Sharon Welgoss was well into her career at Comcast when she decided the time was finally right to pursue a Master of Business Administration. It was not a decision the mother of two made lightly. Pursuing an advanced degree had always been a goal, but the plan was put on the back burner years earlier when “life happened.”
The game-changer for Welgoss was the opportunity for tuition reimbursement through Comcast. With most of the cost of her 18-month MBA program covered as a benefit through her employer, she embraced the opportunity to learn more about strategic management and leadership — a perfect complement to the bachelor’s degree in accounting she earned in 1996.
Taking the road less traveled
The impact of the educational opportunity and her degree, was far more profound than adding a credential to her name. Welgoss credits a self-assessment assignment in one of her leadership courses for setting her on a path that changed her entire career trajectory at Comcast.
“I’m more of a people person than I realized,” Welgoss said, recalling the results of the assignment and reconciling her job duties with what the assessment showed. “I did some career soul-searching after that assessment.”
Welgoss realized that her finance job at the time did not make use of her relationship-based strengths. She reached out to her mentors, both within and outside of Comcast, and asked for advice on the best way to seek a position change. The advice was to speak with other department leads to learn more about their roles. Learning about the different departments gave Welgoss the opportunity to understand where her talents might be better used.
This process ultimately led to her current position as senior manager of service delivery and employee experience onboarding employees at Comcast. This position focuses on overseeing the service and delivery of Comcast employee benefits. Welgoss could not be happier in her new role, a role that resulted ultimately through the benefit of tuition assistance from her employer.
The commitment to employee education
Jay Titus, vice president of the Workforce Solutions Group at University of Phoenix, said many employees are unaware of tuition-assistance programs at their place of work, benefits that can help provide an education at little to no cost to the employee. Titus works with hundreds of employers across the U.S., like Comcast, to help provide educational opportunities to employees.
Titus highlighted that the focus should be on organizational commitment to employee education; employees should have options within their employer-sponsored programs. This way, the value added to the individual also extends to the organization, Titus said.
“We have been having this same conversation with leading employers across the country, and Comcast continues to serve as a great example of the part an employer can play in contributing to the success of their employees,” Titus said.
Chaze Barnes, another Comcast employee who works in logistics, completed his associates at University of Phoenix. Like Welgoss, utilizing tuition assistance benefits at Comcast allowed him to earn his degree. He said it was an easy decision to return and complete his Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice last summer.
“Utilizing both my tuition benefit from University of Phoenix and my employers tuition reimbursement program helped me to finish my degree,” Barnes said. “Even though I was working full time here at Comcast, University of Phoenix made it easy for me to complete my degree and balance work and life. It was a great experience.”
Encouraging ongoing education
Welgoss said she relishes the opportunity to help others navigate options for development. She wants to help them reap the personal and professional benefits, as she herself has done.
“I couldn’t be happier with the role I have that is a result of the same initiatives I’m helping other employees discover,” she said. “I love the opportunity to help people all day.”
For those in leadership roles, Welgoss stresses the importance of letting employees know that as leaders they support professional development, including ongoing education or seeking advanced degrees. The encouragement of superiors before, during and after development can make or break an employee’s experience.
“My manager was such a huge inspiration while I was working on my MBA,” Welgoss said. “I felt like [he] backed me and championed for me.”
Steps to pursue development opportunities
Welgoss encourages those who are considering pursuing development opportunities, including additional education, to first consider a professional goal. Be intentional with your next steps. Review job descriptions, talk with industry professional and find out which boxes you can’t yet mark off to be considered. Then research which types of development align. Meet with management and see what your options are for gaining those skills.
“The best advice is to be forward-thinking,” Welgoss said.
Welgoss is now on the flip side of leadership. She has the opportunity to mentor employees as they request development opportunities. Welgoss ensures she plants the seed by letting employees know she and Comcast are willing to support them.
For employees looking to advance or move within an organization, Welgoss offered a valuable tip: Make presentations. Public speaking can be intimidating, but it can also help employees stand out.
“Presenting gives you the opportunity to show what you can do,” Welgoss said. “If you have that chance, never say you can’t do it.”
Employees can limit themselves if they are unwilling to research what opportunities their organization offers, including tuition reimbursement. Always ask, she said. It can mean the difference between meeting a goal now or in the future.
“The worst answer to any question is no,” she said.
To learn more about tuition assistance at University of Phoenix, visit our Talent Solutions page.