The Quest for the Holy Grail (of certifications)

I count myself as one of those whose quest for getting certified has gotten slightly out of hand. During my 1,5 year stay in Gofore I’ve completed the following certs:

Amazon Web Services (AWS)

  • DevOps Engineer – Professional

Microsoft Azure

  • MCP
  • MCSA
  • MCSE

Google Cloud Platform (GCP)

  • Associate Cloud Engineer
  • Professional Cloud Architect

This is the story of how this came to be

Chapter 1 – England 932 A.D.

The quest started two years ago, in the fall of 2016. It had become apparent in discussions with my friends and in tech news that AWS Certifications were the hot stuff in IT workplaces. As I was doing the groundwork for the classic ”looking for challenges” ie. ”looking for what challenges to look for”, I thought that maybe this would be it, and I started looking for resources to learn AWS.

At this point, my dear reader, you might take me as a simpleton, and I cannot prove you otherwise. Sometimes I make decisions on a whim.

I started the task by googling, but found out that I would need a more formal structure for studying. Googling only helps if you know what you are searching for; if you are completely clueless about the subject you only learn dots here and there, with none of them connecting. Luckily after I while I stumbled upon https://acloud.guru and instead of stumbling I started to jog.

In a few months, I managed to get the Solutions Architect Associate followed by Developer Associate a month later. Around this point, I applied to Gofore and after the 2nd round of interviews, I passed the SysOps associate exam. To the surprise of many, I got hired and started as a System Specialist at Gofore on 1.3.2017. I had planned to do the DevOPS professional certification straight away but as my first project was on Openstack I was overwhelmed by the amount of new information and decided to take a timeout on certifications.

Chapter 2 – Witch & Duck test

Summer arrived, quickly followed by fall. A new project arrived and finally with an AWS context. After two months of AWS-labeled elbow grease, I started studying for the DevOps Pro course once again and found it easy compared to 6 months earlier. ”I do this stuff every day”, I thought. Two months later I took the exam and passed.

As the year ended, so did the project. Now I now had a positive problem: I had some 20% of my week free from other projects and internal work. At this point, it had become apparent that Azure had taken some foothold in Finland’s cloud scene, and there was lots of talk about utilizing Azure Stack in traditional data centers. I didn’t know anything about Azure, and as our pool of Azure masters was limited and list of certified Azure people non-existent, I told people I was going to do all the Azure Certificates, and  also do a helpful how-to for others to do them also. There was lots of rejoicing. Two months later I had done all the three exams required by MCSE and the path I took is nicely documented in our Confluence Wiki.

Chapter 3 – Knights Who Say ”Ni!”

In March I started working 100% on projects again. The question of ”what about Google” didn’t exactly keep me up at night, but it was still bugging me. My project was running on AWS but as it was a familiar platform by now, I could simultaneously study the Google Cloud Platform (GCP) in my free time without being overwhelmed (again). I started studying GCP the same way I started with Azure and AWS: by studying for the cert exam. Once again I documented everything I read about GCP in Confluence and rated those sources’ usefulness. This work also benefited me when I was reviewing for the exam. Around May, Google announced the Associate Cloud Engineer Beta exam, which I took as a practice exam for the actual Professional exam. I quickly forgot about it as results wouldn’t be announced until later that summer.

Two weeks before the pro exam I ordered myself a Playstation 4 as a prize for passing. I passed, and I could finally unbox the darned thing that had haunted me for the past few days. I also got mail from Google that I had passed my Cloud Engineer exam, which was a pleasant surprise. For the rest of the summer, I spent my free evening time just casually gaming, benefiting no-one.

In October I got a mail from AWS that some of my earlier certifications were going to expire and I decided to do some personal ’Teemu Selänning’ (the hockey player who always wanted ’one more year’ before retirement) and do one more certification (still working on it).

Chapter 4 – End of the Quest

When I started doing certifications it wasn’t ”just for the kicks”, it was a move to improve my career. I wanted to work with something that was challenging and hot tech-wise and I saw certifications as a key to that goal. Cloud was (and still is) quite a young technology, and there are no cloud experts with 20 years of experience. If there is a knowledge gap between you and a senior cloud practitioner, it can be caught up.

When I started doing the Azure and GCP certs the communality aspect of it increased my motivation: by being a forerunner in those certs (ideally) others would only have to replicate what I did in order to succeed. I also suffer from impostor syndrome and I don’t think of it as a completely negative thing; if it drives me forward, it can’t be all bad.

Roughly 80% of the time spent on the certifications I did in my own time, and the rest I marked down as ”personal development” and it was considered as working time. In Gofore we are allowed (and encouraged) to use 6% of our time on personal development (approx. 1 day per month). I usually study in the evenings when my kids are finally asleep and mark one day of personal development to some random Saturday; to be later used as a flex leave. When my studying was beneficial for the whole Gofore Cloud team, as was the case of creating the ”study paths” for Azure and GCP, I knowingly exceeded the 6% limit for the part that benefitted others (documentation).

Doing certifications may not be your thing, but know this: Google sends swag for every certification exam you pass. It is mainly rubbish, but the mug was cool.

Google swag

 

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