Winona Daily News Campus Connection
Software Development student finds his passion, purpose at Minnesota State College Southeast
By Katryn Conlin, April 17, 2022
This spring, Callum Luken will graduate from Minnesota State College Southeast with a degree in Software Development and Support, but he won't be looking for a job.
That's because he has already been hired -- and will start in a new career in software engineering immediately after he graduates in May!
Callum, who is 26, lives in Winona with his wife Emily and their two dogs, a golden retriever and a cattle dog mix.
Just a few years ago, having attended colleges in Nevada and Wisconsin to study business and horticulture, he wasn't eager to pursue further education.
"I did not find much passion in either of the schools I tried after high school," he said.
He started working at Hy-Vee part-time and ended up being offered a position as a Charcuterie Specialist. About a year later he was promoted the role of Delicatessen Manager.
"This position really helped build my confidence," he said. "After a few years of working in it, I wanted to try going back to school to do something I had always been very interested in, computer programming."
Finding the right college
At that point, he researched many different online schools but a felt that a lot of them were simply "diploma mills."
"I started to get a bit discouraged but then I decided to look at what MSC Southeast offered," he said. "I was very excited when I found that Southeast had an online Software and Web Development program. I couldn't believe I hadn't checked there sooner!"
Admissions Representative Christopher Cook was extremely helpful with the enrollment process. "He was very responsive, and provided an overwhelmingly positive experience, which helped tremendously since I was very nervous about re-enrolling in school."
Callum continued his full-time job as Deli Manager, working about 45 hours per week, while also going to school full time at Southeast for two years. "Thankfully Hy-Vee provides an opportunity to have a very flexible schedule," he said.
Before starting at Southeast, Callum said that he played a lot of video games. "I felt that if I spent that same amount of time working on my classes as I used to playing games, I could be a successful student. The key for me was having a subject that I was passionate about and classes that I enjoyed."
Maintaining a disciplined lifestyle over the span of a couple years has sometimes been tough. Fortunately for Callum, Software Development and Support is taught online.
"For me it has been an enormous advantage being an online student," he said. "The luxury of this program being online is that students can work at their own pace. This helped me many times throughout my two years at MSC Southeast."
Finding a new job
When it came time to consider how to put his education to work, he found that his instructors were very helpful, especially when it came to preparing for job interviews.
Computer science instructor Enrique Mendoza explained, "Callum contacted me once he had scheduled his interviews. I was very glad he did as I was able to give him specific pointers on how to approach them, based on my own experience as interviewer of dozens of candidates for various projects in my career."
"When I told Mr. Mendoza about my job interviews, he instantly responded and was more than happy to take time out of his evenings to help me interview prep and give me ideas about what to expect," Callum said. "Our Zoom calls helped me feel more confident going into my interviews, which of course in turn helped my performance."
Enrique Mendoza expects a bright future for Callum, who had multiple job offers by February of Spring semester.
"Callum has a very strong work ethic and does a very good job working independently and communicating his needs," he said. "Being self-sufficient and able to develop a keen problem-solving attitude is fundamental in a software engineering profession. If on top of that you have good communication skills, you are guaranteed success."
Callum is delighted to continue his career with Hy-Vee in an entirely new role, as an Associate Software Engineer on the Financial Application Team, starting right after graduation.
Enrique Mendoza concluded, "It's really wonderful to witness the triumphs of our students as they reach the workforce."