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Roy Honders
Roy Honders

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Flash around your AWS badge of honor.

This blog will go to detail into:

  • Why one should or shouldn't certify.
  • My experience with AWS.
  • Practical exam tips.
  • The result I achieved.

Why certify?

The title might sound like I am immediately going to advocate getting certified on AWS but the first question to ask is always why?
Why would someone need a certification/badge? How does a standardized test make you as a developer more knowledgeable?

start with why

The short answer is that you probably don't need to get certified in order to get the knowledge that you need to do your job right.

To me, the added benefit is that someone else (an employer or client) can quickly validate that you have a certain level of knowledge required to handle their systems in AWS. Other than that, it's a nice validation that you have the skills required to work with AWS.

My journey into AWS

The first time I did something with AWS was somewhere in 2018 when I was discovering how to host the side-project I was working on. At this time I didn't know anything about public cloud providers other than the ones that provide cheap virtual private servers (VPS's).
Compared to EC2 from AWS this is way cheaper, but AWS seemed more professional and able to provide other services as well.

For this project, I ended up not choosing AWS, because Google Cloud had an easier serverless compute option with their App Engine and Cloud Run services (topic for another blog post). This however didn't stop me from using AWS for other goals.

In February 2019 I started my graduate internship. At the internship company, they used AWS fully. Since they didn't need me to work on all the systems, I only used the S3 service to retrieve some exported data that I could use to do my project.
Although this experience didn't give me the full picture of AWS as a cloud provider, I could learn how to use the CLI and work with one of its services. Besides that, I heard from the backend team about the other AWS services and could write them down for further investigation into what they are.

This leads me to the first real experience with AWS. In October 2019 I started working at Luminis as my first full-time job. The project I started with required the use of AWS IoT. This is a specialized service for building internet of things services.
As a front-end engineer, I was tasked to build an Angular application directly on top of the HTTP API that Amazon Web Services provides. In order to do this, we needed temporary credentials, which let met to using Cognito.
To host the website we used CloudFront as a CDN and S3 as the storage. For another project, I have also learned how to configure a custom domain to CloudFront, but this wasn't yet needed for this project.

How much experience would you say you have before taking the exam?

Together I would say I had 3 months of experience using AWS actively and full-time before taking the exam. In this Added to that is 6 months of using mainly the S3 service.
Together you could call this 9 months of experience, but my projects didn't use AWS as intensively as is asked in the developer associate exam.
Before the exam, I only used a handful of services, while there are over 200+ of them. This means I had to learn the goal of the other services in order to prepare for the exam.

Practical exam tips after deciding to get certified

If you like to read more about AWS to get a broad overview first, I suggest you look at some of these cheat sheets to get some more information about all the services out there:

Just a few days before taking your exam you have to follow the following course:

This course will go into detail on how AWS will ask questions and it will give an interactive way of stressing the important details that exist in the question.
For example, you will notice that usually the first sentence of a question is not informative for answering the question.

1. Look at some of the product (services) FAQs

Studying for the exam, you mainly have to learn about AWS services. A good way to learn about them is by reading their FAQs. This will list all the common questions others have asked about the services.

This is not something I did for ALL of the services that AWS is offering. However, I found it really useful to get an idea of what these services are for. Examples I looked at are:

More advanced products:

2. Take practice exams.

The practice exam service that I used is called Whizlabs for which you can buy exams through a one-time purchase. You could also purchase an official AWS practice exam, but that one is more expensive.

After completing one exam successfully you will get a free official practice exam for your next certification and you will also get a 50% discount towards your next exam.

There are five practice exams that you can make:

This is what the results look like:

The added benefit of learning through the practice exams is as follows:

3. Saving links as resources that you didn't know about when making practice exams.

For me one of the links I saved was:

This is something I wanted to do more before taking the exam, but I didn't get around to it because I had already planned my exam in advance. Although it is very helpful to do in the beginning while studying.
I also made notes from the Udemy course that I took, so I only saved one link from my Whizlabs journey. For my next exam, I will save more links to resources based on Whizlabs and I will not be taking a Udemy course. This because a video-based course makes me learn slower than being confronted with exam questions and further references after making a mistake.

What you will get in return for your efforts

In the end, this is what you gave all that effort for:
On the 1000 point scale, I got an 880 grade. The minimum to pass the exam is 720.

For the cost of $150 (~€135) I wouldn't personally spend this amount of money on the exam, especially since there is a tax portion included which would be more beneficial to pay through your own company or an employer for write-off benefits.

Ending notes

At the company I am working for, we are continuously working to develop our cloud knowledge. This year we will be participating in "cloud the game", a game to learn cloud technologies made by colleagues to be used by other colleagues.
If this seems like something fun for you to partake in, you can always have a look at the careers page and be sure to mention my name once you decide to apply.

My professional goals for 2021 are to learn more about security in AWS. I will be doing this by getting the AWS Certified Security - Specialty certification.

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