Cloud Learning Services with Nandhini Rangan and Magda Jary

Jon Foust joins Mark this week as we talk with Nandhini Rangan and Magda Jary about Cloud Learning Services. The Cloud Learning Services team is passionate about helping technical practitioners elevate their careers and transform businesses by building and validating in-demand Google Cloud skills. Nandhini explains that a lack of technical practitioners with skills in the cloud is one of the biggest barriers to entry for companies considering the shift. But with the right knowledge, companies that take full advantage of cloud environments are proven to be more efficient, reach more of their goals, and overall, be more successful. Cloud Learning Services offerings empower technical practitioners and companies to learn new skills, put these skills into practice, and achieve their objectives.

Magda tells us that these training courses focus around job roles in the cloud. The cloud has necessitated a shift in the idea of development learning, she tells us, explaining that nowadays, the focus is on job roles, like Data Scientist, and the technological requirements of that job rather than learning one coding language.

We talk later about the specific offerings Cloud Learning Services provides. With a focus on hands-on learning, technical practitioners are put into the real Google Cloud environment with Qwiklabs, while videos and lectures accompany the material. Job-specific skill badges and certifications are earned as courses are completed, allowing technical practitioners and employers to better understand what proficiency in each job role looks like. Our guests tell us more about Qwiklabs and how its sandbox environment facilitates better learning without the added cost and commitment of services that they may not be ready to use. When the time for real-world development comes, this hands-on approach means no disconnect between learning and applying. We talk more about the Challenge Labs used to test learning and the skill badges earned on completion.

To wrap up, we discuss the future of Cloud Learning Services and how the team stays on top of new technologies and job roles to keep learning materials updated and fun. The team is working on new material for badging and certifying business professionals as well.

Resources to check out to learn more about Google Cloud training and certifications:

Follow a learning path designed to help you prepare for the certification most suited to your role:

Nandhini Rangan

Nandhini Rangan works at Google Cloud Learning and is very passionate about the topic of upskilling, reskilling, and especially for cloud roles that are needed in organizations today, but also defining the roles and jobs of the future. She is based in Canada and works out of Toronto. She started her career as a Software Engineer, went on and got her MBA and then spent many years in operations and strategy including a stint as a management consultant. Learning was always top of mind for her and she decided to make the jump to join a learning organization full time in 2018 with Google Cloud. She launched the Google Cloud Technical Residency program, worked in the Higher Education learning space bringing programs to faculty and students globally, and currently works as a learning portfolio manager helping bring cloud training content closer to its audiences.

Magda Jary

Magda Jary is responsible for all aspects of Google Cloud Certification and Digital Badges go-to market and her mission is to grow Cloud skill sets. She joined Google in 2008 after graduating with two Masters degrees: Media and Communications at Warsaw School of Economics and International Management at Rotterdam School of Management. Currently based in San Francisco, she has been leading global learning and engagement programs for Google Cloud customers and partners. Magda is a frequent guest speaker at events dedicated to skills development, diversity, and women in tech. She is a certified yoga teacher and has completed a mindfulness teacher certification. She teaches the Search Inside Yourself training at Google, a mindfulness-based emotional intelligence course for leaders.

Cool things of the week
  • Announcing Google Cloud Public Sector Summit, a free global digital event: Dec. 8-9 blog
  • 5 tips for more interactive meetings with Q&A and Polls, rolling out to Google Meet blog
  • Add a more accurate sense of place to your applications using these five YouTube tutorials blog
    • GCP Podcast Episode 181: Google Maps Platform with Angela Yu podcast
  • Google Cloud Training site
  • Google Cloud Skill Badges site
  • Qwiklabs site
  • Deploy to Kubernetes in Google Cloud site
  • Professional Machine Learning Engineer Certification site
  • Coursera site
  • Codelabs site
  • TSIA Star Awards site
Question of the week

I’ve been interested in the Cloud Architect Certification and after listening to the interview, I’ve be inspired to look into taking it. What training material is available for preparing for the exam?

Check out the Google Cloud certification, Professional Cloud Architect certification, and the Preparing for the Professional Cloud Architect Examination Qwiklab.

What’s something cool you’re working on?

Jon finished Game Summit last week and is back to creating Open Match content, specifically on submitting request from games and writing a match function in a language you may be familiar with!

[MUSIC PLAYING] MARK: Hey there, everybody, and welcome to episode 239 of the weekly Google Cloud Platform Podcast. As always, I'm Mark Mirchandani, and I'm here once again with John. Hey, John, how you doing?

JOHN: I'm doing pretty good. How about yourself?

