So, you’re considering taking the plunge and going for an AWS certification? Or maybe you’re really ambitious and would like to get multiple certifications? Well, take heart! You’ve come to the right place. At first, this may seem like an unattainable goal, but it really isn’t – the key to getting AWS Certified is perseverance. It’s a lot like the old expression “how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!” Fortunately, AWS is loaded with a lot of great services, which I’m certain you will find tastier than an elephant.
The Key to Getting AWS Certified
I know when I first started my quest for AWS certifications, I was excited about the prospect of starting the journey. But, I was also a bit apprehensive about the enormity of the task. The key is to do your research, set goals, plan your effort, and persevere until you reach your goals. It’s not easy, but would you want a certification that was easy and anybody could get?
Getting certified isn’t easy, but it can be very rewarding and beneficial to your career. Allow me to digress for a few minutes and tell the story of a man who dove in way over his head and embarrassed himself many times before eventually succeeding. But he made a plan, stuck with his plan, and showed great perseverance. Hopefully, you’ll find it entertaining and inspiring.
The Drive-Thru Stickup
Nate, a friend and co-worker of mine, decided to take up competitive cycling at the age of 36. That’s a typical age for competitive cyclists to ride off into the sunset. But Nate was determined, made a plan, set goals, and disciplined himself to reach those goals. He could be seen cycling during his lunch breaks while his co-workers were driving to their favorite fast food joint. In addition to his advancing age, Nate was built more for football than cycling. He quickly learned that chasing small men up mountains on a bike was a losing proposition.
His first race proved exhilarating for the first half mile. But he popped a chain in his zest to chase small people up the first hill and never saw them again. He finished ahead of one teenage girl but couldn’t say for sure if he finished ahead of anyone else. But it strengthened his resolve and he trained harder.
He entered a major race in a neighboring city, complete with massage tents, a DJ, and scores of fans lining the streets. But Nate wasn’t much for gadgets and without a GPS, took a wrong turn and arrived at the race 5 minutes before its start. Without a proper warm-up, his body was ill-prepared for the violent effort required. In front of his children, family, and friends, Nate rode most of the race with his head down and came in dead last. But despite the humiliation, Nate just trained harder.
He won the company Super Bowl pool and with the prize money, he hired an online cycling coach named Tommy. Tommy seemed like he knew what he was doing, and c’mon – Tommy just sounds like a cyclist. Nate trained all winter under Tommy’s direction and found a big race up in the Great Lakes area (no mountains to climb… whew!). This had to be the breakthrough race! But things weren’t meant to come easy for Nate and the late April race was canceled due to lake effect snow the morning of the race.
Then came the final humiliation. Nate had found his race! Tommy emailed Nate some motivational messages to tape to his handlebar for specific points in the race. Nate jotted the messages down on a sticky note while waiting to go with his buddies to lunch. The simple phrases Tommy provided included “Attack!!”, “Take no prisoners!!”, “No pain!!”, “Never give up!!” Nate stuck the note in his shirt pocket and headed to lunch with his buddies.
Nate needed to make a pitstop at the bank. Being old school, he liked to cash paper checks. So after pulling up to the drive-thru, he pulled the check from his shirt pocket and shoved it in the slot. It seemed to take longer than usual, but the bank teller finally returned on the intercom. In a voice mixed with fear, anger, and alarm she demanded of Nate, “Sir, what is the meaning of this note?”
Stunned, Nate replied, “What note?”
The bank teller replied even more forcefully, “The one that says attack, take no prisoners, no pain!!”
Nate turned 7 shades of red as his buddies chuckled uncomfortably. Nate replied, “I’m so sorry, ma’am, that is a note from my cycling coach who was trying to motivate me. It must have stuck to my paycheck.”
He finally convinced the teller, over the uproarious laughter of his buddies, that it wasn’t a drive-thru stickup. He was the brunt of severe ribbing at lunch and his friends, all software engineers, rushed back to the office to create a fictitious web article detailing the notorious “drive-thru stickup artist” and his exploits.
Nate withstood the ribbing in the office for months and certainly considered dropping his quest for cycling glory. But instead, he planned smarter, trained harder and pushed forward. Things started coming together and he found success. This included a 9th place finish in his class in the state championship, a 6th place finish in the big race where he had failed miserably the year before, and a championship in a team triathlon (where Nate was the cyclist). All it took was tenacity, commitment to a plan, a lot of hard work, and most importantly, overcoming a fear of failure.
Wait… How Does This Apply to Certifications?
So, what in the world does this have to do with AWS certifications? Well, sometimes it is difficult to get started on what seems to be a daunting task. Committing to start and stick with it can be half of the battle. I like the expression “endeavor to persevere.” Certification tests can be intimidating, but successful completion offers both personal satisfaction and the opportunity for professional advancement. In short, it is well worth the effort.
And the good news is, unlike Nate, you will not have to show up to the test center in Lycra bike shorts. You will not have your family and friends huddled around the computer awaiting your test results. And you will not have your buddies chuckling about your efforts in the car on the way home. It is simply you versus the certification exam. If you plan and prepare well, you certainly can come out on top.
Failing to Prepare is Preparing to Fail
Success requires discipline, time management, and a solid plan. There are many tools to help you do this. For example, all Linux Academy courses have a utility that helps you to create a course schedule in preparation for your certification exam. The Course Scheduler helps you prioritize and manage the time you have to prepare. You can schedule the daily hours you would like to study based on your availability. I try to set aside time daily and extra time on the weekends. The great thing is that once you enter your daily study hours, the course scheduler will create a list of assignments by date. It’s all done for you. It is just a matter of being disciplined and following the schedule. Take the quizzes, do the labs, take practice tests to know where you stand.
One of my favorite features of the Linux Academy site is the Flash Cards. Flash Cards help you learn the terms associated with each service and it’s a great technique to highlight important keywords.
An example is the term “asynchronous” which is a flashing beacon pointing to read replicas when talking about RDS. Read replicas use asynchronous updates and multi-AZ updates are synchronous. The flash cards are a great help in committing these types of details to memory.
There are no shortcuts and the exams are challenging, but success is far from impossible. All it takes is commitment and some sacrifices. Maybe set the DVR to record your favorite shows and reward yourself with a binge-watching weekend after you pass your certification. Maybe you need to study after the kids have been put to bed. Use the course scheduler to tailor your study plan to help overcome the challenges specific to your life.
When it comes to making the choice on whether to get AWS certified or not, I say “attack!!” and “take no prisoners!!”
…Please just don’t submit these words to your local bank teller!