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AiThority Interview with Jenni Troutman, Director, Products and Services at AWS Training and Certification

#AIinsights: Top Interview of 2023 This interview was first published in August 2023.

AiThority Interview with Jenni Troutman, Director, Products and Services at AWS Training and Certification

Hi Jenni, please tell us about your role at AWS and how you arrived here in the company.

I lead a team that’s focused on creating and delivering cloud computing skills training for people at all levels of technical proficiency. It’s an exciting time for the team because there is so much excitement and demand around cloud computing and cloud-enabled technologies like generative AI. We understand that there is no one size fits all approach to honing your skills, and my team is focused on innovating new courses and programs ranging from self-paced courses to hands-on labs and game-based courses, too.

I previously worked at New Relic and VMware, helping them upskill their sales and technical field organizations. These experiences ignited my passion to continue pursuing a career helping individuals and organizations skill-up in the latest technologies, including helping leaders think through how to empower and excite their workforce.

You have managed a wide range of roles and functions. Could you please tell us how you promote learning and upskilling opportunities within AWS? 

“Learn and Be Curious” is one of Amazon’s leadership principles, so as you can imagine the whole company values and supports employee skills training and education. In fact, Amazon is committing more than $1.2 billion to provide free education and skills training opportunities to more than 300,000 employees. We do this through a range of programs designed to meet employees’ various learning goals—whether they are looking to learn a new skill or completely reimagine their careers. This commitment is our way of setting the example from the top—a crucial element for success for any business that’s considering upskilling their workforce. It’s the first thing I tell executives who ask me, “How can I make sure my workforce has the skills they need to support our digital transformation?” Within my team specifically, we take things a step further by making every Friday a meeting-free day across AWS Training and Certification. This is designed to allow our team to make space for training or focus on a creative project that requires a big chunk of uninterrupted thought-space.

Importantly, many of the courses that we recommend to our employees are the same ones we make available to the public. We are investing hundreds of millions of dollars to provide free cloud computing skills training to 29 million people around the world. Many courses and programs require nothing more than an internet connection to get started—and we have more than 80 courses and resources for individuals who are looking to hone their AI and generative AI skills.

How can CXOs come to speed with the AI learning courses? 

Regardless of your organization’s adoption of cloud technologies, executives who understand the capabilities of cloud and its impact on operations across the organization are better equipped to set the vision for their organization’s digital transformation.

We recently released an educational series for CXOs designed to provide a primer on the cloud’s capabilities and business benefits for innovation and competitive advantage.

AI upskilling is the need of the hour. However, budget constraints toward AI adoption and professional training are considered as the biggest barriers. How would AWS training courses solve these challenges for organizations?

Investing in training is investing in your business. It’s that simple. As cloud adoption accelerates, having a cloud-skilled workforce makes or breaks an organization’s ability to succeed in the cloud. In fact, employees’ IT skills account for 40% of an organization’s digital transformation results. Research also shows that 90% of organizations that invest in employee training report faster achievement of reach their digital transformation goals and nearly 85% noting improved worker retention.

One of the most effective ways an organization can close its cloud skills gap is by modernizing IT skills within your existing staff. We recommend a comprehensive education strategy that includes both cloud fundamentals training for a wide range of stakeholders, as well as deep cloud training for key technical teams. A good place to start is AWS Skill Builder, which has more than 600 free courses in up to 14 languages ranging from foundational to advanced levels. It provides role-based training and learning plans focused on a specific domain or role so there is something for everyone, no matter where in the organization they sit. We also work with organizations to create customized training plans specific to meet their business goals and have worked with companies including Lockheed Martin and Pearson to upskill their workforces.

Please tell us more about the unique features of the AI courses AWS has just released. What kind of background should a professional have to avail the course?

Generative AI is here to stay, and that means organizations and individuals should be thinking and taking steps to hone their knowledge in this area now. To help people of all technical levels get smart on the topic, we released seven free and low-cost courses. This includes a course specifically designed to help CXOs better understand how generative AI can help their business. There is something for everyone, no matter your level of technical experience  including a free Generative AI Foundations on AWS course designed for technologists already familiar with AI modeling, as well as AWS Jam Journey – Build Using Amazon CodeWhisperer that provides hands-on practical experience.

What’s your opinion on the role of AI-based training and learning programs on employee career mobility opportunities? 

I have yet to meet someone who regretted learning a new skill. I encourage anyone curious to learn about AI to do it. There’s only upside. From a career advancement standpoint, employers want to see employees and job applicants who are hungry to learn. Additionally, job opportunities in AI and generative AI will only increase with time. The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2023 indicates that more than 75% of organizations plan to adopt big data, cloud computing, and AI in the next five years.

Where is AI at the workplace heading? Do you have any case study or research papers at AWS that identified the state of the future of work built on AI capabilities? 

I recommend, “How Technology Leaders Can Prepare for Generative AI,” by Phil Le-Brun. Phil is an enterprise strategist at AWS, which means he speaks with C-suite executives regularly about their digital transformation journeys, including generative AI adoption strategies and considerations. It’s a great review of key considerations when thinking about how to adopt generative AI within your organization, and includes a section on upskilling your workforce.

Thank you, Jenni! That was fun and we hope to see you back on soon.

Jenni is Director of Training and Certification Products and Services at Amazon Web Services (AWS). In this role, Jenni leads the team delivering accessible, valued cloud skill development experiences for learners at all levels of proficiency. Jenni’s team’s mission is to inspire and empower learners to innovate and build with confidence with the AWS Cloud. Over the last five years, Jenni has helped learners gain access to a growing portfolio of cloud training through the introduction of free and low cost, self-paced, hands-on training, enabling people to learn anytime, anywhere. She is passionate about providing cloud learners the opportunity to build their careers.

Prior to joining AWS, Jenni was a strategy consultant at Accenture, where she helped multiple companies evolve their enterprise sales motion to value-based solution selling. Evolving sales motions requires organizations to transform their skillsets, and Jenni moved to VMware to build their sales training capability to enable this transition for them. This experience led to a curiosity about how to help people improve their lives through education, and ultimately resulted in her move to AWS.

Jenni has a wealth of experience in the technology industry, from software development to sales to business strategy and operational management. She is based in Houston, Texas.

AWS Training and Certification is the only set of training programs and offerings built by the experts at AWS.

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