My Journey of 12X AWS Certifications: From Failure to Success
Like to share my learning and approach for enhancing your chance for AWS Certification.
Published Jan 6, 2024
In 2016, I attempted my inaugural AWS Certification, focusing on AWS Certified SysOps Administrator - Associate. Despite having two years hands-on experience in Cloud, I wasn't adequately prepared for the exam. The result? I stumbled during the SysOps test and unfortunately failed.
From this initial setback, I gained my first crucial lesson:
- Dive Deeper into Hands-on Practice
- Engage in more practical exercises to strengthen your skills.
Additionally, I discovered the importance of community and staying informed:
- Join a Learning Community, such as the AWS User Group
- Connect with fellow learners and experts to exchange knowledge and insights.
- Stay Updated through AWS Blogs
- Regularly read AWS blogs to stay informed about the latest updates and best practices.
This early experience shaped my approach to future certifications, emphasizing the significance of practical experience, community engagement, and staying well-informed in the dynamic AWS landscape.
After gaining extensive hands-on experience and diligently preparing through numerous lectures by Adrian Cantrill, featuring real-time use cases, I approached the exam with a high level of confidence. In March 2017, I successfully cleared the AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Associate certification.
Four+ years into my hands-on journey in AWS Solution and Architect Engineering, riding high on my success in the Associate exam, I decided to take a leap and attempt the AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Professional. Unfortunately, I approached it with complacency, thinking I could wing it without much preparation during my first reinvent in 2018, only to face a harsh failure.
But every cloud has a silver lining, and this reinvent-2018 experience turned out to be fantastic. Huge thanks to my PSL colleagues Sylvia, Alain, and Susan for giving me the chance to attend. This event ignited my passion for learning AWS, pushing me to share my knowledge and expertise with others.
From this failure, I learned a valuable lesson: investing more time in learning, delving deeper, and recognising that AWS SA Professional is one of the toughest challenges to conquer. This setback became a turning point, motivating me to intensify my commitment to continuous learning.
Falling short in the AWS SA-Pro exam redirected my focus towards further learning and completing the Associate level. Consequently, I devised a plan to tackle the Developer - Associate certification, and I succeeded in this endeavor.
In the midst of working on a live project centered around Alexa, I decided to test my skills by attempting the AWS Certified Alexa Skill Builder - Specialty. Unfortunately, I fell just shy of the passing mark—only two more correct answers, and success would have been mine. The experience, though a near miss, fueled my determination to persevere and overcome future challenges.
Facing the challenges of a tough 2020, I encountered another setback when I failed the AWS SA Pro exam once again. Amidst the chaos of the COVID pandemic and the pressures of adapting to a work-from-home environment, I was determined to conquer AWS SA Pro. Despite my determination, I fell short yet again. The continuous string of failures made me question my approach, leading me to seek improvement. In response, I immersed myself in numerous online AWS events, including Reinvent-2020 Online.
Come September, a turning point arrived when I participated in the "AWS Certification: Exam Prep" session offered by AWS Events. It served as a significant eye-opener, revealing the right way to prepare for certifications—something I had been lacking. The key takeaways from this learning experience were:
- Understand the Exam Guide:
- Grasp the skills and knowledge required for the exam.
- Service Focus and Gap Analysis:
- Delve into the services relevant to each exam and conduct a personal knowledge gap analysis.
- White Papers and Best Practices Lens:
- Read white papers and lenses for best practices.
- FAQ Exploration:
- Go through FAQs for comprehensive understanding.
- Reinvent Playlist Dive:
- Attend Reinvent Playlists related to the exam you are preparing for.
This shift in approach became a pivotal moment in my certification journey, providing a clearer roadmap for success.
Armed with the knowledge and strategies I devised last year, I outlined a clear roadmap to complete all certifications within a three-year timeframe. I also want to enjoy the journey by learning in depth and have fun.
Starting from the foundational level, I initiated my revamped learning approach by conquering the AWS Cloud Practitioner Exam, AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Associate, and AWS Certified SysOps Administrator in the first three months of this year. The journey was not only enjoyable but also immensely educational.
For those gearing up for Associate Exams (keeping it current, as in AWS, every day is Day 1), here are my recommendations:
- Reinvent Playlist:
- Mandatory: EC2, S3, Cloudwatch, VPC, Cloudfront, IAM
- Optional: RDS, Sagemaker
These resources will not only enhance your preparation but also provide valuable insights to navigate the AWS certification journey effectively.
This year I completed Kubernetes certification also CKA and CKAD.
This newfound confidence propelled me towards taking on the challenge of AWS SA Professional. Simultaneously,But I set my sights on achieving DevOps Professional certification this year, aiming to complement my expanding knowledge alongside AWS SA Professional. Given my strong grasp and experience in DevOps practices, leading a DevOps team, I felt ready for the task.
Adopting a similar approach, I delved into the DevOps Professional Exam Guide: Link to Exam Guide, meticulously identifying my gaps and dedicating six months to preparation. Drawing insights from Reinvent videos proved invaluable, and after acing two practice exams, success was within reach.
