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AiThority Interview with Maureen Lonergan, Director, Training and Certification at AWS


Hi. Please tell us about your role and the team/technology you handle at AWS? How did you arrive here?

I’ve been with Amazon Web Services (AWS) since 2012, and I was hired to build our global AWS Training and Certification organization, which helps our customers, partners, employees, and anyone outside of Amazon gain and advance their cloud skills.

Before starting at AWS, I spent a gap year teaching children in Mozambique. I had spent my adult life in training and education programs, but it was during this gap year that I knew I had found my passion in educating the world. I jumped at the opportunity to build a training strategy at AWS to help people and organizations change the world with cloud technology. This past December, we pledged to help train 29 million people globally for free on cloud-computing skills.

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How has skills training evolved over the past year?

We saw a surge in interest for cloud skills training during the lockdown—both from those who were completely new to the cloud and looking to understand the fundamentals, and seasoned professionals who were looking to take advanced courses in areas like machine learning (ML).

To give you an example, AWS Training and Certification saw a 152% jump in learners taking our fundamental cloud courses offered through AWS Training and Certification in May 2020 versus May 2019. Broadly speaking, we’ve seen the appetite for cloud skills training grow over the years as the world becomes increasingly digitized, and we expect this trend will continue.

What kind of training and skilling opportunities does AWS provide to employees and customers?

Our training is for everyone who has an interest in growing their skills in the cloud. We have more than 500 free, digital courses, as well as live instructor-led classroom courses, webinars, and trainings on Twitch, ranging from foundational, to intermediate, to advanced, which individuals can use to build their cloud knowledge and expertise. There is something for every learner, whether you’re looking to make a career change, pursuing higher education through a community college or university, or you’re a tenured IT professional.

For those interested in learning about ML on AWS, we offer more than 65 courses, many of them free.

Our free digital courses build on the curriculum we use to train our own developers and data scientists, and they range from foundational to advanced. Last summer, we debuted the AWS Power Hour: Machine Learning series, which is accessible via Twitch and designed to help developers without prior ML knowledge build apps that showcase natural language, speech recognition, and other personalized recommendations.

I’m also particularly excited about a new free, digital ML course for business decision makers to give them a foundational understanding of what ML can do for their business.

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What training resources should people consider to increase their artificial intelligence (AI)/ML knowledge?

Even though ML is a growing area of interest, many people, even folks who work in tech, find it a bit mystifying. If you’re not sure where to start learning about ML, you can follow one of our role-based ML learning paths—for business decision-makers, developers, data scientists, and data platform engineers. Each path is a curated series of courses to help you get started with ML quickly and efficiently by focusing on the topics most relevant to your specific role, whether current or aspirational. If you’re totally new to ML, we recommend these two free digital courses: Demystifying AI/ML/DL and What is Machine Learning?

Hear it from the Pro: Why should organizations invest in training?

There is a critical shortage of talent with the necessary cloud skills that organizations need today. This shortage is causing many technical cloud roles to go unfilled, hampering organizations’ progress to adopt cloud and realize their digital transformation objectives.

To solve this, we’re seeing more organizations of all sizes, in all industries, invest in training their own talent. In doing so, they’re able to accelerate their cloud and digital transformation initiatives, streamline their business operations, and also improve the overall health of their organization through employee satisfaction and retention. These companies are creating meaningful organizational change by putting the development of their people first. Enterprise Strategy Group conducted a survey of global business and technology decision makers and found an impressive 97% said that having AWS Certified individuals on their team gives them a better competitive position to succeed over the next three to five years. Also, 96% agreed their decision to support AWS Certification has improved the employee retention among cloud-focused staff.

Capital One is one example of an organization that has seen tremendous benefits from investing in training and certifying their people. Lavonda Perkins, learning program manager at Capital One, shared the organization’s commitment to certifying its entire engineering workforce: “Several years ago, we set out to go all in on the AWS Cloud. One of the things we focused on was getting our IT staff trained and AWS Certified so they could adopt a new cloud mindset. We created a robust peer-to-peer learning community and focused on getting engineers certified. We were able to support hundreds of our engineers in their journey to get AWS Certified in just one calendar year. We have found that an increase in AWS Certifications has led to an improvement of our tech landscape, and AWS Certified associates are empowered to take on new roles and become technology leaders. With this great success, we’re continuing to work toward getting 100% of our engineers certified.”

What kind of training / skills should young professionals acquire to start a career in the cloud / IT modernization industry? What advice do you have for someone who may be hesitant to take training because they don’t have an IT background?

I say jump in and try it! The best thing to do is experiment. See what works for your schedule and your goals, and don’t let the lack of IT experience hold you back. Our courses are designed for a range of IT backgrounds, even those with little to no IT experience. There are so many different types of courses and content delivery mechanisms—from on-demand training, to streamed training on Twitch, to day-long courses, hands-on labs, and intensive full-time programs. Our most popular course is AWS Cloud Practitioner Essentials, and it is for a non-technical person (even my 70-year-old dad has taken it!). We offer it in a few different content formats because we know that people like to consume information in different ways.

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What are some of the innovative ways that you’ve seen AI ML be delivered?

ML is already impacting the world in so many unique ways so we’ve focused on developing trainings that help learners of all skill levels better understand ML, its use cases, and capabilities. From our 65+ free digital and classroom trainings, to AWS Power Hour Power: Machine Learning, to Machine Learning University free courses, to hands-on labs and our industry-recognized credential, the AWS Certified Machine Learning – Specialty, there’s a suitable modality and depth of training for each individual.

Tell us more about AWS’ latest decision to provide free digital course to boost enterprise ML adoption. How would it benefit the open source communities?

We just launched the Machine Learning Essentials for Business and Technical Decision Makers course, which are three, free, on-demand, digital-training courses. We created this training to help decision-makers understand the fundamentals of ML so they can better identify whether or not their organization is ready for ML and assesses whether it’s the right fit for their goals. This course does not teach coding or data prep. Instead, it is squarely targeted at those in the business who need to know how machine learning can be used but won’t necessarily be doing the implementations themselves. It can be an ideal springboard to help an organization realize the path forward in their ML exploration.

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

Maureen role as Director of Worldwide AWS Training and Certification, it’s a pleasure to work with talented and creative individuals to build global training programs that help learners and organizations innovate.
Technology is changing everything! For our part, I am incredibly proud of how we are helping empower today’s generations, and generations to come to create their best future.

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Amazon Web Services (AWS) began exposing key infrastructure services to businesses in the form of web services — now widely known as cloud computing. The ultimate benefit of cloud computing, and AWS, is the ability to leverage a new business model and turn capital infrastructure expenses into variable costs. Businesses no longer need to plan and procure servers and other IT resources weeks or months in advance. Using AWS, businesses can take advantage of Amazon’s expertise and economies of scale to access resources when their business needs them, delivering results faster and at a lower cost. Today, Amazon Web Services provides a highly reliable, scalable, low-cost infrastructure platform in the cloud that powers hundreds of thousands of businesses in 190 countries around the world. With data center locations in the U.S., Europe, Singapore, and Japan, customers across all industries are taking advantage of our low cost, elastic, open and flexible, secure platform.

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