Avtex, a Microsoft Gold Partner, knows well the value of training and how it helps build loyalty—both with its clients and among its employees. We recently spoke with Steven Jacobowitz, Avtex Director of Capabilities, about how the company maintains its technical expertise and Gold Partner status with a dedicated program of workforce training.
“We made an investment in our people, and they appreciate that,” Jacobowitz explains. “It makes a difference in how our clients trust our expertise. The training has also been a real morale booster for our teams.”
Staying Gold in an ever-changing digital world
Since the 1970s, Avtex has helped its clients build and retain their customers with marketing and communications solutions. These days, Avtex guides its clients through digital transformation initiatives using cloud solutions powered by Microsoft Dynamics 365, Azure, and Microsoft 365. The company also partners with Genesys, one of the largest call center applications in use today.
As a Microsoft Gold Partner, Avtex hires highly skilled technicians and consultants who must stay up to date on the Microsoft technologies that support its clients. Avtex team members have passed hundreds of exams and assessments on technical competencies and have earned hundreds of Microsoft Certifications—all of which give its clients a deep pool of talent to depend on.
To maintain Gold Partner status, Avtex supports ongoing training and certifications. To achieve and retain this level of partnership requires a huge learning commitment.
Before Jacobowitz came to Avtex, the training process was informal. “Part of my job is to work with our technicians’ careers and make sure that they’re upskilling all the time,” he says. “Before, everybody was scrambling at the end of the year to get to those certifications so we could remain Gold.”
Jacobowitz himself holds more than 40 Microsoft Certifications, including every available Dynamics 365 certification and some legacy Dynamics certifications. He’s a big believer in the value of certifications, which have helped him earn promotions and bigger salaries over the years. Now, he reports, “I’m at a point in my career where I can do that for others.”
Jacobowitz initiated a more methodical approach to tracking the progress of his team members against their learning goals and to publicly celebrating their achievements. These efforts are part of his drive to enhance the culture of learning that Avtex promotes.
“It’s just so important to be more educated in the technologies that we’re supporting,” he notes. “I want everybody to know that our people are passing exams and getting certified.”
Advocating for training and advancing team skills
Training has become a key part of the employee review process at Avtex, where Jacobowitz maintains a skills matrix of the training and certification achievements for his team of technicians. He built the skills matrix using Microsoft Power Platform as a way to assess skill gaps while also boosting his knowledge of the low-code app building platform.
“I'm already planning, based on each one of my technician’s abilities, what they should be focusing on,” he explains. “Then I try to gently push them into the right direction. So far, it's been working.”
For example, Jacobowitz wants to build more Microsoft Power Platform competency inside of Avtex this year. Some of his technicians are ramping up on the technology by training and studying for Exam PL-100: Microsoft Power Platform App Maker to earn the Microsoft Certified: Power Platform App Maker Associate certification.
More advanced technicians are aiming for the coveted “architect” title and preparing for Exam PL-600: Microsoft Power Platform Solution Architect, currently in beta, to earn the Microsoft Certified: Power Platform Solution Architect Expert certification. Still others are working on the requirements for Exam MB-230: Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Service for the Microsoft Certified: Dynamics 365 Customer Service Functional Consultant Associate certification. You can explore these Dynamics certifications and more on our website.
Tracking progress helps to keep people focused on their goals, Jacobowitz reports. Microsoft also recognizes the benefits and recently launched a learning management system called Microsoft Learn Organizational Reporting. This valuable service offers enterprise customers, partners, and academic institutions the ability to view and report on Microsoft Learn training progress and achievements for individuals within their organization’s tenant.
For Jacobowitz, helping his people learn has become job one. “I get to help them grow their own careers, which is really important. I get more thrill out of that than anything else I could possibly do at this point.”
The value of working with Microsoft Learning Partners
Last year, Jacobowitz initiated an effort at Avtex to roll out a new approach to training, starting with key technical people in the organization. Training is delivered through authorized Microsoft Learning Partners, which provide all the resources and course materials based on Microsoft Official Courseware (MOC).
Jacobowitz chose Learning Partners based on unusual but practical criteria. “I clicked on their websites to see whose was fastest. I didn’t want anything to hinder class sign-ups!”
Learning Partners help companies like Avtex meet their specific training and certification goals. In addition to delivering content, instructor-led trainings, and other material and logistical support, Learning Partners can help with assessing skill gaps and tracking progress, although that’s Jacobowitz’s role at Avtex.
Microsoft even commissioned a study by global research corporation IDC to find out more about the value that Learning Partners bring to organizations. For details, see Leveraging Microsoft Learning Partners for Innovation and Impact.
Avtex is working with two Microsoft Learning Partners—Global Knowledge and Learning Tree—that take care of the details for the approximately 50 employees going through the new training program. This support frees Jacobowitz to focus on building his team’s skills.
“I have a philosophy of never leaving anybody behind,” he explains. “I get to focus on mentoring my people.”
‘I didn't know Microsoft can do that!’
A culture of learning takes time to build. For the consultants who say they don’t have time for certifications, Jacobowitz has prepared a motivating response. “I say to them, ‘Look, if you're not willing to invest in your own career, how do you think you're ever going to get ahead in this industry?’”
Jacobowitz believes so firmly in the value of training that he convinced his executive team to set aside a week during which each consultant and technician in the program can focus on training and prepare for exams. It’s a big investment, as he notes.
“From our point of view, it isn't just the cost of the training per employee, but it's a week’s worth of missed billings that we're also investing in. So it’s really a true partnership between Avtex and Microsoft.”
Participants in the training program are surveyed about their experience. Their feedback has included comments like, “I didn't know Microsoft can do that!” and, “Wow, this is really better than I thought it was.”
Jacobowitz adds that as more Avtex technicians earn their certifications, they can better represent Microsoft products. More certifications also mean that the company can better serve its customers, and Avtex retains its Gold Partner status.
As Jacobowitz says, “Everybody wins in this situation.”
 Source: IDC white paper, sponsored by Microsoft, Leveraging Microsoft Learning Partners for Innovation and Impact, #US47225021, January 2021.
Microsoft Learning Partners
Microsoft Learn Organizational Reporting