By: Ben Magder
Photo Credit: Marlayna Demond
Meet Michael Berardi: a UMBC graduate from the class of 2019. He is the current General Manager for OCA Mocha: a coffee shop five minutes from UMBC, by car. The acronym in its name stands for “Opportunities for Community Alliances”. Michael co-founded the organization with Deep Patel - another UMBC alum - in 2019. The store celebrated its 3-year anniversary at the beginning of this month, on November 4th.
In our interview, we discuss Michael’s time and experiences at UMBC as an MCS alum. I was grateful for the opportunity, and thank Michael for his time.
This interview contains answers that were edited for time and clarity.
First, do you mind telling us about you and how you’re connected to UMBC and MCS?
I graduated from UMBC in 2019 with a degree in MCS and a minor in Entrepreneurship & Innovation.
What were the most memorable parts about being a student at UMBC?
Being able to work on “real world” problems and taking our education outside of the classroom in very real ways.
How important is maintaining a connection with UMBC and the surrounding area/s?
I found a true sense of community at UMBC and that ultimately has driven me to stay connected. Through OCA Mocha I found a way to help continue cultivating that sense. Since graduating I have stayed in the area and have now been a resident of Baltimore County for nearly 8 years. I still feel this sense of community and have witnessed how the connections are continuing to deepen and strengthen. At the end of the day I operate with the belief that we are stronger together.
Did you see yourself doing something similar to this, or is this a different path from the one you envisioned?
I wasn’t sure exactly where I would end up. I knew I didn’t want a classic 9-5 job, and I wanted to do something that contributed to positive social change. I wasn’t sure exactly what that would look like but I had envisioned it being tied to the creative world. For a long time I was planning on joining the Peace Corps after graduating. To this day I don’t envision myself building a career in any particular field, but rather continuing to stay open to opportunities that present themselves while working on learning and growing more in my personal interests.
Were there any specific parts of MCS that have aided you in accomplishing your goals or another significant aspiration?
I still use what I learned in the MCS department to this day. Whether that’s the practical skills taught about design and software, or the philosophic questions posed about how/what content we consume and produce. MCS helps prepare you for a broad range of work.
If you could tell your past self anything, what would it be?
Don’t worry so much about the future. Have trust in yourself, focus on what interests you, and stay open to opportunities as they present themselves.
Do you listen to any music?
All the time. I couldn’t pick an all time favorite song. I love all things funky and filled with soul.