Hello, I am Yukiko Kumagai, Cloud CoE at BTC.
As one of the AWS Ambassadors from all over the world, I attended the Ambassador Global Summit held in Seattle on September 21-23, 2022.
This is a super nice picture with an AWS Solution Architect, Mr.Eguchi and myself who became blurred with excitement for this great Summit.
In this blog, I would like to write about the Lightening Talks (LT) that took place at the Summit.
【Table of Contents of This Blog】
At the Ambassador Global Summit, there were two or three LT slots per day.
Each of the Ambassadors who wished to participate into the LT could get a chance to talk for 10-minutes through the LT on a theme of their choice.
About 10 Ambassadors out of more than 100 Ambassadors stood up and spoke in LTs.
It was a thrilling event. Can you imagine there is such a wonderful event in which all of the presenters were AWS Ambassadors and all of the audience were also AWS Ambassadors as well?
Among the 15 Japanese Ambassadors, myself and Mr. Fumiaki Ueno, AWS Ambassador of NRI Netcom, Inc. talked in an LT.
The theme we chose was “The Reality of Japan ~ the reason why Japanese are so interested in getting AWS certifications ~”
Why did we speak on this theme?
It was because Mr. Aizawa, who is a manager of AWS Japan’s Partner Alliance Management Department, told us at the kick-off meeting which was held in Japan before our trip to Seattle, “As you know, Japanese people are very interested in getting AWS certifications, however, in reality AWS engineers overseas know about this but they don’t know why. Many of them may want to know why Japanese are so eager to learn about AWS and now we Japanese got a chance to answer this question in Seattle!”
So, Mr. Ueno and I decided to talk about this theme and use one slot (10 minutes) to talk together.
In the first half of the LT, Mr. Ueno explained about the competition among IT companies in Japan, AWS Japan’s original award system (Top Engineer and All Cert), and the large number of certification books written in Japanese.
Ueno-san’s blog is here → Story of English LT and interview filming at AWS Seattle
(In reality, I was looking at the written notes as I spoke, but Ueno-san had been thinking about what he wanted to talk about withough any script. I thought “oh my god how bold he is!”).
By the way, here is the first page of LT which Ueno-san made.
It’s so cool, isn’t it? 😉
In my part of the second half of the LT, I talked about the cloud education for our employees that I have been working on through this year.
Here is the agenda of my part
Company interest in current cloud technology
In addition to my duties for the project support work, I am also involved in cloud education for employees to promote cloud literacy as a Cloud CoE.
Not only do I consider measures to support getting certifications, but I also hold seminars in which I serve as an instructor.
At the beginning of the presentation, I introduced myself and explained BTC’s goal and the reason why I am involved in cloud education.
By the way, I had quite an important reason why I’m wearing a “Matsuken Sanba-style” gilded sparkle kimono. It will be discussed later in the “extras” section.
You can check what Matsuken Sanba is on Youtube.
Check out “【公式】松平健「マツケンサンバⅡ」 MV” on Youtube.
Let’s go back to the original topic.
In fact, recently we have been holding a monthly event called the Cultivation Meetup in Japan, where educators from many AWS partner companies gather to share about their company’s initiatives and issues.
This event is a very meaningful opportunity for me because I can hear about the efforts and concerns of large and small companies.
The common issue all companies have seems to be that “It is easy to encourage others to get certifications using money initiatives, but what should we do about cultivating PRACTICAL SKILLS beyond certifications?”
I felt that I was standing and speaking on behalf of those Japanese IT companies.
Our interest in AWS Developer Bootcamp
It is very difficult for an educator like me in charge of company education at an IT company to continuously hold some seminars as an instructor with limited time while being engaged in routine work for company project support.
So this year, for the first time, we will be hosting a Developer Bootcamp at BTC with Mrs. Mizuki Ugajin, who is a Solution Architect at AWS Japan, to train our developers in practical skills.
At BTC, we use cloud technology as the foundation for almost all of our projects based on our “Cloud By Default philosophy”.
Therefore, all employees are required not only to have some knowledge of cloud computing, but also to be able to use it skillfully.
BTC considers these “practical cloud skills” to be important.
This seminar is a combination of 1.5 hours of classroom training and 3.5 hours of hands-on training, and will take place over a maximum of 6 days.
Mrs. Ugajin was very flexible and she customized the seminar content.
BTC spent three days for the training and we learned about “Serverless Architecture” and “CI/CD” due to time constraints.
*The classroom picture
Of the approximately 340 engineers at BTC, 55 engineers participated in this Bootcamp. It means about one sixth of our employees got interested in the training.
We held the Bootcamp in June, when all new graduates are assigned to their respective projects, because I wanted to somehow create an opportunity to get them interested in cloud computing before they start saying, “I have a lot to do for my job and I’m too busy to learn about cloud technology“. (This is the easiest excuse they might make)
We also informed the project managers of the significance of this Bootcamp and asked them to let new graduates participate.
Typical Japanese Characteristics
In the first half of the presentation, Mr. Ueno also gave a bird’s eye view of Japan’s unique system and other aspects of why Japanese people are so crazy about getting certifications.
