“I really appreciated the part-time flexibility”: How BCIT Computing grad Christian Fenn earned a Bachelor’s Degree through night and weekend classes

Some say you need to be in it for the long haul, and BCIT Computing grad Christian Fenn is precisely that. Over the past eight years, he has accumulated five credentials: two associate certificates, one certificate, one diploma, and a Bachelor of Technology in Computer Systems.

The irony is that Christian wasn’t initially interested in computing. “I was 18, working in a restaurant and a brewing business, and really trying to find out what my next step would be,” says Christian.

“I was considering cooking or carpentry, but one day in 2014, my father – also without a computing background – gave me this article about Udacity and its free online course offerings. I decided to check one out about Python.”

Little did he know that his father’s casual suggestion would influence the next decade of his life.

“I was hooked because software development mirrored what I loved”

“The Udacity course featured Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, and he goes into raptures about all the possibilities and how thriving the tech sector is. His enthusiasm sparked an interest,” explains Christian.”

Christian's three tips for prospective students. Number 1: Build a network. Keep in touch with classmates and teachers. BCIT has a few hiring fairs each year so definitely make sure to attend those and talk to the employersIn the following months, Christian explores the option of studying computing. At the time, his identical twin brother was already studying finance and accounting at BCIT, while his friends and other family members confirm BCIT’s solid reputation.

It was after attending Big Info and speaking with staff and students, that Christian decides to explore further and enrolls in one course. “In the span of six months, I was hooked,” says Christian.

“I was hooked because software development mirrored what I loved doing while growing up: building things. I found it to be challenging, interesting and fun. I could also see myself working in the field and enjoying it for a considerable amount of time.”

“The laddered credential option [makes it] easier to find out if the courses are a good fit”

There were a few reasons why Christian decided to study part-time. “I really appreciated the flexibility it offered in studying evenings and weekends, so that I could gain work experience during the day, which I did at General Electric and Global Relay.”

“But another benefit was that it’s harder to enroll in the full-time courses because they’re competitive. And with the laddered credential option that Part-time Studies offer, it’s easier to find out if the courses are a good fit. And if they are, to work your way along.”

And work his way along, he did. Christian gains five credentials over eight years: Applied Software Development, Applied Computer Information Systems, Computer Systems Certificate, Computer Systems Diploma and lastly, the CST Bachelor of Technology Degree with a Network Security Applications Development specialization.

“I was never academically inclined,” explains Christian. “I figured I would do a couple of certificates, get a job, and that would be it. I have friends who ended up working at renowned companies like EA and Fortinet with a similar approach.”

“[The instructor’s] passion and enthusiasm sold me on doing the Bachelor program”

But as it turned out, the BCIT alumnus really enjoyed learning about the tech field, and BCIT’s instructors had a significant part in that.

One instructor in particular.

Christian's three tips for prospective students. Number 2: Work on personal projects and put them on GitHub with a README file that explains what the program is for and how to use it.“It was Aman Abdulla, at the time the Program Head of the Network Security Applications Development option, whose passion and enthusiasm really sold me on doing the Bachelor program,” says Christian.

“I first met Aman during his cryptography course. We had a historical journey through the cryptography landscape, which was super interesting and relevant; from the Ceasar cipher to the Vigenère cipher and more advanced, modern cryptography such as AES and RSA. I ended up doing seven or so more courses with him.”

“It took a ton of hard work and many late nights, but it was worth it”

Combining his several courses with his multiple jobs, including private tutoring and volunteer work for the BCIT Computing Club – organizing workshops, buddy programs, and mock-up technical interviews – it was at times “extremely busy”, as Christian puts it.

“Sometimes, I was working and studying sixty hours a week. Especially towards the end when I started working less and taking on more courses. It definitely has an impact on your social life.”

“I underestimated how important time management would be in completing the courses and assignments. I remember, especially early in the diploma program, that the Object-Oriented Programming assignments didn’t take a couple of hours, but well over ten hours before I understood the material and got the programs working.”

Despite the workload, Christian managed to finish his degree last month with an average score of 85%. “It took a ton of hard work and many late nights, but it was worth it,” says the elated grad.

“The most important goal [for our startup] is to offer quality products to businesses”

And now he’s already engaged in his next major challenge: expanding his start-up business, DocuWork, which he started a few months ago. Fun fact: he founded the company with his twin brother, a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) who graduated from BCIT with a Finance diploma and an Accounting degree.

Christian's 3 tips for prospective Computing students. Number 3. I would also recommend that students work on algorithm type problems since they'll come up in almost every job interview.“My brother identified some issues while doing audit work in accounting, so we decided to provide management software that helps businesses with their administration,” explains Christian.

Although they are still very much in the start-up phase, the brothers already have a few clients in Vancouver and New York, simply by reaching out on LinkedIn.

“We don’t have a grand plan yet in terms of expanding. The most important goal for now is to add value and offer useful, good quality products to businesses,” says Christian.

And in regards to his time at BCIT? After eight years of studying, is he done?

Not quite, actually.

“There are still many courses that I am excited about, AI, for example. I also heard that  Computing might start a Master’s, so I’ll keep an eye out for that*. And I would also be keen on teaching!”

*BCIT Computing is in the process of exploring the development of a Masters Degree in Applied Computing. Sign up for Computing’s Tech It Out quarterly newsletter for the latest updates.

Interested in studying Computing part-time? Join our info session on June 9 for everything you need to know.

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