As many of you know we launched our first course giveaway last week. The lucky winner is Matt Gura, a senior at Cornell University. We were able to speak with him for a few minutes in between classes. He was quite excited at the prospect’s of using Filtered’s Online Excel course to upgrade his skills and get ahead in his career.

Tell us about yourself.

I was born and raised in Orchard Park, NY, just outside of Buffalo. I graduated from Canisius High School in 2010 and went on to the Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. When I started college, like most I wasn’t positive about what I wanted to study, but I took a risk by declaring my major, Viticulture and Enology, also know as the study of grape growing and winemaking, with a minor in Agribusiness. Luckily, the risk of devoting myself to a highly applied and specialized field paid off as a I love the discipline. During my time at Cornell, I’ve completed internships with Sheldrake Point Winery and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County, where I learned a great deal of industry and research practices.

How important is analytics in your field?

Analytics is immensely important in my field both in an industrial and research setting. Due to the nature of this field, there is often great overlap between these two spheres. To make sound management decisions in horticultural production systems, one has to effectively collect, organize, and store large amounts of information. But it’s how one utilizes this information that leads to good decision making.

In a specific context, let’s say I collect information each year on the nutrient content of a particular piece of land, the amount of fertilizer I apply, and the quality and quantity of yields of that block. One needs strong analytical skills to incorporate these parameters together in order to make more economic and environmental sustainable decisions in the future.

I was involved with a research project this past summer looking to utilize cover crops under grape vines in order to reduce herbicide inputs and nitrate run-off. The amount of data I collected over the course of that experience was substantial. Without analytics, nothing will result from this research. These analytics are essential to prove to the scientific and professional community that certain practices over others will result in great benefit.

Have you ever taken an online course before? Tell us about it.

I’ve never had the opportunity to take an online class in high school or college. Sometimes, though, I have explored free course offerings on iTunesU and for particular lessons and lectures that have helped me with work from other courses. These include some basic programming lessons on HTML and some principles of entrepreneurship.

How are your current Excel skills?

I had nowhere to go but up when I came to college. I’d say I’m a beginner on the cusp of an intermediate. As I’ve taken more upper level classes, the importance of Excel skills have grown steadily, and I have improved out of necessity to get sleep. I’ve had some late nights toying with spreadsheets!

One time, the data I needed to analyze for a lab report took me hours to do in excel. A friend with advanced skills did the same assignment in 10 minutes because he knew the tricks and shortcuts. I knew I had to buck up quick with the program.

Last year, I was in great need of education on some specific excel functions and visual basic that I needed to utilize in my agricultural finance class. I still cannot explain what exactly is a macro, although supposedly I created one according to that professor. Hence I’m really looking forward to this course.

How will upgrading your Excel skills impact your career?

Excel skills will be critical for me to execute relevant analytics that can make me a better grower. I think less time spent in the office entering and crunching numbers and more time in the field will result in a higher quality crop. Knowing more advanced and complex methods to analyze data in a timely manner should also yield that result.

In my time at Cornell, I think one of the most valuable lessons I have learned is that Excel is the marquee program for any data related pursuit. Proficiency in Excel truly sets one apart. I am looking forward to the near future, as I think that upgrading my Excel skills will allow me to sleep many more hours per year and spend more time with my dog.

What’s next for you?

I’ll be graduating a semester early in December 2013 to pursue a job opportunity managing a hopyard for Ceres Hops and Grains, LLC, an agricultural investment firm looking to expand into the industry. Trellis construction will begin this spring, Berrien County, MI where I will be moving to.

But first I need to finish this semester in good standing so I can get started in Michigan with the first 20 acres of hops planting. By the end of the year, I hope that my efforts in this Excel course will result in better American craft beer. The way I see it, this Filtered could prove pivotal for pints of tastier beer!

I bet the team behind Filtered will love to hear this! Matt you are an impressive individual! Congratulations on your job offer and best of luck with the Filtered Excel training course and the rest of your career!

On a side note, we are now giving away 7-day free passes to Filtered and those who sign up will be automatically entered in a drawing to win a full year course subscription – just like Matt! Drawings will be held every Sunday until November 11th. Sign up now below.

Get Your 7-day FREE pass to Filtered!