AWS Training and Certification Blog

4 ways VNR used training and certification to advance its cloud innovation

Contributed by Marc Müller, head of data at VNR.

VNR is a Germany-based specialty publishing house founded in 1976, that has published more than 300 volumes in law, investment, health, and workplace environments. It provides customers with expert information, services, online communities, and portals, as well as training and conferences. As the company grew, groups within VNR served end customers through their own platforms and processes. The company also provides expert information, services, online communities, and portals, as well as training, conferences, and qualification products.

Here at VNR AG (VNR) we have a simple mission: to make expert knowledge accessible to everyone. As our German publishing house grew, we sought to consolidate and streamline operations with a self-service marketplace platform for omni-channel marketing and fulfillment services across all of our customers and markets. The goal of this marketplace, dubbed Platform X, was to help small and midsize business owners scale through recurring customer relationships and subscription revenues using premium marketing automation and qualified marketing reach.

My team and I knew we wanted Platform X to be scalable, have high availability, and enable faster time to market for customers. I knew that in order to build fast on Amazon Web Services (AWS), we couldn’t just experiment or rely on self-education. You only get professionalism through training and repeated practice on a daily basis. We turned to AWS Training and Certification to equip our team of 30 developers to do just that. Some developers had more experience on AWS than others, but we determined that essential training on AWS was critical for all team members to enable collaboration through a common skill level and vocabulary. For us, success was found from four key aspects of the training program:

1. Tailored, hands-on training. In June 2019, we conducted private training for the IT teams, enabling independent development in the AWS environment. Then, we enlisted role-specific training through several courses including Developing on AWS, Big Data on AWS, and DevOps Engineering on AWS. These courses included a lot of hands-on assignments that were critical to our team’s skill building. In particular, it allowed us to pull together members from different development teams across the company who don’t normally have any intersections. The interactive format helped the people come into all of these topics, go deeper, and see what was possible.

2. Proof-of-concept projects. In September, we introduced the course, Security Engineering on AWS, to gain knowledge of AWS best practices. This gave us an opportunity to talk about our challenges and find solutions. I asked everyone who took the training to create their own proof-of-concept project and present it to the group. They were able to get their own practical experience and learn from their colleagues. I implemented a strict timeline—and a little social pressure, which helped everyone stay focused on learning.

3. Validate skills with AWS Certifications. The team is now working on AWS Certifications, which allow us to validate the AWS Cloud skills of our team members. It’s important for our consultancy partners to have certifications, and it’s something that I look for on the resumes of new employees I look to hire. AWS Certifications give me another indication of what candidates have done in the past that can apply here.

4. Giving the team space to innovate. Equipped with expert knowledge on how to make the best use of AWS services, the Platform X team has been free to innovate. Our people were so hooked on the technology that they started to do their own projects. We have five new products deployed on the AWS Cloud that are in production and earning revenue, as well as a highly scalable data platform. Additionally, the security best practices from the course have helped us to create state-of-the-art security services. This is especially important for respecting customers’ privacy and maintaining compliance with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation. We’ve also been able to automate processes in online marketing analytics, which has helped move two full-time employees—who previously manually collected and merged files—to more high-value work. Throughout the process, VNR has avoided reliability or scaling issues. The performance bottlenecks, which were common before, simply don’t exist anymore.

While the training doesn’t make everyone into a solutions architect, it allowed our team to have contact with the technology and context on why it was important to the business. By the end, everyone understood why we needed a scalable platform, and it energized the staff. The AWS training is the best corporate training we’ve ever received. After undergoing AWS Training and Certification, we’re better equipped to fulfill our mission of making expert knowledge accessible to everyone because we invested in the knowledge of our people.


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