How one Columbia Online Student went from banker to IT Manager to creative coder

Michael Gates, Columbia Online Student

Michael Gates is proof that living with a learning mindset is the true key to success. After spending over three decades in banking, Michael was unexpectedly faced with an uncertain future and the prospect of being forced to find a new career. While some might see this as an insurmountable task, Michael was eager to take on the challenge and explore a field he had always loved—technology.

“For those of us who have some tenure in life, we realize that we never truly stop learning. The need to learn doesn’t end once you’ve received degrees or financial and social status. I quickly came to this realization after being laid off from my 36-year career in banking. Through the unemployment office, I was given the opportunity to receive free career training, as long as it was not in banking because they believed that it was not a career that is in demand. Because I am interested in all things technology, I choose the IT field.”

Michael quickly got to work and earned his CCENT and CCNA certifications from Cisco, in addition to becoming a Microsoft Certified Professional. This led him to land a position at Rush University Medical Center as an IT Project Manager. Michael was able to work on infrastructure projects like installing WAPs and Cisco phones throughout the hospital enterprise, in addition to working on a new HIPAA patient privacy security system.

But his learning did not stop there. When Michael heard about app development courses through Columbia College Chicago Online, he was immediately intrigued by the idea of learning to code and create his own apps.

“I’ve been a gamer since the days of Mattel’s Intelevision and Sega’s Genesis to today’s Sony PlayStation and Microsoft’s Xbox. I wanted to finally understand how games and apps for mobile devices worked. In taking App Design with Swift Programming through Columbia Online, I’ve learned a lot about writing programs that can be utilized to make the perfect app. Much of what I’ve learned from the class can be applied to web design as well. In particularly, design patterns. I’ve learned how important they are to the developer and the end user.”

Through the course, Michael learned what he calls the “rules of the road” for building iOS apps. From Apple’s core design patterns to the importance of UX principles, he was able to fully immerse himself in the key principles of app design.

“As users we have become trained to expect a website or an app to have certain qualities. No one is criticizing the social norms of web design as long as it makes sense and is readable, navigable, and responsive. The investment in time and resources in developing an app that turns out to be unpleasant to use will have monetary effects on the company due to a lack of use.”

Beyond just technical skills, Michael was able to explore an even more exciting facet of app design—his own creativity. He offers some advice for anyone who might be stuck in a career rut or is considering going back to school.

“It is the creativity above all else that I have come to love about what I’ve learned through Columbia Online. In my previous career, there was no opportunity for creativity. Even writing this article lends itself to creativity—the ability to express what one feels and share it with the hope that others will understand and possibly learn from it. Learn to embrace the fact that the more you know, the better you are—heck, the better we all are. So, after graduation, don’t put away your books, don’t settle into that new job, get yourself up and get back into school. Keep on learning!”

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