Data Points

6. InterSystems Certification (Jamie Kantor)

Data Points
6. InterSystems Certification (Jamie Kantor)

In this episode, we chat with certification manager Jamie Kantor about the certification program at InterSystems. Jamie explains why certification programs exist in the software industry, how InterSystems has evolved to build its certification exams, and why it matters to developers, partners, and customers of InterSystems.

To learn more about getting certified, you can reach out to [email protected].

For more information about Data Points, visit



Derek Robinson 00:00:01 Welcome to Data Points, a podcast by InterSystems Learning Services. Make sure to subscribe to the podcast on your favorite podcast app, such as Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Play, or Stitcher. You can do this by searching for Data Points and hitting that Subscribe button. My name is Derek Robinson, and on today's episode, I'll chat with Jamie Kantor, Certification Manager here at InterSystems, about the InterSystems Certification program.

Derek Robinson 00:00:39 Welcome to Episode Six of Data Points by InterSystems Learning Services. First and foremost, before we get started, we want to wish everyone well and good health as they deal with the impact of the global health crisis we're currently in. It's an unprecedented time for us, and it's difficult, but hopefully everyone can continue to practice social distancing and do their best to work remotely as much as possible to hopefully slow the spread of COVID-19 here in the U.S. and all across the world. So as a result of this pandemic, you might've guessed that we'll be doing a lot more remote interviews on Data Points for now. For the first several episodes, we had guests in person in the studio at our Cambridge, Massachusetts headquarters. For the foreseeable future, though, our guests will be joining the pod through the wonders of video conferencing technology, which our teams here at InterSystems have been using a lot more lately and really have helped us to be able to stay remote and stay efficient and working, for our clients and partners who need us more than ever at these times of global health crises. So today the guest that will be joining me remotely is Jamie Kantor. Jamie manages the Certification program here at InterSystems, which is a fairly new program that is likely to be particularly of interest to developers, customers, and partners that use InterSystems stack of technologies.

Derek Robinson 00:01:52 All right. And welcome to the podcast Jamie Kantor, Certification Manager here at InterSystems. Jamie, how's it going?

Jamie Kantor Hey, Derek, it's going pretty good.  

Derek Robinson Cool. So, working remotely, this is the first podcast that we're doing on Data Points so far that I ever had remote guests joining me. Obviously with the global situation, that's something that's called for at this point. Jamie does work with me in the Cambridge office, but how are you doing adjusting to the remote life?

Jamie Kantor 00:02:16 Hey, it's pretty good. You know, a lot of the workers at InterSystems, we work from home pretty regularly, so it just means just more days at home, but I'm noticing that the company is kind of coming together and making sure we're all okay. So I think it's working fine right now.

Derek Robinson 00:02:30  Yeah, I think I've felt grateful. I know, being at a company like InterSystems so far, that's focused on helping our clients, but also making sure that, the team is safe and everybody's able to do their jobs effectively. And of course, for my team in Online Learning and kind of you, to an extent as well, it'd be, it almost be paradoxical if we couldn't work remotely being the Online Learning team, right? So I think it's been an adjustment, but I think everybody on the team is handling it well and hopefully continuing to get good content to our listeners and our other learners out there. So, I think it's going well. So jumping into the conversation, we're talking about Certification today. You are the manager of the Certification group, and InterSystems has created this Certification program that we're going to talk about. Before we get into kind of the specific InterSystems side of it and what the InterSystems Certification program and exams are all about, let's talk a little bit about the concept of getting certified and why that does exist in the industry, and why so many leading software companies have these programs and exams to get people certified on these major technologies. Tell me a little bit about the background of that and why it's important in specifically the software industry to have those certification programs in place.

