On December 1st, 2016, I took and passed the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate Exam. I took the exam at the AWS re:Invent Conference in Las Vegas, and by ‘passed’, I mean by the skin of my teeth! But to me, passing is all that matters and I achieved that objective. Here are some notes on how I prepared for this certification exam:
- I tried to use AWS Services as much as possible. I signed up for a free for one year account and started deploying some small applications I had written to EC2. Initially, I ran MySQL on one of my EC2 instances, but when I discovered RDS, I learned that RDS is an easier and more cost effective approach to using an RDBMS in the cloud. Aurora and DynamoDB are some other excellent options for cloud-based databases.
- I bought the Official Study Guide for this certification and started studying it and working through the exercises in the book about two months prior to my exam. As I am now done with this book, I am happy to mail it the first request for free as long as you agree to pay for shipping. I have marked my copy up pretty good, however, and I’ve circled all of the answers to the practice test questions in ink.
- I paid $20 to take the AWS Practice Exam. I failed it with a 50% score and almost ended up re-scheduling the real exam. I decided, however, to double-down on my studying and to stick my original plan. This is one gamble of mine that actually paid off.
- I attended the 2016 AWS re:Invent Conference in Las Vegas and participated in the Monday Night Hackathon. Here I quickly learned how to deploy REST services on AWS Lambda using the API Gateway service. I also learned a bit more about DynamoDB in the process. The Hackathon helped to focus my understanding of some services, and the re:Invent Conference helped to broaden my understanding of many others.
- I took my certification exam on Wednesday Night of the conference at 8pm in the Venetian Hotel. I thought I would be the only one taking an exam at that time of night, but there were at least 15 other folks in the examination room with me.
Here are some of my associated exam expenses along the way:
- The Official Study Guide on Amazon.com: $57
- Scheduling the Certification Exam: $150
- Practice Exam: $20
- AWS re:Invent 2016 Conference: $1600
- Travel and Lodging at Las Vegas (me, girlfriend and kids): $750
- Estimated Exam Focused Time Investment: 2 months
- Estimated Total Investment: $2,577
AWS re:Invent Conference
So was my investment in this certification worth it? One thing I learned at the re:Invent conference in Vegas is that if you want to win big, you have to bet big. I think this investment was a pretty big bet as far as certifications and technical focus are concerned. I don’t think attending the re:Invent conference was necessary in passing the certification exam, however, but I do think it was necessary in trying to accurately gauge the viability of the AWS Cloud Platform in the coming years. Participating in the Hackathon was a great way to get focused on approaches to deploying solutions to the AWS Cloud in a team environment. Attending the AWS re:Invent conference helped me to broaden my perception of the sheer breadth of AWS Cloud offerings, not to mention the insight I received in learning about some of the innovative ways companies are using AWS Cloud now. I witnessed over 30,000 conference participants, from all over the world, attending sessions from 8am to 8pm non-stop, learning as much as they could about the AWS platform. I, too, drank the cool-aid and truly believe AWS Cloud is a secure, cost effective, highly elastic, high performance platform for all types of software applications. And I don’t see any other cloud company as a close competitor to Amazon right now, nor may we ever. Amazon has built their Cloud Platform from lessons learned being the largest E-Commerce Platform in the world. I feel like I’ve made a safe bet.
AWS re:Play Party
Financial costs aside, the re:Play Party at the end of the AWS conference was truly amazing! There were drinks (lots of drinks), t-shirts, amazing, amazing food, retro video games, mechanical bull riding, foosball, etc. etc. I’m sure there was even more stuff, I just couldn’t take it all in. Then there was the headline performance by DJ Martin Garrix, which was radical. I took my girlfriend to the party and we had an amazing time. It was an amazing week in Las Vegas, which ended with a quick family jaunt to the Grand Canyon, but I’ll save that for another blog post.