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How Does Getting an AWS Certification Change Your Career?

kylegalbraith profile image Kyle Galbraith Originally published at blog.kylegalbraith.com ・3 min read

I got a question recently from someone who purchased my Learn AWS By Using It course. They purchased the course a few months ago and used it to help them pass their AWS Solutions Architect exam. They wanted to know what changes once you have an AWS certification.

How does becoming a certified AWS Solutions Architect change your day to day?

It's an interesting question. Getting a certification is often meant to further your career. But this question got me thinking, how has my day to day work changed since becoming certified? When framed that way, I was actually able to trace back through some evolutions.

These are of course my own experiences and unique to me. That said, perhaps they can help you in your career as well.

Before becoming certified I spent a lot of my day in the weeds of code. I was either fixing bugs or building new features (and introducing new bugs, let's be honest). My focus was down in the details. I didn't often think about the larger scale or consider different architectures.

Since becoming a Professional Solutions Architect I am still down in the weeds of code every day. But, having a lot of interest in AWS has given me the ability to think bigger picture. I have learned that I enjoy working at an architecture level. When you are thinking about how to architect a solution to a problem, you get to look at it from all kinds of different angles. Whereas when we are down in the code of the problem, it's often hard to take on those different perspectives.

I attribute this context switch to my interest in Amazon Web Services. I enjoy reading about and learning how to leverage new services to build new solutions to complex problems. Sometimes it's not even about new services, but rather using existing services in a new way.

So, how does getting an AWS Certification fit into all this?

Becoming certified takes a lot of studying. You have to know what services exist and what their purpose is. You also have to know how to stitch together services to build solutions to more complex problems.

Becoming a certified Professional Solutions Architect has given me the tools to do both those tasks. This has benefitted my day to day work because folks come to me with problems they need help solving in AWS. By having the certification and the studying/knowledge to back it, I am now a resource within a team. A resource that may not have existed before. Now I can contribute to higher-level discussions and ideas surrounding bigger goals.

This isn't a generic example and will vary based on your own experience, work ethic, etc. It doesn't mean I spend my entire day architecting things. At the end of the day, software gets built to solve business problems, so my day to day focus is on that. But, sometimes we need to architect new solutions. Sometimes we need to rearchitect existing solutions to better solve the business problem. At those times being an expert in Amazon Web Services is beneficial. It provides a knowledge base others can lean on to build those solutions in the most cloud-native way.

Conclusion

This isn't a post trying to convince you to get an AWS certification. You can, and many people are, successful without one. You can design and implement fantastic solutions within AWS without one.

But, if you are new to cloud computing or Amazon Web Services. Getting a certification might be a great way to build up your knowledge base. If your not new to those concepts, it can still be great as well. You never know what kinds of services, best practices, or patterns you might pick up while studying for the exams.

Want to check out my other projects?

I am a huge fan of the DEV community. If you have any questions or want to chat about AWS certifications, reach out on Twitter or drop a comment below.

Outside of blogging, I created a Learn AWS By Using It course. In the course, we focus on learning Amazon Web Services by actually using it to host, secure, and deliver static websites. It's a simple problem, with many solutions, but it's perfect for ramping up your understanding of AWS. I recently added two new bonus chapters to the course that focus on Infrastructure as Code and Continuous Deployment.

Want to grab a copy of the course to accelerate your learning of AWS? Enter the coupon code getawscert35 at checkout and get 35% off.

Posted on Nov 20 '18 by:

kylegalbraith profile

Kyle Galbraith

@kylegalbraith

Programmer by day and author by night. I am passionate about all things development related, but especially Amazon Web Services. I recently created a course about learning AWS by using it.

Discussion

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Certifikations has always seemed off to me.

Being mostly self taught, picking things up as I need them, the only real use I have ever seen for certifications have been the really nice badge one can put on their resume.

It certainly helps as a contractor, personally I can’t count how many times I’ve had to convince hiring managers that I am in fact an expert at x thing I’ve been doing for y years.

Certification kinda shuts down that conversation rather easily.

 

Certifications to me, as someone who has hired people for DevOps and SRE positions, aren't what I consider experience pieces. Honestly I'm more likely to go with the candidate who learn on their own, because it demonstrates that this person is adaptable and able to continually learn on their own. Also someone who has hands on experience is more equipped to make architectural decisions and contribute more to planning than just implementation, these people are more likely to work independently. Of course if you have a certification and experience that's the same, but overall the certification does nothing in the way of convincing me you're a capable and well equipped engineer. It's pretty meaningless to me. If you're starting out in the field, work on some side projects, I'd rather see those. Blog about your experiences, that's another great way to show interest, ability to learn and adapt, and at least some level of actual experience. To me getting something done means more than getting someone to say you learned something.

