Eric Colaciello spent a few years pursuing post-secondary training in social science and urban studies before realizing that path just wasn’t right for him. After doing some self-reflection and exploring the available options, he decided to strike out in a totally new direction—and enrolled in the online software development program at Herzing College.
He had no experience with either coding or remote learning. But he persevered, graduating in October 2023 and landing contract work with the same organization where he’d done his internship.
We spoke with Eric to get his impressions of the program and the online learning experience in general. Here are the highlights of that conversation.
Q. Can you share a bit about your background? What were you doing before enrolling at Herzing?
Eric: After high school, I attended John Abbott College (a CEGEP) here in Montreal and studied social science. After that, I decided to enrol at Concordia University in an urban studies program. But after a couple semesters, I realized the urban studies program wasn’t really what I expected it to be. So I decided to drop out.
I spent a couple months looking around and decided to enrol at Herzing in the online software development program.
Q. What made you pick software development?
Eric: Computers and IT had always interested me. I felt like I was good with technology and troubleshooting; stuff like that came naturally to me. So I looked into schools and programs that revolved around that.
I’d heard of Herzing before and I knew a couple of people who went there, so I spoke to them. It was the first place I looked that wasn’t university. The software development program piqued my interest, so I decided to do it.
Q. You didn’t have any kind of background in IT. Did that make the program extra difficult?
Eric: Yes and no. It was obviously things I hadn’t learned before, but at the same time, it was things I was interested in and curious about. So I was very eager to learn about it.
There was a bit of an adjustment at the beginning. But it was an enjoyable experience for sure.
Q. How did you find the online format?
Eric: Like I said, there was a period of adjustment at the beginning. Yes, you have an instructor and you have other students in the class, but at the end of the day, it’s not that face-to-face experience I was used to my whole life in school.
At the beginning, if I had questions, I would try to just deal with it myself and figure it out myself. But at the end of the day, you have to ask questions. The instructor’s there to help you, and other students can help you too. I had to get used to emailing my instructor.
Q. How was the instructor?
Eric: Naresh Nagandla was really nice, really helpful. He was always available to help students after the provided class times, and he answered quickly if you had to email him.
Q. What was the toughest part of the program?
Eric: The workload is pretty heavy. You get an assignment basically every day. Nothing big, and they weren’t always due the same day, but if you don’t manage your time properly, you’re going to get swamped. So that was a bit of an adjustment too, but eventually it made me develop better time management skills. So something positive came out of it.
Q. What was the highlight of the program for you?
Eric: For me, the best thing was the fact that we got to learn about a variety of programming languages. We learned the basics of eight or nine languages, which I found really interesting and cool. After the program, when you’re looking for a job, you can be considered by a wide variety of companies because you have training in all these different languages. It really opens doors.
Every module is about a different language. And even though the program is only one year, you’re not just learning and reading up on it and trying one thing and you’re done. You get to develop an application. You start with the basics, and then you do more and add on to that until at the end of the module, the big assignment is to bring it all together.
It’s definitely more condensed compared to a four-year university computer science program. But I still think the knowledge I have of the different languages is pretty in depth. You’re coding right from the very first assignment, so that’s another thing I liked about it. You really get to be hands on and improve your skills.
I think that translates easily to the internship, because in the end, they really want you to be hands on with the job in a real-life setting. So I think the training really prepares you well for that.
Q. Tell us about your internship. What kinds of things did you do?
Eric: I did my internship at the Rural Manitoba Economic Development Corporation (RMED). It was focused on SharePoint, which we had worked with a bit during the program, but we hadn’t spent a full course on it or anything.
I was given the opportunity to revamp and maintain one of their board portal sites. It was a bit old and just needed to be changed around to be more fitting for their clients and whoever’s on the board. So I learned how to properly develop and maintain that portal site. It was basically web development.
That was something during my Herzing training that I liked and felt like I was good at, so I’m glad I got that internship.
Q. You got hired at RMED when you graduated, right?
Eric: Yes, I’m currently on contract with them. During the internship, I wasn’t able to finish the whole site, so that’s what I’m still doing. Eventually I will present it to the board and show them how to use it, which is another skill I’ll get to practise. It’s a really, really good opportunity.
Q. How would you describe your overall Herzing experience?
Eric: It was definitely one of the better educational experiences I’ve had in my life so far. One thing that really stood out to me was that everyone I interacted with from the school, whether it was the instructors, administrators, or other students, was just so kind and helpful and generous. I really got the sense that they care about their students.
It’s true that you’re not going as in depth as you would in university. It’s only a year, so there’s only so much you can do. But with the time and resources I was given, I learned a lot.
Q. What advice would you give someone who was considering this program?
Eric: Be ready for the workload. Manage your time properly and make sure you’re on top of everything.
Make sure you understand what you’re doing with every assignment, because the last one will help you with the next one.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I’m the type of person who would rather figure it out on my own, and that only got me so far. I had to ask questions of my instructor and of other students. Remember that they’re all there to help you.
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM
The online software development program from Herzing College takes just 12 months to complete and includes a six-week internship for real work experience.
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