After taking several Blue Ridge Community College Information Technology courses, recent graduate and first-generation student Mark Opperman received a promotion at his job, and credits the real-world applications taught in Blue Ridge classes for his newfound success.
The 50-year-old is a Hendersonville local who is a proud 2021 graduate with an associate degree in information technology.
Opperman wasn’t always interested in IT, however, as he initially started as a music student at the College in the 1990s before leaving to pursue other opportunities. He returned to Blue Ridge in 2013 as a Programming and IT student.
Unfortunately when financial barriers arose, Opperman was forced to put school on hold with only a handful of classes left to graduate. He then learned to weld and worked as a welder for six years at Hickman Edge Systems.
Once the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Opperman felt he needed to broaden his skillset, so he made the decision to return to classes at Blue Ridge in Fall 2020 and finish his degree. Shortly after graduating, he was promoted from being a welder to working in the office at Hickman.
“Because of this degree, I went from being a welder to working in the office, making higher wages and just expanding my options,” Opperman said. “My job is now Technical Sales Representative for the Western United States.”
As a first generation student, he’s proud of his accomplishment, and recalled that the last thing he actually discussed with his late brother was earning a college degree.
Some of the classes he most attributes to his newfound success as an IT professional include Python Programming and the general Excel course, the latter of which is where he earned his Microsoft Certification, a factor that helped him stand out from the competition.
The Excel course also allowed him to create new calculations on a particular piece of company machinery, which saved money and made the machine more efficient.
“Everything I learned about IT, I learned at Blue Ridge,” he added. “I feel like I really stand out as an integral part of the team now. I give my training and education all the credit for my new career.”
He praised the Blue Ridge instructors – in particular Dr. Vanessa Capps – for being patient, kind and attentive. He plans to continue growing his IT knowledge by taking more cybersecurity courses.
“I just don’t see where you can go wrong with learning computer skills. It’s a great foundation for any job you’ll encounter. If you don’t know about computers, it’s going to be an obstacle in your job, so be sure to brush up on your IT skills at Blue Ridge,” he stated.
For more information about Blue Ridge’s IT programs, visit blueridge.edu/information-technology. You can also reach out to IT Faculty Coordinator Ken Gardner at (828) 694-1772 or firstname.lastname@example.org.