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From Software Engineering to AWS Cloud Consultant &Beyond
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From Software Engineering to AWS Cloud Consultant &Beyond

My strategy and tips to help you achieve the same based on my own experience.

Published May 2, 2024
"Your education is a dress rehearsal for a life that is yours to lead." - Nora Ephron
Looking to transition into cloud consultancy? Maybe you have already looked it up online and it feels overwhelming? In this article, I'll share my journey towards becoming an AWS cloud consultant and the milestones that guided me there. I will provide my strategy and tips to help you achieve the same.
Let me first introduce myself. I am a senior cloud consultant at TeamWork Switzerland, an AWS partner. I became an AWS Instructor which enabled me to share my passion for IT.  In the summer of 2022, I was accepted to the AWS Community Builder program. I'm challenged in balancing my role as a mother of two young boys with tech career. So let me share with you how my journey started.
I was already interested in the cloud world, but my journey got a push at the first AWS Summit Switzerland in 2019 in Baden. After the event was done and I was heading back home, I was just in time for my train. Maybe a little late... 😅 It depended on how long the red traffic light would stay red. I was starting to feel rushed while waiting for the light, but the funny thing was the guy next to me, Simon, was feeling the same way! After a whole day of chatting with people, I still had energy to talk and asked him:
Once we got to the train platform, Simon introduced me to the AWS Team Manager and the company’s CTO. Here I was, continuing my networking day while feeling tired. What started as a casual discussion, naturally turned into a job interview as the train was heading to Bern. What was mind-blowing for me is that it did not feel like an interview. I was able to be 100% myself, without any preparation. The fatigue went away as I was concentrating myself on the positive experience blended with the excitement of the moment. We continued to discuss until arriving in Bern, where I needed to take another train. Once I was alone, I couldn’t believe what had just happened! This marked the beginning of my path towards my first cloud position. 
I studied telecommunications, including computer networking but had zero cloud experience at the time.
I want to share with you four elements that helped me to become an AWS cloud consultant: 
  1. Mentorship
  2. Defining my plan
  3. Certification
  4. The AWS community

1. Mentorship

I reached out to a friend of mine, Dana from AWS, and asked her to become my mentor. I would say that she ignited a burning desire for the cloud domain in me. Leveraging my curiosity, I wanted to learn more about cloud and she was open to discuss it with me. Dana encouraged me to join the AWS Summit where I met Simon.
You may be asking yourself how you find a mentor. The internet is full of resources on the topic. Personally, it has always paid off when reaching out to someone from my existing network, ideally a friend or someone from my organization. I am naturally reaching out to people that have the will to share their advice. A mentor helps out with guidance, insights, and support. This is a relationship to nurture and cherish for. 
✍️ How many of your existing connections would be a good fit as a mentor for you? I invite you to take a couple of minutes, reflect on it and note their names down.
I once reached out to someone very inspiring to me through LinkedIn. We were virtually connected for 3 years already but never got the opportunity to meet in person. I was witnessing her career development, certainly from a distance, through LinkedIn glasses. I decided to reach out again and ask for a meeting. The person happily accepted, but life made that in the end we never got to have that call or meet in person. There is no perfect timing. Just try and see.
Even after choosing a mentor and meeting him/her a couple of times, if it feels like the bond is not happening, you have the permission to stop. Everyone’s time is precious, including your mentor’s and yours. Don’t force it. Let it go.
💡Tip: I invite you to take 10 minutes to reach out to one of your mentor candidates today.

