Cloud Native Bootcamp driving a country-scale Digital Transformation

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For the longest time, Saudi Arabia relied on its oil-based economy. But under the Vision 2030 program, the Kingdom is heading towards a strong and diverse sectors driven by technology and innovation. The goal? To harness a young demographic to carry out digital initiatives across industries.

As ambitious as it sounds, country wide digital transformation is achievable nonetheless. This scale has been achieved elsewhere, by myself, the programme lead of this initiative. As it is 2020, it all begins with a Bootcamp on Cloud Native technology!

Vision 2030

Despite its prosperity, Saudi Arabia ranks 42nd out of the 67 countries I evaluated for national technological maturity from a picklist. Of course, this puts the country below UAE, Qatar, the USA, and most European countries. This will soon be challenged, as Suadi launches bold initiatives for social and economic digitisation under the Vision 2030 Program.

The key objectives for modernisation are economic diversification, job growth and delivering government and private services efficiently. To achieve these goals, the government is supporting and enabling digital transformation in domestic companies; SMEs and enterprises alike. It is also investing in specialised courses and training programs to bridge the technical skills gap and transform the available talent into a digital change agent. As Saudi Arabia warms up to cutting-edge technologies such as cloud computing, analytics and IoT, organisations need to be in the pursuit of tech skills needed to adapt to these emerging trends. One way to pursue this is this Bootcamp.

Saudi Digital Academy has sponsored a Bootcamp for gifted IT graduates. The mission is to equip young professionals with the most relevant, future-proof digital skills to boost their employability. It will enable them to thrive in the digital economy of tomorrow, and will help bring the country forward into the digital age. Saudi Arabia wants to be relevant in Cloud Native engineering, not be left behind by the pace of change and it starts with investment in the youth.

Exploring the future of a digital job market in the Middle East

One of the key drivers for Saudi's digital revolution is its soaring population and a large pool of readily available talent. As the government and private companies alike adopt a Cloud Native approach, and embrace innovation and cutting-edge technologies like distributed computing, machine learning, and IoT, more than 60,000 jobs specific to cloud technologies will be generated by 2022. The digitisation of government service portfolios will also trigger a high demand for technical skills in cybersecurity. Now is the time, they think, to get ahead with online courses and certifications to develop the industry's top skills.

Why online?

Not everybody has the time or the resource to benefit from courses offered at training centers. But the field of technology is evolving fast, so to stay relevant in a digital economy, keeping up with the latest trends and advancements in technology is essential. Online training offers the accessibility and flexibility that is impossible to achieve through on-site training. It can consolidate knowledge and real-industry insights from across the world in a single platform.

Students can learn at their own pace, visit and revisit previous sessions until they achieve clarity and understanding. What's better than a hands-on training from an industry expert within the comfort of your home? Regardless of where you live or how busy your schedule may be, you can easily leverage your internet connection and hand-held devices to master in-demand tech skills to boost your career prospects.

Intending to promote a culture of continuous learning, KnowledgeHut, in collaboration with the Saudi Digital Academy, has asked Bryan Dollery, to design three bootcamps to produce highly-skilled engineers proficient in state-of-the-art tools and technologies. Students can choose a bootcamp based on their personal preference and gain expertise within 4 to 5 months. Each program is conducted online by highly experienced professionals with great teaching skills. The virtual classrooms have an atmosphere that encourages discussions, and the labs are interactive.

Online training doesn't mean that there aren’t assessments. After each week of full-time classes, there is a weekly exam, and another at the end of each trimester. To further strengthen the skills and provide hands-on experience, there is a keystone project at the end of the course. This project also serves as a portfolio that students can demonstrate to prospective employers. Bryan has taken it upon himself to ensure that the students evolve into capable engineers by the end of the bootcamp.

Technology stack

The program starts by teaching skills that every engineer in 2020 should have -- Docker and Kubernetes. The future belongs to the cloud and to leverage the agility, performance, scalability and security offered by the public cloud; containerisation is the way forward. While Docker emerged as the default container platform, allowing easy deployment and fast time-to-market, and it is Kubernetes that has taken it a step further by automating the process of scaling and managing containers.

The bootcamps are designed to go beyond traditional academic learning and instill hands-on skills relevant in an actual workplace setting. Within a period of 4 to 5 months, the program will teach the equivalent of at least 2-years of real-industry experience.

The tooling on Bootcamp is primarily driven by Linux and Cloud Native Technologies and security is addressed in every module. In the first trimester, they study agile and DevSecOps processes, acquire basic Linux skills, and are introduced to AWS. In the second trimester, they move on to immutable infrastructure as code using Packer and Terraform, with Jenkins for CI/CD. As an example system, they build a Kubernetes cluster using Rancher's K3S distribution. In the third trimester, they move on to using Tekton for automation and build a solid, enterprise-quality platform with components for logging, monitoring, tracing, and a Hashicorp based secure service-mesh using Consul Connect and Vault. The students come away with a handful of 3rd party certificates, including 3 DevOps certs, basic ITIL, and are certified scrum masters.

The Full Stack Development Bootcamp follows a similarly practical path, focusing on the most common languages today: python, java, and javascript. In the first semester, the students will study secure SDLC practices and processes, gain a certified scrum-master certificate, and acquaint themselves with the three languages they will be studying later. In the 2nd trimester they are introduced to various databases, including SQL and noSQL, and a more in-depth study of the three languages. In the third trimester, we bring in UI frameworks: We focus on React because of the frameworks recently found dominance of the landscape, and we bring together all the layers to build a full-stack web-application.

The final part of the puzzle is solved in the Automated Testing Bootcamp. In this course, we begin by introducing agile processes, automation, and security. We move on to automated testing tools, including static analysis tools and techniques, and end up studying load and stress testing tools, testing as code, and automation tools using Jenkins.

The aim ultimately is to bring the three programs together. We do not spend much time on older technologies. We're only focusing on skills and tools that will be in demand in Saudi Arabia as it catches up with the western world in its digital transformation journey. And nothing will hold the country back as much as investing resources in outdated platforms. For instance, why waste time and effort in learning VMs when the world has already moved on to a cheaper, secure and robust Kubernetes.

Digital revolution is coming

Saudi Arab is transforming into a digital economy, but Saudis are far from being an authoritative voice in the digital world. The program does not neglect the importance of building a strong social network. This program will train professionals that can transform businesses and companies; however, a country-wide digital revolution is coming, and much more needs to be done. Through building a strong social network and spreading the knowledge and skills to a wider audience, the country can truly realise the ambitions of Vision 2030 and become a leader of innovation and technology across the region.

Women in tech

We take pride in the fact that female students have outnumbered and outperformed male students in the Bootcamps to date. I'm hopeful that this incredible trend, of redressing some balance, will continue over the next iterations. Despite common misconceptions in the media, the Saudi government of today is taking revolutionary steps to encourage young professionals to acquire in-demand skills. Under the Vision 2030 program, the government is striving to increase the female labor force participation to 28% from the present 23% and this sector is set to be a huge part of that.

In a world where the spotlight of news focuses somewhat on outrage, I hope you agree, it is nice to discover that the reality of Saudi tech culture is a lot more nuanced? And today, times are good for rising talent in Saudi's Bootcamps.