A conversation with World Wide Technology: building for the future by closing cloud skills gaps
AWS Training and Certification’s Steve Hall, Head of Global Partner Marketing, interviewed Michael Johnson, Director of Cloud Strategy and Business Development at World Wide Technology
Introduction to World Wide Technology
World Wide Technology (WWT) is a technology service provider and an AWS Partner Network (APN) Advanced Consulting Partner. WWT is one of the preeminent data center enablement companies in the world and includes a state-of-the-art supply chain and just-in-time delivery enablement around the globe.
Over the past 30 years, WWT has grown to having over 250 network engineers, 300 security engineers, and over 600 developers. Their area of expertise is rapidly evolving with the data modernization movement and worldwide adoption of the cloud. That is where AWS Training and Certifications comes into play.
Steve Hall (AWS): How has WWT leveraged AWS Training and Certification as part of the AWS Partner Network?
Michael Johnson (WWT): We were one of the first participants in the AWS Partner program to enter the AWS Partner Transformation Program (PTP). Prior to that engagement, we had done some work with AWS Training and Certification, but going through PTP is what got us ingrained in the various AWS Training and Certification offerings.
PTP was critical to helping us build out our cloud practice. At the time, despite having over 6,000 employees, the cloud was a pretty new muscle to us. PTP really helped enable and accelerate our cloud practice.
The business-focused courses from AWS Training and Certification helped our field sellers shift their perspective on selling in terms of the cloud. Traditionally, they were approaching potential clients from a very hardware/product-centric perspective. The cloud is fundamentally different than that, and the AWS Partner training courses were critical to reframing our sales process.
Steve Hall (AWS): Great to hear about how this has helped your sales organization. Can you elaborate on the value of an AWS Certification to WWT?
Michael Johnson (WWT): AWS Certifications have been huge for us internally. Additionally, we’re looking for professionals who are relatively mature in their cloud knowledge. When hiring new talent, for example, AWS Certifications go a long way.
Three things come to mind:
- AWS Certifications are a great barometer of someone’s skill set. If someone has already invested their time to get some of those certifications, it’s a great indicator of their capabilities and drive to be on the bleeding edge of technology.
- If they understand AWS best practices and the information you garner through the process of achieving AWS Certifications, it ensures they’ll be a better fit for our methodology and how we deliver on what we preach to our customers.
- It establishes common diction between our employees, allowing them to come in and hit the ground running based on what they’ve learned from AWS Training and Certification.
Steve Hall (AWS): Have you found prospective and existing customers share similar sentiments around the value AWS Certifications?
Michael Johnson (WWT): I think the perspective of our customers closely mirrors ours when we talk about searching for new talent. Customers use it as an indicator to gauge expertise, understand our ability to deliver, and validate the promises we’re making. They often ask how many practitioners we have, what AWS Certifications we’ve achieved, how many AWS Certified Architects we have, and more. We now have more than 100 individuals who hold the AWS Certified distinction, many of whom have achieved multiple different certifications.
Steve Hall (AWS): Congratulations! As we navigate these unprecedented times, how has WWT leveraged AWS Training and Certification to meet the training needs of your employees?
Michael Johnson (WWT): Many of our customers are large Fortune 500 and federal government branches who are working from home and evolving parts of their business that they never imagined would be operating remotely. Naturally, they turned to WWT to help.
This has provided a great opportunity to position the AWS Cloud as the solution to accelerate their remote capabilities and secure their business-critical applications that previously couldn’t be leveraged remotely. Of course, this required us to have our teams ready to support this sudden demand. AWS Training and Certification was key in training up our internal teams to provide the best possible support.
AWS Training and Certification resources have also been extremely valuable to our internal teams, as they had more time on their hands due to client transitions. For example, we have many security and network engineers who hadn’t gone through our formalized cloud training programs. Leveraging the AWS Training and Certification virtual and on-demand training resources, we’ve been able to accelerate their AWS Cloud skills and knowledge.
Steve Hall (AWS): That’s great to hear. WWT has published materials on how to stand up remote operations. What advice do you have for organizations planning for the long-term impacts of our current situation?
Michael Johnson (WWT): We firmly believe that business, especially as it relates to technology, is going to be forever changed. I don’t think we will go back to the way things were before. I think you will see a lot of people who were never remote workers before all this, will remain remote in a full-time capacity.
I also believe it will fundamentally change the way organizations look at business continuity. It’s no longer going to just be a question, “What happens if a natural disaster hits and wipes out my data center or branch office location?” It’s going to expand to include, “What happens the next time I can’t get all my workers within the same four walls?”
We have to look outside traditional models and rethink our approach to ensure we can continue operating when this happens again, once we’re passed our current scenario. The cloud is going to be the center of the solution moving forward. Anyone who wants to be relevant in technology will need to establish and enhance their cloud skills.
The third part is there was already a shortage of talent with cloud expertise. This shortage is going to be even more prevalent with the shift of business. Organizations may have the right talent already, and it’s going to be critical to take time away from billable activities to establish cloud skills and knowledge in the short term. Doing so will pay off in the long run.
Steve Hall (AWS): That’s a fantastic point. To address these skills gaps, what are the non-negotiable skills technology consultants need to possess to be successful moving forward?
Michael Johnson (WWT): One of the things we’re really bullish about at WWT is the dynamic, ever-changing nature of technology—including the solutions available. The ability to come at a problem with more than one solution is critical.
Having the ability to bring options to the table and get creative with multiple ways to solve a problem is where our customers find a lot of value in what we do. I think folks ought to concentrate on building multiple capabilities and breaking free of silo perspectives. One of the biggest advantages for business now is the number of options they have to enhance their business.
Whether that’s leveraging the cloud from an Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) perspective with third-party software running on top of it, allowing companies to extend current on-premises investments to the cloud; leveraging platform-as-a-service (PaaS), leveraging cloud-native capabilities that are coming out at break-neck speed; or moving toward software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings that enable organizations to reallocate resources to business-critical needs, we find there isn’t a single “right” answer or reference architecture when it comes to the cloud.
Steve Hall (AWS): That’s great advice and perspective. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Michael Johnson (WWT): Industry trainings, certifications, and technical prowess are a core part of WWT’s DNA. Our customers have come to know and love us for our ability to serve as trusted advisors on how to leverage their existing products and evolve to differentiate themselves in the marketplace.
AWS Training and Certification resources are a vital part of our efforts to stay ahead of the industry’s rapid rate of change, providing education for new employees and continued education for our existing team as we look to enhance and re-tool their skill sets. We’re continuing to invest our staff’s time in AWS classroom trainings (currently offered in virtual format) as part of the PTP program. Additionally, the AWS Partner learning paths are really valuable for individuals to enhance their skills based on their interests. We’ve been really happy with our approach to growing our AWS knowledge and expertise by leveraging AWS Training and Certification.
For more information about our training and resources for AWS Partners, visit us.