What’s the future hold for cloud learners as A Cloud Guru and Linux Academy merge into a combined platform? We consulted a Magic 8-Ball, but “signs point to yes” didn’t seem like an adequate answer. So we decided to talk to Terry Cox.
Terry’s a lifelong techie and a beloved teacher of modern tech skills. Want proof of the latter? Check the comments here. (This is one time it’s safe to go into the comments.)
More important to our discussion, Terry was the guiding light behind Linux Academy’s approach to learning content and features. And after the acquisition, he’s been given the reins at ACG as well. That means he’s (a) pretty busy these days, and (b) the one overseeing the making of the cloud-learning sausage as both organizations join up Voltron-style.
Two schools of thought
After it was announced that A Cloud Guru was acquiring Linux Academy, we heard plenty of questions. And some doom and gloom. It’s the internet, after all, and Redditors and Twitter-ers aren’t exactly known for a lack of skepticism.
But there were plenty of valid questions. Like, what would the move mean for diehard Pineheads who didn’t think ACG was exactly for them, and vice versa? After all, if you like Pepsi but think Coke tastes like vanilla-scented air freshener, mixing Coke and Pepsi together is going to result in something unpalatable, right? Probably. But in the case of this flimsy soda metaphor, it may be better to think of the new platform as a soda fountain with multiple beverage options.
Or, as Sam Kroonenburg, CEO and co-founder of A Cloud Guru, puts it: “Linux Academy and A Cloud Guru were used for different reasons. This wasn’t about one company winning out or overriding one company. It was about the two leading players coming together, bringing our talent together, and joining forces to give our students the best of both products in one subscription.”
Content Team head honcho Terry paints a similar picture.
“Everyone has a different learning approach and reacts differently to different teaching styles,” he said. “But because Linux Academy’s and A Cloud Guru’s styles were so different, we’re able to bring that all together and allow students to pick and choose what will help them to be the most successful — and do that at whatever depth and level they are at.”
Talking with Terry
To get a peek at how things are progressing in Content-land, touch on some common questions, and (frankly) just have an excuse to interact with another human being while we’re still working remotely, we recently caught up with Terry. We chatted about what learners can expect from the combined content catalog, why he owes his career to Matthew Broderick, and what happens when two former rivals join forces to create the ultimate cloud-learning supergroup.
Can you give us the bite-sized version of your bio?
I got into computers a long time ago after watching War Games. I didn’t really understand computers; I just knew it looked cool and that’s what I wanted to do. I was always around computers growing up — RadioShack computers, Texas Instruments, Commodore — and I taught myself to program around the age of 10.
Once I joined the workforce, I looked for any excuse to work on computers. I started as a developer. Then I took a job in infrastructure. Then security. And then architecture. In the last 10 to 15 years, I’ve been in technology leadership of one type or another while still keeping my hands on technology. And in the last couple of years, I’ve been in charge of content at Linux Academy and now here at A Cloud Guru.
What’s a Content Team, and what do they do at ACG?
The Content Team is responsible for all the content you see on the ACG site in one form or another — pretty much anything you see to prepare yourself for a certification or enhance your job skills for the future. The team as a combined organization is a conglomeration of very passionate technologists interested in sharing their experience, providing context, and are absolutely driven to do what’s in the best interest of the students.
Considering Linux Academy and ACG were once rivals, what did you think when you learned we’d be joining forces?
One of the things most people don’t realize is very early on in the creation of ACG, the two organizations almost came together. At Linux Academy, we realized early on that one of the more limiting factors was our name and domain. It didn’t provide people with a lot of clarity around our cloud capabilities. When A Cloud Guru began to get the buzz in the industry, the leadership at Linux Academy reached out to Sam and Ryan — the founders of A Cloud Guru — to try and purchase the catalog and the domain. But Sam and Ryan had such a vision about where they wanted to go, that they weren’t looking for an exit. It didn’t work out, but it was an interesting introduction between the two organizations.
For learners, why are Linux Academy and A Cloud Guru better together?
We took different approaches to the same thing that is the core of both businesses: student success. Because of those different approaches, we’ve been able to come together in ways that allow us to do things we couldn’t do individually. With the combined platform, we’ll be in a position to allow each learner to be in charge of their own learning journey.
Along those lines, what has it been like merging teams that have different approaches, philosophies, and teaching styles?
Change is a heck of a thing for most organizations, particularly ones that have been successful and are really entrenched in what makes them successful.
For us, there isn’t a single way or perspective that’s winning out. It’s more about the third way — a unique opportunity we have to throw out the things that didn’t work well for either organization. And since we took different approaches and had different strengths and weaknesses, it was funny to see how well we complemented each other.
The third way is really about putting the student in charge of their learning journey. Each legacy content organization did particularly well in different ways: ACG content was engaging and focused on visual learning and engaging with the instructor. Linux Academy content was very in-depth and utilized hands-on learning. In combining the organizations, we are able to do all of those things and allow the student to take the path to their goal that is best suited to their time and learning style.
Change can be tricky, as you mentioned. What would you say to assure learners or skeptics that this change won’t result in a watered-down version of a thing they loved?
One of the things that keeps us focused on not compromising or ending up with a mediocre product that is some combination of the least objectionable pieces of each of our organizations is that we haven’t shied away from conflict internally. Part of having a passionate organization — within content in particular — is everyone is passionate about, not only their own feelings about the best way to deliver content, but how that impacts the student journey. So I’ve found that we challenge each other almost daily. We should! And we provide a ton of room for collaboration.
Honestly, if we’re going to do something or put out something that doesn’t meet our learners’ expectations, I promise they’re going to tell us. And they’re going to tell us in no uncertain terms.
When it comes to quality, both organizations have had a laser focus on aligning with student feedback. We have a very good understanding of what our students find valuable. And we’re continuing to dig into that even further to ensure that the things that people find valuable (like Cloud Playground being rolled out to ACG for Business) make their way into the courses and into the combined platform.
It’s not about taking anything away from students, it’s about giving them more to choose from so they can figure out the best way to approach their own learning journey. There will be no dropping of the ball in quality. In fact, because we’re taking the best parts of each organization, I have high expectations we’ll be able to ratchet that up.
Note: This interview has been edited for clarity, brevity, and general awesomeness.