In my part, I introduced weird Japanese characteristics and the atmosphere of placing importance on academic backgrounds and careers.
Of course, this includes my subjectivity, so I explained it in an ice-breaker style.
Ruth Benedict describes the “culture of shame” in Japan during the samurai period in his famous book “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword” so some of you may already know this word.
I believe many Japanese may agree with the fact that there are many Japanese people who work hard at something for negative reasons such as “I don’t want to fail or I don’t want my colleages to find out that I failed” more than for positive reasons such as “I want to be successful!”.
In fact, when we took a survey among BTC employees who participated in Bootcamp asking “Why did you do your best to pass the AWS exam?
Some of my colleagues said “I did my best because I knew I couldn’t fail the exam while my peers had already passed”.
The others said “I couldn’t afford not to pass the exam because I had already told my project members that I would take the exam”.
In addition, Japanese people place excessive importance on academic backgrounds or job titles, I mean which company you belong to, and additionally Japanese love to take tests. (I think this is common even in other Asian countries such as Korea and China.)
I believe this characteristic of Japanese is one of the reasons why AWS Japan’s unique system of Top Engineer/All Certs has been so successful.
When I said “Passing tests, achieving good status, and receiving recognition are very deeply connected to the lives of Japanese people.” in my LT, I found some other foreigners nodding their heads as well.
Perhaps they had such a Japanese friend 😉
Practical Training Approach by BTC
I also introduced other BTC initiatives.
In order to motivate our employees, we announce the names of those who have passed the certification every month for all employees.
I also gave a hands-on seminar where I became a lecturer.
I mentioned that I held moku-moku meetings every morning, noon, and night for two months so that anyone could ask me any questions at any time.
*This is my calendar for a certain week, and most of the green area is moku-moku meeting time.
There were days when I answered questions from new graduates until about 10:00 p.m. I was busy but I felt happy to talk with AWS-loving employees until late, and I myself really enjoyed working during the time.
Of course I can’t do it every day because I have my personal life…but I hope I can continue to do it sometimes in the future.
Positive effects achieved
As a result of these measures, the number of participants who have obtained a certification as of the end of August 2022 has already increased by 250% compared to the number of participants who obtained a certification in the previous year (full year).
Since there was a condition for participation that all Bootcamp participants MUST take (not pass) the Developer Associate (DVA) exam, it is not surprising that the number of the employees who passed DVA certifications was so high.
It should be noted that almost all of those who passed the DVA tests naturally went on to become Solution Architect Associates and actually passed.
Currently, new graduates who have completed their Associates are working towards higher certifications such as Professional and Specialty.
I am excited to see if we can exceed the 2020 record of 24 Pro/Specialty certifications by a few skilled engineers within this year.
I would like to focus on the number of certifications, but more importantly, I believe that the fact that young people are continuing to learn AWS is the most important thing.
BTC’s goal is “to foster a culture in which employees study voluntarily and continuously,” but this is a truly difficult task. It is not something that can be achieved with just a one simple effort over the past year.
It is also important to consider what the company can do with limited time and budget to ensure that BTC employees, who have great motivation and attitude about continuously working on something related to AWS, are not satisfied with just “having certifications”.
And It’s sad to say that some Japanese engineers tend to criticize such motivated young employees who have studied so hard, level them and say “they are just paper drivers”.
I think it is important to think about what we can do as a company with limited time and budget to make them grow from the level of “paper drivers”.
Well, in reality, there was no time to express my thoughts which I wrote in dozens of lines above in the LT, so I just concluded my LT saying that “this is my personal achivement for my company. I hope my salary will also increase by more than 2.5 times as well.”
Fortunately many people enjoyed our LT.
I got many positive reactions from many of the AWS Ambassadors.
I would be happy if we can continue to work with other Japanese Ambassadors to increase Japan’s presence with the spirit of “Go Global”.
Lastly, I would like to say thanks to Mr.Ueno for doing the LT with me.
The PowerPoint presentation that Mr. Ueno made looked so beautiful that I made major revisions to my part before the presentation. It was a great learning experience to know how to make my LT paper.
During the LT, I wore a Matsuken Samba-style gilded sparkling kimono that AWS Aizawa-san brought from Japan.
Before the Summit, the organizers asked us to bring gold clothes because they wanted to implement the #AmazonGoesGold initiative to support pediatric cancer patients, but the project fell apart when almost all non-Japanese people DID NOT bring their gilded costumes!
It would be a waste not to wear such a nice costume, so I wore it anyway and did the LT.
There is a nice picture with AWS Ambassador Kiminori Yokoi of TIS Corporation, who looked so good in his bow tie that I wondered if he was wearing it all the time ;).
Also, one of my missions was to get people to remember BTC, so I said that
When you hear the name BTC, you guys might think of Bitcoin, right!?
Unfortunately, our company name is losing a little bit to Bitcoin!!
Then an Ambassador at the dinner said that
“I am from PwC, you are from BTC.”
Well, I think my mission was achieved! 😉
Thanks for reading this!
See you soon in Las Vegas!