AWS Certification: how to become certified. Personal experience.

November 26, 2018 Careers Blog

Ruslan Lesko, AWS Engineer

Hi, everyone! My name is Ruslan and I am a Software Engineer at Intetics. In this article I’ll share some thoughts and my experience with Amazon Web Services (AWS) certification.

Why I needed it?

AWS certification allows a Developer to validate their skills and proficiency with AWS. The preparatory process provides additional experience with AWS services.

At the moment I am working on the project that actively uses AWS. The project is related to the financial analytics sphere. Our potential clients are US banks (with the possibility to enter the markets of Europe and Asia). Though the project is currently at the PoC (Proof of Concept) stage and there is no product usage, there is a cloud architecture for Staging Environment (pre-production environment). The end-product will partially work on the clients’ local servers (on premise) as stipulated by the US regulations of financial services. In the end, we will get the hybrid architecture.

For this project Amazon was selected as a cloud provider. Out of the available set of services we use the key ones: EC2, S3, RDS, Route53.

EC2 is used for backend applications. Until recently we also hosted a Hadoop cluster at several EC2 machines, but due to the lack of flexibility, we switched to a proprietary PaaS (Platform as a Service) solution from a third-party company that allows running Spark applications on an automatically scalable pool of EC2 spot-instance servers (that are also created in our cloud, but automatically).

S3 is used for storage of databulks received from companies (these data are processed by the above-mentioned Spark) and for hosting of the static web client of our application (JS + React).

RDS is used for PostgreSQL database platform while Route53 is used for management of domains of backend applications and of the web client.

I have started working with AWS a year ago and decided to get certified as soon as the company offered this opportunity.


Why do you need AWS certification?

In 2016, an AWS Certified Solutions Architect was the second top paid certified specialist due to the high demand and high expertise.

I needed this certification to master my skills and structure my knowledge.

The benefits of AWS Certification are the following:

  • Use of official AWS Certified logo: you can use it in your CV, your web-site or wherever you want;
  • Access to free practice exams to get prepared for the next level of certification;
  • Access to additional resources for further certifications’ preparations;
  • Possibility to receive invites to specialized events (regional Appreciation Receptions, get access to AWS Certification lounges at AWS re:Invent, select AWS Summit events.) This is a dubious advantage but will be appreciated by those who love to attend events.

At AWS web-site you will find tons of information about certification process itself and materials that may become helpful.

Certification process: preparation and exam

I got AWS Certified Solutions Architect — Associate certificate.

I would recommend to start preparations with A Cloud Guru lectures. In a relaxed pace (not more than seven hours at the week-end) it would take you around three months. There you will acquire not only the knowledge on AWS required for certification but also learn about the certification process. At the course forum users share their certification experience, that may also be useful.

Another useful source is Amazon Web Services — Webinar Channel and some Twitch videos.

FAQ section also contains tons of valuable insights:

Also do not forget about ‘official’ resources’ and literature. ‘AWS Certified Solutions Architect Official Study Guide: Associate Exam’ by Joe Baron is an excellent book on how to get ready for the certification.

Afterwards, when you feel ready for the exam you need to get registered here. Certification fee is USD 150 (for USD 20 you can get an online trial version).

Furthermore, you need to select a center where to take the exam. In Ukraine such centers operate in Kyiv, Kharkiv and Lviv. When arrived, you pass through the identification process and then you will be given 80 minutes for 55 questions. After the exam you will receive an email notification about successful completion of the certification and in a week you will receive via e-you’re your certificate.

I came to the examination center, showed ID documents: two ID documents are required – a passport and another one – in my case it was a payment card. Then the 80 minutes’ test. For me, the test was rather complicated and 80 minutes may not be enough. I finished answering the last question when only five minutes were left. During the remaining five minutes I revised the answers to the most difficult questions (it was possible to flag them for easy reference). I managed to correct some answers and the time was up. 10 minutes later I received an email informing that I had successfully passed the exam. The PDF certificate arrived a couple of days later.


What’s next?

Certification is only one step on the way of your career development. I gained access to the resources for further certification. Anyway, it is a worth step to do as you lose nothing but acquire really a lot.

I am going to apply AWS skills into the project and in a year to undertake a Professional Level AWS Certification as my current certificate will be valid during two years only. Though I am interested not in the certificate renewal but in deepening my proficiency with cloud services.

AWS certification is easier than you can imagine. However, it demands to structure your knowledge and to devote some time to preparation and taking an exam. But the outcome is worth the hassle.

This is my personal experience. Thank you for reading till the end :)

Good luck!