By Rob Koch
Keeping your AWS team engaged with training is more important now than ever.
While AWS professionals are used to continuously developing their skills and knowledge in line with the ever-evolving AWS landscape, how they gain this knowledge has changed.
Opportunities to engage with and learn from peers have been reduced by the pandemic. As such, it is imperative that businesses factor in time for developers, architects, and other relevant parties to get together online and discuss architectural roadblocks or re-consider approaches to software struggles, etc.
If you’re interested in skilling up your AWS team, here are five ways to keep them engaged with the training.
In the past, I’ve set up PowerPoint slides with multiple-choice questions displayed prominently, just like in a real AWS exam. This is easy to organize, especially digitally, just make sure the fonts are large enough to be visible on a shared screen. You can hide the answers in the notes section of the slides, to bring up when the group has agreed upon an answer.
Keep in mind, in the Certified Cloud Practitioner exam there are usually 60 questions with only 60 minutes to answer. Meaning you have roughly one minute to answer each. As such, when I run the quiz, I’m typically more lenient with time.
Adding more time also leaves room for opportunities to discuss possible answers, which is particularly useful when everyone is still learning. You can even discuss any verbiage in the question and examine keywords such as; all, any, cheapest, fastest, managed, etc.
Friendly competition always makes things more interesting. In the past, I’ve known companies to make training more appealing with inter-departmental awards for, say, the most certificates gained in a year.
Winning teams (or team members) can receive gift cards, or even a lunch paid for by the company. This kind of competition can be especially useful for fostering teamwork within a team, while motivating individual employees to keep learning.
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If you’re at a larger company or have an AWS Solution Architect you work with often, you can ask them to help set up a training GameDay. This is a great, hands-on way for teammates to gain experience solving common AWS issues together. This AWS blog is a great read for anyone interested in learning how to organize their own GameDay.
Essentially, the person running the GameDay will present an issue for a team to solve, with a point scoring system to keep it competitive.
Some examples might include trying to close a security hole in a VPC, or figuring out why EC2 instances are not scaling up. It’s a fun and challenging way to approach the more obscure elements of AWS and determine why they aren’t working properly.
Personally, I’ve been involved in two GameDays and one meetup (these have a similar format, which you can read about below) and have always learned something new, even with my existing experience and certificates.
A real benefit to GameDay AWS training is how it introduces individuals to services and scenarios they may not have experienced previously and builds employee confidence in approaching unfamiliar issues.
Meetups are a great way to meet like-minded people in your field of interest. They can focus on a range of topics, including working with cloud-based databases, setting up a CloudFormation script, or best approaches to using AWS SAM.
They are particularly useful because an individual can learn something new and take that knowledge back to the workplace to improve a system or existing function for the business.
In addition, individuals can gain a better understanding of how various AWS products work and interact with each other while doing it.
Meeting other experts also provides value as it demonstrates how ‘the best of the best’ attempt to solve similar problems. At the same time, an employee can build a network of experts to bounce ideas around with, or consult on existing projects.
Many AWS-related meetups can easily be found on Google or other popular search engines. At the time of writing with the pandemic still in full swing, almost all meetups are hosted online on Zoom or other similar platforms.
If you’re interested in setting up (or joining) a meetup, you can choose from a range of AWS meetup topics here.
Pair programming is rapidly growing in popularity, especially as more businesses move to work remotely. As employees are now together less often, it can be hard to share detailed information on a workflow process or a particular backend system.
However, by pair programming (for example, sharing your screen with a co-worker and watching how they work with the AWS Console) employees can easily share tips and tricks to solve specific problems more efficiently, together, and with fewer mistakes.
The same idea applies to writing CloudFormation scripts or working on Python programming using the CDK. This approach also helps give individuals more confidence in working on the cloud and also helps them absorb what they need to know for any exams.
As a point of practice, I put aside an hour a week specifically dedicated to AWS training. This can be done on a Tuesday one week and a Wednesday the next; likewise, one week on an afternoon and another week in the morning. By staggering the days and times for each week you can allow for greater engagement with staff globally, rather than just a small, insulated group.
This demonstrates a real commitment to the quality of your service; the company is essentially asking employees to be more skilled in their area of expertise—which nearly always filters down to customers and clients in some way or another.
It also demonstrates to employees that their personal time is valued and (by extension) so are they, as it removes the stress of learning something new amongst what is likely a busy personal life. This is something which almost every employee will appreciate.
Rob Koch is an AWS Data Hero, Lead Architect at S&P Global, and one of the community leaders of DeafintheCloud.com.
He helps drive cloud-based architecture, blogs about migrating to the cloud and use of Lambdas, and loves to talk data and event-driven systems. Rob’s ultimate goal is to help the community understand the benefit of migrating to the cloud and showing the advantages of having “serverless” applications and databases.
Find him on Twitter at @robcube.
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