Student & Alumni Voice: Leif Heaney's Experience Studying at, Graduating From, and Working for Capitol Tech
Leif Heaney is a recent graduate of Capitol Technology University's BS in Computer Science, a current student in Capitol Tech's MS in Computer Science program, and the university's Assistant Director of Online Learning and User Experience.
–This is Leif's story–
Capitol Tech is a place where you get out what you put in.
Capitol Tech will open a world of possibilities for any student willing to put in the work necessary to achieve their goals. The resources available to the undergraduate population, both online and on ground, promote the betterment of the student in every facet of their life, but without understanding Capitol Tech, its uniqueness could be perceived as a weakness. From an outsider’s perspective, our university may seem small, hyper-focused on technical degrees only, and almost representative of the underdog when compared to nearby universities. However, those perceived weaknesses, when taken advantage of by the right student, become resources that the other big universities simply cannot provide including: individualized study plans, hyper-focused projects that adhere to the student’s interests, small class sizes that allow for students to receive the support they need in a timely manner (unlike in a large seminar class setting). The list (and it’s a long one), goes on. The community and resources that Capitol Tech has and will continue to provide is unlike, what any of these other universities, can promise.
During the spring of my senior year of high school when I heard about Capitol Technology University. I was speaking with a friend who was also looking to attend university in the upcoming Fall semester. I was looking to attend a Computer Science program while he was looking for the elusive four-year Cybersecurity program. I had already applied to UMBC and was weighing the University of Maryland as another option. Meanwhile, he was struggling to find many local universities that supported a four-year Cybersecurity program. Then, he stumbled upon Capitol Tech. We looked at the website together and read about Capitol Tech’s renowned Cybersecurity Bachelor’s degree, which was recently awarded the title of Best Cybersecurity program in 2020. We saw a slew of technical degrees where Computer Science was at the forefront with many similar programs following. Nearly every course in the program piqued my interest from studying Intelligent Systems to Scripting to Programming in C. I applied to Capitol Tech that same day. A few weeks later I received two letters on the same day; one from UMBC, and one from Capitol Tech. I had been accepted into both schools.
I remember visiting Capitol Tech’s for the first time. Touring the academic buildings was not what had initially cemented Capitol Tech as my first choice over UMBC–it was the faculty and staff. There was a distinct sense of community that cannot be found at a larger school. Everybody knew everybody, and your name meant something to the faculty and staff; each student was not “just another student”, they were a name, a face, a personality, a memorable individual that would build countless meaningful relationships over the next few years at Capitol Tech. Capitol Tech had cultivated its own self-sufficient learning community where students had dedicated faculty, staff, offices, and various other resources constantly at their disposal. Seeing the plethora of support options is what sealed my decision. Office hours were promoted heavily, the library was an ideal study location, the student success center was available and extremely supportive, and, what was most impressive to me, was the fact that you could speak with your Chair or Advisor on a whim. I was able to walk right into their office and speak to them like I had known them for years.
After committing to Capitol Tech, my freshman year was an incredible experience. My fall semester began with two courses required by my degree as well as three general studies. Within my first week, I was already writing code and doing what I loved. It was a learning experience unlike any other university could provide. My courses had an average of thirteen students–less than what I had experienced in my high school courses. Capitol Tech took a dynamic and modern approach to teaching and secondary education. Many of my courses were pragmatic in the fact that the course work was essentially exposure-learning. Students are put in an emulation of real-life scenarios where learning was reinforced with examples from faculty who had previously (or currently) worked in the industry. Software developers were teaching me best practices for programming, electrical engineers were walking me through how to handle a breadboard, and the experience was the same in every course that I enrolled in. I had an industry professional at my disposal every day of the week. I could ask someone who actively lived the career I was aspiring to have what I needed to work on, what I was doing wrong, how I could improve my code, etc. It was an invaluable resource that made my tuition worth every penny.
My sophomore year was met with many more challenges, both personal and educational. I lost a close family member, underwent a surgery mid-semester, and then had another surgery the week after final exams had completed. Educationally, I had been met with some difficult courses and a large course load that left me little time to work and make money. Through all of these complications and unpredictable situations, one thing remained constant: the support from the faculty, staff, and students at the Capitol Tech. My instructors were incredibly understanding and helped me find an individualized study plan that allowed me to stay up-to-date with my course load while grieving and recovering from surgery. My instructors adjusted group projects to allow me to work asynchronously to not impede upon my erratic personal schedule. Everything that I needed was provided to me in a consistent and heartfelt manner. It made me see just how much the faculty and staff at Capitol Tech cared about each student and their education.
Over my four years as an undergraduate at Capitol, I worked on many projects, both individually and in a group. Even though I was in a Computer Science degree program, I received a wealth of knowledge in related fields through labs in both my general studies and degree-focused courses. I worked on AC/DC circuits, breadboards, virtual machines, physics labs, mathematical proofs, software development, application development, command-line programming, solutions development, scripting, web development, web design, user interface design, user experience testing, quality assurance testing, cybersecurity attack and defense procedures, and so much more. My favorite project was my senior design project, the Capitol Technology University Disc Golf Course Companion Application. The project lasted the entirety of my senior year and was essentially an emulation of the process taken when pitching, designing, implementing, and successfully completing a project within a work environment. I was given the opportunity to creatively brainstorm, create a pitch and presentation, design and development the entirety of the project, and then implement it onto a system of my choosing. The entire process gave me a greater understanding of what to expect once I was ready to enter the work force.
I was given the opportunity to work as a full-time employee at Capitol about halfway through my senior year at Capitol. A position opened up in the Online Learning department for the role of Assistant Director of Online Learning and User Experience. I was thrilled when offered the position as I know what potential the university offers to those who take hold of opportunities and work hard. Working at Capitol Tech is a rewarding experience. My ultimate goal in everything I do is to help others and make their lives easier, so having the opportunity to support both students and faculty on a regular basis (not to mention the difficulties COVID-19 currently poses to education in general) falls in line with my personal values. Being able to give back to the same community that I received so much support and education from was, and continues, to be an incredible experience.
To learn more about Leif's experience within the Computer Science degree program, his senior design project, or his time at Capitol in general, click here to register for his webinar focused on is his senior design project, the Capitol Technology University Disc Golf Course Companion Application.