If you follow some of our colleagues on LinkedIn, you may have noticed a large number of certificates of completion and accreditations popping up on your feed. This isn’t solely because Cloud is one of the hottest and most interesting topics regarding learning and technical growth in 2022, but because Options has set out on a mission to not only be the number one Public Cloud operator in the financial sector, but to provide powerful career paths for our team through opportunities and support in upskilling, training, and development.

Back in July 2021, we collected feedback from our colleagues regarding areas to upskill, and the message was clear; the team wanted to know all there was to know on the latest and greatest in Cloud Technologies, so we set ourselves the objective to successfully complete 50 Cloud certs in 12 months.

It’s understandable why any technical, forward-thinking individual would want to delve deeper into the segment as Cloud Technology, alongside Artificial intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), is shaping the future for modern businesses and generating contemporary solutions for current problems.

As a result, the product produced by the training team was our “Road to Gold” Microsoft Certification Programme which provides our staff with a structure to tackle what is now a densely populated knowledge base. With learning and development being a cornerstone of our business culture, we believed it was important to invest in those colleagues that are upskilling in these valuable subject matters.

What is the Programme?

Microsoft offers their technical partners the chance to qualify as a “Gold Partner” in many different subdivisions, overwise known as “Competencies”. You can become a Gold or Silver partner based on the ability to demonstrate that you have met certain business operational conditions such as; Microsoft tenants deployed and maintained, users licensed and supported, alongside many more prerequisites.

In conjunction with this, to obtain Gold Partner Status in a competency, employees must simultaneously hold specific qualifications and certifications in that area.

When creating our programme, we selected 11 relevant Cloud Computing Competency areas where we felt it was important to become a Microsoft Gold Partner and incentivised our staff to study and complete the certifications necessary to obtain Partner Status.

How does it work?

The 11 different competencies included around 13 independent certifications, 50 of these certifications were required to be held by existing staff members at the same time – some of whom had to hold multiple specific certifications to obtain Gold. Put simply, reaching Gold Partner with Microsoft in one Competency alone requires a huge amount of work, never mind obtaining Gold Partner in 11!

Our learning and development team categorised each of the certifications and exams into two different levels of difficulty – “medium” and “difficult”.

  • If an employee completed a “medium” Microsoft Certification and it was required for Gold Partner Status, they received a £2,500 (or local equivalent) pay bump for as long as they held the certificate.
  • If an employee completed a “difficult” certificate within the programme and it was required for Gold Partner Status, they received a £5,000 pay bump for as long as they held the certificate!
  • To keep the team invested and motivated, Options still pay out 50% of the pay bump amount per cert, even if we already had the amount required to obtain Gold Partner Status.

To add, we also ensured that anyone who completed one of the relevant certificates in 2021, before the programme was introduced, was accounted for and compensated accordingly.

How far along are we?

To date, our staff have completed and still hold 43 of the relevant certificates that the “Road to Gold” programme encompassed. With only 7 certifications to go until we hit our original goal of 50 certs in 12 months, a grand total of £155,500 has been allocated to this incentive in the form of pay-bumps for those who completed one of the relevant and well sought-after accreditations. Consequently, we are extremely proud to say that we have qualified as a Microsoft Gold Partner in six Competencies including:

  • Cloud Platform
  • Cloud Productivity
  • Project and Portfolio Management
  • Small and Midmarket Cloud Solutions

Crucial components of our business culture include learning, development, and opportunity. The Options “Road to Gold” Microsoft Certification Programme is the perfect illustration of that, ensuring our team is at the forefront of technology advancements and providing the Options Gold Standard for clients!

– Liam Fegan, Belfast Support Team Lead

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