How can you prepare people without technical backgrounds for technical careers while diversifying a workforce in a short period of time? Sounds impossible. But a partnership between Akamai and TTA proves it’s more than possible. It’s an award-winning success and a life-changing experience for participants and leaders alike.
As a leading content delivery network (CDN) providing cloud services that help deliver, optimize, and secure online content and business applications, diversity and inclusion is a mission-critical goal for Akamai. Akamai was determined to acquire and develop more diverse talent, which would mean developing a training program and career pathway for candidates without traditional technical backgrounds. Their goal was to develop a transformational program that would provide great professional technical opportunities to more women, people of color, and veterans.
Review of the technical talent landscape at the start of the program found the following areas for improvement:
- Competition for technology talent is high in the technology industry.
- Technology companies are struggling with employee diversity.
- 84% of US professionals working in science and engineering are men.[i]
- In the countries where Akamai operates, with the exception of India, only about 20% – 30% of CS graduates are women. In the US, the numbers drop to the low single digits for African Americans and Hispanic/Latino.[ii]
Looking to create a new talent channel in their highly competitive market and diversify their workforce, Akamai developed the Akamai Technical Academy (ATA), a program that transforms newcomers to become Akamai’s new technical employees in just 11 months time.
Everyone at Akamai knows about the program – including employees who didn’t go through the program themselves. They take pride in it, they advocate for it, and they recognize it as adding a huge value to the company as a whole.
The Akamai Technical Academy (ATA), is a make-your-own talent program that provides opportunities for people to pursue a technical career without coming from a traditional technical background. ATA is a transformational opportunity for those who are passionate about a career in technology but may not have the appropriate skills and experience to transition into the field. The program recruits and trains diverse talent who possess a propensity and an interest in pursuing a career in technology. The program is designed to deliver technical training and allow participants to demonstrate their learning on the job while working.
Finding the Right Partner
Before partnering with TTA, Akamai identified a few gaps in the ATA program that they were hoping to improve. Akamai was hoping to:
- Deliver Akamai Technical Academy content as one cohesive program.
- Enhance foundational knowledge which would be applied in the second phase of the program.
- Relate the technical curriculum to the current business environment and use applicable examples to tie the curriculum back to Akamai business.
- Develop student participant guides, instructor guides, and course materials for reuse, reference, repurposing, and maintenance.
- Design a curriculum that seamlessly aligns with Akamai’s business culture.
Akamai determined that they needed to find a new training partner to take on the task of designing, developing, and delivering a foundational technology training program aimed at skilling up diverse, non-technical participants for early-career technical roles. Based on their goals for the future of the program, Akamai knew they not only needed a partner with the right expertise but a partner that was also capable of creating and developing a curriculum that seamlessly aligned with their business culture and values. After vetting several companies, Akamai chose TTA based on these criteria.
How do you Address a Technical Talent Shortage?
TTA and Akamai worked together to create a 5-month curriculum that blends technical and soft skills, incorporates a range of learning modalities, and is tailored specifically for the unique needs of Akamai’s students.
To ensure engagement during this lengthy program, the learner experience was designed and developed to be a blended training approach including components such as
- Group activities
- Technical lab exercises
- One-on-one coaching
- Social learning
- Capstone project
Using Akamai branded content and its own business examples, the program seamlessly aligns with the company’s business values and its fast-paced, problem-solving business culture. A capstone project at the end of the study modules showcased the candidate’s newly acquired skills for the hiring managers. It allowed the students to exhibit their competence, skills, and knowledge to ensure others, and themselves, that they’re equipped to apply everything they’ve learned in their new positions. This is followed by a 6-month contract placement with Akamai, then a full transition to Akamai employee at the 11-month mark. The program already has a long history of success, across several cohorts of students in several different countries. It also helped foster a tight bond and increased collaboration.
A project of this magnitude and impact does not go without its obstacles. Akamai and TTA collaborated to overcome many challenges to make this initiative an overwhelming success. Since the initial implementation, the ATA program has evolved from solely in-person ILT classes to a hybrid model of in-person and virtual ILT classes to allow Akamai to scale and deliver the program in new sites in the future. Challenges specific to this transformation included:
- Content Conversion Effectively: Converting Akamai Technical Academy content from ILT to be delivered simultaneously as virtual or instructor-led training and selecting the appropriate technology to support this type of delivery.
- Learner Engagement: Ensuring that the right talent and resources were selected to deliver technical training and keep learners engaged.
- Lab Hosting: Creating and hosting two Amazon Web Servers that were local to two different locations (Krakow, Poland, and Costa Rica) to support the learning labs.
- Structuring Cohorts: Restructuring each cohort to ensure that both training locations (Krakow, Poland, and Costa Rica) were receiving an even amount of in-person delivery.
- Remote Learning: Adding additional soft skills and coaching of instructors to manage the delivery of training for remote learners.
- Time Zones: Adjusting training times in varying locations to ensure that training took place at the same time.
After a comprehensive assessment strategy, Akamai continues to see tremendous success from that the Akamai Technical Academy program whereas cohort graduates demonstrate similar first-year performance when compared to new hires with technical degrees. This confirms Akamai Technical Academy graduates can acquire and retain substantial, relevant knowledge in a rapidly accelerated timeframe. Through Akamai Technical Academy, Akamai has gained the ability to find strong talent from non-traditional backgrounds complementing more traditional models and diversifying their workforce.
“TTA is an amazing partner and I really couldn’t be happier that we are working on this together. First of all, TTA is responsible for selecting the best instructors for the program and providing high quality technical content, which is really great. The instructors are delivering all the technical classes and are giving the end of course assessments and labs. Next to that, I have learned throughout the years, that TTA is really keen on managing risks and surely puts customer interests first. We do all of that with a great sense of humor, which always helps.”
– Magda Bukala, Inclusion, Diversity and Engagement Manager, Akamai Technologies
With such a groundbreaking and valuable initiative, it’s perhaps no surprise that the ATA has been recognized for its innovation and excellence by the broader business community. In 2020, the Akamai Technical Academy earned a Brandon Hall Silver Award for Excellence in Competencies and Skill Development.
With a clear vision and a strong partnership, any learning goal is possible. Contact us to learn more.