Written By Kristina Owens
Imagine being a seventh-grader and walking through your godfather’s house, which, in your eyes, is practically a mansion. He seems to have it all: the fancy cars, the pool, the movie theater. You wonder why your godfather isn’t on MTV Cribs. But more than that, you wonder how he was able to afford it all.
Caleb Lanford, a senior UNC Charlotte student majoring in computer science, was the seventh-grader who dared to ask the question we all wish we were smart enough to ask in middle school.
“I asked him what the career path was that led to everything he had,” Lanford said.
His godfather told him that he worked with computers and studied Computer Information Science at the University of Maryland. It was then that Lanford decided that he would work with computers when he grew up.
At a young age, Lanford considered the pros and cons of pursuing his passion, or finding work in a secure career. Growing up in Fayetteville, NC with a father who served 17 years in the Army, the decision was easier to make. He only had two choices – pursue a degree or join the military.
To get a head start on his career, he transferred from Trinity Christian High School to Pine Forest Academy of Information Technology, where he graduated with the highest GPA and was awarded a stipend to attend UNCC.
He admits that working with computers is not his dream job.
At age 11, he developed an interest in music that has stayed with him. He started out playing the piano, then moved on to the electric guitar and bass. In sixth grade, he played the trombone in concert band and in high school he played the trumpet, baritone and saxophone in marching band.
While he’s played almost every instrument, his dream would be to play piano behind famous gospel musicians.
“I’ve been going to church all of my life,” Lanford said. “And my mother’s a minister. What I like about church music is that musicians genuinely care about the music.”
While working with computers is his priority right now, he has found a way to balance his passion with his desire for a stable future. He also hopes to one day use his business concentration and music background to own a music company that sells equipment and offers mobile music instructors.
Lanford will graduate in 2017 and plans to work in database administration. Once again, the ambitious senior is thinking wisely about the future and made his decision based on job availability. He says that we use databases on a daily basis, even more than we know. When we log into our bank account, Instagram, or Facebook, there’s someone behind the scenes in charge of putting information into the database. And being in charge of all of that information is not easy.
He stresses the importance of finding a mentor and using all of the resources available on campus. As a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., he said he is grateful for the mentorship and support from his older frat brothers.
As advice to someone following in his footsteps, Lanford said he would tell them honestly that the work can be stressful and there is a lot of room for error, so you need to be efficient and have a lot of patience.
“There’s a stigma people have that a computer science degree is hard to obtain,” Lanford said. “Is it challenging? Yes. But it's not impossible. Just like anything else in life, if you really want to accomplish a task, you have to work for it. And I have the willpower to start something and not quit.”
He went on to quote his favorite Bible verse, Matthew 19:26 – “With God, all things are possible.”
The My Brother’s Keeper Scholarship at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte is an endowment fund targeted to Black males majoring in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields at UNCC. The "What They See Is What They'll Be" blog series, adopted from the motto of 100 Black Men of America, is a bi-weekly blog series featuring personal stories of Black men from the UNCC community who are actively engaged in those fields. The goal of the series is to serve as a source of information and inspiration to others aspiring to follow similar career paths. Learn more at www.unccmybrotherskeeper.org.