MARK: Always excited to see you. Of course, we got a chance to chat not too long ago with Nvidia, so I'm excited to have you back. And like I promised in that episode, we're going to try and get you on as many of these episodes as possible.

JOHN: I'm looking forward to being back as a more consistent host. I've actually got some messages from folks online saying, hey, it's great hearing your distinct voice again. I didn't know I had a distinct voice, but I don't know, many folks say, hey, you have a New York accent. I don't hear it, but I've been in New York my whole life. But yeah, definitely looking forward to bringing the subtle tone of my voice back to the podcast.

MARK: That John New York accent. Absolutely. And of course, we do have a great episode today. For our main interview today, I got a chance to sit down with some of our friends from the Cloud Learning Services team. So Nandhini and Magda joined us to talk about, well, what is the Cloud Learning Services team? And a couple of the different ways that people can kind of learn more about Google Cloud while also kind of creating cool artifacts like badges and then of course, certifications that really show off that you've learned these things. So we get to have a great conversation, really dive into the difference between all of those, what they look like, and how people can use them. And at the end of the day, it's really just about enabling people to learn all these different pieces of the cloud landscape, because it's a lot. There's just a bunch going on.

JOHN: I'm quite familiar with some of them, but it's going to be exciting to hear what else I don't know about. And I'm very excited about the badges, because I believe they were mentioned before, but I never really got to get a badge of my own. So hopefully, I'll get some someday.

MARK: So stay tuned for that. But before we go into that conversation, why don't we talk about our cool things of the week?


Well, I'll kick things off with a very quick one, actually. For our listeners who are in the public sector, it's a very different space, especially from like small companies and startups that kind of use the cloud. The public sector is full of a bunch of challenges. And so we have a bunch of people in Google Cloud who work on public sector-specific stuff. And I've gotten a chance to sit down and talk with some of our partners about what that looks like, as well. It's been super exciting to look at that.

And as it turns out, we're hosting a free digital global event for a public sector summit. That's going to be December 8 and 9. Definitely worth checking out, again, if you're in that public sector space. But I always do think it's fascinating how different you have to think about A, technology, and B, the cloud, when it comes to public sector, which just has a very different set of requirements from startups and from other applications or even large enterprises. They just have this unique set of circumstances that really makes it a fascinating and sometimes, really challenging to pick up the cloud.

JOHN: Right. I can attest from hearing folks come up to me, hey, I work in this area, and I would like to inquire about this. And it's very hard to give a response, but to know that there is currently like a virtual space for them to actually meet and get all the information they need about Google Cloud, specifically, this is great. So I would really encourage folks to take a look at it and register.

MARK: Yeah. A lot of the conversations that Max and I've been doing with our partners on the Stack Chat stuff which we had a couple of episodes ago really focuses on how these partners are bringing cloud solutions to the public sector. So if you've been listening, I'm sure you've heard a little bit about that. And stay tuned for more.

JOHN: So I have a very interesting feature that's just been added to Google Meet, which is QA and polls. So I'm very familiar with polls, because I got to use it last week at the game summit that we had internally, and we got to ask questions from attendees in our meets, where we are asking them where they're from, what PAs they work for, just to add that level of engagement to a virtual conference. And we also did a live Q&A through Google Meet, as well. So we were able to ask, hey, what would you like to see next year for an event. Or we got questions that's circulate on how do I connect to this social event that we're having where we want to play a game together.

And it's been great. It allows a moderator or someone to actually look over questions and answer them live during the meeting. And also, you get to ask questions early on in your meeting such as, hey, what would you like to focus on during this meeting, in case there is an open agenda, and you just happen to meet because you want to be a part of the team. So it's great to see this features come into Google Meet and I can really see all of the applications it's potentially going to have for folks who are having these large scale meetings where being able to communicate in a less congested way. And of course, doing it in a more organized way is going to really benefit folks.

MARK: Yeah, I love having these new features. And really, like we were just talking about earlier, we're in a digital world now. And so with a digital world, we have to come up with new ways to kind of have the same style of communications or like you said, congested communication. You go on a video call with 40 people, it's really hard to get everyone to talk at a level where everyone understands everything. So it's super, super cool to see these features coming out.

JOHN: Definitely.

MARK: And then I thought I'd throw in one more for good measure. We'll obviously have a link in the show notes, but we have a quick blog post, which just shows a couple of YouTube videos from our friend, Angela Yu, who is actually on the podcast at this point, maybe 100 episodes ago, maybe 50 episodes? I don't know. She came on to talk a little bit more about Google Maps Platform and a bunch of the things you can do there. Well, these videos are actually kind of walk-through his tutorials for how to implement some of the features that are available there.

