AWS Training and Certification Blog

AWS Guild Tournament builds cloud skills and innovative customer solutions

Gamified cloud training delivers engaged, upskilled teams at Village Roadshow

As cloud adoption grows, a common challenge organizations face is the ability to acquire new skills required to achieve their digital transformation and innovation goals and deliver outstanding customer experiences.

For Village Roadshow, an Australian-based entertainment company which operates theme parks, cinemas, film, and DVD distribution, and marketing solutions, the need to constantly adapt and improve customer experiences is ever present. The business is on a technology transformation journey, with a migration to the AWS Cloud at the center of its modernization efforts. Company leadership recognized early the importance of bringing staff along on the transformation journey to ensure innovation is central to the culture.

Chief Transformation Officer, Michael Fagan, knows that in the entertainment experience industry, innovation is crucial in light of stiff competition. “We want to partner with the best companies in the world, including Amazon Web Services, to elevate our game, lift our digital capability and competency, and deliver the world’s best digital experiences to our customers.”

“Often when companies embark on a cloud transformation strategy, they forget one element: their people,” said Arul Arogyanathan, Group General Manager, Technology at Village Roadshow. “Without the right skills, even the fanciest and most impressive technology will sit on the shelf. When your people know how to use it, you’ll maximize your investment and drive tremendous value.”

The AWS Guild Tournament is a 12-week learning program delivered by AWS Training and Certification. Village Roadshow embarked on this gamified training experience with the aim of enabling their people to quickly build cloud knowledge through targeted foundational training courses, empowering teams to build resilient, secure, and highly available cloud solutions.

As individuals build their technical cloud skills, they are encouraged to think about how they might apply this to their roles at Village Roadshow through a competitive concept called “Tournament Telegrams”. As the program’s innovator accelerator, the Telegram helps employees to shift their mindset to focus on the needs of their customer. This might be a suggestion to optimize an internal process, an experiment to solve an ongoing pain point or perhaps a new and innovative customer experience. Telegram workbooks leverage Amazon’s Working Backwards process for unlocking thinking around customer challenges and opportunities and a pathway to building solution-oriented ideas to address them.

“The Guild Tournament became a magic wand for us,” said Arogyanathan. “The way it was run, the way it was structured, the nature of it as a sports tournament – it got people excited.”

Even though the outcomes are serious, generating excitement and having fun is key. The Village Roadshow teams leaned into this, with a leaderboard featuring names such as “Team 404”, “Cumulo Nimble” and “You Shall Not PaaS”. A supportive atmosphere and visible executive sponsorship are also important, helping the teams feel empowered with permission to experiment with leadership endorsement on behalf of their customers.

Skills for the business, flexibility for individuals

In a Guild Tournament, training is customized to align with the innovation goals of the business and the skill requirements of its people, across both the business and technology teams. To address the skills gaps as identified via the AWS Learning Needs Analysis, five foundational cloud skills courses were delivered in person and virtually including AWS Cloud Essentials, AWS Security Essentials, and Architecting on AWS, totaling nearly 3,000 hours of training.

Employees also utilized AWS Skill Builder, an online learning center with 600+ on-demand courses, to learn at their own pace, solidify their knowledge, and build practical skills in a live environment with 150+ hands-on AWS Builder Labs.

“The adoption rate [of AWS Skill Builder] was very high,” Arogyanathan said, contrasting with other learning platforms they had tried. “At the end of the 12-week program, I’m proud to say that we’ve had more than 90% of our team enrolled and actively participating with digital learning.”

Village Roadshow employees also utilized AWS Certification exam preparation resources and practice exams in AWS Skill Builder. Some individuals achieved multiple certifications, inspiring many more to pursue AWS Certification to validate their skills as an outcome of the program.

Tim Weeks, a National Technical Manager who achieved the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner certification during the Tournament, described the sense of achievement and technical confidence it had given him: “I’m excited to have [an AWS Certification] because it gives me the confidence that I know what’s going on, and that I can walk the walk and talk the talk.”

Improving customer experience through cross-functional collaboration

During the Guild Tournament, teams are purposefully composed of individuals from different business units including technical and non-technical staff to improve cross-function collaboration and communication. For Village Roadshow, this offered the opportunity for individuals to learn about different parts of the business (such as theme parks and cinemas), allowing them to build relationships with peers across multiple geographic locations. This resulted in teams ideating and creating meaningful tech solutions more effectively for customers using the cloud skills they developed.

“The ideas we saw emerge from the Telegram illustrate that our staff understand the technology and our business challenges, business aspirations, and what is happening in the customer landscape,” said Arogyanathan.

Raymond Sigsworth, a Business Systems Team Lead, describes how the cross-functional collaboration benefited his career aspirations and the business, “Learning about the technologies has fundamentally changed the way I think about some of the problems that we’re facing and how we can design some of the solutions to solve those problems. I feel more confident about cloud computing and excited about the possibilities with what it can bring for future customers experiences.”

And the winner is… everyone

The best training programs deliver positive outcomes for individuals and the business. For Chris Georgoulas, Head of IT Operations, the Guild Tournament delivered multiple successes. “With the combination of instructor-led courses, self-paced learning via Skill Builder, and some healthy competition, our team now has the knowledge and skills to modernize and optimize our technology stack with AWS. We have people excited and engaged by the experience that allowed them to explore and enhance their passion for invention and process improvement, and we have a myriad of innovative ideas the business can take forward. It’s been a fantastic learning initiative for all staff.”

“​​There is a great buzz around the office now, which I was hoping for,” said Fagan. “The team really enjoy the sense of accomplishment, and this has been a turning point in our culture.” Participants revealed feeling valued and inspired by the support of the business in pursuing cloud innovation.

Arogyanathan confirmed that they are pursuing at least three of the Tournament Telegram ideas as business initiatives,  including the winning idea from team “Bezos Bros,” which is to remove friction and stress points for families by assisting with theme park visit timing and booking experiences.

Another idea, from team Cumulo Nimble, uses serverless technology to increase website return of movie session information by scaling to avoid bottlenecks during peak times. The offering is expected to be live within three months and directly improves customers’ experience and satisfaction with the Village Roadshow website, ensuring a simple, seamless, and responsive service for online discovery and ticket purchasing. Thanks to the AWS Guild Tournament, the team is using their newfound knowledge of these AWS services to build their solution. They are incredibly proud and satisfied with this positive business outcome, and most importantly, being able to deliver a better experience for customers.

Arogyanathan is excited by the success of the program and looking to build on the momentum, ensuring the impacts of the Tournament continue well beyond the completion of the program.

“I want to make sure that we continue to ride the wave of enthusiasm and the innovative and collaborative culture that AWS helped to inspire–and achieve bigger and better things for the business,” he says. “As a technology leader, I am very proud we have been able to train all our technology staff in core and essential cloud skills, which is the backbone of our innovation program.”

Fagan added to that sentiment, reinforcing the value to the overall staff satisfaction. “We’re seeing greater engagement and satisfaction from our staff, [and] an uplift in their skills and capability. We’re finding it easier to retain our current employee base, and attract high quality new staff.”

Bolstered by its technology leaders’ vision to build the world’s best digital experiences for customers, Village Roadshow is now ideating, building, and scaling confidently with the AWS Cloud. The AWS Guild Tournament helped fuel the company’s excitement for its digital future, equipping all employees to nurture the culture of innovation.

Learn more about AWS Skills Guild and AWS Guild Tournament.