My Cloud Certification Journey

Clouds on the Horizon

While I have been using various aspects of Microsoft Azure for years now, I have not taken the time to go deep into some (many) of the services that Azure offers. For many years now, I have spent most of my time focusing on the Microsoft technology stack. Given that, spending time in Azure has made a lot of sense.

We have made some decisions recently within the organization that I work for to start making use of Salesforce. If you are not familiar with Salesforce, just know that it provides a lot of capabilities using a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model. It is a cloud platform in its own right. As part of this, we are also, for the first time, seriously digging into the capabilities of Azure and AWS with the goal of determining which cloud capabilities, as well as which cloud provider(s), make the most sense for adoption by our organization.

Salesforce, and the functionality hosted within Salesforce, is primarily hosted within Salesforce’s private data centers or within AWS. With the exception noted in this joint press release (by Microsoft and Salesforce) Salesforce has not given Azure much attention.

Road Trips!

Being relatively new to AWS, I attended the (2019) AWS re:Invent conference for the first time (along with a few colleagues) and was blown away at the sheer scale of the conference (though, I understand Salesforce’s Dreamforce is even larger than re:Invent!). The conference was held in Las Vegas and spread across seven hotels. Getting from session-to-session, especially when they were in different hotels, was challenging. That said, the ginormous amount and quality of the content was amazing. The expo hall(s) were equally impressive.

A couple of weeks prior to re:Invent, I also attended the Azure + AI Conference (also in Las Vegas) which is co-produced by Microsoft and DEVintersection. This conference was much smaller than re:Invent with a lot less content but was still a good experience, overall.

Time to Get Serious!

With my current role being focused on solutions architecture, I have decided to embark on an ambitious adventure toward certification as a Cloud Solutions Architect. More specifically, I am looking at the Azure Solutions Architect Expert certification as well as the AWS Solutions Architect Professional certification. Yes, I’m looking at both of these! :-)

As I mentioned above, this is an ambitious task that will definitely take some time to complete (one to two years?). You might be asking why I would want to attempt both certifications – and even if you’re not asking, I’ll tell you anyway :-).

First, we (as an organization) have yet to settle on which cloud provider is going to work best for our organization. In fact, it’s possible that we could determine that each has its merits and we adopt them both. It’s too soon to tell right now so we are continuing to build out environments and deploy customer-facing solutions to both of them as we grow our experiences and expertise with each platform.

Second, as a solutions architect, I find value in seeing how problems are solved in multiple ways. Knowing how AWS approaches a specific problem might provide a different line of thinking on how we approach solving a similar problem within the Azure platform.

The Plan

There is an expression that states, “no plan survives first contact (with the enemy)” – or, something to that effect. Regardless, you still need a plan!

My plan is to work through the Solutions Architecture certification path for both AWS and Azure. However, rather than take all required certification exams for one platform and then the remaining exams for the other platform, I am going to jump back and forth between the two. I am taking this approach because we are working toward learning more about both platforms at the same time.

Here’s what my current plan looks like:


You will notice that I am taking the Azure Fundamentals and AWS Cloud Practitioner certification exams first. Both of the exams are optional and not required to achieve the Solutions Architect certifications for either platform. However, I am going to start with these optional exams because I think it will help me get in the right mindset for studying for the various exams ahead of me as well as provide a slightly less-daunting experience when taking the initial exams.

Sharing is Caring

As I work through my plan over the next one to two years, I will be going through lots of training materials, including books, websites, YouTube videos and both free and commercial on-line training programs – not to mention, lots of hands-on experience. I plan to share my experiences for each of the exams that I complete. Hopefully, I can provide some insights on what worked well for me and maybe what didn’t work so well, as well as any other notes I might have taken along the way.

NOTE: As I share my certification experiences, I will tag them as Cloud Certification to make them easier to locate.

Also, if you’ve been down this path for any of the exams listed above, I would love it if you would take a moment and share in the comments below what worked well for you (or what didn’t). Learning is so much more fun and beneficial when we can all share with one another.

So, with that, let the journey to the cloud begin!

2 thoughts on “My Cloud Certification Journey

  • Dan Carlstedt

    Good plan Jeff. Regarding the AWS Exams, Linux Academy (recently acquired by CloudGuru) has a fantastic course for the Solution Architect Associate. That course helped me tremendously when I took the exam this past October.

  • Good to know, Dan! I just started the AWS Cloud Practitioner course in Linux Academy. I am trying Linux Academy out while a co-worker is trying out A Cloud Guru. I imagine they’ll merge at some point but, so far, they both seem to have pretty decent content.

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