Charles Osei is one of VCU’s first students to earn the Capital CoLAB Digital Generalist badge, a credential that carries exclusive internship and hiring advantages with major companies throughout Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Maryland. It gives students from any major (except computer science) technology skills that leading employers have identified as most in-demand, now and over the next five years.
Students can earn this badge, which can be posted to LinkedIn, by taking three online computer science courses offered by VCU's Department of Computer Science and designed specifically for non-computer science majors. The first course, Computers and Programming, which is required for the badge, will be offered to all VCU students as part of their General Education curriculum next year. The remaining courses provide training in skills related to data science and cybersecurity. Students who opt to take an additional course in software engineering and web development can also earn a baccalaureate certificate in the fundamentals of computing, which will be included on their VCU transcript. (Learn more or register through VCU E-Services.)
As he prepares to finish up at VCU and hit the job market, Osei reflected on the process of earning the badge and how it fits in with his plans.
Where did you grow up, Charles?
I was born in Ghana and came to the U.S. with my family when I was 16. I graduated from Potomac Senior High School in Woodbridge, Virginia, and went to Northern Virginia Community College before coming to VCU.
What are you majoring in and what year are you?
I’m a senior, and I’m majoring in interdisciplinary studies with a focus on information systems and computer science.
Why did you decide to earn the CoLAB badge?
I always say I’m a “hybrid tech person.” I want to be able to do anything and everything in terms of technology, so when my adviser told me about the badge, I was interested. I’m all about being versatile. Knowing about software engineering, data science and cybersecurity will give me more options. And I like having an actual badge to put on LinkedIn. That way the world can see what I am capable of and have accomplished.
What did you like best about the process of earning the badge?
I liked the fact that it was all online. That was a good experience, because it gives you more time to complete the assignments. The professors I had were great and always available.
What was the biggest challenge?
The one thing I was worried about was that it wouldn’t be interactive, but it was more interactive than I thought. Another student in the program and I worked on a few projects together.
What is your career path, and how did getting this credential fit in with it?
After VCU, I want to work in NoVa or D.C. My goal is to be a computer systems analyst. But, really, after graduation, I want to do different jobs within the IT field, not just one job for the rest of my life. Getting the badge will definitely boost my chances for finding jobs in the D.C. area. And it’ll be good for the other thing, too, having different jobs over the years. My main requirement is that I get to solve problems and help people.
Have you already used any of the skills you gained from the program?
Most definitely. I’m very comfortable working in [the] Python [programming language] now, which before I always thought was only for “tech people.” Cybersecurity skills was one of my favorite classes. I want to get more hands-on and am thinking of joining the Cybersecurity Club @ VCU. I’ve also built two websites from scratch — one about me and one for a company.
What would you tell students who are considering getting this badge?
Go for it. Take the courses and get the experiences. You will learn that you can do a lot of things. It’ll also make you better at whatever you’re already into. The sky’s the limit.
Anything I should have asked about that you would like to share?
Yeah, I’ve already told some of my friends and my sister who’s in high school that they ought to do this.