So you know me, I love good YouTube videos for learning stuff. And so if you're using Google Maps Platform or you're interested in learning more, these videos are probably a pretty cool resource for you.

JOHN: That's very cool. And it's really exciting to always see our previous guests you know still pushing out valuable content. We had the folks from the video come back after 100 episodes. So if you missed seeing some of our guests and they're still producing content, I really encourage you to check it out to see you can get reunited with them if that's what you would like to call it.

MARK: Yeah, they're always great people and they're always putting out cool stuff. So super exciting to see you more content come out of them, because I'm sure it wasn't 100 episodes ago, right? Because Nvidia was actually hundreds episodes. I think Angela was probably like 50-ish episodes ago. Years and years and years-- time so meaningless at this point. But we'll definitely put a link down to that interview in the show notes.

And then yeah, all these people are doing really great stuff. So we'll try and keep an eye on it and service it. But of course, most of them have Twitters and LinkedIns and other places, they post content. So it's always a great opportunity to kind of see what they're doing. All right, well, with our cool things out of the way, why don't we go ahead and jump into our interview with Nandhini and Magda?

JOHN: Sounds good.


MARK: Nandhini and Magda, thank you so much for joining us. To get things started, can you tell us a little more about yourselves?

NANDHINI: Hi, Mark, thank you for having us. So I'm Nandhini, and I work at Google Cloud Learning. I've been with Google Cloud Learning for about two years, and I'm super passionate about the topic of skilling, upskilling, reskilling, specifically in the area of cloud. Just so much happening here. And so cloud learning and the work that we do to provide learning for skills not just for what we believe now, but also, for what they need in the future is just like, something I'm very passionate about.

MAGDA: Excellent. Pleasure to be here. My name is Magda. I've been with Google for 12 years. So really, a pleasure and a great journey. And to some extent specifically with Google Cloud, I feel like I've been growing with the industry. I have been in a variety of enablement roles at Google, and most recently, the go to market lead for Google Cloud certifications and digital badges. So I'm really looking after adoption driving programs, awareness programs, value programs around certifications and digital badges across various audiences. Very happy, looking forward to chatting more about these programs.

We actually have a shared story with Nandhini. The first time we had a pleasure to collaborate together was teaching. However, it was not Google Cloud Core curriculum. It was a meditation and mindfulness training. So we are both teaching this Search Inside Yourself training here at Google. And we had the pleasure of teaching together some time ago.

MARK: That's awesome to hear. And of course, a big part of enablement really is built around learning. So I think the first kind of natural question that comes to my mind is, what is the goal for the Google Cloud Learning Services team? And what are some of the things that you work on?

NANDHINI: Before we talk about things that we work on, I think the big goals and why we even exist straight is actually pretty important. So it's very interesting that year after year, study after study talks about how cloud skills and this cloud skills challenge or gap is a primary thing that's holding back from cloud adoption, And a lot of CIOs and IT leaders constantly talk about how the lack of Cloud Talent could delay their transformation projects and things like that.

And then on the flip side, we also hear that organizations that have skilled individuals that they've trained and that have incorporated cloud learning into are three times more likely to adopt and meet their strategic goals and objectives. So there's this whole thing around learning and training that constantly comes up, which is where organizations like Cloud Learning really can make an impact in helping not just individuals learning, but also employers and organizations achieve their business goals and objectives. So that's kind of like why we exist. And in terms of specific programs, Magda, do you want to talk about that?

MAGDA: Happy to talk about the programs, and really to add on the topic of why. Our own customers tell us that training and learning really helps them drive adoption. And this adoption may vary from like the low level, let's say, I know how to use a product, I use it more often; to maybe learners being able to use more advanced features and functions; to finally being really truly independent, solving new business cases, and reducing the number of support cases and so on.

And one of the reasons I'm really passionate also about this space, why Are we doing all this-- really, I think cloud is the new normal. However, existing and thriving in the cloud really requires a new approach to learning. And what I mean by this is it's not really focusing as much about a narrow certain technology and this is all that you know. What really is required is to be proficient in a given job role, like a cloud architect or data engineer. That's a mix of various technologies.

And with Google Cloud Learning that we're going to cover throughout this episode, we really built programs that are very hands on. They are very focused around the given job role. And therefore, we help to drive this transformation within an organization for the IT departments, the practitioners, maybe from the historical role of being a maintaining team though stepping in strategists, disruptors, and so on. So I guess it's time to actually talk about some of the programs we do.

