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Interview with Noel Vallejo, TestOut

Our interview this morning is with Noel Vallejo, CEO of Pleasant Grove, Utah-based TestOut (www.testout.com), a provider of online IT certification training. We spoke with Noel to catch up on where the firm is nowadays, plus how the certification and training market has been affected by the economy.

For our readers who aren't familiar with TestOut, what does your company do?

Noel Vallejo: We develop computer based training, which helps individuals to be certified in the IT space, like Microsoft's MCSE, Cisco, Novell, and CompTIA.

What's special about your offering, and how are people using your product?

Noel Vallejo: As I mentioned, we help prepare individuals to be certified. Our primary customer is a professional looking to get marketable skills in this environment, or just for the next position in their career. Getting certified and increase your marketability and skills. We make that more accessible, to more people, and focus in on the hands-on experience. We know that individuals either need the hands on experience, or would like training in what methods to use. What makes us unique, is we've delivered online labs, where a student will access our lab, and gain that experience. Most of our competitors just deliver video, or books, or DVD training, and we separate ourselves beacause we have hands-on labs.

You've been in the interactive training area for some time, how has online training changed with the Internet, online video, etc?

Noel Vallejo: We started out in 1991, when we first delivered a self-paced course. They were delivered with books and videos, and through time and the needs of our customers, it has migrated to the online environment. As I mentioned, our primary audience is the IT professional, and we are also finding a great demand from schools that are taking their courses online. One of the difficulties they have now is the hands-on component. If a student comes on to their school, they use our labs to practice and perform the exercises assigned. With more and more online, there's a great need to deliver hands on experience.

Our primary space is the IT certification market, but we've been expanding our curriculum and our labs to handle things like crime scene investigations, etc. That's an outlier for us, but we're seeing great success and hoping to move into other areas like healthcare, nursing, etc. Those are still in the future.

How has the economy affected your firm, positively or negatively--we imagine people are now needing your service more?

Noel Vallejo: Yes, even in good times or tough times, there's always been a demand and need for our services. People are always looking to gain the skills they need. As technology changes, the demand for our products is there, as the economy goes down, there are people looking to bone up on their skills and become more marketable. We do continue to see demand, although I wouldn't say we are recession proof--but there is always a need and a demand for training, skills, and becoming marketable.

What are some of the things your company is working on now?

Noel Vallejo: The big movement for us, is going into the academic space. Like I mentioned, we've traditionally been based in the IT space, but with schools across the nation taking their courses online, there's a huge demand for delivering an online lab. Right now, you don't find anybody in our space, which is lucky for us, because there's a great opportunity in our space.

Finally, how big is the company now, in terms of employees?

We have around 25 employees.