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Cloudreach’s Talent Academy embraces diverse talent

In October of 2021, Cloudreach, a leading cloud consultancy with a global footprint began an ambitious and inclusive training program. As an AWS Partner for more than 10 years with a robust internal AWS Training program in place, Cloudreach is experienced in turning conventional technologists into cloud specialists. This program was different, though. The aim of Cloudreach’s Talent Academy was to take people with little to no technical background and, within two years, transform them into fully fledged cloud developers.

This idea aimed to tackle several problems at once. Over the past five years, record numbers of companies have moved their operations to the cloud, and that trend only accelerated during the pandemic. While this was a boon to Cloudreach, it presented a tricky challenge: demand for cloud was surging exponentially, but the supply of cloud talent was low.

“To future proof our workforce in order to deliver on our promise of cloud to our customers, we recognized that by widening our talent pool we not only tackled the talent crisis, but continued to live by our values of creating an environment that nurtures talent’,” says Poonam Flammarion, head of Talent Academy at Cloudreach. “Our people are our product. Diverse teams mean more diverse and better solutions for our customers.”

Casting a wide net

Cloudreach’s efforts to deliver on that strategy were aided by the groundwork laid by AWS’s re/Start program, a training program designed to give people of varying backgrounds the training needed to work in the cloud. AWS re/Start was able to provide a proven curriculum and experienced trainers who were well-versed in jump-starting cloud careers for students with little to no technical experience. Cloudreach took the AWS re/Start template and supercharged it with mentorship and on-the-job training to build its full, two-year Talent Academy program. Better still, from the day they begin their training, Talent Academy learners are full time employees of Cloudreach.

“I was completely new to cloud,” says Elvia Sicuro, one of the participants in Cloudreach’s initial, UK-based Talent Academy cohort. “My previous jobs were in translation, copywriting, and marketing, nothing at all to do with technology. At the beginning it was a steep learning curve, but after a couple of weeks everything began to build on everything else, and it started to become very exciting.”

Cloudreach had hoped Talent Academy would be an attractive program, and as soon as they put the word out about starting their first cohort in the UK, they knew they had succeeded. “Almost immediately we had 120 applicants for 10 spots,” says Abby Howe, professional services manager for Cloudreach. “The applicants were all incredible and highlighted the need to not only be innovators in tech, but innovating the way we find and train talent”.

Premised on the idea of bringing non-technical people into the field, Talent Academy was an opportunity for Cloudreach to accomplish two important goals simultaneously: expand the talent pool beyond people who already worked in tech, and increase Cloudreach’s diversity.

“We understood that using positive action as a core principal of the attraction stage would enable us to tap into a wide pool of talent’,” says Flammarion. “The wording in our job listings were very open and inclusive, without putting up barriers around experience, ability to code, or academic background. We wanted to find people who could bring something interesting into the tech world that hasn’t been there before. We had people coming to us who had been gin distillers, yoga instructors, and prison officers. Our main criteria were that individuals had a growth mindset and were passionate about getting into cloud.”

Global reach, global vision

With its worldwide footprint and the nimbleness enabled by virtual training, Cloudreach was able to start up its subsequent Talent Academy cohorts across a wide geography. After its success in the UK, its next three cohorts were in India, Germany and the United States. That geographic range provided yet another way to boost diversity. “We work with nonprofits wherever we are setting up to make sure we are really integrating with the communities who have historically not been given these opportunities,” Flammarion continues. “Our second cohort in India was majority women, and our European cohort is made up of people from all over the world who all share the same passion and drive to make a new life for themselves, that shows how powerful this academy is. Our decisions were made based on the quality of our conversations with them, not about what they could put down on a piece of paper. There’s a huge amount of talent out there, you just need to look for it in the right places. It’s what our CEO calls ‘Diversity by Design.”

The initial training is only the beginning, however. Once the 12-week course concludes, students are connected to mentors and receive on-the-job training. Over the next two years they go back to the classroom periodically for more advanced work. Along the way they have opportunities to pick up a variety of AWS Certifications. After two years the learners are fully accredited cloud developers with a significant amount of real-world experience under their belts.

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