From Trainee to Trainer: 5 considerations to organize training sessions

From Trainee to Trainer: 5 considerations to organize training sessions

Learnings from Running Training and Certifications for Open Source Software for AI

Published Apr 12, 2024

From certifications to community building

Going to trainings and earning certificates is an integral part of any software engineer’s continuous journey. I remember going to my first set of trainings for natural language processing back when I was starting my career at Amazon. It was about 5 months into my first full time software engineering job, and it was career changing for me.
That was the first time that I had gotten actual hands-on training for anything practical! Not only that, but there was an instructor there that was available to help us. Building something live is always nerve wracking, but having someone there makes it much more doable. You know what you’re going to build, have an idea of how to build it, and have backup if things go wrong.
A few years later, I got the chance to give some tech talks. After a few of these talks, I realized that people would come up to me to ask for a workshop. It didn’t click immediately, but after getting the same question a few times, I realized that duh, these people were devs just like me. At the core of their personality was this desire to learn and build.
That lightbulb moment was what triggered me to start my own workshop series. Since I have always been passionate about AI and open source, I kicked off a community centered around open source software for AI in January of 2024 and started hosting hackathons with a workshop component and individual workshops. In March, we crossed 500 members.
In this article, we will walk through the five steps on how we are building this community and end with a summary.
  1. Ensuring Certificates are Recognized
  2. Running Virtual Trainings for Certifications
  3. Running In Person Trainings for Certifications
  4. Timing and Staffing Your Events
  5. Recruiting People to Come to Your Events
  6. Summary of Running Trainings for Certifications

Ensuring Certificates are Recognized

Going to trainings and workshops is always beneficial. However, the certifications aren’t always useful. In order for the certificates to be useful, they have to be recognized by someone. So, for us, one of the first steps we had to take was to ensure that our certificates are recognized. The first part of this step is surprisingly easy.
All we had to do was reach out to the involved companies building the products we were using in our workshops and get their approval. I simply created the tutorial, and sent it over for approval. Then, we asked for permission to use their logo on our certificates. The next step here is to ensure that other companies also recognize these certificates.

Running Virtual Trainings for Certifications

There are two ways to run training sessions - virtually, or in person. As an attendee, the main advantage of virtual trainings for you is that you can access them from anywhere in the world. As part of the organizing team, the main advantage for us is that we can give them from anywhere in the world and reach almost anyone.
On the other hand, the main disadvantage for both attendees and the organizing team is the difficulty in interfacing. You can’t just have someone sit down next to you and debug it. Since it’s not one-on-one training, you usually can’t share your screen either, you have to rely on the ability to communicate what’s going on asynchronously.
All in all, virtual trainings are great for expanding experiential education to underserved populations. If you’re in a big city or tech hub like the bay area, Seattle, NYC, London, or Shanghai, it’s best to attend in person trainings. However, if you’re outside of those areas, it’s best to attend virtual training sessions like the ones offered by AWS. 

Running In Person Trainings for Certifications

Running in person training sessions are actually much harder than running virtual training sessions. The reason is that in person training sessions require a venue, sometimes food, and people to be there to staff it. However, the nice thing about in person training sessions is that you can really connect with the people there.
These workshops provide a natural way to meet people interested in learning and developing just like you. They also provide direct access to instructors who can sit down with you and help you figure things out if you need. Of course, the downside of in person training workshops is the lack of access to people in remote areas. Unless you live near where the workshop is being held, you can’t attend it.
So, in person workshops are great for people who work in tech centers around the world. They are not only great opportunities to get hands-on training and earn certificates, but also to network and meet like minded people.

Side Note: Getting the Venue Space

This section is a note to people who are organizing these workshops. Finding a good venue space has been one of the biggest challenges for us. It took me 6 to 7 months to find a suitable, repeatable venue. However, as your events get bigger, you may need to look for other venue space as well as look to get people to help run your workshops.

Timing and Staffing Your Events

Other than just getting the venue itself, we also have to consider where the venue is, how far away it is from us and our target audience, and whether it’s suitable for running a workshop. On top of that, there’s also timing. Your goal with timing is to make your events as accessible as possible.
For virtual workshops, this could be during the day, or moved around to accommodate audiences in multiple locations. In person training workshops are a little more complicated. You need to time them after work. You also need to think about whether or not the people running the events can make it, and if it’s at dinner time, you’ll likely need to provide food.

Recruiting People to Come to Your Events

This section is again for those of you running trainings and certifications. Once you go through the work of planning these things and setting them up, you have to actually get people to come. And that’s hard. You’re competing with not just other tech and learning events, but literally anything else these people could spend their time doing.
Your target audiences look something like this (in descending order of interest): people who are highly interested in advancing their careers, people who want to learn about the topic, college students or grad students, and everyone else. So, when you do your advertisements, keep this in mind. Target the right people, on the right channels, and your events will flourish.

Conclusion and Summary of Running Trainings for Certifications

This article speaks to both people interested in getting hands-on workshop training on new technology and giving these workshops. We talked about how it’s important to have your certificates recognized, and the tradeoffs of both virtual and in person training sessions.
In person training sessions are great for real time support, getting to meet people with similar interests, and getting to meet the organizing teams. However, they’re not very accessible to people who don’t live in tech hubs. On the other hand, virtual trainings are great for connecting with a wider audience, helping the underserved, and are much more flexible. However, they’re not great for natural networking.
There are challenges involved with both virtual and in person workshops. With virtual workshops, you have most technical challenges. With in person workshops, you have mostly organizational challenges. At Open Source Software for AI, we do both! This is so we can support both the local communities as well as the underserved audiences that don’t live in tech hubs.

About the Author

If your company is interested in creating a training, or if you’d like to endorse our trainings, contact me or drop a comment below!
Yujian Tang is a community leader and technology educator with a strong background in software engineering. He started his career at IBM at the age of 16 after winning the American Computer Science League twice in a row. After IBM, he attended college at the University of North Carolina where he studied computer science, neuroscience, and statistics.
During his undergrad tenure, he published two research papers, including one to IEEE Big Data. Following graduation, he worked on the AutoML infrastructure tool at Amazon, generating millions in revenue. From there, he jumped into startups and stumbled his way into DevRel after writing 200+ technical articles on his personal software blog, PythonAlgos.

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