Student Spotlight: Brian Barnes

Software Development major heading for BPA National Leadership Conference

Brian Barnes, 19, a sophomore in the Software Development program at Dakota County Technical College, qualified to compete at the Business Professionals of America (BPA) National Leadership Conference at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, Texas, May 4–8, 2022.

Brian performed exceptionally well at the BPA Spring State Leadership Conference this past March, taking first place in C# Programming and Information Technology Concepts as well as second place in Computer Programming Concepts and Parliamentary Procedure Concepts.¹

“I initially joined BPA to see how to run a coding competition for a future club I may want to run,” Brian said. “I was not expecting to be flying to Dallas, Texas, for a national conference! I am honored and humbled at the same time. This will be an awesome event!”

Brian has made the most of his time as a DCTC student. Along with earning his Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree in Software Development, he serves as Student Senate vice president and a student ambassador. He works as a peer tutor and belongs to Unified Club and Phi Theta Kappa. He participated in Heart of a Leader Training and served as vice president on the Equity and Inclusion Search and Academic Affairs committees; he also serves on the Student Life Budget Committee.

When asked what advice he would give students thinking about participating in student clubs and activities, Brian responded:

“If you are hesitant or nervous, just take the plunge. Fear ruins opportunities. If you cannot decide due to fear, you are going to procrastinate. I will tell you, kill that desire ASAP! Joining a club is not going to kill you. Who knows, the one club you joined will change your life forever. I was hesitant being vice president, but I took the plunge. Look, I am still alive and even thriving. As one wise teacher said, ‘Take chances, make mistakes, get messy.'”

More about BPA…²

DCTC BPA Chapter national competitors


Business Professionals of America (BPA) is the premier Career and Technical Student Organization (CTSO) for students pursuing careers in business management, information technology, finance, office administration, health administration, and related career fields.

With 45,000 members in more than 1,800 chapters across 25 states and Puerto Rico, as well as an international presence in China, Haiti, and Peru, BPA is an organization that supports business and information technology educators by offering co-curricular exercises based on national standards.

BPA has the ability to enhance student participation in professional, civic, service, and social endeavors. Members participate in these activities to accomplish the goals of self-improvement, leadership development, professionalism, community service, career development, public relations, student cooperation, and safety and health.


Climb any mountain…

Brian at Healthy Knight 5K 2021

Brian is legally blind, but that obstacle hasn’t slowed him down.

“Legal blindness is a disability, but one that I overcame. My disability is like a mountain. You start at the bottom intimidated, you fall when climbing up, but if you never give up, you will take the pride of climbing the mountain. That’s my disability.

“At DCTC, Accessibility Services and faculty have been super supportive. From day one, teachers would ask me how they can help. My blindness opened many doors in my life. I have met many wonderful people and had many awesome experiences due to my disability.

“I personally talked with Molly Burke (the famous YouTuber), went on many fun trips with other peers, and received many awesome accommodations through the Lions Club.”

Brian Barnes
Software Development Major
Student Senate Vice President
Dakota County Technical College

More about Brian…

Brian’s brother, Joel, dad, and mom at 2022 PTK Induction Ceremony

Brian was discovered as a foundling in Xuzhou, a major city in China with more than 9 million residents and located in Jiangsu province. He was adopted when he was  5 years old in November 2007 and arrived in Minnesota right before Thanksgiving that year.

Brian will be graduating from Dakota County Technical College this spring with his A.A.S. in Software Development. He is a Post-Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) student and will be graduating from DCTC and Lakeville North High School at the same time.

“I would like to start working immediately after graduation,” he said. “I have secured a job at a company called ImageTrend. They provide software to EMS, hospitals, and fire departments.”

Woodbury Polar Plunge 2021

Brian added that he would love to work for Google one day and, later in life, start his own swimming/nature schools helping others become swimmers while helping people heal through nature.

Brian’s dad,  Joe, is an accountant at Thrivent Financial, and his mom, Carolynn, is a teacher. Brian has two brothers. Joel, 25, is a graduate of the DCTC Architectural Technology program and works at Mi-TECH, and Jordan, 22, is a nursing student at Maranatha Baptist University in Wisconsin. The family has a 12-year-old tomcat named Fireheart.

Brian’s favorite pursuit outside his college education is swimming. “Even when I was young, I aspired to be one of the great swimmers like Lewis Pugh or Lynn Cox,” he said. “These people had the opportunity to swim in the most exotic and cool places imaginable—whether that’s sea to sea, mountain lakes in Mount Everest, or the Arctic.”

