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Gavin Black: Family Man Earns Online Degree in Software Engineering

Gavin Black dodged layoffs at International Gaming Technology (IGT), in part due to the software engineering degree he earned online and a chance meeting on an airplane. Gavin started at IGT building slot machines and then earned his degree to advance his career. After telling a fellow airplane passenger about his job and education experience, Gavin was later recruited to work for the state of Nevada.

Q: After you earned your associate's degree in electronic engineering at a brick-and-mortar school, why did you choose to go back to school and finish your bachelor's degree in software engineering?

A: At the time, I was working for IGT and had reached a ceiling in what I could make with my current position and degree. Going to school was in my plans for the future, but I was forced to do it sooner than I had planned. I was given a list of degrees that IGT would accept and had to give them the name of the school to have them approve it. I already [had the skills] my education was going to teach me, but in today's work environment a degree is the key to success.

Q: With so many online schools available, how did you choose?

A: Finding a school was the hardest thing to do. There were a lot of schools offering software engineering. I pride myself in my ability to research something to the point that I will know it inside and out. Even with this ability, I first started off down the path with [one college], but after a few months, I realized the schooling they offered me came across as a diploma mill. So after more research and learning the questions I needed to ask, I found [the online school I attended], which was an online extension of their brick-and-mortar school.

Q: What sorts of expectations did you have about online education?

A: Naively, I expected it to be a lot like learning and attending class in a brick-and-mortar school. I found it to be a very different learning experience in the way they had it set up. I was surprised by the types of online learning tools that were offered to us, such as recorded lectures that included questions and answers from the students and a virtual library for source material for our assignments. Sadly, since we are attending school from a distance and we can find answers on the Internet, they included a tool that would rank the probability that you have plagiarized your work.

Q: Do you feel the classes prepared you for or were directly relevant to your career?

A: In my case it was the other way around. I was already doing programming for work, and my career prepared me for school. I was also blessed with a great mentor at work as well.

Q: What was your favorite class?

A: My favorite classes were my programming classes. Mostly because they normally were not assigned as a group project. I liked the logic problems that they posed and enjoyed being able to come up with many different ways to solve the same problem.

Q: How did the online school you attend help support you academically and professionally?

A: It gave me access to all of the questions and answers that students were asking the teacher along with ways to contact my teacher or fellow students with question or help on the course work. The school also included a lifetime alumni program that will help me with things like preparing a resume and helping me find a job in my career field.

Q: Do you think you've received a return on your investment in your online degree?

A: Yes, I have, regardless of the cost to us. I have been able to accelerate through my career field and have found a great job that is able to support my family.

Q: What career goals has your degree already helped you to achieve?

A: We wanted to be able to have a family with the ability for my wife to stay home and raise our kids. Going to school gave me the career that helped us achieve that goal. It has helped us into our first house and has given me the confidence that if something happened to my job that I have the skills and experience necessary to obtain another job.

Online degrees can help you advance your career without taking time off from your work. Consider how you can get your degree and take your career to the next level.

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JoVon Sotak is a writer, community journalist, and photographer who enjoys living in the middle of nowhere, Nevada. Her articles have appeared in online and print publications in Nevada and throughout the United States.

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