A conversation with Accenture: empowering personal and professional growth in a digital world
AWS Training and Certification’s Steve Hall, Head of Global Partner Marketing, interviewed Jeff Hammond, AWS Business Group Global Capability Development Lead at Accenture
Introduction to Accenture
Accenture is an international professional services company headquartered in Dublin, Ireland. The company provides service to customers in more than 120 countries, including 95 of the Fortune 100 and more than three-quarters of the Fortune 500.
Since the inception of their relationship with Amazon Web Services (AWS) 13+ years ago, Accenture employees have achieved 6,000+ AWS Certifications and the company has achieved 20+ AWS Competencies and AWS Service Delivery Programs.
In this interview, we spoke with Jeff Hammond, the AWS Business Group Global Capability Development Lead at Accenture, to discuss how they are leveraging AWS Training in online modalities to continue employee skill development. Hammond also shares advice for organizations continuing to optimize trainings for their remote workforces and what skills are paramount for technology consultants to navigate these unprecedented times.
Steve Hall (AWS): How has Accenture leveraged AWS Training and Certification as an AWS Partner?
Jeff Hammond (Accenture): We began a formal cooperation with AWS back in 2015. What we decided early on was that we would integrate AWS Certifications not only as a core piece of both our alliance metrics with AWS, but also an objective standard of how we measure competency within our internal Accenture skill development and staffing approach.
We started by integrating AWS Partner Accreditation courses into our internal curriculum as the foundational step in pursuing AWS Certifications. We’ve since incorporated a variety of other digital AWS Training and Certification courses to help build employee skills beyond AWS Certifications.
Steve Hall (AWS): What role do AWS Certifications play in your hiring and onboarding process?
Jeff Hammond (Accenture): We have our own unique approach to hiring talent. However, when someone does have an existing industry credential, it certainly means a lot to us.
Conversely, when we hire folks out of universities, we aren’t necessarily looking for them to have AWS Certifications. However, we do look at some of the programs AWS offers—like AWS Academy—to identify talented individuals coming directly out of higher education institutions.
Once someone has been onboarded to Accenture, AWS Certifications are the objective standard for job readiness to work on AWS projects. We have a learning path that leverages AWS-provided training courses and internal trainings Accenture has built on top of them.
Steve Hall (AWS): Are AWS training paths an ongoing pursuit for your employees?
Jeff Hammond (Accenture): It is absolutely ongoing. We always want to make sure we can deliver on the value we promise clients when we begin an engagement. What we deliver, by in large, is people. We want to ensure the talent we deliver to clients to work with them are the absolute best.
We have systems of record that formalize how we identify people with certain skills and what credentials they have. These are translated into various proficiency levels, from a spectrum of novice to expert. This categorization demonstrates that an individual has the necessary skills to execute a job.
Of course, there is no substitute for hands-on client experience. The credential at the associate level represents that someone has at least the minimum required knowledge of the AWS offerings that we can trust them to go to deliver high quality work for our clients.
Steve Hall (AWS): How do your customers appreciate the value of an AWS Certification?
Jeff Hammond (Accenture): We have a number of ways that our clients evaluate us. When we get Requests for Proposals (RFPs), the criteria they often ask for is:
- How many of your employees are AWS Certified?
- Which AWS Certifications do you have?
- Where do these certified individuals reside?
When we deal with industry analysts who do rankings and determine which Global System Integrators (GSI) can provide the greatest breadth and depth on the cloud, AWS Certifications always come up. They are extremely important to our clients and us, and those certifications prove to our clients and the market that we are able to do the work.
Steve Hall (AWS): Great to hear! Is it fair to say you’ve had a significant increase in demand for virtual AWS trainings?
Jeff Hammond (Accenture): Absolutely. This may sound funny, and this is a great problem to have, but we are almost struggling to keep up with the demand in some ways. That is a much better problem to have than nobody being interested.
Steve Hall (AWS): What do you predict these virtual training measures will look like in the longer term?
Jeff Hammond (Accenture): For the short term, we are not doing any in-person training. Everything that can move online, we are moving online. It’s been interesting because there are things we may have written off in the past, but we’re now realizing we have the capabilities to make them happen.
Longer term, I think we will have a return to in-person learning. We really value personal connection at Accenture. We believe one of the greatest ways our teams can bond is through internal trainings and events.
I don’t think we’ll have a complete elimination of that. However, we are really focused on moving toward virtual training whenever we can. This provides us with the ability to more efficiently schedule people’s time by mitigating travel needs. We’ve shifted from a 60:40 online to in-person training ratio, to 80:20.
Steve Hall (AWS): Obviously, there are challenges with rapidly standing-up virtual training for 500K+ people, but what benefits are you seeing from that flexibility?
Jeff Hammond (Accenture): One of the biggest benefits has been the control people have over their time. We want to ensure people are taking care of their mental health. Balancing work-personal life at the same time can be difficult. Going digital has removed some of the stress for people.
The flexibility and adaptability of the online model have enabled our people to continue moving further along their AWS Certification objectives we hold as a standard, even in the face of restrictions on movement.
Steve Hall (AWS): From a macro point of view, what advice would you give other organizations looking to establish online learning? What misconceptions can you speak to?
Jeff Hammond (Accenture): Number one, you have to start. You’re not going to have the perfect plan for scaling to a 100,000 people before you start. You are going to have to learn as you go, as there are no one-size-fits-all solutions. Understanding that has actually helped us skill up our teams.
I think the biggest misconceptions about online learning are that it is superficial, not very deep, and won’t hold people’s interest. When it is done right, it can be just as robust a learning experience—if not more so in some cases—than the in-person stuff. The curriculum development and delivery process is very different, but the support is similar. People want someone to turn to while they are learning new material. Ensuring that support function is there is critical, whether it is in-person or online.
Steve Hall (AWS): Looking toward the future, where remote working may continue as commonplace, what are the non-negotiable skills technology consultants need to possess to be successful?
Jeff Hammond (Accenture): There are really four primary skills technology consultants need to have:
- Cloud skills: These are non-negotiable. You are not going to survive as a technology consultant if you don’t understand the cloud.
- Creativity: These are complex times and people really need to be disciplined in their creativity.
- Adaptability: As we’ve all seen recently, everyone has to be adaptable.
- Leadership through service: Technology consultants really have to demonstrate a sense of leadership by being service-oriented. Whether that’s working with your colleagues, how you interact with clients, or engaging your community, it’s about helping other people perform and thrive at the highest level.
Steve Hall (AWS): I love that. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Jeff Hammond (Accenture): I’d reiterate that it’s all about people. While we talk a lot about technology, training and enhancing our cloud skills is really important. This is an extremely personal endeavor for individuals, and that should be at the forefront of our minds as we continue to consider how we are going to develop, deliver, and support people during these unprecedented times.
We have always viewed personal and professional skill development as a core value at Accenture. A big piece of this has been about empowering our teams to learn with remote or virtual training and learning opportunities.
We’ve had an incredible response to the AWS Training and Certification curriculum that is available. Leadership has mobilized groups of people in different markets globally to actively pursue the development of new AWS skills and obtain new AWS Certifications. What this boils down to is, these unprecedented times has provided a lot of people with the time to obtain new skills and certifications on AWS.
For more information about our training and resources for AWS Partners, visit us at aws.amazon.com/partners/training.