AWS Training and Certification Blog

CloudCheckr takes AWS skills development to new level with 80 in 80 certification challenge

By guest contributor, Alana Fitts, director of sales strategy at CloudCheckr

AWS Partner, CloudCheckr, recently validated its employees’ cloud expertise by completing an 80 in 80 professional development program to earn AWS Certifications. Hear how CloudCheckr staff across all functions exceeded this goal and learn tips for implementing similar skills development challenges in your organization.

At CloudCheckr, our employees recently embarked on a collective professional development goal of achieving 80 AWS Certifications in 80 days. We exceeded our own expectations with a final tally of 86 individual certifications, including at least one of each certification offered by AWS. Our investment in industry skills development and a nine-year relationship with AWS underscores our commitment to providing a leading solution for securing, managing, and governing the most sensitive environments in the world. I’ll share more about our 80 in 80 challenge and tips for our success in galvanizing employees to advance their cloud expertise.

What is the 80 in 80 program?

The 80 in 80 program allows CloudCheckr employees of all levels to become familiar with AWS offerings, ensuring employees have access to new professional development opportunities and remain at the forefront of innovation for AWS services. This program is just one example of how we strengthen our commitment to employees, partners, and clients.

CloudCheckr introduced a 60 in 60 program in 2018 and achieved more than 80 AWS Certifications in the 60 days. Then, in February of this year, we held an AWS GameDay event in our headquarters in Rochester, NY, for additional hands-on experience debugging and operating AWS infrastructure. The GameDay experience allowed our teams to test their knowledge in preparation for the certification initiative.

This summer, we expanded the program and encouraged employees in every department, from DevOps to information security, to sales and marketing, to become AWS Certified. As a long-standing AWS Partner, CloudCheckr’s customers expect development teams to stay up-to-date on new services. We’ve extended this commitment company-wide, and now over 65 percent of CloudCheckr employees have at least one certification.

Tips to certification success for your workforce

Are you looking to broaden your employees’ internal technical skills to increase business agility, innovation, customer satisfaction, and employee engagement and retention? Following are five keys to our success in setting an aggressive certification goal, and how we exceeded it.

  • Gamify your goals. As mentioned, we took advantage of AWS GameDay to rally our employees to participate. GameDay provides interactive, team-based learning in an open-ended, hands-on, and risk-free environment. Most importantly, it’s an extremely fun way to learn. GameDay showed our team that they could build even more compelling solutions if they expanded their skillset. This inspired them to dive deeper into training, go after higher level AWS Certifications, and participate in hands-on workshops and trainings to gain better understanding.
  • Post a leader board. There’s a real snowball effect to getting AWS Certifications. After the first couple of people achieved one, the demand among their colleagues increased. We had about 95 participants initially, and ultimately more than 125 signed up after seeing their team members succeed.
  • Keep detailed records. Be prepared for some intense tracking. Keeping record of achieved and missed certifications is no easy task, especially when you have more than 100 people participating in a short time period. Our key to success was a detailed set of instruction documents for our participants so they would know how to sign up for AWS Certification exams, how to notify us when they passed/failed, and when they were taking additional exams. Further, from these records, we could see our team had achieved at least one of each of the 12 AWS Certifications. With so many different roles internally that interact with AWS in vastly different ways, having our collective team possess the expertise represented by these certifications just makes sense.
  • Provide time to your employees to study. In our 60 in 60 round, our team was primarily working toward the foundational certification, AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner. For the 80 in 80 challenge, we focused on the more technically advanced certifications: Associate, Professional, and Specialty exams. Achieving these higher level certifications gives our engineering team increased credence to their abilities and helps expose them to AWS services and configurations that may be useful for us to implement in our architecture. As we are continuously modernizing the way our platform is built, the opportunity to get our team trained up on the latest that AWS has to offer is invaluable. We provided our teams the training resources to help them prepare and study time in their workday—these exams are not easy! We encouraged employees to dedicate two to four hours per week over the eight-to-10-week period to their exam study preparation. As a result, our employees averaged around an 80 percent passing rate for technical certifications.
  • Recognize and reward. Gamification of the training and education process was incredibly useful to encourage healthy, intra-team competition, and there is ample public recognition of the employees’ hard work therein. However, we also offered small rewards to our successful exam-takers. Don’t underestimate the motivating factor of a tangible reward or prize.

I’m incredibly proud of our employees for their work preparing for and earning 86 AWS Certifications in 80 days. I have no doubt that when we run another certification challenge, our teams will be ready to level up the goal and come with their game faces ready.

For more information about pursuing your own AWS Certifications Challenge, visit here, and for information about CloudCheckr, visit here.