Keith Bridges of EDS: Certification Tip of the Iceberg
How would you train and skill your IT workforce if you had to manage more than 50,000 servers, support more than 2.5 million desktops in 60 countries around the world and support clients in the manufacturing, financial services, health care, communications, energy and transportation industries? If you’re EDS, you do so by leveraging resources from a broad portfolio of information technology and business process outsourcing services that enable management of 350 million-plus customer relationships and more than 2 billion customer interactions annually—in 41 languages. If you’re an IT professional looking to get a job with EDS, make sure you have an excellent academic record and relevant work experience. Certification won’t hurt, either.
With somewhere in the neighborhood of 117,000 employees—between 85,000 to 90,000 hold jobs in IT, spread across areas such as applications development, in-frastructure, help desk and networking—EDS has created some rather particular criteria by which to judge a job candidate’s suitability. “It’s done on a somewhat case-by-case basis, but one of the things EDS looks for in candidates is a proven record of academic excellence in some IT-related discipline,” said Keith Bridges, Ph.D., CPT, director of technical development within global learning and development at EDS. “Then we also look for IT certifications. That will be very valuable, as well as previous experience. We put more and more emphasis on IT certification when someone comes to EDS because we have a strong training program to help provide training for IT certifications and other technologies.”
Proving solid academic performance relates primarily to on-campus recruiting and reflects a candidate’s GPA, as well as general academic excellence. Bridges said that scholastic skills offer indicators on the type of individual EDS is looking to hire, and the likelihood of that person’s success while maneuvering through EDS’ IT certification curriculum. Other soft skills are important as well, since an understanding of project management, for example, enables IT professionals to understand the overall process of a project, the essential inputs and dependencies. Important soft skills, or what EDS refers to as “shared skills,” for a potential new hire include strong communication skills, professionalism, leadership, and critical and analytical thinking. “Of course, you add to that things like honesty, integrity and ethics,” Bridges said. “Some of the other soft skills are team building, being able to put together and lead effective teams, and understanding what it means to be customer-focused and have your attention to customers be a priority.”
EDS recently developed a program specifically for its technical population called “Technical Excellence” to develop skills such as analytical thinking and team building. “Technical Excellence includes skill development like the IT certification paths and so forth, but it also includes what we call the TEP Immersion Workshop,” Bridges said. “That is actually a two-week, instructor-led class that we are deploying all over the world in the 60-plus countries where we have people. This particular course, while it’s called Technical Excellence, is really an in-depth understanding of the technical direction of EDS as it applies to the agile enterprise platform, which is EDS’ new system. It’s a system of reusable components and consistent components across solutions.
“People are exposed to EDS’ technology strategy, we actually go through business processes in engineering. We have activities related to diversity and working with teams, quality like Lean Sigma and some of the different processes like ITIL (information technology infrastructure library), and then we have a unit on intellectual property, copyrights, patents.”
Training is one of EDS’ top priorities, specifically technical training. EDS offers many blended learning offerings such as Web-based training, instructor-led classes, virtual labs, mentoring and coaching to address a wide range of technical skills and certifications. Because the company’s in-house offerings are so extensive, EDS provides much of the certification training for its IT staff. Consequently, when recruiting for potential IT professionals outside the university setting, the focus for qualified candidates rests not with existing certification credentials, but in a candidate’s educational background and experience. “We can take someone that does not have the technical background related to whatever certification we’re discussing, and we can start them in that particular technology at ground zero,” Bridges explained. “We provide everything required from end to end to help them gain that certification.
“Outside the campus, I would say that while the education background is going to be a requirement and experience preferred, the IT certification indicates the individual’s ability to understand the technology, to set and achieve that goal of the IT certification. But keep in mind, for someone with an appropriate education background and possible experience, IT certification is very important. It’s important to EDS as we engage with clients. It gives the clients a measure of confidence in our technical workforce if they know that the people working on their accounts have IT industry certifications. That means they are at a certain minimum level of qualification.”
Once on board, EDS subsidizes technical training with certification exam vouchers and offers practice exams and other preparatory materials to help candidates determine if they’re ready for a certification exam. In the event certification isn’t the goal, the EDS Learning Catalog offers all manner of instruction to help the company’s IT staff gain knowledge about specific technologies. “They can go and search for something like critical incident management and take a course or an ISO course and not necessarily be headed toward a certification. I call those ‘enabling technologies,’” Bridges said.
EDS offers its employees many opportunities to learn at work as well. Bridges said that on-the-job training is often the only way to teach skills that involve proprietary client servers and systems. The company also employs job rotations to give those in positions such as system architect an accurate view of the scope and depth of the work done in that position.
Many of the most popular IT certifications in the industry today have been identified as part of the EDS multi-year plan, the driving force behind the technologies and IT certifications the company offers. The multi-year plan addresses technologies from the company’s strategic alliance partners, including Cisco, Microsoft, Sun, Oracle, Siebel, EMC and SAP. “The strategic alliance partners are from the business aspect not necessarily the training aspect,” Bridges said. “So they’re partners in developing solutions for clients. As such, we have a cooperative and collaborative approach to training where they provide training for our people and subject-matter experts’ input into our training programs and programs that we’re developing. They give us guidance on what certifications we should be developing our people in and then help to provide some of the resources for those. For example, Oracle recently provided subject-matter experts to teach some instructor-led classes for me in some of the new Oracle technologies, and Microsoft provides some classes on Microsoft technologies at no cost to EDS.”
For EDS, certifications are important enough that the company is willing to provide the means to help its IT professionals gain relevant and necessary credentials. In return for the array of technical training offered, EDS demands excellent academic records, relevant job experience and, equally important, passion. Without passion for your work, Bridges said that you will never be happy in your career. “You’ve got to live every day with