MARK: Well, I really liked what you said about a new way of learning, because I think some of the more traditional styles were exactly like you said-- extremely hyper focused on very small areas, which was great. But then you had to have huge teams of these different specialists and it's very hard to kind of run businesses that way, especially now in the cloud, when the best skill sets are really like you said-- fitting into a role, dealing with a ton of technologies. I really love that description because it really does sound cool.

So with that in mind-- so we've got all these people who have a bunch of different learning opportunities, which we'll talk about really soon about what the details of those are-- but what does it look like for someone to actually learn these things and then to demonstrate that they've learned them?

NANDHINI: You know, honestly, a quick trip down memory lane. So when you think about cloud learning and how someone can demonstrate learning, you can watch a video, you can maybe read a book. And there's all of these different ways that you can learn. But the key thing I think that the kind of honed on really early was especially with cloud, really, the hands on demonstration rate and being able to get your hands dirty and actually walk in what you're doing was key.

So a lot of our learning-- in fact, almost all of our technical learning-- happens via hands on labs. So we have a lab platform called Qwiklabs. And so that's like literally the real Google cloud environment. So if you were working in Google Cloud and you were running a lab on Qwiklabs, for example, you were working in the Google Cloud environment. No simulation, the real thing. And you were hands on doing and learning what you would do.

And so that I think, was actually pretty important. And so when you think about someone demonstrating the skills, it's really demonstrating the ability to do those hands on via these labs and via courses that all have these labs in them. So every time you find Google Cloud training out there, whether it's on Coursera, Pluralsight, Qwiklabs, any other partners, you will experience videos, maybe lectures, but a whole bunch of like hands on labs. So that's kind of our modus operandi and how we've kind of figured out how folks can not just learn effectively, but also demonstrate what they've learned.

MAGDA: Yes, and some of the programs that I run, the go to market for our certification programs and digital badges specifically, this is really this next level. These are certain learning milestones, proficiency milestones to achieve. So starting with a certification program, this is really the benchmark for what the highest level of qualification in a given job role looks like. So we have a portfolio of certifications that are job role specific, ranging from associate cloud engineer to professional cloud architect, professional data engineer, network engineer, security engineer, machine learning engineer, we are launching shortly in October.

So a variety of job roles. And this becomes a framework both for individuals, for professionals, as well as for employers to know what the proficiency in a given job role looks like. So in addition to certifications, I'm delighted to introduce a new program that we have introduced. It's skill badges. So certifications and skill badges go hand in hand. I would say skill badges are learning milestones on a journey towards becoming proficient in a given job role.

So a skill badge, it's a digital badge issued by Google Cloud in recognition of an individual's cloud proficiency with a Google Cloud product or service. And they test their ability to apply that knowledge in an interactive hands on environment. So we are using the Qwiklabs Apps platform and pretty much it's a set of quests with a challenge lab attached in the end.

NANDHINI: I was just going to ask you, Mark, do you have any Google certifications and/or skill badges?

MARK: A big part of being on the Google Cloud team was a lot of learning. There is a cloud architect one that I went through, and I just renewed that one earlier this year. And then there's the data engineer. And that one is waiting for me to renew it, because obviously, some challenges in taking the testing. But I think for a lot of these, you can take them online now, right?

MAGDA: Yeah.

MARK: So I really have no excuse at all for not renewing mine.

NANDHINI: Except being busy doing podcasts. But no, good for you.

MARK: That does take a lot of time. So yeah, that's a good reminder. I should really start doing that. Hopefully, I'll do that the next couple of weeks. But I really liked what you said about Qwiklabs. Qwiklabs is an interesting platform that is so cool, because it creates that sandbox. So a lot of people are familiar with Codelabs, where you're kind of go through and take those steps and that's a great kind of way to learn things. It's most importantly a great way to get hands on with topics, so I absolutely love it.

But Qwiklabs takes us to the next level by kind of explaining some of the things to you, giving you those hands on practices, and then creating this fully destructive sandbox so you can go in, there you can take all the steps, and then you can shut down the Qwiklab, and you don't have to pay for the actual resources you're spinning up. So it's a really cool way to kind of train on some things that you might not want to pay for in your own account like GKE and BigQuery. Those costs can become very high. But doing them in Qwiklabs, it's much, much cheaper, because you just need to do the credits for the labs and that's it.

NANDHINI: Yeah, absolutely. In fact, one of the things that's on Qwiklabs that is pretty awesome is this feature called activity tracking. What it basically does is so let's say you have to spin up a virtual machine in some specific zone region, whatever. So there's that task but you have to do. And the platform actually is able to gauge if you did it successfully or not, and then assign a completion or a score. And so that opens up like all of these opportunities to create these gamified experiences where we've run customer workshops with games and games that scale. But super fun competitive challenges with leaderboards and what have you for learning. So that's pretty cool that you can do this in the real environment and also have this game-based component that the activity tracking in the platform also allows for.

