Al Del Degan: But you broke the problems down into little pieces and figured it out and asked for help where you needed to, and then you're off sailing. Right. What are some of your plans for the future
[00:11:41] Danielle Barker: Plans for the future? Yeah. I haven't really got there yet. Haven't really thought too far into the future. Kind of liking how things are now and ya, I don't know.
[00:11:53] Al Del Degan: That's totally okay. I mean, living for the moment and, being able to pay your bills, doing stuff that you love doing. That's, that's an achievement of success right there. So, so that's brilliant. So I guess more the same really, I guess eh?
[00:12:05] Danielle Barker: Ya, now like, I wanna buy a house. That's the one that's really all I've thought about is, Hey, I might be able to buy a house now. This is the first time that I've like, lived on my own, like without roommates or anything.
[00:12:18] Al Del Degan: Well, that's you're, such a fascinating person, and every time I hear you telling one of the stories of, what you've been through and, what you do and these things just kind of pop up and it's like, what?, like really? Holy moly. I just thought it would be really, really cool to have you on the podcast and, you know, let people know, what you've been through, because I think, when people take, a pivoting their career type program like InceptionU, there's a lot of imposter syndrome and there's a lot of wondering, if they can get through it and then be able to get a job and that kind of thing and I think you're really, a shining beacon to people that you can kind of do anything if you, if you really just decide to do it. Right. you're definitely accomplished in a lot of different things and you've been through, a whole lot of crap too, so, I imagine you're probably inspiring to a lot of people and, I really appreciate that you took the time to be on the episode with me today and to be open in sharing the, the crazy life you've had so far, and,I really enjoy working with you at InceptionU, and I know everybody else does. And, and I see great things for you in the future. So I just want to have you on the show and, and let the world know what an awesome person you are.
[00:13:29] Danielle Barker: Oh thanks, I appreciate that, I enjoy working with you as well.
[00:13:33] Al Del Degan: Well, thanks everybody. I hope you enjoyed the episode. if you want to get ahold of Danielle, she's with InceptionU right now, and we'll share her LinkedIn profile in the show notes like we do with, all of our guests, and, tune in next week, same time, same channel, for the next episode of the Leaders, Innovators, and Big Ideas podcast.