Identifying my major gaps in Management and Governance, along with Developer Tools, I dedicated considerable time to master and practice these areas before the exam. The culmination of my efforts came to fruition on December 29th 2021 when I passed the exam with flying colours.
Achieving a strong score in the DevOps Professional exam boosted my confidence to attempt the AWS SA Professional exam. Opting for an additional two months of deep dive learning, I explored AWS Workshops at https://workshops.aws/, practicing extensively in my Personal Account based on identified gaps. I highly recommend trying these workshops for fun, knowledge, interest, and exam preparation.
Successfully passing the Solution Architect Professional Exam on my third attempt marked a proud accomplishment. Now, my journey ventures into Data Analytics and ML Speciality Certification. Leveraging my strong forte, I decided to practice both concurrently.
For beginners entering the ML domain without prior experience, I suggest investing three to four months in Andrew Ng's course, which proved invaluable in this AI era. Expediting my learning journey, I utilized the
- Machine Learning Basics: https://www.coursera.org/specializations/machine-learning-introduction
- Deep Learning Specialization: https://www.deeplearning.ai/courses/deep-learning-specialization/.
- Staying relevant with the community, I followed https://www.meetup.com/data-science-on-aws/ and utilized.
- Reinvent Playlists forData and Analytics (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFmkE7tIslA&list=PL2yQDdvlhXf_-5YONXXqggeOL-UxcgH5C) and
- The Machine Learning University at https://aws.amazon.com/machine-learning/mlu/ and AI/ML and Athena Workshops were highly beneficial.
Incorporating mandatory elements such as S3, Athena, Glue, EMR, Sagemaker, RDS, and ML Basics, alongside optional Quicksights, was key for success.
Journey towards AWS Community Builders
Discovering the joy of giving back, I joined the AWS Community Builder in the second half of the year. Creating my meetup group, https://www.meetup.com/dataopslabs/, in November 2022, I conducted sessions on my interests, specifically MLOps. All recordings are available on my blog, https://www.dataopslabs.com/, and YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/@DataOpsLabsIndia.
AWS Community Builder & AWS User Group Bangalore Co-Organizer: In the first half of the year, I proudly joined the prestigious AWS Community Builder program. A special thanks to "Bhuvaneshwari - AWS Hero" for welcoming me as a Co-Organizer in the AWS User Group Bangalore.
AI & ML Contributions: I had the honor of contributing to AWS AI and ML initiatives, including hosting a Generative AI with AWS 3-Hour Workshop at AWS Meetup, Virtual Event Hungary, and AZConf. These moments were close to my heart, showcasing my passion for cutting-edge technologies.
AWS Security Specialty: Following a proven blueprint, I successfully achieved the AWS Security Specialty certification in June 2023. Utilizing the Reinvent Playlist videos at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFrj0jHN848&list=PL2yQDdvlhXf8bvQJuSP1DQ8vu75jdttlM, I addressed my gaps in Security Hub and GuardDuty through dedicated practice using AWS Workshop.
AWS Database Specialty: Continuing the journey, I conquered the AWS Database Specialty certification in July 2023. The Reinvent Playlist at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RmwKBPCo7o4&list=PL2yQDdvlhXf_BXR1wcAIn558ejhKhy-JV guided my preparation. Targeting gaps in DocumentDB, I honed my skills through hands-on practice using AWS Workshop.
AWS Advanced Networking - Specialty: Dedicating time to network specialization, I successfully earned the AWS Advanced Networking - Specialty certification in October 2023. The Reinvent Playlist at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aHClvCQfuPs&list=PL2yQDdvlhXf8cWaRO0xirZHHGmxoornri, coupled with a deep dive into AWS Blogs on Networking, proved instrumental. Addressing gaps in Network Firewall and Transit Gateway, I navigated through real-world use cases.
SAP Specialty: Delving into SAP specialization, I revisited my past experiences with SAP infrastructure administration. Recognizing the evolution in the SAP landscape, I dedicated two months to prepare for the SAP Specialty exam. Kick-starting with videos at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FW6gMs9NnMo&list=PLhr1KZpdzukdbD6WFSe_tPVSMFEELyKI0 and essential documentation at https://aws.amazon.com/sap/docs/, I focused on SAP HANA Migration, DR Best Practices, and the SAP Ecosystem.
I finally succeed at SAP Certification on December 27th.
My journey towards completing AWS certifications has been an expedition filled with gratitude, setbacks, and ultimately, triumph. I owe a debt of thanks to my unwavering family and my supportive wife, who stood by me through the highs and lows of this three-year endeavor.
No time to rest as my childlike curiosity for AWS intensifies. Next on the agenda is conquering the AWS Data Associate Beta Exam. Simultaneously, I'm doubling down on learning and contributing:
- 24 Blogs with Usecases and Sample Code: Sharing practical insights through bite-sized blogs.
- 24 Videos/Sessions: Creating engaging video content to simplify AWS concepts.
- Mentoring Upcoming Students: Guiding and supporting fellow learners on their AWS journey.
Plus, if possible, I'm aiming to attend Reinvent-2024 to soak in the latest inspirations and innovations. Onwards to an exciting and knowledge-packed year!