MAGDA: It does provide this overall picture of the learning becomes so much more real. It's not something theoretical, you study, and then you actually do the actual job and it may be somewhat disconnected. You learn by actually experiencing the platform. And I think this really ties in with everything we are talking about here-- just getting people ready to perform well in their core job to develop by really being fully immersed with the technology and the product.

MARK: Yeah, and for people who have been to some Google Cloud Events, oftentimes, especially with the developer relations team, they'll host workshops using Qwiklabs. And then like you said, Nandhini, they'll actually gamify and add kind of cool side parts to it. So it's always really cool to see the different possibilities with that. But one are the things you said, Magda, was challenge labs. So can you just a little more about what those are?

MAGDA: So in a challenge lab, students demonstrate their knowledge without specific guidance by building a solution to a live real world and scenario-based use case in which this activity tracking feature knows what's the acceptable solution should include. And it marks a passing score based on performance.

NANDHINI: And personally, I love these challenge labs. So when you think about a [INAUDIBLE] experience, there's the initial labs or quests that will take you step by step through some instructions on OK, here's what you need to do, here's the cloud console, here's what you need to click into. So there's very specific steps to get you really comfortable. And then you get comfortable, comfortable, and then just when you're comfortable, boom comes the challenge lab to say, OK, now leave all of those instructions. Let's see what you know. And gives you a situation and you apply all of that knowledge you've gained in actually trying to create something, which is pretty cool.

And then like you said, Mark, once you're done, the whole thing shuts down. And you don't have to worry about paying for it or leave things spilling up over the weekend, and have your husband asking you why you have Google Cloud credit charges on your bill.

MARK: Yeah, it's really hard to replicate the instructor lab experience, because having someone that you can kind of ask questions to and give context to is a very, very hard to replace thing. But at the same time, these self-paced labs are just absolutely growing in popularity so, so quickly because there's so much demand for these people learning. And there's so many topics to cover, it wouldn't be feasible to do instructor-based learning for a lot of this. So it is really cool to have that. And then do a challenge lab to kind of prove that you've actually learned it instead of just maybe skipping forward and be like, OK, I get it, moving on to the next topic.

So another thing, of course, that you mentioned, Magda, where these skill badges that came in. And then you're being tied a lot to Qwiklabs based on doing these challenges. So what are the skill badges kind of look like? How can people use them? What is that?

MAGDA: So the skill badges, again, like a new way of recognizing learner's achievement by completing a set of quests with a challenge lab. These skill badges are awarded. So you can also share it in your preferred network of choice and celebrate your learning milestone. So again, just creating another learning milestone to be recognized for the learner. And over time, obviously, also provides value to employers who know that a given skill is really mastered by the individual.

MARK: And I'm guessing, of course, that employers also find the certificates very valuable, as well.

MAGDA: Certifications is literally the industry standard, right? So there's no doubt about it. Literally, we follow industry studies on the topic. And it's an interesting data point-- in the last year pretty, much 2/3 of any training badges approved by IT decision makers, they were actually approved for the purpose of certification or recertification. So yeah, it plays a very big part in the talent development, setting these benchmarks. And whether it's for the purpose of in-house growth and development of talent or external hiring, it's a really important, useful, well-regarded framework for acknowledging talent.

NANDHINI: I'll attest to that. So I moved to cloud learning about two years ago. And one of the things that I'm passionate about learning and therefore, I'm also passionate about learning myself-- so I love like learning new skills and whatnot-- and Google Cloud skills, I really wanted to learn it. And so one of the challenges I set for myself, being a non-practitioner, so not having the hands on experience, not having that background, was to take a certification and kind of prep towards that. And then I got Associate Cloud Engineer, it's one of the foundational certifications-- but I did get that. And to Magda's point, that is a little bit like credibility and even confidence in myself that hey, I actually kind of know what I'm talking about and I can do some things. So plus one to that.

MAGDA: So I just wanted to add that it's really beautiful to hear the stories from our certified community, where they do acknowledge how the certification gave them this additional boost. They realized wow, I'm really proficient already, and maybe they were more likely to apply for the new job or just be more confident in their skill set. So that's also a great benefit of achieving a professional industry certification.

MARK: Yeah, it's really awesome to hear that of course, you can use these certifications and even these skill badges to kind say, I've got this skill and certification is a much more larger applied sense of what that looks like in a job role. But I had never really thought about that kind of this is a good way of validating that you do have these skills. And so I can see why people would want to share that with their networks and kind of encourage others to do the exact same thing-- because you do see a lot of stories of people who don't come from these very traditional backgrounds, but then really working hard and applying themselves and using all the different resources to be able to pick up these new skills in a pretty quick time period.

