13 lessons learned from taking 8 AWS certification tests in 4 weeks
It was mostly painful. Herein follows a compression algorithm for experience.
1. The AWS training ecosystem is a hot mess of different websites and flaky SSO protocols. Be prepared to login several times. Your amazon.com account is used, not your AWS account, for … reasons. Your entry point is https://aws.training/. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
2. You can schedule “At Home Alone” AWS certifications via PearsonVue. (Entry point listed above). This requires waving away any privacy you had left and installing their super-pervasive “Online Proctoring” software. Nothing to see here.
3. If you take the $90 cloud practitioner exam, and then pass said exam, you get a 50% voucher for the $300 exams. Bonus. Every time you pass an exam you get another 50% bonus. Just like Fortnite.
4. I failed an exam because I was in the remote boondoggles and tethered to LTE. My connection dropped. I couldn’t reconnect to the exam because I had neglected to make a note of the magic “Exam Access Code”. The exam timed out. I failed.
5. Once, the super-pervasive online Eye of Foucault proctoring system kicked in and a voice spoke at me, like the disembodied voice of the Almighty. “Thou shalt not vape!” came the commandment. Oh, ok then…
Did I mention that the EULA for these exams claim you have “no right to privacy”? IANAL but hell no, that can’t be right!
6. Once the voice of the Almighty again startled me with the commandment: “Thou shalt not rest thy head on thy hand!”. Oh, ok then…
7. There is an online chat window. Oftentimes, more than one! I once had 4 different agents (real people!) vying for my attention. I think there is a little unhealthy competition going on behind the scenes.
8. Before taking these tests a little Elven helper may wish to speak to you via the power of the internet. I’ve heard all of the items on their checklist now I think:
- Show me your glasses, FRONT and BACK
- Are you wearing a watch?? SHOW ME YOUR NEKKID WRISTS!
- Do I spy writing implements on your desk? WRITING IMPLEMENTS! REMOVE THEM!!
- I can’t verify your passport photo is actually you. Go back to start, do not collect $200
- Is this a fake passport? Are you sure?
- Is that monitor unplugged? Show me the PLUG!
- Take your webcam and show me a WIDE ANGLE view of your desk.
Just like going through border control — grin and bear it. There is no point in arguing with the checklist.
9. I failed an exam once because I was so super happy to see the words “PASS” after 120 minutes of brain wracking trick questions, I got up and went for a celebratory walk. I did not press the button labeled “End Exam”. Therefore I did not complete the exam. Therefore it timed out and I failed. Bummer, yeah…
10. The bizarre ecosystem of third parties and subcontractors takes at least a day, up to 5 days, to update all the systems with the correct scores and achievements. This is “just how it is” and we accept it because we can’t change it.
11. The “AWS Certified Merchandise Store” has questionable merchandise at inflated prices. I was hoping for an engraved glass hologram or something super-sweet like that. Nopes.
12. Being certified is not the same as being competent. I’m now certified to do all kinds of tasks for which I would hire someone with more experience to do.
13. I don’t recommend anyone slogging through the course work for “Advanced Networking Specialty” unless tuning iBGP routers and configuring IPSec VPN tunnels is your passion. I would like to reclaim my time on that one.
Bonus 14. Oh yeah, there is a website for collecting pre information — mainly pictures. If you get to the final page and it fails to progress — don’t be afraid to restart the process with the same magic exam code. It retains your pictures and the process now completes.
In all though, it was totally worthwhile. I really learned a ton of stuff, oftentimes mysteries were solved and puzzles unlocked. I explored concepts and technologies not specific to AWS necessarily, and often times widely applicable to any vendor or technology stack.
I recommend taking these courses and trainings and going through with the certifications.