Archaeology + Technology + Real Estate — An Epic Journey

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Ashley Dowdy, PhD

My first try at college did not go as planned. The second, third, fourth, and fifth time went even worse. So, I took a break, flew to England, got mugged, played in a castle, and worked nearly every hour of the day. Then one day, I found myself homesick.

When I got home, I quickly discovered that my new work ethic helped me land a job at the Gray Fossil Site & Natural History Museum. It was an incredible opportunity, and everything began to fall into place after two years under their tutelage. I got accepted into the Anthropology department at Pennsylvania State University and moved again.

After two years of stretching my days and nights, I graduated and set out into the world to be an archaeologist whose exploits could earn a place beside Margaret Mead, Mary Leakey, Dian Fossey, and Jane Goodall. I got a field job with a Cultural Resource and Heritage Management Firm, and for a few months, I was digging holes in the middle of nowhere, Texas. Yep, I moved again.

I quickly learned that Texas heat means dehydration, sunburns in strange places, red dirt that never washes off, rattlesnakes, and wild hogs that do not want to be my friend. I was miserable, dirty, and done in by shovel test pits.

But as quickly as it had begun, it was over. The company that employed me lost their contract and kicked us all to the curb. Those that had been in the field for a while moved on. I just stood there, blinking into the sun, certain that I had made the biggest and most expensive mistake in my life.

After a few days of wallowing in despair, I took a giant leap in a new direction. I applied for a job in the Apple Store. I was incredibly unqualified, but we were out of money and living in my sister-in-law’s spare room. Computers scared me. I had destroyed every device I had owned, but I had to try.

I made it through the first interview, the second, and in the third interview, they hired me!

I worked for Apple for a little more than three years, and in that time, they taught me how to survive in a world of technology. They built me up, pushed me to be positive, and to be part of a team. With their support, my confidence rebuilt, and I took on a new direction in life. I completed my Masters in Higher Education and started working toward a Ph.D. in Educational Technology. I found technology, education, and a newfound respect for people trying to bring technology into their own lives.

It was a bittersweet moment the day I left Apple, but I knew it was just the beginning of a new adventure. It would be an adventure that would take me through a harsh and unyielding terrain full of surprises, but on the other side, I found I was still pushing forward.

Fast forward to seven years later, and I finally earned my Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Technology and a bonus Master of Philosophy in Education. In that time, I’ve been an assistant manager of a public library technology team, an operations assistant at a coding school, and now the owner of a side hustle called AshTech Training and Consulting. I teach people how to use their technology and consult on their technology purchases.

With my degree, I have hopes of teaching at the college and graduate college level, but I’ve yet to find that job. I was told it could take six months or more before I do, due to the competitive nature of academia….

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… Fast forward a year and the world has changed. We now have a pandemic due to COVID-19. My plans of becoming a professor have changed. It was with some reluctance that I made a new agenda. After all, I’ve spent nearly a decade studying to be in academia, but that is not happening now. I have taken a deep breath and pushed it aside. I may revisit it one day, but now it is about surviving and thriving in these odd times.

I have, through hard work and little bit of luck, found a new path to take. I am an assistant and closing coordinator for a group of real estate agents who are passionate about what they do. It is inspiring. I have signed up for a real estate course that will take me a few months to complete. In the interim, I will focus on my goals for the year and report back when I can.


I dug archaeology, taught technology, and found myself in real estate, but don’t worry. I still write, draw, swear, and drink coffee.

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