Also in his free time, Brian loves reading the works of C. S. Lewis as well as For Dummies books, and software documentation. Playing and listening to music is very high on his list of pastimes. “I play the piano, drums, and flute,” he related. “I love listening to most genres of music and attempt to play by ear. I believe I have a very good ear.” He enjoys playing video games, especially the Pokémon franchise, Metroid series, and Ace Attorney series.

DCTC faculty and staff perspectives

Anna and Brian at the 2022 PTK Induction Ceremony

Brian is an exceptional student and one of the best and most selfless student leaders I have ever worked with. As Student Senate vice president, he understands the primary aspect of his role is to be the voice of the student body at DCTC. He regularly asks students how their experience is going and what DCTC can do better; he then relays that feedback to the Student Senate or appropriate campus groups.

Brian is also a strong team player and collaborates well with others to work toward improvements for our campus. I am so proud of Brian for pushing himself out of his comfort zone, trying new things, and being a role model for others. Brian has a bright future and will be successful at whatever he does. I am honored to have been a part of his journey at DCTC, and I learn from him every day!

Anna Voight
Associate Director of Student Life
Dakota County Technical College

Brian has been a stellar peer tutor for ISTC students—and beyond. In addition to helping students in first- and second-year Information Systems Technology Careers (ISTC) courses, Brian is also available to students taking Basic Computer Applications.

I admire his ability to translate his specialized knowledge to a course covering software fundamentals. Brian is always cheerful and approachable, which I think also makes him an excellent tutor and mentor for his peers. We’re lucky to have Brian at DCTC!

Megan Petersen
TRIO/Student Support Services Tutor
Dakota County Technical College

Brian has been an absolute joy to have in the classroom. He has been the most engaged student that I have ever had and adds a ton of value to lectures with his thoughtful and thought-provoking questions. When a peer is having technical difficulties, Brian is the first to offer help.

Brian also possesses supercomputer levels of ability to find errors in code before I or an actual computer can catch them, a very handy skill for his chosen field of study.
All in all, Brian Barnes is an exemplary scholar with a positive attitude ready and willing to take on any challenge.

Austin Allman
Information Systems Technology Careers Faculty
Dakota County Technical College

I’ve known Brian for a short time, but I know of him and his excellent reputation on campus. He’s actively engaged in many activities and organizations at DCTC.  His leadership skills and high academic achievements are truly remarkable. He’s a great inspiration to other students on the positive impacts of both campus and community involvement.

Amy Evanson
Administrative Technology Faculty
Phi Theta Kappa Faculty Advisor

Dakota County Technical College

Brian Barnes DCTC gallery

Brian Barnes Q & A

Brian Barnes

Why did you choose software development as your major?

Software development is like building Legos. You take each piece (code) and put them together. When building a spaceship, you realize each piece is necessary. No piece is not necessary. This is the same in software development. Building code in such a way that builds a system is what makes software development great.

What type of software interests you the most and why?

I personally am fascinated by video games and audio processing. How can code and graphics make cool worlds? As someone who has a very imaginative mind, I want to know how to build worlds through programming. Likewise, how can data be converted into music? These subjects have fascinated me.

What are your duties as Student Senate vice president?

The most important duty is listening to the students and serving them. A leader is someone who serves. As vice president, I am charge of the Activities Committee—the main body who plans and executes activities. When students propose activities, the committee is responsible for logistics and budgeting. My other responsibilities are to participate in campus activities, run senate meetings when the president is absent, support the campus liaison, and to be a bridge between students and administrators.

Three words that describe you as a college student:

What did you like best about Heart of a Leader Training?

You had to be courageous, vulnerable, and authentic. Some of the speaking activities would make most people cringe or shy away. Pretending to win a million dollars or give a motivational speech would cripple me if it wasn’t for my support group. When my peers cheered me on, I was able to speak with power and passion. When I was speaking about my passions, each word I spoke carried weight. I felt like I was speaking from the heart.

What do you like best about your role as a student ambassador?

Besides the free soda and snacks, I love meeting new students and making a difference. I have met awesome students being a student ambassador. In addition, being a student ambassador opens the door for other opportunities like Student Senate. The most important part of being a student ambassador is making a positive difference. People will look at you as a role model and leader. This is the chance to change lives. Through your work, your impacting the lives of many students.

What person has influenced your life the most and why?

C. S. Lewis—Being a Christian has brought many joys in life. It saddens me that such a beautiful world has been marred by pain, suffering, and death. C. S. Lewis says this world is a “shadow lands” of a bigger, better world. Every lovely walk you had, every wonderful flower you smelled, every peaceful time in nature is a small reflection of heaven. I desire myself to experience more of this world’s beauty and share it with others. I want everyone to know they have purpose, value, and are loved by God.