MAGDA: That's right. It's a journey. And I think that's also how we try to illustrate this to learners. So if you will check out our Google Cloud training pages, you'll see a structured path. And you can start where you are. And for some people, it's about picking up a skill that they missed, there's something new in the technology, they really want to go deeper. And for many people, it's really building a brand new career path, a skill set that can really lead them to new opportunities.

MARK: Yeah, I think this is another way that this keeps you on your toes, because new technology is being introduced so quickly and so frequently that creating learning possibilities for those technologies must be more than a full time job.

MAGDA: Correct. Then also, it does prove how recertification is also important. So our exams are valid for two years. And it really shows that technology still keeps changing quite quickly. And if you will recertify, you are really confident that you are on top of what's latest and greatest in a given job role. So really important, as well.

NANDHINI: So Mark, if you missed it, Magda was talking directly to you.

MARK: This is because I haven't recertified. OK, I will do it. [INAUDIBLE] but I'll do it soon. One of the other things I heard about was that there was some big commotion around the skill badges launched recently, right?

MAGDA: Yes, we are really delighted to share that we've been recognized with a TSIA award for innovation in learning. So that's a big thing for us. We are really happy, pleased. And again, even more so, it's such a relevant useful tool. Whether you are building your skill set, brand new in a job role, or you want to brush your skills, it's a great engaging way to learn with skill badges and indeed, share your achievement with your network so that people can acknowledge you or you inspire others to keep building their skills.

MARK: So we'll put a link down in the show notes for people who want to read more about that. But I think kind of with all this context, it's really important to understand where do you get started?

NANDHINI: For those looking to get started-- so I hope you can link this in the show notes as well-- we have our training website that Magda referenced earlier, as well. So And so that's a really good spot to start. And specifically, it's /training, /badges, that's your one stop for all things skill badges. And we have a promotion going on right now. So you can leverage and get access to the Qwiklabs platform free for a certain period of time. So I would encourage anyone who's listening and who is wondering, hey, was this podcast episode sponsored by Google Cloud Skill Badges, it was.

[LAUGHTER] is where you want to check all those details at.

MARK: And with all the moving pieces around Google Cloud, there's tons of times, especially before, when we were doing a lot of in-person events that we'd feature Qwiklabs and go through that, and people could get credits that way-- but there's still lots of opportunities now to also get credits and try out different labs. I know that we had talked about GKE turning five about a month ago, and a big part of that was also another way to get some more credits, specifically so you could play around with Kubernetes. And I think there's a famous concept from Kelsey Hightower that Kubernetes is really hard. And so it's really nice to be able to use a managed Kubernetes service and just focus on the applications. So it is pretty cool to hear about so many opportunities to make this training even cheaper in a lot of ways, and then get those badges to kind of prove that you've done this stuff.

NANDHINI: Yeah. And speaking of Kubernetes specifically, there is a deploy to Kubernetes skill badge that helps folks who want to get started, deploy that first thing to Kubernetes. So that's like a nice little badge for them to get started on.

MARK: And of course, for people who have been following the Google Cloud YouTube channel, there's a ton of different content that goes on there. And a lot of times, that content will feature related Qwiklabs. And so it's very much in line with here's some explanation, here's some context-- now here's the way to go do it hands on. Absolutely love the ability to do that. And I think, hopefully, a lot of people find it really valuable to be able to learn and then do.

So if there's already this great platform for training and learning things and certifications that are more corporate-focused and trying to get people into these job certifications, what's next? What does the future look like?

NANDHINI: Yeah, so I think one thing that we constantly try and do right is, cloud is evolving, still. There's is so much happening. And so just constantly staying on top of what new skill, what new product is launching, how do we build that into these job road-based tracks, right? What new job role is emerging that did not exist this year or last year? And so I think just keeping on top of what's changing and having that content continue to evolve to meet those needs is definitely like a really big thing.

And then the learned experience. So we spoke briefly about gamified learning, we spoke about these learner journeys. But continue to optimize the learning experience and create those best experiences for the learners to make learning fun, so it does not have to be this challenging all learning thing, but it can be a fun experience. And so how do we continue to do that for folks who want to learn.

MAGDA: I think another thing I would add is we will be expanding more in the business professionals roles for digital badges in general. So most of the badges-- or actually, all of the badges we have discussed today are for technical roles. So we are actively working on the offering for business professionals. And I think for skill badges as well, obviously, this is a relatively new offering. So we will be launching new ones to effectively address our customers' need. And also, this whole area of measuring impact, optimizing the experience even more. So I think it's really the next things in this space.

