"Life is one big data mining problem. The knowledge that I obtained is applicable to both the industry I work in and everyday life as well."

Ever wonder what your grocery store is doing with your purchase information when you enter your club card code? Ever get a call from your credit card company about a "suspicious" charge on your account? These companies are using data mining algorithms to make decisions about their customers and their business.

For Earl Wong, a senior research engineer at Sony Electronics, algorithms are the tools of his trade. His job requires the use of math and statistics to develop the next generation of digital imaging algorithms. These are in turn used to create better cameras, televisions, and photo printers.

Central to this work are the fields of image processing and computer vision research, where Wong's knowledge is extensive. His experience in data mining, however, was less robust. To increase his expertise, Wong searched for an online education program that he could complete while working full time. "The Data Mining and Applications graduate certificate was exactly what I was looking for," he says, "since you get a top quality education, streamed directly to your computer. You can watch the lectures at your personal convenience."

It helped that faculty were responsive to working students' needs. "I remember emailing Professor Friedman about a homework question," he says. "At the time he was attending an international conference for several days. I got a response back in a matter of hours."

The certificate program enabled Wong to meet several objectives. Working on the 'cutting edge' of technology, he needed to know what the latest tools were, how to use them, and what their strengths and weaknesses are. "Machine learning has always been a very important research area," he says. "In recent years, due to the convergence of inexpensive data storage, powerful computers, and an environment highly conducive to information generation and collection, data mining has been applied to a larger and larger set of real world problems."

He now has a solid foundation in a very important field that complements his pre-existing background and skills. He uses his newfound knowledge when digging through a stack of technical papers and consumer data. "I have received an immediate return on my certificate, since a lot of the algorithms that are cited in research papers were covered in my classes," he says. Understanding the latest research and applying state of the art tools helps him find the best solutions for any given technical problem.

Wong is grateful for the support he received from Sony to pursue advanced learning. "It is nice to know that Sony is committed to having a well trained workforce," he says. "I would like to thank them for making this possible for me. Life is one big data mining problem. The knowledge that I obtained is applicable to both the industry I work in and everyday life as well."