We want to support you in your mission to learn and grow, whether you are a young professional looking to break into the tech industry or a seasoned manager leading a team of cloud professionals.
We always love to hear how our work has been changing the lives of our customers! Recently, we had the pleasure of speaking with Emmett Stewart, Head of Service Operations (includes NOC and the corporate IT service desk) at a SaaS company. Emmett has introduced Linux Academy For Business to his team of 12 in the NOC and the progress they’ve made is outstanding!
Keep reading to learn about not only Emmett’s journey through the cloud but also his company’s!
What changes were your company going through when you first started looking for cloud training?
When I joined my company in 2015 it was 100% a Windows house, so we hired staff with only Windows server experience. In the last 6 months, with major expansion planned, the company tech teams are moving to containers, AWS, and Linux as the underpinned server platform for at least half of our server farm. We have a new data center that is coming up that will still have virtualization, but we will launch Linux on it so for me, it was like returning to my comfort zone because I am an old school Linux guy.
There are teams who have already deployed containers and are serving a small fraction of our platform. So it’s already out there in the wild but my team currently can’t support it. In fact, one of my engineers reached out to me very concerned about his own capabilities to keep up and get through the changes. I said to him, “Dude, you have to. The company is growing and I can’t call up the CTO to tell him that we can support everything except for this and that. We have to support it all.”
If we can’t grow with the company, the company is going to grow without us.
My team was way behind in the knowledge that was needed to properly support the growth of the company. Our only support for these new technologies in our organization was to copy and paste commands given to us by the developers which meant there was a lot of skill gaps to fill.
Which technologies does your team need to learn?
For one, Linux. Some of my engineers may have taken an intro level Linux class back in college, but that would have been almost 7 years ago. They don’t use Linux at home either, so this is all brand new territory for them.
AWS, Google Cloud, Azure, Linux, DevOps, and Containers are almost the exact marching path of my organization. As we move into containers and AWS (things the company as a whole is striving toward), basic networking has become increasingly important. Luckily, everything that Linux Academy has to offer promotes my team’s skills to where they need to be.
What processes were your team going through to learn and keep up with all the changes?
They were just watching YouTube videos and reading PDFs but YouTube isn’t organized or structured learning, despite the information being there. YouTube also doesn’t give you any resources to practice and build on – which is really important so that my team can gain and develop the necessary skills to grow with the company.
Earlier last year, my company tried to do an in-house MCSA class where they expected three students to share one server. So after every module, each student would have to undo what the previous student did in order to experience the expected learning environment. Then the next student would have to go through and then undo what they did. The third student had to do the same and so on. So much time was wasted so it’s such a blessing to be able to provide each student with their own set of servers to use while not having to worry about additional costs and management of them!
My 4 teams operate 24/7 with each team consisting of 3 members that rotate on 12-hour shifts. That being said, I cannot get them all into one room for a whole day of training because I can’t shut down my department.
The solution that Linux Academy provides for my team is self-paced learning. This allows the engineers on my team to go at different, but their own paces. And the great thing about that is they’re all getting in there, getting their hands dirty, and aligning on the same goals.
What did you struggle with when pitching Linux Academy For Business to your company?
My biggest challenge in selling it to the company was the price but I always contended that this was not just a set of videos. Linux Academy would allow each student to have their own virtual machine to practice, train, and test what they’re learning.
They kept asking for cheaper solutions and alternatives but I got them to see the light through the learn-by-doing approach that Linux Academy provides. Nobody could show me a training solution that was cheaper, that didn’t require me to shut down my department and have my team sitting in a room for multiple days in a row. There was no other solution with the depth and breadth that Linux Academy has for the same cost or less.
It’s also great for me to be able to see their progress and what my team is completing. As an Admin on Linux Academy For Business, I have all the tools and data that I need to guide and support my team in order for us to meet our company goals.
What are some goals you have laid out for your team?
I am measuring my team’s success by course completion which I can see inside the Linux Academy For Business dashboard. I set up the customized learning path starting with basic concepts and then selecting courses to help them work their way up from there. Currently, the deadline that I have for them is to complete the Learning Path by July, which is when we do our performance evaluations. Given the competitive nature of my team, I am also able to help motivate those that are falling behind, as well as those that are ahead by creating a friendly competition to get to the finish.
