Spark NZ and Azure: The learning journey
Spark New Zealand, the nation’s largest telecommunications and digital services company, focusses on the future. Their ambition is: "to help all of New Zealand win big in a digital world."
Spark NZ is passionate about using technology to be truly useful to their customers and that includes realising the delivery of an exceptional digital experience, day after day.
Peter Langham is Spark New Zealand’s Domain Chapter Lead - Data Engineering & Data Science, and is responsible for developing the business’s capability, maturity, strategy and technology roadmap, including the architecture for business in the data engineering and data science space. It’s his job to make sure that Spark NZ has the technology to realise their customer experience goals.
“As part of Spark’s overall strategy, we have some pretty large ambitions in terms of what we’re doing in the data and analytics space,” says Langham. “We use customer insights to understand how they engage with us. That way we can offer them the right products and services at the right time, and do that in a seamless, friction-free way.
We knew utilising AI and intelligent automation to take advantage of the vast amount of data we already have, and continue to amass, could provide our customers with the best possible digital experience.”
Langham undertook a broad analytics capability assessment of the business’s existing on-premise data platforms. Spark NZ took the results and decided to migrate their platforms and data pipelines to the cloud. Specifically, Microsoft Azure.
The decision to adopt Azure was only part of Spark NZ’s cloud journey. For the project to be a success, they had to develop the internal capability to migrate and then continue to successfully manage the new technology platform.
“We have a team of around 70 people in our Data Engineering and Data Science chapter, and a significant number of people in other aligned chapters skilled in our legacy technologies,” says Langham. “It was a large task to cross and upskill in the tools and technologies the team needed to work effectively in Microsoft Azure.”
Spark NZ worked closely with Microsoft to develop the training roadmap. Microsoft onboarded Spark NZ onto their Technical Skills for Business programme, a comprehensive series of courses specifically developed to help large enterprise clients upskill staff on the pathway to successful Azure certification.
Auldhouse was appointed by Microsoft to be the sole Learning Partner in New Zealand to deliver Azure training to all clients aligned to the Technical Skills for Business programme. And as a long-time training partner for Spark NZ already, it proved a great fit.
“Spark’s relationship with Auldhouse is excellent,” says Langham. “They’re very proactive about letting us know when courses are running and getting our people onto those courses. And they’re very easy to work with.”
From fundamentals to certification
Auldhouse started Spark NZ’s Azure training and certification programme in September 2019 with a one-day class on Azure Fundamentals. Over 50 employees participated, using a combination of in-person and Auldhouse Anywhere remote training.
In addition to the initial Fundamentals training, Auldhouse has gone on to train 60+ Spark NZ and CCL students on various role-based Azure classes ranging from Azure Administrator, Azure Architect, Azure Security, Azure Developer and Azure Data Solutions training.
“We really wanted as many people as possible up-skilled in these new technologies,” says Langham, “even if they weren’t directly part of the team building out our new Azure capability”.
“We wanted them all to get up to that fundamentals layer and then, depending on their roles, undertake more specialised training and certifications. As part of the programme we got 60 subsidised spots on the course Auldhouse ran in conjunction with Microsoft. We’ve made a real push to get our people doing Azure courses and gaining certification. The team were keen to learn and develop, to upskill themselves in the technology. As a team and as individuals, they appreciated the opportunity for professional development we offered.”
A positive outlook
“Our Azure training with Auldhouse was a positive experience for both the business and our people,” says Langham.
“We had an excellent result. Our team is trained, and we have a good number of certified people already. Staff engagement is high, and the feedback overall is overwhelmingly positive.”