3 Leaders Share Insight on an ‘Immersive and Very Inclusive’ All-Female Data Engineering Academy

Sponsored by Avanade

Anita Crook, Nike Elemo, and Vidya Thirumalai. Photos courtesy of Avanade.

Anita Crook, Nike Elemo, and Vidya Thirumalai. Photos courtesy of Avanade.

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April 15, 2024 at 2:31PM UTC

Are you interested in growing your skills in data engineering or entering this exciting, growing, and competitive field? If so, Avanade’s Data Engineering Academy — a three-week, hands-on virtual training program — is right for you. 

The Data Engineering Academy is a unique accelerated-track opportunity for Data Engineers to advance their skills and train in Microsoft Services tools, such as the Microsoft Azure data and analytics services and data engineering concepts. 

For three data engineering managers and former program participants—Anita Crook, Nike Elemo, and Vidya Thirumalai— the Data Engineering Academy set them on a new career path with many benefits..

The goal of the academy “is to encourage women to become skilled data engineers,” shares Elemo. To achieve this, Elemo notes that the Data Engineering Academy was built to be “immersive and very inclusive.”

Avanade's Data Engineering Academy is a true reflection of their culture “of focusing on training and building skills for employees,” remarks Thirumalai. “It also highlights the commitment of Avanade to build a gender-balanced workforce and upskill female engineers in newer technology and increase opportunities for women. We had great support from many women at Avanade, including the leaders who were part of creating the Academy.” Crook agrees, noting that the all-woman Data Engineering academy “shows an investment in both employee professional development and gender diversity that I’ve found to be rare in today’s corporate world.”

As for what the program entails, Crook explains that through a balanced schedule of live instructor-led training, self-paced work, virtual labs, and breakout sessions, the Data Engineering Academy lets participants immerse themselves in their studies. “One key benefit is the immersive, hands-on experience with self-paced labs that the Data Engineering Academy provides,” Crook shares. “Our calendars were blocked from eight a.m. to five p.m. for the entire three weeks …  [so we] could focus on learning and honing skills.” And she’s not the only person who benefited from this style of learning. Thirumalai, too, loved the dedicated training time.

Read on to learn more about the many benefits of this program, and how it helped each of these leaders excel and grow!

What are the key benefits of the Data Engineering Academy and/or how did this program benefit you personally?

Crook: The Data Engineering Academy provides a pre-configured Microsoft Azure environment for three weeks without the limitation of cost and processing thresholds, so participants are free to learn and explore to the full extent. It’s sometimes difficult to find the time to study for certifications, so the dedicated work hours to learn and study was also an extra bonus. Finally, the camaraderie amongst the all-female group was also one of my favorite parts; we all felt encouraged to be ourselves.

Elemo: The benefits are numerous. I came into the academy with anticipation to learn new skills and become a confident data engineer with in-demand skills. Due to my participation, I had most of my doubts cleared, and I became more confident in taking those skills to my clients.

Thirumalai: I have been involved with enterprise data for over 20 years. I was intrigued with the Data Engineering Academy and the focus on the Azure cloud concepts, which I had been interested in learning more about. Another big appeal was that the academy was geared toward women — I was intrigued by the opportunity to be able to be with other women engineers! Further, joining Avanade through the Data Engineering Academy was very beneficial to me as a new employee. We had the opportunity to meet and hear from many people from the business about their journeys through Avanade. We came into Avanade and had a network within the first month. And, having two certifications completed as part of the academy has given me confidence in the content we learned.

What advice would you give to other women who are considering joining this program?

Crook: Do it! If you are a data professional who is a constant learner and enjoys working with other talented and knowledgeable data professionals on the best cloud platform with the largest Microsoft consulting firm in the world, come join us!

Elemo: Don’t wait — it is intense, but you come out as a great data engineer. 

Thirumalai: Take advantage of it. It is not just a technical academy, it is an opportunity to hear directly from different leaders across the business, and specifically from some of the women leaders at Avanade. It is an opportunity to enhance your skills and puts you at an advantage in your career.

Finally, what’s your No. 1 piece of advice for women looking to grow a career in tech?

Crook: Be constantly learning and take advantage of networking opportunities. Certifications are certain to catch the attention of recruiters. It is easier to grow a career in a technology company because of the focus on emerging technologies; for example, technology companies like Avanade tend to invest a great deal in training, and they help you keep your skills relevant.

Elemo: Come in; don’t delay.

Thirumalai: Technology is part of all our lives, and there is constant change and growth in tech. There are a lot of opportunities in technology, and you can choose how you define your career. We need women to be part of the technology growth because we bring a different perspective that needs to be part of new innovations. Be confident of yourself, and my hope is that the younger women in technology will no longer be the only woman in their meetings.

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