C. S. Lewis

Where do you hope to find yourself in 20 years?

I desire to break a world record in swimming (either longest swim in Antarctica or most southerly swim), swim the English Channel, successfully swim all seven oceans, and complete the 24-hour challenge. I will have a YouTube channel combining swimming and software development. Later in the future, I will setup training programs for those who want to follow my path.

Brian Barnes at DCTC/Inver Hills 2022 PTK Induction Ceremony gallery

One word that best describes your experience at DCTC:


Brian Barnes 12 Answers

  1. Favorite sport or physical activity: Swimming
  2. Place you would most like to visit: I would love to visit Antarctica
  3. The most exciting thing you’ve ever done: Jumped into frozen Lake Carver in February 2021
  4. Three things you would do if you won a $1 billion lottery: 1) Buy beach-front house in Florida 2) Put some in savings and accrue interest 3) Go on a 180-day cruise
  5. Favorite kind of music: Video game music
  6. Time period you would explore if you could time travel: The life of Jesus
  7. One thing you most want to accomplish in life: Break a world record in swimming
  8. Your national bird if you were your own country: Eagle (they look cool)
  9. Dream occupation: Software engineer at Google
  10. Person you would most like to meet: Lynne Cox (renowned open-water swimmer)
  11. Skill you would most like to learn and master: Butterfly stroke
  12. Most important issue or problem facing humankind: People not driven by a cause bigger than themselves
Learn more about Software Development at DCTC by contacting:

Betty Krueger
Information Systems Technology Careers Faculty

Judy Suddendorf
Information Systems Technology Careers Faculty

Nathan Blommel
Information Systems Technology Careers Faculty

Austin Allman
Information Systems Technology Careers Faculty

Learn more about Student Life at DCTC by contacting:
Associate Director of Student Life

Learn more about Business Professionals of America (BPA) at DCTC by contacting:

Marie Saunders
Accounting Faculty
BPA Faculty Advisor

Amy Evanson
Administrative Technology Faculty
BPA Faculty Advisor

¹ IMPORTANT NOTE: Wanda Bakalov, an Accounting major at DCTC, also advanced to the BPA Nationals in Dallas, having taken first place in the College Payroll Accounting and second place in Business Law and Ethics competitions at the BPA State Leadership Conference in March.
³ ACCOMPLISHED: Through my work and my desire to seek opportunities, I have experienced amazing things while at college. INDUSTRIOUS: I desire to know more about a subject and am not afraid to ask my teachers challenging questions. GOAL-ORIENTED: When I came to DCTC, I had a goal to graduate in two years and graduate from high school at the same time. Now I am reaping the result.
4OPPORTUNITY: Before taking the student ambassador role, I did not know what I was signing up for. I didn’t think I would meet Joe Biden, run a 5K, or attend BPA. For those reading this, seek opportunities. Make use of today. Beat the dragon of laziness, and enjoy the plunder of opportunity.

More about Software Development at DCTC…

computer programmer

The Software Development program prepares you to become a computer programmer. As a student in the program, you will learn an array of programming languages used for software development. You’ll design, write, debug, and test application software while harnessing your creative and collaborate skills. Accomplished graduates are fully prepared to provide software solutions for wide range of employers.

Working conditions for software developers are generally indoors in offices or laboratories. Programmers convert data from project specifications and problem statements to develop computer programs. Often employed in a team setting, programmers are also working more from home or other remote locations as telecommuting becomes more prevalent.


Software Development: A.A.S. Degree: 69 credits: Rosemount campus
Software Development: Diploma: 60 credits: Rosemount campus
Desktop Programming: Certificate: 27 credits: Rosemount campus
Web Programming: Certificate: 27 credits: Rosemount campus

Delivery: Daytime and Evening Classes
Start: Fall or Spring Semester: Full-time or Part-Time


Software Developers, Quality Assurance Analysts, and Testers

What Software Developers, Quality Assurance Analysts, and Testers Do

Software developers design computer applications or programs. Software quality assurance analysts and testers identify problems with applications or programs and report defects.

Work Environment

Many software developers, quality assurance analysts, and testers work in computer systems design and related services, in manufacturing, or for software publishers. They often work in offices and on teams with other software developers or quality assurance analysts and testers.


The median annual wage for software developers, quality assurance analysts, and testers was $110,140 in May 2020.

Job Outlook

Employment of software developers, quality assurance analysts, and testers is projected to grow 22 percent from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations.

About 189,200 openings for software developers, quality assurance analysts, and testers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

— U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook (23MAR22)