Student Profile of Joseph Somma

It took me a long time to find just the right program that provides the right mix of applied and theory, but I found the right one at My staff emerges from your training ready to make an impact on the company.

Joseph Somma
Director, Market Intelligence
Independent Health

I signed up for a course to dip a toe in water, and I found it to be excellent.

Why do you encourage your employees to take courses? courses provide an excellent return on investment. We incur no travel costs or time lost off site, and our people continue to work as they learn. We gain a common knowledge base with a common language to approach problems. We mentor each other and help new students as they learn. The knowledge base helps us brand the department as serious in our effort to upgrade to industry-standard, industry-sound techniques. We are doing more work with the same budget because of these classes.

The staff in my department is relatively young; the average age is under 30. We hire staff for a variety of attributes, but, while they are very smart, we found that we lacked some technical skills to accomplish our mission, which is to research ways to reduce costs. We looked for a way to provide the staff with the knowledge cost effectively and conveniently. has a wide range of subjects, a reasonable time commitment required for a certificate program, an affordable price, and the convenience of online attendance. I signed up for a course to dip a toe in water, and I found it to be excellent.


How does your company benefit from the courses?

Providing access to courses is one of our company benefits, and it is a factor in our staff retention. We can redesign jobs to offer promotions to certification graduates. Our young staffers are at beginning of their careers; they want to take these classes. This program has helped develop a real esprit d’corps. I tell my staff that graduating from college doesn’t mean they can stop learning. Every skill gained means they become more valuable, and these classes are a convenient way to add value. I tell them, “This is part of your job, studying is a work project, just like a training course. Think of the classes as an investment in your career.”

Another benefit is that the administrative staff is extraordinarily helpful. They bend over backwards to help make the program flexible to fit students’ needs. For example, the staff can set up a student’s whole certification program for one year, which allows us to budget and plan schedules. We can include achievement of courses toward certification as part of annual reviews.


What has been your experience with online classes?

These online courses make it easy to work and study, unlike classes with a set time with no flexibility. In a fixed-schedule class, if I had a report due to the board the next day, I’d have to miss a class to complete the report. These online courses let students budget their time and attack the work incrementally. As company policy, we make time available for the class work. Some of our staff have young children, and we are not telling them they have to work 8 to 5 and then go home and work another three hours on class assignments. We help staffers schedule their work to make sure a portion of their time is dedicated to class work.

These courses attract serious students, a number with advanced degrees, which creates an environment for learning from the instructors and other students. On the discussion boards, the questions from students help stimulate thought. Even though I may not have thought about the question, it makes me think about a different approach. Combined, the materials, instructors, and other students create an environment ideal for learning.

The resource materials are very good. Sometimes if I’m working on a problem and need more resources, I’ll look up the applicable course and see what materials are being used, and then consult the source. For example, I found the open software, Excel Miner, to be intuitive and easy to use. We usually use SAS, but Excel Miner makes it easy to design models quickly to demonstrate a concept we want to use, which can save a lot of programming time.


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