2. Defining my plan

After the interview on the train with Simon, the recruitment process continued. Throughout the steps, the hiring manager shared with me that there were two conditions to comply with. Two AWS certifications were mandatory to achieve early on the job: AWS Cloud Practitioner and AWS Solutions Architect Associate. Fair enough. Optionally, there was a possibility to become an AWS Authorized Trainer, an AAI. That sounded very challenging for me because I needed to be able to speak in front of a crowd. Yet very attractive too, as it was an opportunity to develop my public speaking skills. I was trying to picture myself as a trainer, an AWS trainer, while I was new to the technology. It seemed crazy to me!
To become a cloud consultant you don't need to be a trainer.
I find setting clear, achievable goals essential for anything I want to achieve. I was given the opportunity for a new job in consultancy, for a new job in cloud, for a new job as a trainer. I needed to revisit my mid-term career objectives and break them down into smaller, actionable steps. I usually work on a 2-year plan, it feels easier to me.
✍️ What time frame usually works for you when you plan your career? I invite you to take a couple of minutes, reflect on it and note it down.
My plan included achieving AWS certifications, gaining hands-on experience with the AWS platform, building my network around the cloud industry and becoming an AWS trainer.
  • Achieving an AWS Certification: I used the “Solutions architect” certification path.
  • Gaining hands-on experience: With my new job in the cloud, I had opportunities to build hands-on skills.
  • Building a network: I needed to develop this skill to broaden my network.
  • Becoming an AWS trainer: I was counting on receiving mentorship from my colleagues. I was lucky to have 5 AWS trainers as teammates.
I tried first to leverage what I found online and in my existing network. People are usually very open to supporting you, so don't hesitate to ask them. By being flexible in adapting my goals as I gain new insights, new opportunities arise. Here is an overview of my plan at the time when I included the goals that came up on my path later on.
AWS Cloud Advisor Plan
My AWS Cloud Consultant Roadmap
💡Tip: I invite you to take 10 minutes to write down your goal draft. Be sure that the draft will evolve with your journey.

3. Certification

Training & preparation are personal. Each of us has a unique blend of background, learning style, experience and soft skills. I find that it does help to know which type of person you are when it comes to an exam. 
  1. I am more the person that would prepare, prepare, prepare and never feel ready to go take that exam. I experienced it with the AWS Cloud Practitioner certification. Following around 3 weeks of preparation, I knew I had what it takes, yet there was always a “What if …?” in my head pushing me to spend more time on preparation. I came to realize that taking practice exams gives me proof that I am ready for the real exam. 
  2. I’m a sprinter. Literally and metaphorically. I have excelled at preparing my exams last minute since always. I manage to increase my focus level under time pressure, which enables me to learn faster. This comes though with a price in energy once the exam is done.
Everyone can achieve certifications. Leverage your strengths and be aware of your weaknesses. This is a gold nugget for a successful strategy. 
✍️ How do you act when it comes to an exam? I invite you to take a couple of minutes, reflect on it and note it down.
It was during a hot summer. I was with my family working remotely. The workload was light. This was it! My opportunity to tackle my first AWS professional exam, as I had already had 2.5 years of experience in cloud. But I had about 10 days to prepare and take my exam before my holidays and even though it seemed challenging, I decided to use this opportunity!😊
It was my 3rd AWS exam, therefore I was already used to the AWS exam-style questions. I had access to A Cloud Guru platform and needed a good strategy to achieve my goal. 
Here is what I came up with, and I would recommend it to you. 
  1. Review the exam guide. Each AWS certification exam has a dedicated page with useful information including resources and a link to the exam guide.
  2. Take an early practice exam. This allowed me to evaluate my starting point and highlighted the knowledge blanks to fill up. There are multiple practice exams available out there. As an example, here is the one I used for my AWS Solutions Architect Associate.
  3. Book my exam date. I knew I couldn’t go back from that moment.
  4. Create a training plan. This enabled me to optimize my time. I had goals to achieve each day and practice exams planned in advance in my calendar. Was I feeling confident on the second practice exam? No, no, no! But the goal was to learn at speed, not to pass the exam. There were still days when I did not train - for example, during the weekends - and that was OK! I gave myself grace! Please remember to give yourself grace too!
  5. Learn. Learn. Learn. Again, it depends on your learning style.
    1. AWS FAQs and AWS Whitepapers are a gold mine! I always go through the ones relevant to the exam. You may find the relevant ones on the exam’s dedicated page.
    2. Digital training. Multiple options out there such as AWS Skill Builder. I personally used my A Cloud Guru subscription. Relevant exam training is also available on the exam’s dedicated page.
    3. Labs or self-experimentation. AWS Workshops are great when you want to get your hands dirty! While I was short on time, I went through 1 or 2 labs on things that were completely new to me. I personally retain a lot better by doing, experiencing with the service. 
  6. Take another practice exam. Evaluate. Based on the results, I went back to some specific services, documentation.
  7. Repeat practice exams and learning until I score above 75% on at least 2 different practice exams. You may read online that most people will usually advise you to aim for at least 85% on practice exams. Am I taking a high risk? I usually do much better on the exam day than on the practice exams. This is something I am personally betting on. Do what makes you feel confident. Your results for the exam are reported as a scaled score of 100–1,000. The minimum passing score is 720 for an associate certification and 750 for an AWS professional or specialty certification.
  8. Take the exam.
If you're looking for free/cheap solutions, know that the internet is full of content that can help you achieve this goal. Just keep in mind that it might take more time to achieve the same results compared to someone who is using paid solutions.
If I planned to take an AWS exam ahead of time, there would be 2 things I would consider doing:
  1. In person training class. The sweet thing about this kind of training is that you immerse yourself with a trainer that you get to ask all your questions, you might get to experiment through labs and exchange with other participants.
  2. Finding a study buddy.
I was quite nervous before my exam. I scored around 70% on the last practice exams and had my exam date booked. I needed to take my chance on it. So, I did my best to be relaxed during the exam and give my best. I was so nervous at the end of the exam that I clicked next, next, next, and missed the page where it says passed or not. Couldn’t believe it! I needed to work on my patience while waiting for the results.
780/1000. This was my score. The challenge I took on, it was definitely stressful and a great achievement for me!
Next time, a part of me would love to lower the stress by setting aside a bit more time to prepare for my exam. Naturally, I always go back to my working strategy because I have already embraced it.
💡Tip: I invite you to embrace your natural way of working.

