Have you ever run around a playground and crashed so hard into another person that you got one of those nasty bumps? You know, the kind that swell up and turn a few different shades of purple and green? This is how a lot of my journey to Red Hat Certified Architect has felt. Of course, bumps and bruises didn’t necessarily come in the form of physical injuries, they were more like emotional contusions.

Life Happens

During my journey to obtain the RHCA, life happened, and often unpredictably. The twists and turns could have derailed me entirely, but I managed to stay on course. I’ll discuss here some of those twists, turns, bumps, and bruises that could have completely stopped me. Then I’ll share what I have done and what I do today that has made me much more resilient. I’m hoping that you too can learn how to build resilience in your day to day life while you’re preparing for exams and certifications, and keeping up with the other demands of a career in Information Technology.

Red Hat Certification Preparation

Considering all that can happen in life, and realizing that I will never be able to predict everything that might happen in my journey, I scheduled several exams 2-3 months out. How far exactly depended on what I already knew about the subject matter or the practical experience I already had. 

I have been using Linux Academy for several years to prepare for exams, so I know how valuable the platform is. I have decided to use Linux Academy’s preparation course, Red Hat Certified Specialist in Ansible Automation Prep Course, to study for the EX407K: Red Hat Certified Specialist in Ansible Automation Certification. I use Google calendar to keep track of my day to day schedule, which includes my study time. The prep course at Linux Academy is a total of 31:19:44 hours long, and Linux Academy has a great scheduling function built right in. It allows me to schedule the amount of time and the days I want to study. For this exam, I chose 2 hours Monday-Friday and 3 hours on Saturdays. The course includes a lot of quizzes and practice exams. In fact, the practice exam at the end of this course is 2 hours and 22 minutes long! When I’m finished, I will know where I stand as far as certification readiness, and I will still be able to take the practice exam several times before my scheduled exam on July 31.  

course scheduler

Scheduling Time to Study

These are the core skills and abilities I will possess once I have completed my Linux Academy training. I plan to check off these areas as I go along and revisit them at the end of my practical exams:

  • Understand core components of Ansible:
    • Inventories
    • Modules
    • Variables
    • Facts
    • Plays
    • Playbooks
    • 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

The Ansible Automation Exam

Because the EX407 is performance-based, like all of Red Hat’s exams, practice, practice, practice is a necessity. This exam will likely require me to develop Ansible playbooks that configure systems for specific roles, and then apply those playbooks to systems to implement those roles. I may also be asked to demonstrate my ability in running Ansible playbooks, and configure an Ansible environment for specific behaviors. The exam is 3 hours long. Official scores for the exam will come from Red Hat, and you’ll be required to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement.

Journey to Success

I read an interesting article by Benjamin P. Hardy called How To Quickly  Blow-Past The Top 1-3% Of Your Industry. In this article the author stated “The more successful a person becomes, the more distractions there are.  The harder it is to remain focused on their core objectives.”  The article further argued as someone becomes more successful, more opportunities will come their way that ultimately lead to distractions. When you get to a certain position or skill-level, the results that are achieved come at a faster rate. You are less and less afraid and you are more and more confident. Perhaps you’ll even be overly-confident, wanting to pursue everything, even things you have little skill or ability in.

As I have gained further success, that success is not anything determined by others but set by myself. The more opportunities and money that have come, the more likely I am to say yes to things that really aren’t making me more successful, or things that I am not passionate about. This, in many aspects, has become a challenge as I attempt more and more certifications that will lead to what I hope are better or greater opportunities.

Once I determined that I wanted to pursue the RHCA, I knew that it would require time away from family and friends. Instead of being with them, I’d be reading, studying, and practicing for an exam. The first thing I did, after deciding to chase the RHCA, was to purchase the exam vouchers and set a date for the exam. I have heard of someone completing all 5 exams in 5 months. I thought to myself “Wow that is amazing,” but had to remember not to compare myself to others. This is my own journey, and I returned my focus to me.

The Bigger Picture

I continue to remind myself that I am only human and I don’t compare myself to others.  There are those that have already achieved the RHCA, but their timeline and their journey is not my own.  These have been invaluable lessons I have learned in my journey. I share my journey, in hopes of inspiring all, but most importantly to influence many that look like me and who have chosen a field that can be constantly challenging and constantly exciting but requires a lot of grit and determination.  

While I may not always complete my entire study schedule, because of whatever life hands to me on a given day, I know that I can adjust. So, if I am only able to get in 30 minutes instead of 2 hours on a Monday, I will tack on 30 minutes on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, then spend an additional hour and a half on Saturday.

The trick is not to get down on yourself, but to focus on the bigger picture.

Well, it’s getting late and it’s time I focus on Loops and Conditionals, error handling in playbooks, tagging tasks in playbooks, as well as a quiz, a couple of exercises, and a couple of hands-on labs. In fact, Linux Academy just announced a hand full of new Red Hat hands-on training content, see the list here.

No matter the bumps and bruises that will come your way, have a plan, be flexible, and be comfortable with discomfort. Don’t forget to enjoy the ride. I sure am.

One response to “Road to RHCA: The Bumps & Bruises to Ansible Automation Expertise”

  1. Carlton D Jones says:

    Great encouragement!! Keep grinding

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