Student Profile of Robert Wood

I hear IT people commenting that they’re always needing to learn new technology because things in their field evolve and change quickly. The same thing is true in analytics. New techniques are developing rapidly.

Robert Wood
Director, Advanced Analytics Group, Merkle

I want an arsenal of techniques and experiences. I needed more on R and Bayesian techniques... and that’s what led me to

You are secure in your career and a leader in your profession. Why do you take courses?

I hear IT people commenting that they’re always needing to learn new technology because things in their field evolve and change quickly. The same thing is true in analytics. Many new techniques are developing rapidly, faster than university academic programs can develop, and so there are not a lot of academic programs on the newer techniques. These online courses are a good solution for someone who needs to learn something specific.

In general, I knew I needed to develop an arsenal of techniques and experiences. I needed to know more about R and Bayesian techniques for my graduate studies and the potential for use in my work. I want to stay current in the technology, and that’s what led me to

I have just started as director of the Advanced Analytics Group at Merkle, a large marketing agency and consultancy firm. Before this, I was director of marketing science at Cox Communications. My career has been in quantitative modeling work, marketing analytics or data mining, and product management, trying to figure out how companies can make money from the data they collect.

How will you apply what you learn in the courses?

I have found that these courses have a real-life application. I switched most of the general analytics in use at Cox Communications to Bayesian analytics techniques that I learned through my studies with because there were a number of projects we just couldn’t tackle without Bayesian. We weren’t applying data mining as much as will be needed in future. In telecom, it is increasingly difficult to acquire new customers, so we introduced an automatic payment program to extend the current customer base by using survival modeling information I gained through We were looking at how to figure out a better return on investment, and the program seems to be having a positive impact.

How have you balanced full-time work, studying for a Ph.D., and taking courses in the PASS?

Taking courses is not new for me. I’m always trying to learn something. I earned my B.A. in math from Wichita State University, M.A.s in applied math and statistics and psychology, plus an executive M.B.A. from Brigham Young University, did graduate work in economics and risk management at the University of Rochester, and I am almost through a Ph.D. in psychology from Wichita State University.

How do I find time to get it all done? I get up early in the mornings to study and I spend Friday night and all day Saturday on my work. I have completed six courses. Through this past fall and winter, I was going hot and heavy on the courses. For the moment I’ve laid aside those studies as I focus on preparing for my Ph.D. exams. I’ll pick back up on my PASS certification in the fall.

Do you have time for anything else in your life besides studying?

I’m also a member of a congregation and lay minister in the Church of the Latter Day Saints. I’ve just finished a three-year term as bishop of a congregation of 350 people. My wife and our four children have been so helpful and supportive. Our oldest is at Brigham Young University in Idaho studying in the family and home program in culinary arts. Our second oldest is in a predental program, and our third oldest is in high school. He’s good at IT and programming and loves physics. Our fourth child is in 5th grade.

How do you compare the online learning format with the academic classroom?

A lot depends on your learning style; different people have different learning styles. I have a very self-sufficient learning style. I feel comfortable with figuring out things. The courses fit well with my approach. I think in terms of one-week chunks. I begin work on an assignment as soon as it becomes available on Friday. I print out the material and homework assignment, and then I go through it first to get the big picture. Then I work my way through it. One thing I like is that the courses are bite sized. They allow me to dive into a subject and learn something meaningful. In college classroom courses, you have to commit to four months of classes three times a week. With the courses, when I have a hole in my schedule, I can fill it with a course.

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