The Road to Becoming AWS Certified Is Worth the Journey

Posted by Scott Mabe, Technical Manager

Aug 08, 2019


Hi friends, Scott Mabe here again. I know we’ve talked about many technical things in my past blogs. Today, we’re going to get more personal and look at your own cloud journey as an AWS-certified IT pro. I’ve traveled that path myself.

I started my own cloud computing career in 2011. It's been a long and winding road getting to where I am today. I doubt that I would know as much as I do about cloud solutions with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and its cloud computing platform had I not started to study for its certifications.

As Amazon Web Services puts it, AWS Certification, “helps learners build credibility and confidence by validating their cloud expertise with an industry-recognized credential and organizations identify skilled professionals to lead cloud initiatives using AWS.”

That’s definitely true, but for me, it was more than validation of my expertise. It reshaped the way I work and how I look at the cloud. And because I work at an organization that's an AWS Advanced Consulting Partner, I wanted to be sure I was certified in AWS solutions.

AWS Certifications Are Life-Changing

I achieved my first certification in August 2015. At that time I was working on a project supporting The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). I didn't know it at the time, but the preparations for that exam changed the way I work and my entire life forever.

Normally, when preparing for any IT exam, most people would gravitate toward specialty books; you know, the ones that weigh 10 pounds. While this was a viable strategy in the past, we live in an ever-changing cloud world where features change in the blink of an eye. That’s why preparation now involves online study, research and labs — and also in some cases training bootcamps.

I’d like to give a quick shout out to Linux Academy. Its online courses are top-notch, and it also provides hands-on labs that you can leverage to reinforce the ideas you just learned about during your prep.

Early on in my prep process, I learned about what AWS calls user data, which is how you can pass commands into a virtual server so you provision and configure that server in a programmatic fashion. This concept was a major revelation to me; I would have never known about it had I not been studying for the AWS certification exam.

As time went on with the CMS project, we discovered we needed increasingly more automation. This propelled me toward my current journey of continuous learning. During this time, I soaked up every piece of information and followed every announcement from AWS. I also ended up falling into the trap of buying way too many courses on Udemy that I still haven’t completed to date. Part of the fun of learning was sharing with my team and experimenting with new services and ideas.

Securing a DevOps Future

Fast forward to 2018. After all of my studying and hands-on experience, I realized I loved DevOps and set a goal to earn the AWS DevOps Engineer Professional certification.

When I found out I would be attending AWS's re:Invent this past December, I decided to learn more about taking cloud certification exams. It would be crazy to think that I would travel across the country from Baltimore to Las Vegas for the event and then wake up early to partake in a DevOps certification bootcamp. But that’s exactly what I did.

For those who are unaware, a bootcamp is a learning session that can run from anywhere from one full day to three full days. It immerses you into a specific area of study.

In my case, the one I attended in Las Vegas helped me prepare for the DevOps Pro certification exam. I highly recommend that if you ever have the chance to take part in an AWS bootcamp, their instructors are top-notch.

This particular bootcamp experience was memorable because it may have been one of the first experiences with AWS where instructors no longer used Labs by QwikLabs; in fact, they didn’t use labs at all.

As a side note, QwikLabs is a fantastic resource that simulates all aspects of logging into an AWS console and gaining real-world experience. While that sounds good, the labs are timed; this can make you feel a little overwhelmed in a session such as this.

For this reason, I enjoyed the lack of labs; it helped me feel more relaxed as opposed to fighting against the clock and encountering the occasional bugs associated with the labs.

The bootcamp also provided many memorable "aha" moments I had during the prep process. Due to the nature of the exam itself and the non-disclosure agreement around the exam, I can’t share much about the content. But, I can say that I was blown away by things I believed incorrectly about AWS exams. The bootcamp also helped me learn how to eliminate false answers. That was a major revelation.

After the bootcamp and having a great time at re:Invent, I came home to finish my exam prep. I was able to employ the lessons learned during the bootcamp. I am proud to say that I passed the DevOps Pro exam on Jan. 11, 2019.

In summary, studying for AWS exams can be daunting. However, I find it to be a journey worthy of exploration. I feel as if I learned so much about some of the services about which I knew very little. This led me to gain hands-on experience with them.

I hope that all of this blog’s readers will look into the certification process and start that journey for themselves. Also, feel free to reach out to me with your questions, comments and concerns about becoming AWS certified. I’d love to hear from you!


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Scott Mabe, Technical Manager

Scott is Onix's Technical Manager. He is a lifelong learner, experimenter and cloud enthusiast. He helps provide world-class services to both internal and external customers and potential Onix customers. When Scott does not have his head in the clouds, he can be found going to Meetups, reading comic books and traveling to see live music. Should you ever encounter him in the wild, please be sure to say hello; he'd love to share a joke or a smile with you.

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