4. The AWS community

Three days after accepting my new position as a cloud consultant, a local meetup about AWS was held, and it seemed like a great place to network around the technology I was going to work with. The meetup room was full of people, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed as I pictured myself to be one with little to zero AWS knowledge. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone to take the most out of it. Got my first cloud connections outside my friends’ circle, yeey!
As I went down the road, I discovered an amazing community around AWS ready to help. You might find people having experienced what you are going through now. It might give you some good vibes when reading their stories, seeing them achieving certifications, getting that new job they were aiming for or just navigating the work life as a fresh parent. The people that really inspire me, I take a leap of faith and message them on LinkedIn. Sometimes I get to connect with them and exchange around common interests.
AWS Communities
✍️What resources are available to you and not leveraged? (Websites, tools, connections…) I invite you to take a couple of minutes, reflect on it and note it down.
There are two main places where you can go to read articles created by the AWS community:
Where can you network in person around the AWS community?
By actively networking and building relationships with individuals already established in the cloud consulting industry, you can gain valuable insights, access new opportunities, and increase your chances of success in achieving your goals.
💡Tip: I invite you to take 10 minutes to look out online for local AWS communities you might join.

Final thoughts and your next steps

I received feedback about how lucky I was to get my first cloud job with no cloud experience. Maybe. Consider this also: 
  • There is a known cloud-skills gap. You may search online and find articles like this one. Why am I highlighting this? Because there is an opportunity for you to get that job that you want.
  • I got my second cloud job following a new connection at another AWS event. This time I wasn’t actively looking for a job as before, but I was open to hearing about opportunities. 
In conclusion, transitioning from software engineering to a career as an AWS cloud consultant requires dedication and a proactive approach. You can position yourself for success and embark on a fulfilling journey in the dynamic world of cloud technology by:
  1. Finding a mentor
  2. Defining your plan
  3. Getting yourself certified
  4. Networking within the industry
“Luck is where opportunity meets preparation.” Denzel Washington
🍀What is the one thing that surprised you while writing down your thoughts as you read through the article? Let me know in the comments!
 
Any opinions in this post are those of the individual author and may not reflect the opinions of their employer.
 

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