AT&T brought 11 service provider partners to Plano, Texas, to apply their online certification training in network design, whiteboarding and "customer" presentations.

July 15, 2015

4 Min Read
CAPStone to AT&T's Certification Brings Partners to Role-Play in Plano

By Ellen Muraskin

The first eleven Master-level graduates of the AT&T Partner Exchange Certification Achievement Program (CAP) come from service-provider resellers of AT&T high-speed networking who, having completed the online core and professional courses of CAP’s Network Professional track, proceeded to the in-person final tier – the CAPStone – at the AT&T Foundry in Plano, Texas.

Channel Partners talked with two of the graduates. One is Peter Arts, account manager of Morristown, New Jersey-based Alliant Technologies, a nationwide licensed network provider focused on infrastructure as a service and data-center services, as well as unified communications and utility computing. The other is Michelle Henley, senior sales director, Creative Technology Partners. We wanted to learn what they took from this immersive, two-and-a-half-day experience in Plano. 

Channel Partners: How did you come to take the CAPStone class and what were the prerequisites for it?

Peter Arts: I did all the online courses for the networking and mobility certifications and got those. Then I was given the option — I was told there would be whiteboarding, role playing, round-robin discussions. In my years of experience, these are some of the most wonderful sales exercises to take, and actually to make the skills stick. Because it’s not theory; you live it and breathe it.

Channel Partners Online: What did you bring to the CAPStone class? 

Arts: I brought a huge thirst to fill some gaps in my practical knowledge. I got my hard wiring at Ma Bell, but when I came to Alliant Technologies, I had been out of telecom for 20 years. My boss, Phil Towle, who had been with AT&T for 20-some years, worked with me to bring me up to speed on MPLS and all the various AT&T offerings – but it wasn’t anything formalized. 

CP: Describe the course materials and/or exercises.

Michelle Henley: They gave you a case study to read. Ours was about a hotel under renovation; other groups had other verticals. They had some particular challenges as they related to voice and data connectivity. We had the opportunity to understand where the challenges were, and after we read the case study, we had the opportunity to ask questions of the “customer.” 

We then had to fit which solutions made sense for their business and create a Visio diagram of how that would fit with into their locations and what that network would look like. Then we presented it to the “customer.” You were rated on how well you present, and the solution you put together.

CP: What was the most valuable part of the class experience for you?

Arts: For me, the opportunity to sit with both …

… IT people and business people … to say, “Here are the needs that we discussed, here are the network-transport aspects, here we’re taking a Netbond tube to Azure.” That was invaluable to me.

Henley: The teacher did a really nice job of showing us how to draw it out on a whiteboard, and I think that’s really important when you’re out in front of a customer; to talk in their own terminology, draw their locations, how it would look to them. That was one piece of it that I found very helpful. It gave me confidence to be able to go a little bit deeper into those conversations than I have in the past.

CP: What did the on-site aspect of the class add to the experience?

Arts: The makeup of the class. We had operations managers who were AT&T savvy but not sales savvy. We had this one marvelous fellow who’d been in the IT racket for one year, and he was absolutely comfortable in his own skin. No attitude and no fear. Just wanted to learn, was delighted at anything that he could get from people and had a lot of good things to bring back.

It was this wonderful mix of ages and levels and types of experience, and as a result, everybody was learning something. Nobody copped an attitude. When someone brought up a point that to some degree was showing off their chops, it wasn’t looked at as somebody showing off, it was cool. It gave us context. I can’t overstress how it keeps people from going into their shell or feeling intimidated.

Henley: The energy in the room and at the AT&T Foundry was exceptional and I found great benefit sharing with the team at our offices as well.

CP: How did you find the faculty?

Arts: The teachers and the subject-matter experts that they brought to the table from different AT&T disciplines were wonderful. They were so enthused about this project and so excited to have this sort of certification, they had heard all the plans of going to a partner-driven type of model, and now there was this reality behind. it. We fed off of their enthusiasm, and they fed off our pleasure.

CP: How would you rate the certification program in general?

Henley: What’s neat about this certification program is that it’s tied into fitting the right AT&T solution into the business needs and then giving us the flexibility to wrap around our services as well, to make it a better customer experience. So, for example, if we’re able to provide VoIP solutions, to assure we can make that a turnkey experience from start to finish, as it relates to project management, taking care of inside wiring, and installation needs on site. 

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