How collaborating at work and at school helped three EETAP participants elevate their experiences in both

In today’s high-tech world where universities are offering more online programs than ever before, pursuing higher education goals really is “just a click” away. However, with an already full work and home life schedule, how do you balance additional hours for school? One team at JT4 has found that going through their master’s program together was the key to their success!

Frank Maione, Alex Miteva and Gerald Lee not only spend five days a week together as a team at work, but are also enrolled in the Online Master of Science in Computer Science (OMSCS) program at the Georgia Institute of Technology. By day, these software developers create innovative and creative desktop applications for their JT4 colleagues and customers, and by night and on weekends, they spend up to an additional 40 hours a week working through school assignments together. Whenever they gather in the same room, you can feel their comfortable camaraderie. They are an amazing team who not only chose to take on this challenge together, but also have thoroughly enjoyed it.

When asked how they feel about spending all that time together, their collective answer is grateful. “It’s so much easier doing it together,” says Frank. Alex and Gerald echo his sentiments. “Not only is it great to have each other,” explains Alex, “but also to be working at JT4 where we are surrounded by brilliant people. Where else can you bring in a particularly difficult problem from your algorithms class and ask the mathematician down the hall for help during lunch?”

Throughout their program, Frank, Alex and Gerald have managed to do all their group projects together in every class except for one. Gerald laughs as he recalls, “The time we were separated, everything went wrong!” While they all acknowledged that working with students from around the world to see how different people approached problem solving was fascinating, the differences in time zones and study habits presented a challenge, which, in the end, made them appreciate each other even more.

The team of three spoke passionately about how rewarding it has been to go to school and see how the rigorous curriculum impacts their careers at JT4 on a daily basis. Learning new techniques that have inspired the development of tools that are easier to maintain for their customers has been well worth the effort. The trio also enjoys spirited debates about the best approach for both work and school projects. Gerald explains how they particularly love this aspect of their team because when they finally come to an answer, they are confident that it is the right one.

When asked what advice they would give to employees considering going back to school, the team has plenty of words of wisdom. “One hundred percent, go!” suggests Frank. “Don’t put it off, because the longer you are away from school, the harder it is to get back in the groove.” Alex recommends being mentally prepared for the time commitment, and Gerald adds that having a physical work space for your home study environment complete with a desk and computer dedicated to school can really help with focus. And they all agree that if your instructor is hard to understand, YouTube is your friend!

Another topic this group agrees on is how much they appreciate the Employee Educational Training Assistance Program (EETAP). Every year, an average of 78 employees enroll in EETAP to pursue their educational goals, and since the inception of JT4, 89 degrees or certifications have already been awarded. For employees who enroll in the program and plan to pursue a curriculum that will enhance their professional development in their current career fields, EETAP covers 100 percent of tuition and books for courses completed with a grade B or better. For most programs, employees pay for courses out-of-pocket and are reimbursed for eligible classes after successful completion. According to Frank, “The reimbursement process is really easy. As long as you fill out the paperwork correctly, the turnaround time for payment is very short.”

After a challenging three year journey, Frank, Alex and Gerald will be graduating this year. Their post-graduation plans are the first time these three Musketeers differ in their outlooks. Frank may continue to fuel a newfound addiction to school by pursuing a possible MBA, Alex would like a moment to enjoy the recent accomplishment and plans to play the future by ear, and Gerald is most looking forward to catching up on sleep. Whatever their futures hold, this group’s obvious dedication to their work and educational goals is nothing short of remarkable!

The team that studies together, stays together—including when they travel. In 2019, (left to right) Gerald Lee, Alex Miteva and Frank Maione took advantage of a break between semesters to attend Microsoft’s Visual Studio Live! conference in Seattle, WA.