Red Hat Exec: Training Investments Reflect ‘Renewed Emphasis On Partners’

Partners are ‘getting more content, they’re getting content more quickly and they’re going to have continuous access to it. And all of that is going to put them on a path to getting certified,’ Ken Goetz, Red Hat’s vice president of customer success, tells CRN.


In response to past issues raised by partners, IBM subsidiary Red Hat is investing in improvements to its training and certification offerings for partners, including free access to a range of training courses, discounts on certification exams and a new dynamic skills path experience to help with education goals, job roles and IT challenges.

The investments address past partner concerns about accessing certifications, which for a long time was considered a separate program from customer certifications, Ken Goetz, Red Hat’s vice president of customer success, told CRN in an interview.

Sometimes, training for partners would lag behind training for customers, depriving partners of training for the latest versions of technology produced by the Raleigh, N.C.-based vendor.

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“We basically just said, ‘OK, the courses and the curriculum we give to our customers to help them get certified, we’re going to make those same courses available to our partners,” Goetz said. “In the past, the content we provided partners was a completely separate development angle. So they weren’t necessarily getting the latest and greatest.”

Now, partners are “getting the exact same content—which we build for our customers—on the latest versions. So they’re getting more content, they’re getting content more quickly and they’re going to have continuous access to it. And all of that is going to put them on a path to getting certified.”

James Marcinek, a Red Hat architect business development manager at Tallahassee, Fla.-based partner Mainline Information System, a member of CRN’s 2022 Managed Service Provider 500, told CRN that he’s been a fan of the vendor’s training programs since he became a Red Hat Certified Engineer in the early 2000s at his own expense.

Even with all the Microsoft, IBM, NetApp and other vendor certifications Marcinek has received over the years, “bar none Red Hat is definitely up there when it comes to what I feel is a top accomplishment,” he said.

He said he appreciates the labs Red Hat provides, even for refresher courses. Those labs differentiate Red Hat from multiple choice exams other vendors provide. With those multiple choice exams, a test taker could guess his or her way to a certification, he said.

“Now that Red Hat’s offering a lot of their training to the partners, I just think it’s going to be a great accelerator for the partners to have their resources, take excellent training as well as achieve certifications that speak for themselves,” Marcinek said.

Red Hat has long billed its products as agnostic when it comes to cloud vendor services—it works with Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and, of course, its parent’s IBM Cloud. That makes Red Hat certifications transferable and useful no matter the cloud environment workers are in, Marcinek said.

The subsidiary’s reputation for working with multiple cloud vendors is central to IBM’s strategy of winning the hybrid cloud market while it is far behind AWS and Microsoft.

During IBM’s most recent quarterly earnings report in January, the Armonk, N.Y.-based tech giant said that Red Hat grew 19 percent year over year and more than doubled its signings, totaling more than $4 billion since inception.

‘A Renewed Emphasis On Partners’

One of the changes to Red Hat’s training and certification platform is the launch of new dynamic skills paths. Learners can use the Red Hat Training skills path finder by providing objectives and background information. The dynamic skills path experience generates a curriculum for achieving the desired certification out of 30 available.

Paths are available for beginners and experienced practitioners, according to the company. The paths are based on infrastructure modernization, IT automation, migrations, upgrades, container management, accelerating application development and other use cases.

Red Hat also announced that it has expanded training and certification offerings once only available to customers to partners for free, giving them access to self-paced online courses in cloud computing, containers, virtualization, automation and other areas, available in more than seven languages.

Partners can buy instructor-led training, Red Hat learning subscriptions and Red Hat certification exams at a discounted rate, according to the company. The training materials are aimed at customer-facing IT support, consultants, solutions architects, systems administrators, developers and other partner roles.

Red Hat’s investment in its training programs is part of a companywide effort to better recognize its partner ecosystem, Goetz said.

“This is really a renewed emphasis on partners across the company,” he said. “Ecosystem is critical. And the company has been very clear about how we need to empower partners to deepen their abilities to help us deliver solutions and help make Red Hat products more successful in the environment that we operate in.”

Goetz said that he wants to add more educational co-delivery with partners so that they can apply their training in the field. He eventually wants to do away with the financial cost of a certification exam for partners. Not because of the cost of training, which is a few hundred dollars, but to make accessibility easier. Red Hat courses are available on learning platforms such as edX, Coursera and even YouTube.

“If you have to pay for it, someone’s got to sign off on the PO or credit card or something somewhere,” he said. “And it just makes it hard. So anything we can do to take barriers down to simplify the message, to simplify the access.”

He regards technical skills as an important measure of the health of Red Hat’s partner ecosystem. An online forum called the Red Hat Learning Community has about 100,000 members in it for peer-to-peer learning and helping stuck learners.

With the cost of training not the biggest issue for partners, Goetz said he more often hears complaints around motivating employees to take courses and motivating employers to grant the time for workers to skill up.

The usefulness of a Red Hat certification across various environments is a motivator for employees who want to grow their expertise not only in Red Hat’s product suite, Goetz said. For example, SAP deployments are often done on Linux, which partners can use through Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL).

“Linux is the most ubiquitous open-source project in the world,” he said. “It’s one of the largest operating systems. So when you come out, you learn technology that’s predicated on Linux, like our products are—it has huge applicability.”

He continued: “Let’s say you’re in the delivery arm of one of our partners—having core Linux skills and understanding containerization—they’re going to be skills that can take you anywhere in the future because Linux is the backbone of containers and containers is the backbone of the multi-cloud, the hybrid cloud. I’ve actually never heard anyone tell me that they didn’t think these skills were highly transferable and valuable in their careers.”

And all Red Hat exams are performance based without any multiple choice tests where a learner can guess their way into faking proficiency with a technology, he said.

Goetz said that sometimes employers are afraid of giving employees time for training because a worker could use that training to leave the company for a better paying job. He said that the opposite is true and a motivator for employers giving their workers time for education.

“What ends up happening is our data shows that the people who get certified, they stay longer,” he said. “Not only that, but they ramp up more quickly and they’re higher-performing. So who wouldn’t want that in an employee—[one] who ramps up quicker, is higher-performing and stays longer.”

He continued: “So it makes sense that companies that are providing these benefits to their employees would have higher retention rates because they‘re showing that their employees are the No. 1 resource, and they’re willing to invest in them.”

Goetz’s comments were echoed earlier this year during a presentation at the XChange 2022 event hosted by CRN parent The Channel Company.

Steve Cadigan, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based employment consultant with Cadigan Talent Ventures and author who served as LinkedIn’s first chief human resources officer from 2009 to 2012, told a crowd of XChange attendees that workers today seek job opportunities where they can learn and train for jobs of the future.

Job candidates know that technology changes too quickly for them to enter a job prepared for the tasks of next year and further into the future, Cadigan said. Companies have overvalued employees who work at a job for more than five years.

“Talent’s telling us, you know what, I want something more than job security—I want career security,” Cadigan said. “Who would you rather work for—someone who only cares about you when you work there? Or someone that cares about you for your whole career?”

Giving workers time to learn can take away from short-term revenue-generating activity, but it is an investment in the future, Goetz told CRN. In Red Hat’s study of its training programs, the company has seen four and five times the return on investment for employers with more productive and efficient employees resolving support issues faster.

“What I like to challenge people with if this ever comes up is, what is the cost of not training?” he said. “People leave. Their skills become outdated. You don’t have the certifications you need to compete in the marketplace. There’s a whole host of downsides.”