And I think lastly, the most immediate what's next is the launch of our professional machine learning engineer certification. So that's launching in October. So hopefully, many of you will be interested in this job role, as well.

MARK: Yeah, I'm sure that went on a lot of demand. And I know that a lot of these certifications also sometimes launch with beta periods, where people can kind of see what the exam looks like and then offer feedback on how helpful it was and maybe certain specific items.

MAGDA: That's literally part of our development process. So every certification will first launch in beta. We always appreciate the participation because the beta exam is four hours long versus the regular edition of two hours. So indeed, by participating in betas, you will become part of the development process, provide feedback. And also, you are among the very first people to earn a certification. And I know for some of you, it does matter to have a unique number-- number 1 or 10 of people in the world who achieve this certification.

MARK: So now there's skill badges, certifications, and the rush to get the first certification for new ones. That's pretty awesome to hear. It is very cool to see that there's all these different opportunities. And we're definitely going to have a link down in the show notes for people who want to check out the Qwiklabs offer, because having done a lot of work with Qwiklabs and having learned a lot of things on Qwiklabs, it really is a very cool platform. And just getting your hands on trying it is hard to kind of describe if you haven't used it before. It really does a very cool job of setting things up and explaining them. So I hope a lot of people find that offer useful.

NANDHINI: We hope so, too.

MAGDA: Likewise.

MARK: So before we wrap things up, is there anything else that we should mention or talk about?

NANDHINI: Maybe one thing that I will probably just highlight. I think learning a new skill can be super exciting, but it can also be really challenging. And so just like being open and everyone is in the same boat. So I think especially at Google, the imposter syndrome is real, and you always feel like everyone knows what you don't know, but that's not true. They probably don't know, either. So just keep on learning. So keep calm and keep on learning.

MAGDA: I would very much agree. This concept of continuous learning, the more we embrace this growth mindset, learning mindset. It's just so exciting to be in this space for us to offer these programs. For learners, I hope they really keep learning in the innovative engaging way. And just really to stress this point, whether you're already proficient in a given job role, there's so much innovation going on.

So there are new ways of learning this particular skill that you can stay on top and be really best in class with recertifications and so on. Or if you are just starting, there are so many great tools offerings. And very, very much recommended. So please check out the links we'll be sharing in the notes. Lots of great things happening right now.

MARK: Obviously, at the end of the day, these certifications are useful because they prove that you have a skill. And it doesn't really matter so much if you're the first person or you have 100,000th person. These are useful skills to have. And obviously, it's a great call to action there to recertify like some people who are [FAKE COUGH] on this podcast you do. So it's very cool to have all these opportunities, even if you are already certified to stay fresh on them by following different Qwiklabs and other offerings.

MAGDA: That's right.

MARK: It's always really fun when we get a chance to collaborate kind of create cool content but then also just to kind of see all the people out there, especially on social media who get these badges, these certifications. And I do really, really think that you know a lot of times they use their story to inspire others. And it's always super, super cool to see that.

MAGDA: Totally agree. Very inspiring to be on the team. It's the two of us here on the podcast, but there's just an entire amazing team working, building these programs. And to your point, Mark, I'm so inspired by seeing our community members sharing their stories, the value, what they do with the technology. So yeah, I love my job.

NANDHINI: Thank you, Mark. This was a lot of fun.

MARK: Awesome. Well, Nandhini and Magda, thank you so much for coming in. I absolutely love the Learning Services team and all the work they do. It's super exciting to see the potential there.

Of course, we've talked a lot about the different ways that people can kind of show off the learning, but also, just different ways to learn. And it seems like there's going to be some really exciting stuff coming up soon, like you said, John, getting some badges and showing off the skills there. So I'm just really excited to hear about that.

And of course, we also work on a lot of content with Codelabs and Qwiklabs and Coursera courses and all of these things. So it's just really cool to see the way that that transforms from just a couple of YouTube videos into like an actual learning curriculum.

JOHN: Yeah, that's super awesome. I did get a chance to listen in on the interview, although I wasn't on it. But it's really cool to see all of the things that are coming about from the Cloud Learning Services team. And that kind of leads into my question of the week.


I've been interested in getting cloud architect certification. And after listening in on the interview, I've kind of been inspired to really get the ball rolling again. So the question I really have is, what training material is pretty much available for me to prepare for this exam?

MARK: Yeah, absolutely. We talked a little bit about this, but I know for people who are kind of coming up new to it, it can be very daunting, right? Where do you get started? And of course, we'll put the link in the show notes, but I think the best place to get started is going to be the certification page.

