Top Places to Work | Career growth

An open path to moving up

Helping employees advance can benefit everyone

With support from Lowell General Hospital, nurse Justine DeFronzo was able to work her way into management. With support from Lowell General Hospital, nurse Justine DeFronzo was able to work her way into management. (Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff)
By D.C. Denison
Globe Staff / November 7, 2010

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EVERY SIX WEEKS, Tracy Howell reports for a morning training session at the accounting firm Alexander, Aronson, Finning & Co. in Westborough.

The sessions have been a valuable introduction to the profession for the 22-year-old University of New Hampshire graduate. In late September, Howell listened to four senior partners talk about their specialties; afterward, she met with her “coach,’’ another senior partner who has been helping her navigate the firm and the profession. The sessions, she said, “show that the firm cares about me as a professional and as a person.’’

When employees grow and advance, the benefits extend to the entire company. These three organizations were rated highly for training and career resources.

Alexander, Aronson, Finning & Co.

“We are focused on constant learning,’’ said Carla McCall, a partner in charge of staff development at Alexander, Aronson. “We believe that people have to keep growing.’’

The 130-member firm, with offices in Wellesley, Westborough, and Worcester, hires 15 to 20 people every year. For two years, all the new hires are assigned mentors and participate in regularly scheduled meetings that expose them to all the specialties of the firm.

The firm pays the thousand-dollar-and-up price for their certified public accounting license exam, and contributes to the cost of review sessions. Employees are also given time off to prepare for and take the exam, which takes 16 hours over multiple days.

Even experienced employees at Alexander, Aronson receive more than 80 hours of professional training a year. According to McCall, “We want them to find something that they are passionate about.’’


A fast-growing provider of data storage systems, NetApp has 135 offices around the world, including a large one in Waltham. An internal site connects employees across the sprawling company to 277,338 hours of training.

“Our employees are our competitive advantage, so we focus significant resources on training and development,’’ said Annamarie Dunn, senior manager, HR internal communications.

NetApp’s offerings include classroom sessions, online courses, and video on demand. Most relate to an employee’s current role, and the rest are directed toward professional development.

“Managers are encouraged to allow employees to take classes whenever possible,’’ said Dunn.

Dunn herself, who has been at NetApp for three years, has already taken classes in management and leadership. She also plans to take a whiteboarding class that she heard “is a blast.’’

NetApp also keeps employees in the loop on strategy. “Our CEO and executives share company plans in detail in quarterly ‘all hands’ meetings,’’ Dunn said. “We aren’t very hierarchical.’’

NetApp also organizes monthly lunch meetings between senior executives and new employees.

“With the pace of hiring so fast, these orientations are essential to maintain our company culture,’’ said Dunn.

Lowell General Hospital

During the 12 years that Justine DeFronzo has been a nurse at Lowell General, she has earned a bachelor’s degree, attended a number of leadership seminars, and moved from bedside nursing into management.

“The hospital deserves a lot of credit for helping me along the way,’’ she said. One advantage was the hospital’s close relationships with UMass Lowell, Middlesex Community College, and Rivier College in Nashua, where DeFronzo earned her degree.

DeFronzo was able to register for classes without having to leave the building, and the hospital paid around $2,500 a year in tuition assistance.

DeFronzo, 38, was hired as a staff nurse in the pediatric unit. When a management job opened up, DeFronzo said, she was encouraged to apply. After landing the job, she adjusted her studies to include business and management courses.

“People here are very open to career and personal growth,’’ she said.

“Lowell General tries to make it as easy as possible for employees to get the training they want,’’ said Amanda MacFadden, spokeswoman for the hospital.

D.C. Denison can be reached at

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