Get Certified At AWS re:Invent 2017

Take advantage of the energy at the show and come home with a new cloud credential proving what you know!

Study hard, write prepared

This year’s AWS re:Invent is going to be bigger and better than ever. With 40,000 builders descending on Las Vegas for a week jam-packed with hackathons, bootcamps, breakout sessions, and great social events. You can’t ask for much more from the best conference in cloud.

But budgets are tight, and it may have taken some convincing to get the approval needed to make the trip. AWS tried to make it a bit easier this year by providing a starting point for a justification letter. Hopefully that worked, and you’re on your way to Las Vegas at the end of November.

What better way to go beyond expectations than to come back to the office with a shiny new AWS certification?

It’s a great way to provide your cloud chops and to show just how much you learned at the show. This year, there’s a certification for anyone and everyone.

Learning Tree

The AWS certifications fall into three categories; associate, professional, and speciality. These levels provide a learning path that shows growth at a specific discipline in the cloud.

The official AWS learning tree is available on their site, and it looks like this;

AWS certification roadmap

But even the official learning tree is missing a step! Recently AWS announced the beta period of an entirely new certification, AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner.

This new certification is the perfect place to start for AWS newcomers.

AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner

This brand new beta certification is all about the basics…the very basics.The target audience? “…any role, including technical, managerial, sales, purchasing, or financial (or equivalent training)”.

The goal here is to get everyone on the team speaking the same language. This way when you’re discussing a new project, there are no blank stares around the table. It’s a way to ensure that everyone is familiar with the basic AWS services, terminology, and principles.

Accordingly, this is the exam with the least technical depth. The recommended reading is;

AWS also recommends that you review the available support plans. Also any technical or business training from AWS will help make sure this exam is a slam dunk.

This exam is relatively short (70 questions over 110 minutes) and is currently priced at $50 USD. The only restriction here is that if you’ve attempted or passed another AWS exam, you cannot take this one.

It’s a great way to dip your toe in the waters of AWS certification.

Associate Level

With the practitioner certification under your belt, it’s time to move up to the associate level certifications. There are three choices here; solutions architect, developer, and sysops administrator. All three are similar in difficult but tailored to the specific tasks relevant to the job role.

The following whitepapers are recommended for each of the associate’s exams:

Also, I recommend you review the following:

There are some additional certification specific requirements as well. Make sure you review the exam guide, candidate overview, and exam blueprint as you start to study for the test.

Professional Level

The professional level exams take things to the next level. These exams primarily cover situational-based decision making. They’re designed to make sure that you can apply the knowledge you’ve gained.

You need to have the relevant associate level exam before attempting these multiple choice exams. You’ve got a 170-minute window which may sound like a lot, but if you aren’t well prepared, you might find yourself hitting that wall hard.

Review all of the associate material as well as some key, in-depth whitepapers. Whether you’re taking the AWS Certified DevOps Engineer or AWS Certified Solutions Architect, make sure to read:

At this level, you’ll also want to invest in some additional training. AWS is offering specialized bootcamps at AWS re:Invent again this year and they are well worth the investment. If that’s not your speed, there are some excellent third party training providers that may be perfect for your learning style.

Practice exams are also available online from AWS and it’s testing provider. In my experience, the practice exams are quite similar to the actual exam. They are a good gauge to see if you’re ready to sit the exam or not.

It’s a smart investment for around $40 USD.

Speciality Exams

Last year at AWS re:Invent, there were three exams in beta; AWS Certified Advanced Networking, AWS Certified Security, AWS Certified Big Data.

Of those, advanced networking and big data passed the beta stage and are not standard exams. The security exam was pulled and is being re-worked…no word yet on when it’ll reappear.

I won’t mince words, these speciality exams are tough.

Take some time and read through the first-hand accounts of people who have passed the exams (either in beta or live). Start with Adrian Cantrill’s post on the AWS Certified Advanced Networking Specialty and then this one on the AWS Certified Big Data exam from Hwai-Siang Khor.

Now for the bad part, prepping for these exams can be hit or miss. They are 3 hour multiple choice exams that require extensive knowledge on the subject at hand.

AWS provides minimal guidance, and there are no official practice exams available. You’re 100% reliant on third parties here.

My recommendation from last year of reviewing relevant talks from AWS re:Invent still stands. The 2016 breakout sessions and 2015 breakout sessions are available online. Look for talks presented by AWS in the big data, architecture, enterprise, and DevOps tracks to be especially helpful.

I called out some of these talks in my beta exam post from last year ,and they are still top of my review now that the exams are live.

Book Now

AWS has a testing facility on-site during the show. This is a great opportunity to build off of the energy and excitement of being surrounded by 40,000 other builders.

I strongly recommend writing an exam early in the morning, early in the week. It’s best to approach the challenge after a good breakfast and with a fresh mind. The show can be overwhelming, make sure you set yourself up for success!

Good Luck!

Remember, I’ll be at AWS re:Invent again this year and am looking to help you get the most from the show. If you have a question you want to be answered, let me know in the responses down below or on Twitter (I’m @marknca) and I’ll write it up, record it, or share some code with the solution.

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