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AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Associate

Why?

I'm going to break away from my usual focus here, and talk about my experience studying for and achiving the AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Associate. I chose to pursue this certification for a few reasons:

  • There's a lot of overlapping concepts between OpenStack and AWS
  • AWS is the leader of the pack in public clouds by a very wide margin

The last reason is a little long for a bullet point. Learning how one system works and understanding design choices and patterns can help you be better at another system, and I find a lot of benefit in diverse learning. The first programming language I picked up was a real challenge for me. All the concepts were new. I thought it was the best thing ever, but I had no frame of reference. Subsequent languages I learned were much easier to pick up. The data structures were basically the same things with different names and only slight differences, if any. Then as I started to get deeper into each language, I started to see subtle things I never could have noticed if I stuck with a single language forever. Also, sticking to a single technology, whether it is a programming language, Operating System, or any other kind of software is a fast track to the unemployment line.

Preparation

I'm not going to link you to all the resources that Amazon has published. You can find them and use them. I did, and found them very helpful (emphasis on the whitepapers). Here's some other things I did:

  • Udemy AWS Solutions Architect course from Cloud Guru
  • Linux Academy AWS Solutions Architect course
  • Purchased a Quiklabs subscription: 42 Labs Taken, 11 Completed Quests, all related to AWS. I completed several labs multiple times
  • I spent some time with AWS through the Terraform Up and Running book, which is excellent and deserves its own post.
  • Practice! Aside from the Terraform book, the Quiklabs and playing around in the console, I also spent time just doing things in AWS. I set up a few things that I use regularly enough to keep me in the AWS console or using the APIs semi-regularly.
Leading up to the Exam, and Exam Day

I took the Amazon practice exam about a week before the exam to find places to focus and brush up. You get a nice weighted report broken down by the same objectives as the real test. I used this to choose areas to focus and brush up during the time leading up to the exam. I repeated the AWS Solutions Architect Associate quest on Quiklabs. I set up a few things I'd been meaning to do in my personal AWS account.

The night before, I made sure to get plenty of sleep. In the morning, I prepped all the things I would need for the exam (earplugs, exam confirmation, etc) and set them in a little pile so I could grab them and go when it was time. Then I settled into my office, watched a couple summary lectures from the Udemy course to refresh, and took a few practice exams to help get in the zone. About an hour before the exam, I took a good break and tried to relax. I grabbed a little coffee, and headed to the exam center.

The test is multiple choice, but very well written. I've taken a lot of certification exams, and many that are multiple choice are much easier than this one. I ended up with decent marks and surprised myself by doing very well on one of the objectives where I was weak in the practice exam.

AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Associate
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