And I think it's important to understand that there are a bunch of different certifications you can have. They're super valuable, because they help you learn this stuff, but they also give you kind of proof. And we talked a little bit about that in the interview of how can you use that, what are employers looking for. But the reality is this is just a great way to learn and then practice some things. So if you're just getting started, you're probably going to want to use the Associate Cloud Engineer Certification, because it's just a great way that shows off kind of a high level skills that are available.

And then John, I think you're interested in taking the cloud architect one, like you said, which is a professional certification. And there's a bunch of professional certifications depending on the different areas. There's data and then there's security and there's ML. So it's all over the place for people who want to specialize. But I think cloud architect is a pretty high level one that touches on a bunch of different areas, which is actually really kind of how a lot of people are working in the cloud now, because you really do need to touch a bunch of different services to get anything done.

So I would say the best place to get started is to go to that cloud architect page and you can actually get some study information based on that. So you can click on-- again, those links will be in the show notes. But there's actually a Qwiklabs course that will kind of walk you through. There's a Coursera course that's free that will help you kind of go over what's going to be in the exam. And then a bunch of different links to what kinds of topics are going to be on there. Plus, a lot of these exams are actually available in multiple languages. And so the cloud architect one is currently available in English and Japanese.

JOHN: Thanks for all the information, because I'm quite familiar with all of the certifications, and this is the one I chose for, because a lot of the things that I work on touches multiple products. But seeing that it's available in Japanese is kind of interesting, because I've always wanted to learn Japanese. So maybe at some point in time when I've finished my certification and I've started to obtain some level of fluency, I'll be able to revisit the certification and take it in Japanese and see if I can absorb the information just as well as I did in English.

MARK: Yeah, I mean, that's--


So long as you're not trying to learn Japanese and all the stuff on the exam at the same time. That could be a lot. I'd say maybe pick one or the other first. There's definitely a lot of cool stuff in there. And for people who like those kind of more structured things, the Coursera, the Qwiklabs are great for that. Otherwise, honestly, a lot of great content comes out. You've heard me talk about the YouTube channel before. There's a ton of great content on there that just covers a wide variety of topics.

So it's kind of a good way to kind of just get your toe in the water and really understand like, oh, here's all the different things. Here's a little bit of information on everything. And then kind of use that to qualify yourself for hey, what do I need to spend more time on, what am I kind of already comfortable with. And then there's a practice exam on there, too. So you can take that and see oh, how ready do I feel?

JOHN: I like the analogy you said-- just get your toe wet. Because the way I actually learned to swim was I just jumped into the deep end.

MARK: No, that sounds like a terrible idea. I don't recommend that at all. There's a slow and structured way to learn everything. And hopefully, you can just find the one that works for you. So maybe the best way to take this exam isn't just to take it without knowing anything, because that might end up being a little more tricky, much like jumping into the deep end of a pool.

All right, well, before we wrap things up, John, what have you been working on in the past couple of weeks? It's been busy.

JOHN: Yeah, it's been pretty busy for me. Last week, we had an Internal Game Summit, which was awesome. We got to hear from our leadership, hear from several teams, see what they're working on and new things that are rolling out for gaming. And we really got to sit down and listen to our leadership speak on the things that they're working on and the things that are important and how they're trying to make gaming as successful as it has been in Google Cloud.

So it's great to catch up with some folks, because we also got to do some mentorship. We also had to do kind of like round robin meetings, where you get to just jump in and jump out of meetings and meet new people. I did enjoy it. And I really enjoyed being a part of the social events team. We've thrown a couple of events that were really engaging, really fun. And we got pretty good feedback on that. So it was definitely fun there.

And now that the summit is over, I am back to working on Open Match content. So I have upcoming content that's going to be submitting requests from games, working with Unity and Unreal and other game engines and Open Match as well as writing match functions in any language that you may be familiar with. Because a lot of our content focuses on Go, but I thought it'd be really good and helpful to put some material out there that's more suited for specific languages and people who are more familiar with the core languages that you might see in some of those game engines.

MARK: I love it. So of course, people can stay tuned for all the great stuff. It sounds like there'll be some good content coming out. And then hopefully, some announcements will come out of the game summit over the next couple of months. So I'll be really interested to see what comes out.

All right, John, well, once again, thank you for joining us. And of course, to our listeners, thank you for joining us listening in. Hope you learned something. And if you're inspired, check out those certifications. Or really, just do whatever makes the most sense for you. It's just a cool, cool way to kind of check this stuff out. So for all of you all out there, thank you for listening, and stay safe.

JOHN: See you.



Mark Mirchandani and Jon Foust

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