What was it like for your team to start training on a new platform learning new technologies? Is it tough to keep them motivated and actively training?
One of my team leads had never used Linux Academy before. For 3 years, he’d been using a production environment and getting live, practical experience with AWS, containers, EC2, and Linux on his own to learn the technologies. I told him, “Linux Academy is way better than some silly video training that you may be used to. You actually get to do what you’re already doing but in a guided manner, without any risks to the environment, and still be able to get your hands dirty.” He brushed off my boasting, but went ahead and took the DevOps Essentials course to see it for himself. When he finished it, he was totally flabbergasted that the course included real hands-on labs that gave you access to live environments and made you push buttons yourself to make things happen, not like some textbook or flow chart. It’s great because he is now one of my top contenders in the friendly Linux Academy competition that we are having.
Since we started training on Linux Academy, I’ve gotten emails from two of my team members who are fairly active on the platform, thanking me for introducing them to Linux Academy. I have no reason to believe that the continuous efforts of the Linux Academy team to create relevant training and training tools for my team to develop their skills will go unnoticed.
Have you set up a dedicated time and place for your team to train during work hours or are they mainly training outside of work on their own time?
Because Linux Academy is self-paced, my team has flexibility in when they train. The ones who are most interested in developing their skills are clearly putting in time at home, including myself. We don’t have dedicated time for them to train because our work depends on incidents and the team has to be around the clock for that. If there are no incidents then they have plenty of time at their desks to work on it. On the weekends and night shifts, the team can really take advantage of that time and potentially use almost their entire 12-hour shift to train. The value of having this training available online is that the team can also watch videos over and over again or retake quizzes if they are stumped on anything – they can take it at whatever pace is best for them.
In fact, I had one engineer start the weekend with 14 completed lessons and then came back with 59 completed plus, he was at work this weekend as well.
How have you customized your Learning Path?
I was able to craft a custom learning path so that the team could hit the ground running and dig in without getting lost. But if I have overachievers who finish the custom learning path, there is a vast wealth of more detailed topics to keep learning once the objectives are done.
The DevOps is useful especially in the NOC where we are heavily focused on the “Ops.” The Linux is absolutely needed because it’s just a knowledge gap. We needed it all. I thought there would be some overlap between the courses, especially the AWS content, but there wasn’t. There is something different in each one. Being able to actually practice what you are learning, specifically in the AWS Essentials course, is an absolute game changer. It’s so different from just reading or just watching.
My team is a great example of what can be done with Linux Academy because almost the entire repertoire of what’s available are things we did not have.
How have you used Linux Academy yourself in the past?
I sound like I’m trying to sell your product back to you, but I’m a real fan and have been for a long time. On my own, I have enrolled in Linux Academy with an individual account years ago. Linux Academy’s services have improved light years from what it was and it was already awesome back then!
Back then, I wasn’t able to put in the time that Linux Academy deserved and it frustrated me. Now, I have the added benefit of my company also motivating me to get to it. Being a guy who likes to lead from the front, I’m not going to let any of my engineers do better than me so I’ve been working through the courses, hands-on training, and learning paths that I’ve set for them, myself.
Having used Linux Academy on my own years before, I knew it would be a great way to get real hands-on training that would skill up my team in the shortest amount of time with courses and lessons they would actually retain from DOING. Linux Academy has grown immensely since I used it for myself years ago and ticks most of the boxes for the tech we needed to learn.
Tell us how you keep up with technology even when you aren’t at work!
Back in the day, I would always listen to podcasts, especially Jupiter Broadcasting and Linux Action News. I fell off for a bit when life got busy, but I recently rediscovered Linux Unplugged and Linux Action News! When I realized Chris Fisher and Jupiter Broadcasting were now associated with Linux Academy, I was pleasantly surprised! So, I’ll either listen to those podcasts or play Linux Academy lessons on the mobile app during my commute to work.
If your team is looking for cloud training, you can request a free demo of Linux Academy For Business. We would love to show you how much you can actually accomplish when you have high-quality, hands-on training for your team to grow and scale.