Nancy Stevens remembers when she realized that to get ahead in her career, she’d need a degree. She had left college without one after getting a promotion at the company where she worked while attending school. For a while, she was able to progress on her career path, but then she was immediately disqualified for a job in payroll management because she didn’t have her bachelor’s degree.
“I realized if I really wanted to continue to grow, I was going to have to complete my education,” she says.
“I realized if I really wanted to continue to grow, I was going to have to complete my education.”
Now, as a human resources manager at global company Doosan Portable Power, Stevens spends her days helping employees in the company’s Statesville, N.C., headquarters with payroll issues, guiding them through benefits questions and review processes, and focusing on recruiting new talent. She also works with Portable Power’s employees in Canada, Mexico, India, Brazil and Chile.
But she spends many evenings and weekends taking online classes for her bachelor’s degree in business administration, with a focus on human resources, from Strayer University. Stevens says she can do all this in part because Doosan cultivates an environment that supports and encourages employees to continue their education and add to their skills and knowledge.
“Doosan wants to build talent and help employees grow, which in turn moves the company forward,” she says.
That culture is found at all levels of the $400 million company, says Agripino Serrano, vice president of global human resources. Portable Power, a subsidiary of South Korean powerhouse Doosan, makes products like industrial air compressors, generators, drill modules and light towers sold all over the world.
With 550 employees spread across the globe—from the Statesville headquarters to the manufacturing facility in India—the company’s emphasis on continuing education is a necessity, Serrano says. When employees spend the time to take classes and learn new skills, that translates into a company that “is more innovative and focused on trying new things, even if they are risky,” he says. “You have to do that today—the status quo does not work anymore.”
In addition to a significant internship program and an internal leadership training program, Portable Power invests heavily in tuition reimbursement, providing employees with up to $8,000 a year to take classes. Currently there are about 30 people—from hourly wage-earners to salaried managers—using the tuition reimbursement program to pursue everything from associate degrees to master’s degrees, Serrano says.
Employees who use the education reimbursement benefit often earn high marks from managers. “They’re sharpening their skill sets,” says Serrano. “They are the people who want to advance in their careers and go into other areas.”
Serrano says Stevens is one of those people. He noted that she’s done an excellent job of balancing her course load and work load. “The initiative and drive that it takes to earn a degree while working full time really shows that Nancy has an attitude and an aptitude that we’re looking for,” he says. “Employees who can take that on demonstrate a capacity for greater responsibilities and challenges and a desire to put into practice what they’ve learned.”
Stevens says she is enjoying the opportunity to learn and stretch her skills, and that Portable Power’s support of that, through both culture and tuition reimbursement, has helped. Doosan has reimbursed her for nearly all of her Strayer classes, resulting in almost no out-of-pocket costs for Stevens.
She says Strayer University’s online courses make it easy for her to find time to complete her course work. “My job requires me to travel, so it’s easier for me to not have to worry about being in class at a certain time,” she says. “If I’m traveling, I take my laptop with me and do my homework while sitting in a hotel.”
“I’ve always been the type of person who wants to learn and do something new,” says Stevens. “If I feel I’m doing the same thing over and over again, I know it’s time for a change.”