Who You Gonna Call? - Consulting!

I wrote this post two times. This is the second version. The first one was a solid account of what Cloud Consulting have been doing in 2016. It had lots of figures, numbers and stats, and at one point I was even thinking of adding a diagram. Well, it was a summary report, and what's a report without numbers?

Anyway, when I showed it to my manager, he looked at it (somehow, I do not think he actually read it through) and said that it was boring, it was empty and it just wouldn't do. So, I was back to square one with no post and no idea how to tell people that Consulting had been actually doing something useful and not sound like a ticker tape. I was turning it over and over in my head for a couple of days, and then I thought - why not describe my own experience with Consulting? Who can better tell about it than someone who is "on the inside"? It will be a true retrospective, you will see Cloud Consulting with my eyes.

I came to EPAM Cloud in February, 2016, so the New Year marks my ten months with the company and with Cloud Consulting. Before that time, Cloud Consulting had been in the hands of Svitlana, who was covering all flanks single-handedly. Honestly, everyone coming to a new job should have such a colleague. On one hand, Svitlana knows everything about where Cloud info can be found - the site, the docs, the right people, and, on the other - she is always happy to share what she knows. In 2016, she has levelled up to Lead Technical Writer and is now the only one at that position in EPAM Systems, which is saying something.

So, what have we been doing the whole year? If you think that Cloud Consulting is only about consulting, this is true, but not completely. Consulting is but one of our major activities, however, it can be regarded as the most important one. Cloud Consulting is like your General Practitioner, your doctor "for everything". The GP is where you go when something is not right but you are not sure what exactly. You come and say that you have some pains in your knee, for example, and the GP will talk to you, ask you questions, squeeze and poke, and then either send you to an X-ray or schedule an appointment with a trauma surgeon or simply advise to go easy on your knee and come back in a week's time.

We at Cloud Consulting do pretty much the same - we get your initial requests about something which is not clear or not working as it should. And we answer most of the general questions arriving to Consulting. However, some issues our users have to face are rather tricky, and then we roll out the heavy guns - we ask assistance of our colleagues from the Level 1.5 and Level 3 Support Teams.

Then, of course, there is the documentation. Over the years, EPAM Cloud has accumulated quite a library which has to be maintained. It covers the Cloud from all sides and is designed to redirect you to the right place wherever you start - the Cloud website, the Knowledge Base or Web UI help. At the same time, we are trying to organize it so that you do not have to go in circles and for that we may sometimes duplicate the information. For example, if a new CLI command is developed, its description goes into the Maestro CLI Guide, the Quick Reference Card, the CLI help and, in some cases, on the website and the Services Guide. If there is a new service released, you will read about it first in the What’s New issue accompanying the release, then on the website, in the Services Guide and, sometimes, in the Maestro CLI Guide.

We write texts for system notifications, reports, error messages, UI labels... Sometimes the tasks are just exciting: "Write an important security message conveying four different points. Oh, and it has to be no longer than 140 characters - it's going to be an sms". OK, no problem...

You may wonder where we are getting information which goes into our documentation. It's a good question, as, in fact, our guides and descriptions are just the tip of the iceberg, the icing on the cake. There is huge work underneath and here I want to thank our Development Team who patiently answer questions, describe new features, share links, make screenshots, always keeping in mind that we are... not exactly software developers.

And let's not forget the trainings. EPAM Cloud, as every Cloud, is self-service, which means that the users have to know their way about it fairly well. So, the trainings are necessary, because although you can find everything in the documents, a picture is worth a thousand words. And trainings fall within the scope of the Consulting Team duties.

2016 has been quite busy in terms of Cloud education. We started with the Russian-language Effective Cloud Computing training intended to provide some basic information about Cloud and show some general tools and flows for everyday work. It was organized as a series of webinars with some theory and a lot of practical examples and live demonstrations. We even did it twice as it turned out that the first series could not accommodate all people who wanted to participate.

Then there was also an English-language Effective Cloud Computing for Managers, a three-hour marathon for the colleagues from India which Svitlana did single-handedly. In total we had over two hundred participants and gave out dozens of badges for participation in Cloud trainings (see? I did it, I got the numbers in, after all!). And a big thumbs-up goes to our amazing audience who asked questions, shared their thoughts and, what is the most important, used the Cloud knowledge in their work. Also, I would like to thank the colleagues from Level 1.5 and Level 3 Teams for "holding our hands" during the webinars and helping with the questions.

What is especially cool about our students is that they do not stop the moment they hit "Disconnect" after the webinar. They continue learning and searching for new knowledge - we could tell by the number of AWS Partner Training certificates issued to our colleagues.

For those who prefer self-paced education, we have a new Introduction to EPAM Cloud course in the EPAM University. It is a solid four-module education program with a quiz in the end. It took us a couple of months to finish it and the process involved a lot of people from various teams - we put it together, Cloud QA verified the material, our Development Team and the Level 1.5 Team checked it from their point of view and went through the quiz, the Training and Development Team turned it into an online course. We read and reread, corrected typos, rephrased, added and deleted, changed quiz questions, found more typos, sent correction sheets to Training and Development... Now it is generally available and we do recommend it if you want to get started with EPAM Cloud. It covers most of the Cloud matters from starting your first virtual machine to auto-configuration and hybridization. And there is a badge for it, too!

As our final activity in 2016, we made a separate Cloud module for the Adaptation program. Now the newcomers will also get to know what Cloud is about and what they can do with it.

To sum it up, it has been a roller-coaster of a year. I could never have thought that consulting could be so multisided, that it could bring so much emotion, that you could swing from mild panic and apprehension at the beginning of a webinar to joy and elation at the end when all those "thank you's" start popping up.

It has been a good year. I hope we managed to share some knowledge with you or help you with something. I definitely learned a lot from you for which I am immensely grateful. Judging from our plans for 2017 (another EPAM University course, more live trainings, Cloud information restructuring and optimization and a lot more), the next year is going to be similarly exciting. So, buckle up!