As we continue to shelter in place and remain under quarantine I've noticed there's a huge uptick in IT training. I think it's great! If you have the time, why not try to gain more knowledge? Using this time to acquire more skills can't hurt right? I also understand this may be a time when you're focusing on your loved ones, making sure they are safe, and using this time to reconnect with friends and family (Via webcam).
Regardless of where you are at I'd like to share my AWS Solutions Architect Associate certification journey. Hopefully, it helps someone.
A little background
Two years ago I had zero real cloud experience. I'm talking about running workloads and deploying network + server infrastructure in the cloud. I worked for an MSP that hosted everything in a colo facility and did not use AWS, Azure, or GCP.
I transitioned jobs and my current employer runs everything in AWS and Azure. I knew from the start that I'd need to gain more hands-on experience in the cloud.
My certification journey
As soon as I began looking into AWS everywhere I went had information for the AWS Solutions Architect certification. Early on it became apparent that this was a great way to dive right into the AWS cloud.
Out of the gate, I decided I wanted to focus on getting more hands-on experience instead of chasing the certification. I spent about 6-8 months learning from hands-on experience. I took advantage of the free tier usage. I can't recommend using the free tier enough. This was instrumental for me. I gained quite a bit of experience with the basics of VPC, EC2, and S3.
After 6-8 months I decided I wanted to begin my studies for the certification. I attended the AWS summit event and spoke to the people of A Cloud Guru as well as the AWS staff. They all recommended I do the Cloud Practitioner exam and then continue to the Solutions Architect.
I took their advice and went through all the free training available from AWS and passed the exam. After passing the Cloud Practitioner exam I purchased the official training guide on Amazon.com I read it cover to cover and made notes in OneNote. While reading the book I began to look at additional resources. I was aware of A Cloud Guru and looked into their courses. I decided to go with Linux Academy due to its cloud playground and sandbox features.
I highly recommend Linux Academy- https://linuxacademy.com/ Not only do they have video courses but there are also hands-on labs. I watched every video, made notes, and did the labs. As I mentioned above the cloud playground and sandbox features are amazing. You can spin up your own Linux servers to play with and the sandbox gives you a true AWS Console login to use. Just that alone is worth the subscription. I also found other courses quite good. For example- There are AWS Hybrid courses that are excellent learning resources.
Another huge resource I used is Tutorials Dojo- https://tutorialsdojo.com/ I stumbled upon this site via Reddit and it's an awesome resource. The AWS cheat sheets are condensed into knowledge and information specifically for the exam. In addition to that I purchased their practice exams on Udemy as my final resource. I spent another month going through and through the exams and explanations. Those tests were very helpful and I felt prepared for the exam after going through them.
I took a little longer than most on this exam but without much cloud experience, I wanted to gain as much real-world knowledge as possible. Getting the certification was the icing on the cake. Going through this process I signed up my company to become an AWS Partner to further grow our business. I'm looking forward to continuing to work with AWS. One final piece of advice I'll give is that be prepared to focus in on keywords in the questions. Some questions will have a long paragraph on a complex scenario. The key is to look at the questions, note which technology or services are in play, and how to interpret what they are trying to accomplish.
Hope this helps and if you are currently studying for the exam, good luck!