Jamie Kantor 00:03:34 Right. So, I guess what I would say is that from a certification point of view, in what we do, our main focus is to ensure quality in a bunch of different ways. So, if you take a look at some of the other big software providers, you'll notice that they have had these programs for quite some time. What they're trying to do at InterSystems as well is make sure that the people that are carrying their technology to their customers, representing them, actually are engaged and have the technical skills that they need. So that's like sort of a quality control thing from a big picture. That's one aspect. The other aspect is, it is really important for software industries, rather, companies, to make sure that their partners or integrators are keeping up with their software as it evolves. So that is another sort of, let's say, control mechanism to make sure that the people who are out there in the marketplace representing you are actually representing the current versions of what your software can do. So those are kind of different dimensions on how, let's say, quality control through Certification, helps large software companies.

Derek Robinson 00:04:45 Yeah, yeah, for sure. And it makes sense like putting that quality control into place, and then also the element of time, like you referenced there, where technologies can be very long lasting, and they can evolve over time. So kind of getting to make sure you're capturing what has evolved in that technology and having ways to measure competencies and, you know, being up to speed with that technology. So that's good. We can, let's shift that conversation into InterSystems a little bit here, 'cause that's obviously what you're managing and driving. So for a while, InterSystems didn't have any Certification program, right? InterSystems has been around for a long time. Its technology has been around for a long time, but the Certification program is relatively new. So what kind of led to that program starting, and what are some of the biggest reasons that we have that program in place now?

Jamie Kantor 00:05:27 Well, actually, you know, we have had smaller programs, but we weren't approaching it, InterSystems as a company, in terms of sort of a comprehensive industry-standard global program. So we had different smaller programs and, you know, people are recognized in different ways, you know. In our community, we also have programs of recognition in Global Masters and things like that. But I think anyone who knows our business, InterSystems business recently, would say that we are just recently having another evolution stage; our business is changing. So there's a lot more partners and a lot more markets that we're engaging. And so what I think is executive management knew that this was the time where we had to build the program to embrace those newer marketplaces and the partners that are in them. So that's why I think the time is now, and what I'd like to think is as we move forward, the certifications, and the exams that we offer, are going to follow the way our data platform evolves, our healthcare products, evolve as well. So again, to get back to why now, there also have been, I will tell you guys, some large deals out there, very critical to, let's say industries in the marketplace and to InterSystems. And in one case, we knew that we could not, not have a Certification program. We had to make sure that anyone who was going in for a specific bid had those skills already. So it was a combination of all that. And that's why I think we are where we are now.

Derek Robinson 00:07:03 Cool. Yeah. And it makes sense from the standpoint of a company adopting a set of technology like InterSystems stack of technologies, right? It has to be a concern going forward that you have a way of making sure that the people using that platform and developing the applications that are running your business, right? That you can measure and be able to keep up with the fact that they are able to use that platform to its full effectiveness. I think that's kind of the spirit of that. So talking about the Certification program, what exams do we have currently being offered, for developers and other users of InterSystems technology to go take and be able to get certified?

Jamie Kantor 00:07:37 Well, we currently have two in production, so that means anyone who believes that they are a good candidate can take them right now. We do have on our website a Certification area in Learning Services that explains everything you need to know: how the program works, and especially what are the exams and what is the profile to which they are oriented. So in the HealthShare arena, we have Health Connect HL7 Interface Specialist; that covers the design, building, and basic troubleshooting of, let's say one of our core competencies, which is HL7 transactions. So that's had some really great uptake. It's also the first one we did. Then, we also have InterSystems IRIS Core Developer Specialist. Now it's funny, there's a little bit of a word salad in all this, and it does make sense, but the specialist is our entry-level certification, and we're trying to orient it at, let's say, an industry professional who has been using our technology for, let's say six months to a year. We will get higher and more difficult with experts and masters later on. So again, what we're trying to do is cover, let's say, our community out there, what they're doing, like the most useful certifications would be, the ones upon which people are working: HL7 and also developing with IRIS. Now what's in the pipeline is pretty exciting to me and my team. What we're working on next is a rather large certification. I'll explain what I mean by that in a minute -- for system administration for IRIS. Okay. So this is going to be able to certify that people can take that data platform and do the care and feeding that's necessary to make it functional. So that is in development right now. It's pretty far along. We're also working on, another one that is, what we're calling, I'd like to say integration for business, but it's going to take IRIS's integration capabilities and using non-healthcare use cases. And also a special, let's say ability as well, some of the programmatic cool things you can do with our platform.  So those two are in development. Back to the HealthShare side of the house, obviously with Unified Care Record, we're pretty far along with our Technical Specialist, and that's for the technical leads in Unified Care Record implementations. And that's quite a large scope of everything you have to do from understanding, let's say, the design document for a specific implementation through custom coding, SDA, and implementation. So these are quite large scope in terms of the certification. We are also getting our feet wet with TrakCaree, which is kind of cool — and, you know, we're going to extend this through our network of implementation staff globally — but what's really cool there is, we're going to be focusing on patient safety issues. So we're going to be really keen to release certifications on the aspects of TrakCare that can most affect patient safety. But you'll hear more in the future.

