No one knows more than me that preparing for IT certifications can be stressful, especially with all the demands of life. Any goal needs to be S.M.A.R.T as I have always been taught. This stands for the fact that goals need to be specific, measurable, actionable, reasonable, and timely. I would say that this definitely applies to obtaining IT certifications and designations, including this journey to RHCA in Ansible automation prep. But the nucleus of it all, boils down to having an elastic strategy. I mean that a strategy can’t be static. It has to be flexible and bendable. You have to approach preparing for any IT certification understanding that you have to attack it dynamically.
The way we learn has changed over the last ten years, the way IT itself has changed. Now the majority of people prefer to self-study; to purchase the materials, be it books or online training to prepare for an exam. I am of course no different. I have been mostly self-studying for over five years; I find it to be the best strategy.
Evaluating my goals.
Before I decided to pursue a particular certification, in this case the EX407, which is the Red Hat Specialist in Ansible Automation, I determined any barriers that were likely to get in the way of me putting in the time; such as how many hours I spend at work, the time I typically need to take care of family obligations and other outside activities and obligations. I know I will have to reduce the amount of time I spend in these areas, so I determined this first, and then sat down to think about why I want to pursue the certification and take the exam. What ultimately will it get me.
Taking steps to stay committed to studying.
Once I committed to do it, I read through the objectives of the exam to decide how much time I will need to commit to the endeavor and then I selected a date to take the exam. In fact, I went ahead and paid for the exam. This strategy has everything to do with keeping me on track, remembering the target, and staying motivated. I have invested my money and now in order to net a return on my investment, I have to put in the time it will take to prepare and successfully pass the exam. I determined that with my schedule and home life; I would give myself two months to prepare for the exam.
Studying takes dedication, perseverance, and an understanding of what type of “learner” you are, all of which will determine how well and effectively you prepare for the exam. I have determined that I learn best through a combination of reading and more importantly, visually watching and listening to videos. This is a major reason I chose Linux Academy. This week I was able to complete the entire Red Hat Certified Specialist in Ansible Automation Prep Course. I actually ended up completing this course about three weeks early. The course, besides the theory, includes exercises, quizzes, and hands-on labs – the most pertinent content.
I designated 2 hours M-F for study after work for cooking dinner and spending time with family. Saturdays, I decided to study four hours and Sunday was my day of leisure where my time was only for family. I would spend 1.5 hours watching Linux Academy videos, take notes, and then take an hour to read some use cases of how Ansible is used in enterprise, as well as articles about how Ansible is integrated with other technologies like Docker and AWS.
With any Red Hat exam, practice, practice, practice is required.
Ansible is a configuration, deployment, and orchestration tool. This specific course covers areas including static and dynamic inventories, creating ansible playbooks, ansible vault, ansible galaxy, gathering facts, ad hoc commands, etc. All of Red Hat’s exams are performance-based, which means they’re “practical” exams – you are given a workstation with virtual machines running and are asked to perform certain tasks. In the case of this Ansible exam, this means mostly writing playbooks, but also running ad-hoc commands and configuring Ansible itself, of which I get real hands-on practice with my Linux Academy membership.
I will say that Linux Academy’s course covers all of the objectives on the exam:
- Understand core components of Ansible
- Configuration files
- Run ad-hoc Ansible commands
- Use both static and dynamic inventories to define groups of hosts
- Utilize an existing dynamic inventory script
- Create Ansible plays and playbooks
- Know how to work with commonly used Ansible modules
- Use variables to retrieve the results of running a commands
- Use conditionals to control play execution
- Configure error handling
- Create playbooks to configure systems to a specified state
- Selectively run specific tasks in playbooks using tags
- Create and use templates to create customized configuration files
- Work with Ansible variables and facts
- Create and work with roles
- Download roles from an Ansible Galaxy and use them
- Manage parallelism
- Use Ansible Vault in playbooks to protect sensitive data
- Install Ansible Tower and use it to manage systems
- Use provided documentation to look up specific information about Ansible modules and commands
Thinking ahead for the Ansible Automation prep.
Towards the end of the Linux Academy course, I went back over areas that I felt were likely to be a large part of the exam such as host and group variables, roles, modules, templates; all of which are core components of Ansible. I will have four hours to complete the exam and exam times vary for different certification exams of course, but you need to consider this as part of your exam preparation strategy.
Doing more to prepare for the exam.
Also consider using supplemental materials to gain a variety of perspectives on the subject matter or concepts that you are studying. Since finishing the Red Hat Certified Specialist in Ansible Automation prep course (ahead of schedule), I have also decided to take Linux Academy’s Using Ansible for Configuration Management and Deployments course, as it provides real world exercises around configuring and deploying Ansible. I am about 30% complete with this course and will further delve into this new course next time. Until then, happy studying!