This feature first appeared in Certification Magazine. Click here to get your own print or digital copy.
In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol Dweck introduced the world to the idea that adjusting our mindset to believe in our own capacity to grow will ultimately lead to greater success. Dweck notes, "Becoming is better than being. The fixed mindset does not allow people the luxury of becoming. They have to already be."
Dweck's research found that individuals with a growth mindset "believe their talents can be developed through hard work, good strategies, and input from others. They tend to achieve more than those with a fixed mindset, who believe their talents are innate gifts."
Both fixed and growth mindsets can exist at the individual and organizational level. At NetApp, we recognize the value of a growth mindset, and it underpins everything we do, including prioritizing a "learn-it-all" culture. This is especially evident in our NetApp Learning Services (NLS) organization.
In NLS, we are always looking for new ways to help our customers, partners, and employees increase their knowledge and skills with innovative training and certification programs. By doing this, we help ensure organizational, professional, and personal growth. It is especially important to keep learning new skills as the world of work continues to evolve.
A changed workplace requires updated skills — and learning
Today, we can work from anywhere. To facilitate this, business operations have shifted increasingly to the cloud. And whether we continue to work remotely, shift to a hybrid model, or return to the office and begin interacting with customers and coworkers in person, we must modernize and elevate our skillsets to reflect the new realities at work.
If we attempt to approach our roles with the same set of skills we had before the pandemic, we'll be unable to serve our customers in new ways. Digital transformation, cloud adoption, and working remotely are examples of how change can require us to pivot — to rethink how we do everything from logging on to company networks to using new collaboration and communication tools that help us work more efficiently.
With this evolution in the way we do business, and the rapidly shifting demands on employees' skillsets, NLS came to realize that it was time for our learning programs to change and grow as well. To understand how we're moving forward, it helps to first know a little about our journey so far.
Early NetApp learners who have grown with our certification program
Certification for NetApp customers was introduced in 2001. Early program offerings included many of the same certification titles used today, with exams focused on services and roles like data protection, implementation engineer, storage professional, and solution architect.
One of NetApp's first exam candidates was Steve Bos. An InterVision Systems team member since the late 1990s, Bos has been learning with NetApp since the early days of his career. Today he recalls feeling a tremendous sense of pride after passing his first exam — tearing open a FedEx envelope to reveal a paper certificate bearing NetApp's president's signature and the number #00000001. That credential was the very first of its kind issued by NetApp.
In the years that followed, as he moved up in the ranks at InterVision, Bos moved from sales into an architecture role and continued to pursue new NetApp certifications every year. He lists personal motivation, professional confidence, peer recognition, and industry authority as the top benefits of continual learning and ongoing certification with NetApp. He also found that NetApp certification allows him to quickly establish credibility with customers.
Scott Gelb, Solutions Architect with Enterprise Vision Technologies, first sat for a NetApp professional certification exam more than 20 years ago. Though passing required multiple attempts, the process sparked within him a determination to succeed and a commitment to learning with NetApp that grew over the years (along with his list of certifications). Gelb eventually began helping to develop certification exams — becoming the first non-NetApp contributor to do so.
Though it's a requirement of his role that Gelb maintain certain NetApp certifications, he sees true value in the learning itself — it strengthens his customer relationships on many levels. The knowledge he builds through certification learning leads his customers to trust his expertise.
Gelb can't predict where it will go next, but he's certain he'll stay on his certification journey with NetApp. He is impressed that the company seems almost unrecognizable from where it was just five years ago.
Jeff Adams, Solutions Architect at TD SYNNEX, is another lifelong learner who watches what NetApp does in the cloud space as a benchmark for guiding his own knowledge and learning. Adams has been with his current company for more than two decades and has been taking NetApp certification exams all along.
Discussing the industry's recent shift to the cloud, Adams described preparing for the NetApp hybrid cloud architect certification exam. The learning process involved a huge paradigm shift for him — one that allowed him to go from having exclusively onprem expertise to adding cloud skills and knowledge. Adams is now able to think about the whole solution and is more prepared to answer questions and solve problems for his customers today.
NetApp and NLS lean into the cloud
Like Steve, Scott and Jeff, other tech industry professionals require learning opportunities that match where the industry is headed. At NetApp, we're shifting our learning programs to meet our customers where they are.
NetApp evolved from an on-premises storage company into a cloud-led, data-centric software company that strives to help our customers and partners unlock the best of hybrid cloud, and cloud. To better support every journey to the cloud, we will soon launch a redesigned certification program, which will include brand-new cloud credentials designed to validate skills, knowledge, and capabilities gained along every step of the learning path.
A growth spurt for NetApp Learning Services
With a solid program in place and our customers wanting to learn even more, we knew it was time to modernize our offerings. Our goal was to elevate the value of holding a NetApp certification credential even further.
The NLS team approached our new program design with an inclusive lens, first listening to all stakeholders — customers, partners, and employees — across all lines of business. To help identify what we needed to change, we gathered stakeholder feedback on what was working and where there may be gaps in what they needed for future success. With that information, we partnered with Alpine Testing to conduct a program design workshop.
Alpine Testing's expertise in program design, certification exam development, and test analysis is highly valued in the tech industry, so their third-party facilitation added credibility and value to workshop results. We set out to develop a certification framework and architecture to provide best practices for establishing how required skills, recognition, and unique experiences are recognized.
This moved NetApp away from product-based certifications and toward role-based and solution-oriented tracks to drive cloud competency and adoption more effectively. As we developed our new program, we gathered input from individuals with diverse professional and geographical backgrounds to develop our new certifications to better serve the entire range of learner experiences.
Later this year, we will launch two new entry-level certification packages. First, is NetApp Hybrid Cloud ONTAP, focused on honing your ability to position NetApp in hybrid cloud environments. The second is Cloud Native, designed to validate your ability to recognize and explain how NetApp provides value by managing data in a cloud environment.
Both packages offer free training and a free exam which leads to a skill badge upon successful completion. Finally, we're also developing certification paths and credentials for those progressing in their roles, all the way to the expert level.
Learning designed with our partners in mind
Keeping up with ever-changing technology to meet customer needs is top-of-mind for our partners, and that includes their cloud education and certifications. NetApp Learning Services supports NetApp's cloud-led strategy and our partnerships with cloud providers by helping equip our partners with the knowledge and expertise needed to guide customers through their cloud transformation.
A great place for learners to begin is the Cloud Education All-Access Pass, which offers more than 80 hours of formal, blended, and informal learning resources. The Selling NetApp Solutions to Protect Against Ransomware course also helps prepare sales professionals and partners to present our anti-ransomware solutions. We offer courses specifically for new customers, and StorageGRID, and E-Series solutions.
Succeed smarter, reach deeper, and invest in your future
Embracing a growth mindset involves learning new things, taking on different responsibilities, and challenging yourself. Pursuing new certifications that push you to learn more is a great example of adopting a growth mindset. The NLS path of continuous learning keeps you motivated and engaged through targeted, personalized training to help you achieve your goals.
Certifications prepare you to use new and emerging technologies, future-proofing your career and your business. You gain the skills you need to get the most from your technology investments. Passing a certification exam allows you to present indisputable verification of your knowledge, skills, and expertise, giving customers and employers increased confidence in your knowledge and expertise.
So whether you're learning the basics or leveling up your skillset, I encourage you to embrace the growth mindset so you can succeed smarter, reach deeper, and invest in your future with the new NetApp Learning Services certification program. Find us online.