AWS training on generative AI helps Innovative Solutions stay ahead in the machine learning revolution

January 31, 2024 Training and Certification Blog Editor

Innovative Solutions was founded in 1989 in Rochester, NY as an IT firm serving the technology needs of local businesses by installing computers, printers, and networks, and providing support. Over the decades, Innovative expanded its services to cover all of western New York while staying abreast of technological advances. However, by the late 2010s, the company could see it was time for a major shift.

Pivoting to cloud

“In 2018, we made a decision to go all-in on cloud, specifically Amazon Web Services,” says Travis Rehl, VP of Product and Service Delivery at Innovative. “It was a significant pivot point for the business, cloud computing was transforming our industry, and we looked closely at all the hyperscalers. Ultimately, we decided we liked and trusted AWS the most and wanted to bring AWS to our customers.”

A photo of Travis Rehl, Innovative

Travis Rehl

Over the next few years, Innovative saw its horizons expand significantly as it moved far beyond local IT services to begin offering full-stack AWS development and bespoke solutions to companies across the globe.

“Our focus is on companies that are moving quickly, startups and small-to-medium sized businesses,” says Rehl. “We like fast-paced engagements with companies that really feel the pressure of the market around them. Places we can really move the needle.”

Accelerating with AI

In 2022, the company made a fateful bet when it began building a generative AI practice with Anthropic. Six months later, the AI boom of 2023 would shake the cloud IT industry to its core. Innovative Solutions found itself with a crucial jump on their competition.

“Suddenly, everyone was looking for someone who could deploy generative AI quickly,” says Rehl. “Thankfully, by that point we had already been working with it long enough to see consistent patterns in how to deploy it for customers.”

That understanding eventually evolved into Innovative’s first AI product, Tailwinds, a push-button generative AI solution built on Amazon Bedrock, the multi-model AI platform AWS launched in mid-2023. “We can implement Tailwinds for a company in a couple of days. For many of our competitors that time was measured in months. It gave us a really useful edge,” he remarks.

Cultivating skills

A photo of Tim Barnosky, Innovative

Tim Barnosky

This shift in their business didn’t just mean working with a different set of clients, it required Innovative’s staff to significantly level up their AWS skills.

“We realized that we needed to heavily invest in our training if we wanted to compete with the top systems integrators in the world,” says Tim Barnosky, Manager of Training and Development at Innovative.

“There is a serious skills gap in the market right now, and it’s very rare to find engineers who have the AI and machine learning skills we need for our customers. We’ve found the best way to get the talent we need is to build it internally. We hire people with good foundational skills, then do a lot of “last mile” training to get them where we need them to be. We leverage AWS’s Training offerings to supplement our internally developed product-specific training.”

Around 60% of Innovative’s employees completed new AWS Certifications in 2023 alone. And it wasn’t just the engineers.

Infographic Image featuring the structure of AWS Training and its impact

“The company has made a very calculated and intentional investment in learning,” says Rehl. “Every employee at Innovative has an AWS Skill Builder account, and everyone is expected to be working on some kind of AWS Certification, in addition to their day-to-day responsibilities. The response from employees has been overwhelmingly positive. People love the way features like AWS Cloud Quest and AWS Escape Room gamify the learning process. We’ve seen that be particularly effective with people in non-technical roles, like members of our sales team.”

Indeed, as Innovative worked with more and more clients on generative AI projects, it became clear that they would need salespeople who were fully fluent in both AWS and generative AI.

“It’s a key component of our sales training process. Every salesperson gets the Generative AI on AWS Essentials for Business credential. It’s been critical for helping the sales team understand the massive efficiency gains companies can get using large language models,” says Barnosky.

“Six months ago, any time we wanted to present on generative AI to new clients we had to send engineers out to explain everything,” says Rehl. “With this training, the sales folk can work directly with customers to figure out how AI can simplify and speed up their processes, all without a lot of back and forth with our engineers. Having a deep understanding of how AI works allows them to fully understand the return on investment for customers.”

Being an AWS-focused shop, it was natural Innovative would make extensive use of Amazon Bedrock. However, Amazon Bedrock offers another key benefit: a choice of foundation models (FMs) that are accessible via a single API.

“The industry is changing on a three-to-six-month cycle,” says Rehl. “If you are locked into any one AI model, every six months there’s a significant chance that you will fail or fall behind because you are using the wrong one. We love Amazon Bedrock because if one model doesn’t do something well, we can use another. That lets us instantly pivot our customers to the best solution without having to retrain our employees or change our integrations. It brings a tremendous amount of consistency to our operations.”

A flexible AI service combined with a robust training program has proven to be an effective combination for Innovative Solutions.

“The sky’s the limit with what we can do right now,” says Barnosky. “AWS makes it easy for us to customize a learning path for specific roles, specific teams, all the way down to the individual level, all based on the things we see coming down the pipeline and what customers are asking us about. Continuous training allows us to get ahead of the market and stay there.”

Explore the latest AI trainings available on AWS Skill Builder, customize your learning journey to explore the latest innovations in generative AI, and build practical skills in an AWS Console environment.

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