Saint Joseph's University

Interview with a Mayo Clinic Web Architect

Deb Lafferty
Mayo Clinic, Web Architect
SJU MS in Business Intelligence & Analytics graduate

Q. Before you started the MBIA program, had you ever taken an online course? What did you think online education was like?

A. Yes, I had taken one undergraduate class online (in 1987!), one in 1999, as well as a recent 6-week class on using Web 2.0 in teaching. The class I took in 1987 was basically text files read from my professor and submitting assignments back to him through a telephone line. Wow. The one in 1999 did use WebCT but it was a doubled course with an in-person class. I’m not sure if it was the stress of being doubled up or the online environment but I didn’t like it. However, the last 6-week course I took on Web 2.0 tools in education helped me prepare for the master’s online program.

Q. How did SJU’s online program compare with your expectations of an online program?

A. It has met and exceeded my expectations all due to the faculty. All of the faculty have been understanding of the difficulty of learning some of the course content in an online environment and most have been very well organized. It is helpful to have the template the same for each course. Most of the faculty is always available and very responsive to email.

Q. How did the courses and what you were learning at SJU impact your career or your life? Were you able to apply what you learned? If so how? If possible, please give a specific example.

A. The courses at SJU have significantly impacted both my career and my life. The curriculum in this program is very rigorous and it is stretching my mind far beyond what I thought was possible. In my undergrad, I flew through the assignments and courses with ease because it was content for which I was already familiar. My role is management and communicator, not programmer so the technical classes have been a challenge for me. My professors have assured me that it will help me in my career because it will enable me to have a better understanding of the programmers in the teams I manage. This has been true on a number of projects. I have been an advisor on a large project related to nursing accreditation and we are working with programmers from three different departments. I have been able to talk intelligently with the programmers about expectations of the client as well as to the client about the needs of the programmers and the realistic length of time for project implementation. Personally, I am proud of myself for persevering through the curriculum and not throwing in the towel. I am over half done and the courses continue to be more interesting than the last.

Q. Talk about your favorite course. Why was it your favorite? What about it stands out to you?

A. All of the courses have been interesting and it seems that each holds its own features that I can apply to my position. However, I think my favorite course to date was the first one with Dr. Gupta, “Contemporary Information Technologies” because he covered various web-based tools that businesses use for marketing, benchmarking, etc. Not only was learning about new web technologies interesting but we were given the option for our final project to interview our CIO. I not only interviewed the Rochester, Minnesota, campus CIO but I also interviewed the Mayo Clinic enterprise CIO. I was able to learn more about the direction of our institution in the IT world as well as meet two very passionate individuals. They both jumped at the chance to do the interview and asked me to keep them posted on my MBA journey. I now feel that I could approach either of them with questions or concerns I might have.

Q. Was the fact that SJU was a Jesuit University important to you?

A. It was not a critical factor but anytime a university is associated with spiritual core values, I think that can only add value to the educational experience.

Q. Describe your job/career. What does a typical day look like?

A. I am the web architect for the Department of Nursing at Mayo Clinic. Our department has more than 7,000 employees. I manage all of the intranet and internet projects for this department. I direct two full time web coders and multiple teams of analysts and programmers, and clients with their web project needs. A typical day sees me in 3-7 meetings where I’m either meeting with customers about their requests or with the technical staff to implement them. The tools and content provided to our nurses through the web help them take care of our patients – the number one priority. It is an honor to work with such compassionate and incredibly dedicated individuals. I serve on institutional web committees to assure we are staying with technical standards as well as learn about new tools and software others are using.

Q. Talk about the faculty who taught your courses. What was your experience with them? How did they impact your learning experience?

A. The professors in this program are wonderful. They make themselves available whenever you need them. Their encouragement has kept me going – literally. I appreciate when they share about themselves as well because it makes me feel more connected to them – just as if I were in class with them and possibly chatting prior to class starting about their weekend. We do this through both WIMBA and email. They are clearly extremely intelligent and well versed in their fields. I appreciate their experiences that they bring to the classroom and their obvious love for teaching. I can’t say enough great things about them.

Q. How was your experience from a “customer service” perspective (student services, registration, help desk, bookstore, etc.)?

A. I have appreciated the communications first with the admissions person – it was wonderful to have Nichole help me through getting all required documents and information to be considered for acceptance. Lauren has been absolutely wonderful with communication and follow-through of questions. I appreciate the help desk emails regarding the MySJU problems but have never contacted them directly for assistance. I also have not used the bookstore – just amazon.com for my textbook needs. Lauren has been wonderful!

Q. If you were talking to someone who was interested attending an online program at SJU, what would you tell them?

A. I would tell them to certainly consider it. I would let them know that the curriculum is challenging but that the faculty are the best and that you would never regret taking those steps and investing in your career.

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