"Plug In and Work Hard"

Tue Nov 9, 2021 at 09:19 AM

Thomas Kinsinger

After Thomas Kinsinger wed in 2008, his wife encouraged him to further his education. Earning his GED was his initial step in getting back to school. Upon his GED completion, he sought to continue his studies, and decided on Blue Ridge Community College’s Career Studies Certificate in Computer Science and Networking.

“My wife encouraged me to look at some of the certificate options, where I could get a certificate and have a piece of paper to show somebody,” said Thomas. “It was obviously a lot less time to devote to getting something like that versus a two-year or four-year degree, so that’s what I did. At some point, I’m thinking of going back and completing a degree, but that certificate was really what I needed to get my foot in the door.”

As an “older” student at BRCC – though only 25 – Thomas enjoyed the varying viewpoints that some of the more traditional-aged students possessed. Along with his interest in the IT field and a great working relationship with his electronics professor, James Richardson, Thomas excelled in his studies.

“It was refreshing being around younger people, and particularly in the IT space, you learn a lot from younger folks,” said Thomas. “I still enjoy that today – just being around people who are a little younger, who bring a different perspective to life and to technology.”

While taking primarily hybrid classes, consisting of both classes online and physically in the classroom, Thomas felt the most beneficial part was the hands-on experience that his professors provided. Many of his courses involved the use of videos, which was also helpful to Thomas since he could go back and re-watch the lecture to catch anything he may have initially missed.

“Those classes, including the videos, were different than what I had experienced before and required some collaboration with other students where we had to post into chats, message back and forth, and also respond to other people,” explained Thomas. “It created a very unique collaboration that you don’t typically get in a traditional classroom setting. The lab part of it was beneficial, having to partner up with each other and try to figure things out and problem solve.”

Thomas also noted that another instructor, Marlena Jarboe, offered a unique experience by inviting representatives from local companies into her classroom. There, they demonstrated ways in which what students were learning in the classroom could be used in the industries around Rockingham and Augusta counties.

After completing his Career Studies Certificate at BRCC, Thomas went on to start and run his own IT company, and eventually went to work for E-N Computers, an IT firm based out of Waynesboro that serves all of Virginia. Over the years, he’s hired several BRCC graduates, of which he says really “plug-in and work hard.” He continues to meet with BRCC professors on a regular basis about potential students who would be a good fit for the company.

“The certificate I got from Blue Ridge certainly opened doors for me to set myself apart and be able to have the job I have today,” said Thomas. “I received the certificate, but many of the classes also had certain certifications that were associated with them, and while I didn’t get those certifications at Blue Ridge, it essentially prepared me to take those certifications after the fact.”

As for advice he has for students thinking of taking courses or completing a certificate, much like he did, Thomas emphasizes how important it is to be eager to learn.

“My field of work and expertise is in IT, and IT is one of those fields that is everchanging. There’s always something new and something different,” said Thomas. “You’re going to go to BRCC and learn a bunch of stuff and in a few years, that stuff is going to be outdated, so you have to always be learning. Every day is a new adventure. While I’ve learned a fair bit, I feel like there is a lot more for me to learn.”