From zero to AWS certified – from the PoV of a datacenter engineer

The other day I sat for and passed 2 AWS certifications tests (the logos on the right tell you which ones). It had been a looong time since I last did a non-VMware certification, probably the last one was the last of the MCITP:EA series, the 70-647 (it was a beast).

I was originally preparing for the DevOps one only, primarily to gain baseline knowledge of AWS and have a piece of paper to prove it. I started with zilch prior knowledge of the technology, been long fascinated by it, just never created myself an AWS account or read much about it. Some events happened that spurred me to learn something different, AWS or Azure seemed like good options. AWS won out when I had a good chat with my mate Bilal Ahmed and he put me on the DevOps track.

It goes without saying AWS (I know they’ve been around for several years) have done a marvelous job at the console (APIs/CLI/GUI). When I first created an account and logged on, I said – WOW – aloud. It was my first time checking out something that was true ‘cloud’ based. No hypervisors, no disk volumes (VSAN or otherwise, I know there are disks and EBS but still), no networks (I know, I know there’s the VPC etc), none of the ‘traditional’ stuff to worry about. It was something uniquely different from what I have been used to seeing as a datacenter engineer. It was very cool how they’ve gone the route of – you worry about your code, we’ll worry about the rest. Some of the things that really piqued my interest were Elastic Beanstalk, Lambda and DynamoDB for the effortlessness they bring. I realize there may be some issues that happen in real production environments, from what I saw the ease of use was there.

Study material used:

In addition to a good amount of hands-on lab time, I mainly used the following Udemy video series for studying:

Yes, it says 54% because I skipped some of the stuff I already knew and I had a tight deadline to meet. I also bought the practice test the acloudguru mob has. I checked out some of the whitepapers and case studies AWS have available for reading, these were particularly helpful for the SA certification.

How long it took?

I studied about 30 hours all up over 6 days (not bragging here). I set myself a tough deadline to force my brain to go faster. The people that know me will attest I don’t brag. What I mean to get across here is – if you’ve been a datacenter person, be it with VMware or Microsoft (or something else) technologies, your experience will easily translate over for the AWS track. The VCDX pursuit has taught me a lot of things, not the least of which is to think holistically, from a business angle, not how – but why. This mindset was particularly helpful for the SA test’s preparation.

Test experience:

DevOps test: I finished my first drive-by in just over an hour (there are 80 mins available), I had marked probably 15-20 questions for review. I ended up reviewing about 10 of them before time ran out. I avoided second-guessing myself for most of the review and hit finish to find the Congratulations.. message pop up.

Quick lunch break and I was back for the next one.

SA test: This was going to be a bit different than the DevOps one for sure. The DevOps is how to do something, the SA is more of a why something would fit a use case. I finished the first run in about 70 mins, I was exhausted and wanted it over and done with, hit the finish button and saw the Congratulations.. screen again. A few fist pumps and I left the testing room 😉

What’s next?

The SA – professional. Is it going to be difficult, am I prepared to give it everything, fail, come back better and stronger? You bet. My brain’s callused by failures and rejections by the decade and a half I’ve spent in the pursuit of knowledge, learning and up-skilling.

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