For those who are familiar with the Aviatrix Certified Engineer (ACE) Program, you may know Katie Holms, Director of Community and Customer Education. She is known for her relentless efforts to extend education, training, and networking opportunities to those with a thirst for learning cloud networking. She helped launch the ACE Program in late fall of 2019 and has helped grow the program from less than 60 ACE members to 20,000. Her superpower is being bold, and she sees obstacles as opportunities to explore new avenues to reach her goals. She is a firm believer in the power of collaboration and harnesses great minds and doers to help her plan and execute.
I recently had the pleasure of spending time with Katie, who always exudes an infectious smile and enthusiastic and positive energy. During our conversation, I learned more about her career and her journey through the ACE Program over the past several years, as well as what she has planned for the future.
Below is a transcript of our conversation. You can also find in our Employee Spotlights section where Katie joins more than a dozen other Aviatrix standouts.
Q. You made a transition from VMware, a company with an established brand, to Aviatrix in late 2019. What motivated you to make this move?
A. VMware was an incredible company to work for. It was my first job out of college so in many ways, it shaped and molded me, but it also allowed me to grow both professionally and as an individual. After five years, I was ready for a change! I joined Aviatrix as a marketing manager of many things. Being part of a lean team meant I was managing events, working with partners, helping with social media, launching the ACE Program, and so much more. It was a killer opportunity to wear multiple hats, learn new skills, and introduce innovative ideas while working alongside a team I respect greatly.
Q. How did the Aviatrix Certified Engineer (ACE) Program, which grew from 57 to 25,000 members since its November 2019 launch, come to fruition?
A. The ACE Program originated from a talented group of four masterminds at Aviatrix – Nauman Mustafa, Shahzad Ali, Hammad Alam, and Saad Mirza. They had experience launching and running certification programs at past companies and saw a major gap in the cloud networking education space. The original 57 ACE members (ACEs) were Aviatrix employees, customers, and partner champions that deserved to be recognized for their expertise in cloud networking. In November 2019, we had two ACE designations – ACE Associate and ACE Professional. I feel fortunate to have entered on the ground floor so I could be part of the launch of this industry-changing program. I managed customer advocacy in the past and saw ACE as the next best step where we could make heroes out of industry experts.
Q. How did the pandemic affect the ACE Program after its launch?
A. COVID-19 changed so many things for people across the planet – it completely devastated countless communities, but it also accelerated innovation in the tech industry. We were in Australia hosting an in-person ACE Associate training when lockdowns went into effect, and we quickly realized we had to pivot the program’s strategy to hit our goal of 500 certified ACEs by the end of 2020. As the world shut down in early 2020, I think the relevancy of learning new cloud skills became increasingly important for many IT professionals. And without long commutes or business travel for newly remote workers, many had the gift time to take courses and learn those new skills. Let’s just say we far exceeded our goal of 500, closing out 2020 with almost 10,000 ACEs certified worldwide.
Q. How did you adapt the ACE Program to meet the increased demand for training?
A. With the COVID lockdown in effect, we transitioned the ACE learning format from in-person training to two options depending on the course – either self-paced or virtual instructor-led. The ACE Team in charge of creating course curriculums, hosting the hands-on labs, and conducting the trainings are a talented group of Solutions Architects who have decades of combined experience either as trainers or being hands-on with customers. We have an ACE Operations Manager, Bushra Alam, who manages program operations and logistics. I lead ACE marketing, advocacy, and community-building efforts. We now have hundreds of new students signing up for the self-paced courses monthly and multiple instructor-led trainings taking place every week.
Q. How has the ACE Program expanded since 2019? What training courses are the most popular and exclusive?
A. Today, the ACE Program has eight different course offerings with both a standard learning path and specialized trainings to allow students to customize their learnings based on their role or cloud education requirements. Our course catalog is ever-growing based on requests from students and industry trends. The ACE Network Security Specialty training, which launched in September 2023, has been really popular and tackles cloud security in and across the leading cloud service providers (CSPs), teaching participants the skills needed to secure modern cloud networks.
The most prestigious ACE designation is ACE Design Expert (DE). We have 25 ACE DEs worldwide and host in-person workshops a few times per year. The workshop includes designing your own multicloud network architecture then defending it in front of a panel of judges. Most recently, we were in London in September 2023 where we certified three new ACE DEs. This event was particularly memorable as our new CEO, Doug Merritt, attended. He met our ACE DE candidates and joined other ancillary events while in London, including a Cloud Networking Meetup.
Q. How does ACE differ from other vendor certifications? Is there a particular demographic that leads in participation?
A. The ACE Program was founded as a means to honor Aviatrix product champions. It has since morphed into an inclusive, community-driven program that seeks to educate professionals about the intricacies of networking and security in and across the major CSPs. Most technical certifications educate students on a single vendor, but ACE teaches industry-wide themes with the opportunity to explore those learnings through hands-on labs. Our foundational ACE Associate training is free — another thing that makes ACE stand out. We seek to educate everyone! While many of our initial ACEs were partners and customers, our ACEs today range from high school students to seasoned networking professionals eager to learn cloud-based technologies.
Q. What are your proudest accomplishments working at Aviatrix?
A. It’s been a wild ride! In the best of ways. In November 2022, the ACE Program went through a rebranding initiative with refreshed logos, content updates, and the addition of our learning paths. I also saw a gap for our ACEs who spend time learning about all-things cloud networking and achieving their certifications. We launched our new community in April, The Cloud Network: A Community for Cloud Networking Experts, to serve as a virtual space for all who are passionate about cloud networking to connect. The community offers a ton of great educational resources and how-to content, a job board where jobseekers can source open roles in the cloud, networking, and security fields, and a new program, Office Hours. Office Hours is a monthly virtual series kicking off in January 2024 intended to bring cloud networking experts and novices together in an open forum for storytelling, demos, collaboration, ask the expert sessions, and more. Combined with ACE, I see these programs as a cohesive strategy that guides professionals in their journey to the cloud.
Q. As part of your Aviatrix role, you’re ACE certified. In 2023, you received a Lagree instructor certification. Can you share more?
A. Lagree Fitness was founded by a bodybuilder who worked at a Pilates studio in Los Angeles. I like to joke that the Megaformer machine looks something like a torture device. It’s been a wonderful experience to step outside of my (self-imposed) comfort zone and lead clients through 50-minute classes with a microphone on and my music playing through the speakers. I think we all need creative outlets away from our screens so that’s been fun, too! It’s been a great reminder to never stop learning and growing and stretching myself to try new things.
Q. When you are not at work, what do you enjoy doing?
A. When I’m not working or teaching Lagree, I love being outside and hiking the redwoods in the Santa Cruz Mountains. A few of my other favorite things are attending concerts – most recently Erykah Badu, The Roots, and Kaytranada – reading, and spending time with my partner and our 2 cats, Karl, and Onyx.
Q. You have been described as fearless and driven. Have you always been this way, or have you evolved? Do you have a mentor?
A. I think my family would say I’ve always been this way, for better or for worse! I’m lucky enough to have had a lot of mentors, and I think everyone owes part of their success to those who have helped them along their journey.
Katie worked at VMware (acquired by Broadcom in November 2023) for over five years before joining Aviatrix. She held roles in both customer advocacy and product marketing for the company’s networking and security division. She earned two Bachelor of Arts degrees from the University of California, Santa Cruz, in Sociology and Legal Studies. Connect with Katie on LinkedIn. View the Careers page for the latest Aviatrix job openings.