 

The process of getting the certification brings a lot of new knowledge in about AWS services, but it doesn't really alter anything that Im doing.

It's more the perception of recruiment/HR that you have a certain skill level that they're looking for. In that sense it helps to bolster your CV and I've gotten my Professional Architect certification for those two reasons (CV and knowledge).

I'm also happy to report that this certification actually means something. I've done certifications for SAP which are just mindless remembering facts that does little to nothing for learning. With AWS that's definitely not the case, the Professional Architect exam is pretty hard. It's 2 hours of reading comprehension, quick knowledge and analysis to pass it, it felt like a marathon running session after I was done.

 

Great perspective Rolf! I second the usefulness piece as well. There are a lot of certifications out there that don't benefit you in the long run or are just superficial.

 

^ Anybody here ever sit the MCSE for Server 2008? The "brain dump" problem got so bad that even tech recruiters I knew started to see it as borderline worthless. A shame too, because if you actually studied and passed the exam legit, you accrued a hell of a lot of knowledge on the Server 2008 ecosystem.

 

Yeah, for me the big thing is giving structure to my learning. It allows me to know what to learn next, and clearly see holes in what I know.

I think also as you say it's nice to be able to put a stamp on your knowledge. It can be infuriating to not be taken seriously for a skill that you've been honing for years, but for whatever reason others don't listen to you or are dismissive. So it can be a great tool for that since not many people can argue with it.

A lot of people have beef with certs, but of course if you pass the test for the sake of passing the test that's kinda pointless, and you'll soon get called out as a fraud, but if you actually get hands on and use the course as a framework for learning, you're golden.

I might check out your course sometime soon Kyle! It sounds interesting!

 

Thank you for the excellent thoughts Lou. I think you really hit on something with using certifications and studying for them as a framework.

Feel free to let me know if you have questions on my course.

 

A lot of it depends on your long term goals and your career patch. Any Joe Blow that enjoys AWS can self teach themselves and be just as knowledgeable as somehow who gets the official Cert. The difference takes shape if you want to work for AWS or work for a company parallel to AWS that you need to show your proficiency in.

At my old job I never would have taken an official Cert because it would have had a limited impact on my career. Now that I work for a company that is an AWS partner, taking Certs adds to my credibility.

 

I manage the AWS Certified Discord in case you're looking to ask questions. It's quite an active group. We just passed 600+ users and it growing daily.

Also, I have full free courses on Youtube, if anyone is looking to get started on their AWS Certification journey:

 

My work with AWS didn't start until I began my job at a startup that wanted to move from a legacy PHP app to serverless via API Gateway and Lambda. I was brought on as "the back end guy" who knew systems architecture and some light DevOps. Fast-forward 6 months and I'm "the guy" for managing and deploying our API via the serverless framework, writing Lambda functions that replace the MVC model on our PHP app, and seem to have to pick up a new AWS technology "on-the-fly" every week.

That being said, if you aren't basically given the keys and told to "go nuts" like I was (our company is 17 people, I'm Engineer #2 if you don't count the CTO and all of engineering is 5) knowing what to learn next or focus on can be a real challenge. Especially is you're learning it mostly for that lateral move.

I guess my point is, certs provide a great way to add structure and, most importantly, a goal to your learning. But I would say they usually hold little value if you don't intend to immediately use what you've learned.

 

Certifications don't mean anything.

They HELP. For sure. But, just because you have a certification, does not mean that you're automatically the type of asset a company is looking for. Sometimes it comes down to attitude and qualities, maybe even relentlessness.

Convincing people is the art of persuasion... having a certification to shut down the persuasion process can open the door to the certified... but often times, readily using the basis of being certified to 'trust' an individual results in things like "$1T of identity theft/cyber criminal activities occurred in 2019", as stated by the guy that runs Microsoft (CEO Satya Nadella @ Microsoft Ignite 11/4/2019).

I don't know about you... but it sure seems like 'certifications' need to be vetted just as much as anyone who does not have certifications. When you're certified and you know someone will automatically hire you... well, it could result in hiring a trojan horse.

It's not that certifications aren't helpful, they are. But to who ...?