6

My Journey to get the AWS Solution Architect certification

Why Amazon?

Of the three providers I knew, the Google Cloud experience didn’t leave me satisfied; Microsoft wasn’t an option as an IT professional I try to steer clear of them whenever I can, although Gartner places them as the major Amazon competitor as of May 2015, with Google following in third position.
magic-quadrant-for-cloud-iaas1

So I decided to give Amazon a try.

Running the magic search in Google was a life-changing event. Not only did I find that Amazon does indeed offer a wealth of certifications for the Cloud, but I also found that there were numerous courses available to prepare for it. I had to choose between the Solution Architect, Developer or SysOps as initial courses, although my mind was already spinning towards the DevOps Engineer – Professional. Given my current role, the Solution Architect seemed the most obvious choice, so I decided to go for it.

Udemy

Being already an Udemy student I searched for AWS certification courses and I’ve found a set of courses run by Ryan Kroonenburg, a guru when it comes to AWS, so I purchased the course.

Advantages:

  • It’s cheap. Since I was already an Udemy student, I was able to purchase the course for £12, although the current price is £62.
  • Ryan does a great job at introducing AWS Cloud newbies to this fantastic course. Since he holds numerous AWS Certifications, he knows what’s required for the exam and he tailors his courses with that goal in mind
  • By the end of the course, the student has a thorough understanding of AWS services and will have a good knowledge baggage to enter the exam
  • There’s a community external to Udemy where one can share questions, experience, etc.
  • Short videos to show theory in practice

Disadvantages:

  • The course teaches the fundamentals but I felt it wasn’t going beyond that.
  • The quizzes don’t explain you why an answer is wrong, they just calculate the final score. For some questions there is an explanation

Cloudacademy: your best chance to pass the certification exam

Again, I asked our friend Google for other course providers and after some digging I found Cloudacademy. Let me tell you that this provider is, by far, the best I’ve found in training people to pass the AWS exams.

Advantages:

  • Richness and completeness of content. With the yearly package, one gets all-you-can-eat courses. It’s a social networking for Cloud students. It offers Certification Paths, Targeted Quizzes, Labs, Paths and a Community Forum
  • Modern Website content. Cloudacademy offer an amazing website with a personal Dashboard which tracks your progress and compares it with the rest of the community, personalised learning paths, Labs on the real AWS cloud without one having to create an AWS account or spend money, Leaderboard, “Memory” of your interaction with the material so that intelligently keeps adapting questions and content based on your progress
  • Right content for the right level. If you choose the “Advanced” material, you’ll find the toughest questions to prepare you for the exam. Initially you’ll sweat blood and tears as you won’t have a clue of how to answer, but thanks to an explanation linked to the relevant AWS documentation for every single question, you’ll quickly learn AWS deepest secrets.
  • Amazing customer support. I’ve highlighted a couple of mistakes on the questions and for each one I was given a free month membership. Now that’s what I call leadership: encouraging feedback and use it to improve
  • Short videos to show theory in practice

Short videos to show theory in practice

Disadvantages

  • It’s not the cheapest of service (at the time of writing the yearly subscription is $395, which has been reduced from $495). The latest pricing can be found here. However if you think that for that amount you can prepare for any Cloud certification, it seems good value for money

My Tips

  • Practice makes perfect. Whatever course you decide to do, get your hands dirty on the AWS platform. Spin up boxes, create VPCs, set up your own domain, create your own high-available website (devopsfolks runs on the AWS cloud, with a high-availability, scalable setup which I did all by myself – after learning from the masters of course). Practice, practice, practice. I couldn’t emphasise it more. The mistakes you’ll make on the platform will help you provide the correct answers during the exam
  • Read Amazon’s documentation. Amazon’s AWS documentation is probably the best example of thorough documentation about a service. The AWS Cloud is immense: Amazon offers many services, each with precise characteristics to it and the documentation explain them in detail, offers guided examples, suggestions for best practices, etc. The majority of exam questions are based on the documentation and hands-on. It’s really up to you
  • Follow each lecture thoroughly. Lessons on both Udemy and Cloudacademy are organised in short bursts videos. Concentrate for the video duration. Try to keep distractions at bay (having a young and playful daughter I know a bit about distractions)
  • Never get satisfied with what you know. Once you know something, aim at knowing more. Read the online documentation, try to most difficult quizzes and tests, interact with the community, ask and provide help
  • Give yourself a deadline and commit to it. Although seemingly in contradiction with the previous point, I found that helped giving myself a target date and committing to it. The way you commit is by purchasing the exam ($150, non refundable). The risk otherwise is that you’ll try to perfect your knowledge forever and will keep postponing the exam.

That’s it DevOps folks! I hope soon you’ll be too able to display this logo in your blog.

Solutions Architect-Associate

Happy Cloud!

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cloudydevops
 

I'm a Lean Enterprise transformation specialist who helps organisations deliver business value faster by looking at software delivery as business value delivery and as a system flow, where BDD, Agile, DevOps, Testing Automation, Portfolio and Budget Manager, Regulatory and Compliance, Security and all NFRs in general are all parts of a single journey. My favourite execution tool for Lean Enterprise transformations is the Improvement/Coaching Kata, by Mike Rother.

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