AWS Training and Certification Blog

Cloudreach’s Talent Academy embraces diverse talent

In October of 2021, Cloudreach, a leading cloud consultancy with a global footprint began an ambitious and inclusive training program. As an AWS Partner for more than 10 years with a robust internal AWS Training program in place, Cloudreach is experienced in turning conventional technologists into cloud specialists. This program was different, though. The aim of Cloudreach’s Talent Academy was to take people with little to no technical background and, within two years, transform them into fully fledged cloud developers.

This idea aimed to tackle several problems at once. Over the past five years, record numbers of companies have moved their operations to the cloud, and that trend only accelerated during the pandemic. While this was a boon to Cloudreach, it presented a tricky challenge: demand for cloud was surging exponentially, but the supply of cloud talent was low.

“To future proof our workforce in order to deliver on our promise of cloud to our customers, we recognized that by widening our talent pool we not only tackled the talent crisis, but continued to live by our values of creating an environment that nurtures talent’,” says Poonam Flammarion, head of Talent Academy at Cloudreach. “Our people are our product. Diverse teams mean more diverse and better solutions for our customers.”

Casting a wide net

Cloudreach’s efforts to deliver on that strategy were aided by the groundwork laid by AWS’s re/Start program, a training program designed to give people of varying backgrounds the training needed to work in the cloud. AWS re/Start was able to provide a proven curriculum and experienced trainers who were well-versed in jump-starting cloud careers for students with little to no technical experience. Cloudreach took the AWS re/Start template and supercharged it with mentorship and on-the-job training to build its full, two-year Talent Academy program. Better still, from the day they begin their training, Talent Academy learners are full time employees of Cloudreach.

“I was completely new to cloud,” says Elvia Sicuro, one of the participants in Cloudreach’s initial, UK-based Talent Academy cohort. “My previous jobs were in translation, copywriting, and marketing, nothing at all to do with technology. At the beginning it was a steep learning curve, but after a couple of weeks everything began to build on everything else, and it started to become very exciting.”

Cloudreach had hoped Talent Academy would be an attractive program, and as soon as they put the word out about starting their first cohort in the UK, they knew they had succeeded. “Almost immediately we had 120 applicants for 10 spots,” says Abby Howe, professional services manager for Cloudreach. “The applicants were all incredible and highlighted the need to not only be innovators in tech, but innovating the way we find and train talent”.

Premised on the idea of bringing non-technical people into the field, Talent Academy was an opportunity for Cloudreach to accomplish two important goals simultaneously: expand the talent pool beyond people who already worked in tech, and increase Cloudreach’s diversity.

“We understood that using positive action as a core principal of the attraction stage would enable us to tap into a wide pool of talent’,” says Flammarion. “The wording in our job listings were very open and inclusive, without putting up barriers around experience, ability to code, or academic background. We wanted to find people who could bring something interesting into the tech world that hasn’t been there before. We had people coming to us who had been gin distillers, yoga instructors, and prison officers. Our main criteria were that individuals had a growth mindset and were passionate about getting into cloud.”

group image of approx 25 very happy Talent Academy participants, each with outstretched arms or thumbs-up

Cloudreach’s Talent Academy cohort in Berlin, Germany

Global reach, global vision

With its worldwide footprint and the nimbleness enabled by virtual training, Cloudreach was able to start up its subsequent Talent Academy cohorts across a wide geography. After its success in the UK, its next three cohorts were in India, Germany and the United States. That geographic range provided yet another way to boost diversity. “We work with nonprofits wherever we are setting up to make sure we are really integrating with the communities who have historically not been given these opportunities,” Flammarion continues. “Our second cohort in India was majority women, and our European cohort is made up of people from all over the world who all share the same passion and drive to make a new life for themselves, that shows how powerful this academy is. Our decisions were made based on the quality of our conversations with them, not about what they could put down on a piece of paper. There’s a huge amount of talent out there, you just need to look for it in the right places. It’s what our CEO calls ‘Diversity by Design.”

The initial training is only the beginning, however. Once the 12-week course concludes, students are connected to mentors and receive on-the-job training. Over the next two years they go back to the classroom periodically for more advanced work. Along the way they have opportunities to pick up a variety of AWS Certifications. After two years the learners are fully accredited cloud developers with a significant amount of real-world experience under their belts.

“We don’t just drop them into the deep end when they come out of the Academy,” says Michael Johnson, a senior program and project delivery manager who has mentored several of these students. “We put them into the field with our existing teams and offer them as a free resource to the client for up to 12 weeks. It’s an organic growth and learning process that boosts their skills even further. They get to see how our engagements work, and the client gets an extra set of hands at no cost. Three months later we find they’re both very capable and fully billable.”

Johnson has been impressed and inspired by the people he’s seen coming out of Talent Academy. “It reminds me of my experience coming out of university,” he says. “When someone throws something at you that you’ve never done before and you realize you have all the tools and knowledge to handle it, that’s just an incredible moment. It’s really gratifying to see that happen over and over again.”

Selene Rescio was a learner in the initial Talent Academy cohort that began in October 2021, and has been working on Cloudreach’s customer projects since April of 2022. In October of 2022 she reflected a similar satisfaction. “When I stop, take stock of my situation, and write down an accomplishments list, it’s almost unbelievable,” she says. “I’ve achieved three AWS certifications and two full projects on teams. It’s amazing how much I’ve grown professionally in just a year.”

The right people at the right time

Howe is similarly amazed by how powerful tapping this unconventional talent pool has been. “As a manager, you are constantly watching your teams grow and evolve, and you hope that you are part of that development and growth,” she says. “With the cohorts, not only have I watched the teams develop their technical skills, but I have seen them grow their confidence and belief in themselves that there is not only a place for them here at Cloudreach but the tech industry as a whole. It has been an incredible privilege to support them on their journey and to be part of what we hope to be a new way of thinking when it comes to hiring new talent.”

The program has also been incredibly successful for Cloudreach. With three cohorts now on the job, and a fourth starting in early 2023, Cloudreach affirms this is no short-term solution. Rather, it’s a talent pipeline built to strengthen the company with a pool of cloud developers over the long haul by tapping a true “blue water” resource: talented people without technical training. With demand for cloud computing showing no signs of slowing down, there’s no such thing as too many developers, and Cloudreach knows it. As Flammarion puts it, “we knew we needed to make a serious investment in people to be competitive in the long term.”

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