We’re excited to continue our blog series to share the learning journeys of our customers, partners, employees, and future generations. Today, we present the second blog in the series with a global customer learning story we love: the learning transformation at EY.
When Veronica Gomez received an email in November of 2019 inviting her to build her technical skills with Microsoft Learn, it intrigued her right away. A veteran Windows Server Administrator for more than a decade, Veronica was eager to expand her technical skillset and she dove in right away. Little did she know that it would open a new world of learning for her.
“I immediately thought it was a very cool opportunity,” Veronica said. “I have always been very interested in learning new things and I quickly started pursuing the different learning paths for DevOps to become a cloud engineer. I also became interested in other career paths that had not interested me before, like Python and AI.”
EY, Veronica’s employer, is one of the largest professional services firms in the world and a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction, and advisory services. She is part of the Client Technology Platform team, which partners with EY service lines to combine client knowledge and innovative ideas to deliver industrialized solutions on a global scale. The Client Technology function challenges itself to “innovate at scale while delivering technology at the speed of technology,” and it is constantly building new tools and experimenting with digital technologies and cloud platforms such as Microsoft Azure.
“When we assembled this global team about two years ago, it was an experiment,” said Pablo Cebro, Design and Engineering Director for EY’s Client Technology Platform and team leader. “I was the first employee and now we have 500. When you grow this fast, the biggest challenge is to continue to deliver the quality of work that we expect to deliver for EY clients. To get there, it wasn’t enough to just review the work. We needed to improve what we call the ‘employee quality’.”
To deliver that quality, the Client Technology Platform team turned to Microsoft Learn, which offers free online access to bite-size, self-paced, interactive, and hands-on training, to upskill their employees. The team had recently adopted Azure DevOps to help make app development faster and less costly, and is now also using Azure services such as Azure Pipelines and Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) to unlock software development with the power of container-based architecture. So, one of the areas where the EY employees really needed upskilling was Azure DevOps practices. And to motivate the team to learn, leaders were looking for a program that would be fun, measurable and at the same time would help get their employees certified. Enter the Microsoft Cloud Skills Challenge, a "gamified" skilling program designed to kickstart the cloud learning journey through self-guided content from Microsoft Learn, where developers compete to earn points by completing modules and top learners win prizes at the end of the competition.
“We needed a program that was quick to get off the ground, but also enticed our employees to see it through,” said Mark Luquire, Global DevOps Practice Lead for Client Technology, who also started the learning program for the team. “We have a global, dispersed team, so spending a week in a classroom is not always possible, but the material on Microsoft Learn is really good and gives people flexibility with the option to self-pace their learning with 24/7 access.”
But that was only the beginning of EY’s Client Technology team’s “transformational learning journey” to invest in their people. As they embraced the Cloud Skills Challenge, Mark saw his team “up their game” to mature their overall skills to successfully establish a DevOps culture and practice and meet the high expectation of creating industry-leading, world-class solutions. They also added virtual and in-person classes and today, engineers in the program are heavy users of Microsoft Learn’s free online training to help prepare for Microsoft Certification.
“Microsoft Learn is an open book, available to all, and it allows me to study every night before I go to sleep,” said Veronica Gomez, who is now a Cloud engineer for EY. “I work and I have a family with two little kids, so I have no time during the day, but I use the night to work on my career.”
The team also takes full advantage of other training options outside Microsoft Learn such as Microsoft OpenHack and collaboration in the Technology Experience Center (TEC) in Seattle. “Microsoft has been a great strategic partner for us, and this has been a joint journey,” Mark explained. “We have a unique relationship through the Technology Experience Center (TEC), where we have dedicated Cloud Solution Architects (CSA) who work side-by-side with us in Seattle, day in, day out. And they don’t just give us access to product teams and other engineering groups, but also provide the right learning materials. That partnership has been instrumental to the success of this program.”
Today, EY’s learning program has matured to the point that leadership now evaluates their program every quarter, adding new practices and adjusting the program’s targets and goals for the hundreds of engineers who participate. The next step in the journey will be an expansion to other engineering teams and other organizations, which will incrementally grow the number of participants at EY into the thousands.
Mark describes the result of the partnership with Microsoft as a “culture of continuous learning”. Team leadership established a learning foundation with clear organizational goals focused on the cloud, but do not limit them in terms of what skills they want to pursue. And they celebrate successes by posting employee pictures on a dedicated internal site when they achieve a certification. They also are encouraged to share their achievement on LinkedIn, where EY leadership will publicly congratulate them as well.
“Microsoft Learn is a really powerful tool that gave us the opportunity to get quality skilling at scale,” said team leader Pablo, when asked to evaluate the progress made to date. “We’re now able to certify people faster than ever while also making sure they’re on the right career path. We expect 80% of our organization to be certified in DevOps by June. After that we’re going to be looking to skill more Azure developers, architects, and security specialists.” This is music to the ears of employees like Veronica Gomez, who has literally incorporated learning into her daily schedule to finish up her Azure certifications. “I’ve found that learning has contributed a great deal to my career in IT and has made my professional profile a lot more robust and appealing,” she says. “Now that I have had experience working with on-premises and IaaS systems I realize it certainly was more than just studying to pass an exam. I truly developed my skills.”