Derek Robinson 00:10:46 Nice, nice. Yeah. So it sounds like a lot in the pipeline there being worked on. And I think a one point I want to come back to and just kind of emphasize, not so much of a question, but more of a relating it to some of the other stuff we've talked about on this podcast and past episodes is we, InterSystems is very often dropped into the bucket of healthcare IT, and we have a big footprint in the healthcare space, but a lot of that underlying technology really is used in business and other use cases as well. So I think it's interesting hearing you explain the plan for a Certification exam that is kind of akin to the healthcare stack of technology, but applying it to a business use case and maybe adding some additional things that would be relevant to people using those use cases. So I think it's a good way to reinforce that there are a lot of different paths that can come from the same underlying stack of technology. So pretty cool, and excited to see how that comes along. So a good breakdown of the exams and what's coming. Let's shift to a little bit of the persona of people that would be interested in this, right? So a lot of our listeners who have been following the podcast and also ones that haven't seen it yet, and maybe this is the first time they're listening to an episode, they may be developers that have built applications on InterSystems technologies many times, potentially people who have been using these products for quite a long time, and they feel expert, right? They might feel that they've been using this, they know it like the back of their hand since, you know, for decades, potentially. From that individual standpoint for their career, for instance, what's the value add for someone like that to go ahead and become certified on that area that they feel maybe today, perfectly expert in?

Jamie Kantor 00:12:16 Oh, of course. I see your point. You know, we have been considering that, you know, specifically, because InterSystems technology has been around for decades, and it has evolved for decades. You have people already who are expert master level in what we do. So it would be reasonable for those people to say, so wait a minute, what is in it for me for this Certification program? I know I can do what I do. I mean, there's a couple of ways to break that down. Well, let me give you an example on how we went at the IRIS Core Developer Certification. The team that did that, we had a lot of conversations, talked to stakeholders inside and outside of the company. And one thing that we knew we needed to do during the design phase is ask ourselves, how is IRIS used today? To trace back what you're talking about from all of those different kinds of use cases, if you know, previously Caché and now InterSystems IRIS, you know how the evolution has been. You'll know that we are…one thing our company does great is because we're great at interoperability is we adapt to other technologies in the marketplace. So if you took a look right now at InterSystems Core Developer exam, what you'll see is it's a vision of how developers with today's technology use InterSystems IRIS. And that's pretty powerful because again, those of you who are listening, who may have been using our technology for decades, you'll know that we've evolved new ways of doing things more efficient and that work with today's technology like REST and JSON, and by the way, you'll see from the exam design, they're included. So again, remember from the first question I mentioned, excuse me, my first answer, I was telling you about software companies need to make sure that the partners and the developers who are represented in the marketplace are showing them today's version of the product and are competent on those current skills. So that's really reason I can totally understand that someone who has been using our development technologies for decades would think, well, there is not much in it for me, but it's a way for them to show the marketplace I'm up to date. And I think that's pretty powerful.

