A Cloud Guru Might Have 1 of the Most Fun Roles in Tech
There was once a traditional path to get into the tech industry: Go to college, get a computer science degree, then make your way up the corporate ladder.
Look around, though. A fancy degree is no longer necessary to build impressive technology or push the envelope on innovation. Most teams have several members who went through a coding boot camp or are self-taught.
That’s perhaps why A Cloud Guru’s mission to make tech education accessible through online certification courses and hands-on labs has resonated with so many people, causing the once-small startup to balloon into a global enterprise with hundreds of employees.
But aside from the empowering mission, there’s another element to the company’s success. The courses are built by a team of training architects who actually make the lessons fun, said Kesha Williams, a principal training architect. It’s kind of their job.
“I’m a very creative person, and having that creativity be allowed in my role and letting my personality shine through is the most rewarding part of this job,” Williams said. “It really helps students better engage with our content.”
Dubbed “tech celebrities” at A Cloud Guru, these training architects aren’t simply whipping up decks and lesson plans — there’s a lot of technical prowess that goes into creating an impactful course, and the architects must constantly stretch their ability to use the latest and greatest tools.
It’s a unique role in tech, so Built In Austin sat down with three members of the training architect team, Williams, Faye Ellis and Chase Dovey to learn more about what their days look like — and why they can’t imagine returning to a traditional engineering role.
What is a training architect?
Associate Training Architect Chase Dovey: The main thing that a training architect does is goes through the process of creating and designing training content on their given topic. We’ve roadmapped it to ensure it aligns with everything we’re trying to do at A Cloud Guru, so all of our learnings support one another. Training architects create the syllabus, presentation material, and record and teach our lessons.
Principal Training Architect Faye Ellis: When we design out practical exercises, we have to make these technical subjects come to life. You’re doing more than just working with technology — you’re thinking about how you can explain these subjects in a way that captures people’s imaginations and is easy to understand.
360 courses, 1,600 labs for must-know tools
- Amazon Web Services
- Google Cloud Platform
What is your background? How did you get into this role?
Principal Training Architect Kesha Williams: I built my career in the Java software engineering space. Before I came to ACG, I served for 14 years as a software engineering manager for Chick-Fil-A’s technology department, where I led a team building custom solutions. I was also doing part-time work for A Cloud Guru and several other online learning platforms. I found that I loved the online learning space. In this role, I’m able to help people directly on a global scale, and it’s exciting to see the impact I have on people’s lives.
Dovey: My background is in a Linux-based role working on a web host. I actually saw an opportunity at A Cloud Guru for a quality documentation analyst, which is a subset of the technical writing team. Then, in my time here, I went about advancing my knowledge in different domains such as AWS, Azure, Python, Linux and security. In my first year here, I was able to get 10 additional certifications. Then, I transitioned into my current role, where I now create training content on Azure.
I used ACG’s platform to get my cloud qualifications and I saw firsthand how it can make a difference.”
Ellis: I started off as a systems administrator working mainly in financial services. I never thought training was in my future. But I used ACG’s platform to get my cloud qualifications and I saw firsthand how it can make a difference.
I actually did a student testimonial for ACG, and then was invited out to a dinner with the team as a ‘thank you.’ It was such a great dynamic and I could tell the team supported each other and were enthusiastic about the company. I remember leaving that meal thinking, “These people are doing such great work — and they’re having fun. Could I ever do something like this?” Funnily enough, a few days later Ryan, our founder, reached out and asked if I’d consider joining their team.
If you don’t need a training background, how does A Cloud Guru help prepare training architects for their roles?
Williams: Each new hire goes through an onboarding process, what we call a “bootcamp,” where they have the opportunity to create a course that follows all of our processes and uses all of our tools. When new hires leave that boot camp process, they feel confident in their ability to create new courses. We have proven processes in place to really help TAs become effective in their roles.
Dovey: If you look across the training architect team, you’ll find that our demographic aligns closely with our students. There’s people of various backgrounds, people with and without computer science backgrounds who are making a career change. It’s very easy to be good at this job if you’re excited and passionate, because there’s so much support all around you.
I also had never had any sort of on-camera experience prior to this role. It can feel awkward at first, the same way public speaking can. But the more you do it, the more comfortable you get. On-camera skills can be taught. What you have to bring is your personality and passion.
What does this position enable you to do, tech-wise?
Ellis: If you’re working at another role at a company, you will get exposed to, say, a subset of AWS services that the company is using and is invested in, but you won’t necessarily get to play around with other cool tech in machine learning or containers or serverless. But in a training architect role, you get involved in all of it.
We’re not just looking at databases, we’re getting our hands dirty with real cutting-edge technology and niche tools that are beginning to take off. ACG is one of the only places where you can professionally play around with the new stuff and get paid to learn how to use it.
We’re on the forefront of teaching, so we also have to be on the forefront of learning technology.”
Williams: A big part of this role is really working hard to keep our technical skills current. We’re on the forefront of teaching, so we also have to be on the forefront of learning technology as it changes. Specifically, with AWS, they’re always releasing a new service or making changes to existing services. Staying up to date with those services means we can better equip our students.
One benefit is that we have free access to the entire ACG library. So I watch videos from other training architects to help me learn or quickly get up to speed on a new topic. We also have professional development hours each week where we’re able to set time aside to develop and learn new things.
This seems like a very individual role. What does teamwork look like for you?
Williams: I collaborate a lot. There are times where we just do independent work, like putting together a slide deck or recording a lesson, but I work with other teams on a daily basis. We have a great support system that helps us as we develop content. For example, we have a design team that helps us build slides or graphic design, and we have a content quality team that reviews our lessons from a technical angle.
Do you think you’ve grown as an engineer?
Dovey: In my role now, I still do a lot of the same things I did as an engineer. But I get to bridge all of my experience into the Azure space, working in Linux and focusing on security-related skills. You don’t get siloed into a subset of technical categories like you will in a lot of roles. Here, you get to grow exponentially, and you get to grow in the ways you desire. I got into Azure because I’m excited about Azure, and I think everyone on our team is excited about the pillar that they’re in.
Ellis: In traditional engineering roles, as you go through the journey of being an architect, you become less and less hands-on, and you can unfortunately end up quite removed from the tech you used to understand very well. You can end up being someone who draws pictures on a whiteboard and translates business requirements into technical ones.
This role improves and stretches my skills much further than they would have than if I had carried out the career trajectory that I was on before. If I were to return to another engineering architect role, it would feel like a step back. I would feel like I was just going back to draw pictures on a whiteboard again.
What’s the most rewarding part of your role as a training architect?
Williams: The ability to be myself is the most rewarding part.
Ellis: That’s a really important part of our culture. Nobody will think you’re not good at your job if you make a goofy joke or wear a pink hair clip. You’re judged and evaluated on the quality of your work, not if you have the right haircut. We’re changing lives — that’s what we find most important.