The Think IT scholarship program is designed to holistically support students: in the classroom, financially, and through career exploration and mentorship. As Think IT scholars, the four 2019 winners will receive personalized professional support and guidance, receive access to college-to-career programs, and get the opportunity to connect with technology and business professionals.
Each of these students has a story worth telling. So, we decided to sit down with each of these esteemed winners to hear – in their own words – how they got to where they are today and where they hope to go next.
In our third Think IT Scholarship Spotlight, you’ll hear from Genesys Works Twin Cities Class of 2017 alumnus and former Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota young professional Omar Ceesay. According to Genesys Works College Success Specialist Britney Hayes, “Omar won this scholarship due to his impressive detail for planning his future. His goal was to attend Saint Paul College and then transfer to the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. He was accepted and will be attending the U of M this fall as he continues his journey into software development.”
Without further ado, here’s Omar!
Q: Can you recall a breakthrough moment during GW that was a huge learning experience for you?
Omar Ceesay: One of my breakthrough moments during GW would have to be during my internship. When I finished my final project at Blue Cross, I felt like I was an actual contributing part of the team. The project was the back-end for a small web application that took the users’ form data and converted into another data format. It then put the file into an S3 bucket that would be picked up by a third party printing company. I overcame this challenge by having a manager who was confident in my abilities and who always was an encouraging presence. Also, I would never have gotten to that point without my previous manager George as well as the other developers who helped me grow into a person who was able to accomplish such a task.
Q: Have you had any breakthrough moments in college, career exploration, or professional internships since leaving GW?
OC: I think I had a breakthrough moment when I was interviewing for my current job. I went in not nervous whatsoever and did great. This was the first time I wasn’t nervous for this kind of interview and I suppose I wasn’t nervous partially because I knew I had things to talk about in the interview. Having an internship in high school is quite a big stepping stone that provides many useful experiences that you can reference later. The other reason why I wasn’t nervous was because I had done so many interviews and times when I had to present something at Blue Cross that I was ready for any question. And all this passive preparation paid off. In fact, one of the people interviewing me I now work with every day and she mentioned that I did amazing during my interview.
Q: What was the biggest challenge of your transition to college?
OC: My biggest challenge going from high school to college would probably have to be the more intense course work. I wasn’t that successful in high school, and I believe that was because I didn’t think about the future. I don’t mean two, three, ten years from now future. I mean when I’m 40, 50, or 60. How do I want to end up? What do I believe is success? These are the kinds of questions that don’t have such clear answers. In the morning you say one thing, then at night another. But I do know that if I want to be “successful” I have to have the right mindset. So to answer how I overcame this challenge, I changed my mindset from “in the moment” to “in the future.”
Q: What advice would you give to students as they finish up their GW internships and look towards college and postsecondary plans?
OC: I think that the students who are going to begin college this fall should be proactive in their schooling. Reach out to classmates and professors when you’re having trouble in class, meet with your advisers about transferring, or talk to the financial aid office about payment plans that could work for you.
Q: What are you passionate about?
OC: I’m passionate about technology. When I see the progress that people have been making in the past decade and even the progress we make on a weekly basis, I feel hopeful for the future. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what about technology that I’m passionate about; it’s even hard to put into words. With the recent drastic advancements in automation, medicine and computing, I look forward to seeing where we end up 50 years from now.
Be on the lookout next week for the final piece in the Think IT Scholarship Spotlight Series. And, if you haven’t read the first two in this series, check out our features on Brandon Ngo and Latifa Said! The Think IT Scholarship is presented by York Solutions, in partnership with Genesys Works Twin Cities, the Think IT Association, and Wallin Education Partners.