Updates from QA Training

An AWS trainer in the Red Queen’s Race

I often feel I’m running the Red Queen’s race to ensure our delegates don’t have to.

QA | 21 August 2014

I often feel I’m running the Red Queen’s race to ensure our delegates don’t have to.

"Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!"

 - The Red Queen, in Lewis Carroll's "Through the Looking Glass"


One of the great things about being a trainer is that keeping your skills current and fresh is a core part of the job. Demand for training in old products naturally tails off over time, while entire industries grow up around newer, shinier technologies. Ten years ago, most software vendors followed a waterfall-style of development with a major release every few years.

"Keeping up" meant passing a new certification exam every few years. Nowadays, the world is more agile, and vendors tend to opt for continuous delivery and incrementally adding features. Recertifying every few years is no longer an adequate response to change.

Like the Red Queen, you may have to run as fast as you can just to keep up.

A prime example is Amazon Web Services (AWS), who offer about 40 different services and add new features to those services almost every day. In 2013, there were 280 AWS feature releases. This year (2014) looks set to easily exceed that number. On a single day a few weeks ago, AWS released four entirely new services (Cognito, Zocalo, Mobile Analytics and CloudWatch Logs, if you're keeping score). You can see the daily outpouring of new releases for yourself here ; although that can make for rather dry reading. Personally, I suggest following the extremely readable AWS blog .

How the speed of change affects training

Naturally, the courseware developers at AWS Training frequently revise their courses to keep abreast of the latest features. There are currently seven instructor-led AWS courses and AWS are averaging about three new versions per course over the last year. That's a startling rate of change, and it really makes a difference in the training environment in a number of ways:

  • The courseware. AWS trainers really have to stay on their toes. Even with an updated version of each course every few months, the change rate of AWS means that there are always new capabilities that haven't made it into any course yet. So the trainer must depart from the course materials every now and then to provide added value by describing all the new and enhanced features.
  • The delegates.  Delegates tend to have more experience with AWS than trainers might expect. While many delegates on AWS courses are new to the product and have little or no experience using AWS, it's also common for delegates to have multiple years of experience with some of the AWS services.

    The more experienced delegates are usually attending the course to catch up with the new features, bridge knowledge gaps and/or prepare for a certification exam. This makes the AWS courses very interactive, with everyone learning from everyone else; the trainer will definitely not be the only person in the room with an opinion to share!
  • The style. Lastly, it makes the courses feel more "workshop-like," and more open to experiment. Delegates feel encouraged to share their experiences with AWS, exchange ideas with their neighbours and also to go off-piste in the labs - either to explore other ways of achieving the same results, or just to explore the new features they haven't seen before.

If you haven't yet tried AWS, or if it's just been a while since you last looked at AWS and you want to update your skills, you can find a list of official AWS training courses and certification paths at http://qa.com/amazon .

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