Derek Robinson 00:14:23 Yeah, exactly. I think that's a great answer and a great approach to why that's important. And I think it leads into the next question I was about to ask, actually. And I think it's a very related answer, which is from not just that. We just talked about the developer, who themselves have been developing on this for a long time and feel expert. What about the customers and partners, not from the individual level, but from the enterprise level, potentially, why would they be interested in knowing about this? And I think we alluded to it before, and that knowing that the people that will be working on your technology stacks are proficient and up to date and with the latest standards of it. But just maybe speak a little more to that kind of tying it back into that individual's interest in it, what these customers and partners, why this matters to them to know about this Certification program and the different exams that people can be certified on.

Jamie Kantor 00:15:10 Yep. Of course. Let me frame this. I think a lot of our current customers know that we have support analysts ready to help them, not only with a high level of motivation, but also an incredibly detailed technical knowledge about our products. So in-house InterSystems, we have multiple learning paths for them, multiple ways to make sure that their skills are exactly where they need to be. So inside the company, that's, I wouldn't say easy, but it's pretty grounded. Again, because we want to work with partners, we want to work with system integrators, how do we ensure that they have hopefully the same level of technical expertise as our people, that they can represent us? And again, here comes Certification. So from a customer or a partner perspective, first of all, to know that the individuals that they're working with, either that, who has been assigned to a customer or who is currently working for a partner, when they walk in the door, they have, maybe they're not experts, but they have a level of competency that will make them useful from day one. So that is what we're trying to do. Now. There's also another aspect for partners here because it is true. As this certification grows and, you know, we offer these electronic credentials and people were very excited to see people actually listing them on LinkedIn and saying, Hey, I'm proud to be an HL7 Interface Developer for InterSystems. So now for the partner aspect, because we also have what we call organizational certification. Organizations can claim organizational-level competency by retaining enough staff. So here comes opportunity for the partner. So now, and we have actually had partners gain business. We've had partners tell the marketplace that they're excited to be certified as an organization. So there's an additional aspect for partners there, and that's just opportunity for business.

Derek Robinson 00:17:08 Right, yeah. That makes sense. That's I think shedding good light on that because it can go beyond just having that confidence in an individual, right? Like there's more ripple effects to that. So very cool. So last question, kind of for if someone's been listening and now they're intrigued by this, what can people do to learn more about the certification programs available?

Jamie Kantor 00:17:26 Well, I'd like to say just like our support reps, we do have a Certification team. It's not big, but of enthusiastic and excited individuals. I'm happy to be one of them. So literally we are waiting with bated breath to interact with all of you. I know it sounds a little strange, but we have [email protected] We get some really great questions for us. Like, hey, I just heard about your technology. I want to get certified. How do I do it? And so, you know, we're pointing them to the free resources, the classroom courses. So we're there ready to help people. I will give myself a little small plug in what we do here because we do something that the industry doesn't do. We also offer exam retake support, which I'd like to tell you a little bit about. That simply means that if you're not successful that say your first attempt, you will get a coaching report and see, you know, where your strengths and weaknesses are. But my team's here to also, upon request, walk you through that and orient you towards what you have to do to be successful. So how do you get information? Two places: Go to look up the Certification program. Or number two, ask us questions at [email protected] We'd really like to talk to you.

Derek Robinson 00:18:37 Great. So there you go. There's a few easy calls to action, and a can reach out to Jamie's team and be able to get more information. So, Jamie Kantor, thank you so much for joining us. I think it was really informative, and we'll talk to you soon.

Jamie Kantor  All right. Thank you.

Derek Robinson 00:18:52 Thanks again to Jamie for joining us and giving us the details about the Certification program and the value that it can provide. If you're interested in learning more, absolutely feel free to send a note to [email protected], and Jamie or his team will be happy to talk with you more. That'll do it for Episode Six. And once again, I want to wish everyone listening good mental and physical health during this pandemic. It won't be easy, but we'll get through it together. See you next time on Data Points!

Brought to you by InterSystems Learning Services of Data Points