Let me start by saying that I do not believe a certification tells anybody how knowledgeable you are about a subject. But I believe it tells the character of a person like the desire to improve his/her skills, ability to focus and the drive to get stuff done.
If you are not familiar with AWS at the moment 04/01/2016 there are 5 official certifications 3 at the associate and 2 at professional level.
AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate
AWS Certified Developer – Associate
AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate
AWS Certified DevOps Engineer – Professional
AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional
I will break down my experience on how I achieved my goal in 12 different tips. Also keep in mind you can try to use these techniques to learn a new subject, or new programming language, or even get a project done.
- Are you passionate about the subject ?
I think this is one of the most important tips I can give you. If you do not have the drive for what you want to accomplish most likely you are going lose the desire and soon abandon your goal. Just think how many time have you started a personal project and abandon it half way.
- There is always time
As human beings we are great at making excuses, specially noways with our busy schedules and the multiple activities going on in our lives. I am going to tell you there are a lot of hours in a day and if you organize the time you will be surprise how much time you may be wasting. Just think about this how much time you spent watching videos, TV, Netflix, etc or surfacing the web without a real purpose during the last week.
- How do you eat an elephant ?
You eat it one bite at the time. When I started looking at the AWS certifications I knew I wanted to get all 5 but instead on focusing of all the information, labs, time, preparation for all exams; I focus on one exam at the time and I make sure to block everything else.
- Stay focus
I believe if I go to the doctor most likely I will be diagnosed with ADD. Sometimes it is hard for me to focus on the task at hand and I had to make sure Skype, email was close and choose a quiet environment to study.
- Do not jump into studying right away I have seen many people make the mistake to start studying right away without doing all the research up front of all the resources that you may need. What people usually do is start working on the project and as they go along look and gather extra information.This is a big waste of your time because your brain starts doing lot of context switching and you will start losing focus. Better yet collect as many resources that you may need upfront.
- What study material to choose
For each exam I used different resources, but I used a common one across all the exams. I purchased the training material from A Cloud Guru They cover all the domains pretty well and they include labs. These are the list of some of the materials I used.
– AWS White papers (Focus on specific ones for each exam. Some of them are boring but well worth it, not only for the exam but for your job).
– AWS FAQ (Focus on specific ones for each exam)
– Discussion forums/Blogs (read what people are saying about the exam, they have great tips about it and they will point you to great reading and practice material)
– I took the AWS practice exams for the DevOps Engineer and Solutions Architect Professional only.
– Watched some of the reinvent videos. My choice was to watch videos on subjects I felt pretty week.
- Does practice makes perfect ?
Throughout my career I see people making this mistake. They think the more the practice the better get at something. This is not completely true because you can practice about a something that only gives you 10% of value . Instead, make sure you are practicing on subjects that give you 80 to 90 % of value know how to invest your time.
For example, if you know how to create a VPC with 2 private and 2 public AZ, a NAT gateway and Internet Gateway do not waste time practicing that. Instead figure out how to do the same using Cloud Formation using YAML.
- Have timelines but do not be bound to them 100%
My was goal was never take an exam per week and be done in 4 weeks. If I would have taking that approach I am pretty sure I would have failed miserably . I took the following approach.
– Study 5 to 7 hours from Monday to Friday after or before work.
– During lunch break watch a reinvent video.
– Study between 8 and 12 hours on the weekend.
- How do you know if you are prepare for the exam
I live in NYC so it was easy for me to schedule the exam a day or two before taking it. I knew I was ready when I was able to answer practice questions without looking at the multiple choice answers. Let me explain, I would only read the question and I will try to choose the right technology before looking the multiple choice answer. This would help you analyze and gauge your readiness.
- Reach out
I think this could be one of the most important tips. There were subjects like (Direct Connect, BGP, VPN, Virtual interfaces) that I could not really get a grasp of the concepts. So I reached out to network team that I work with in my office and ask them to explain some of these concepts. I am lucky because these guys are network gurus. My point is do not be afraid to reach out to somebody, there are also study groups available in some cities.
- It is hard
Nothing that is worth is easy. You will sacrifice time family, friends, etc.
- Strong foundation
As you progress through the exams make sure to have a strong foundation on every subject before moving on, because every exam is a pillar to next one. So, if you do not understand key concepts like storage, you are going to have a tough time understanding other technologies.
Finally, with all the fake news going around 🙂 and I know it is hard to believe that somebody can get all 5 certifications in a month having a family, full time job etc. I have attached all the certifications below.