How to Advance Your Career with AWS

“You need the experience to get experience”

You have probably heard this sentence before. You need the experience to get started in this field. Experience to get started you say? Whether you are just starting your career in the cloud or are a battle born veteran trying to break into a new field of expertise, it is a common scenario to find yourself in a classic catch 22 situations. No experience. No job. 

So how do you break into the cloud computing business? How do you switch your field of expertise once you are in the cloud? The answer is honestly staring you in the face. You need experience. Wait a minute? What? But that’s the catch 22 again. I can’t get experience without the job and I can’t get the job without experience. 

So, what’s the next best thing? Getting certified? OK! Let’s do that! Let’s get certified! You start toiling away, taking every exam prep course out there, you study all the exam prep questions that you can find in detail and now you’re ready to pass! 

On the day of the exam, you feel nervous but you are ready to ace it. Your career is on the line here. You need to pass this one and if you don’t your chances of getting into the cloud are slim. Almost two hours pass and you are almost at the end. Just review the questions you flagged and then you submit the exam for scoring. Maybe you should have gone through the questions again? There were 12 minutes left on the clock? All these thoughts race through your head while you wait for the result. And then – a PASS! Well, your career is guaranteed to be catapulted into the stratosphere now for sure!

With your newly earned certificate in your hand, you apply for the coveted job and the response is the same as before! No experience. No job. 

But how is that possible? I passed the cert you say to yourself. I’ve proven I can work with the platform! Not so fast. Most cloud exams are designed to test your real-world knowledge. You have just passed an exam that proves you have real-world experience with no real-world experience at all. All you’ve proven at this point is that you can pass an exam. And it’s completely possible to pass the exam without real-world experience. Just don’t expect the certificate that you are holding in your hand right now is going to get you a job. 

To get around this problem you need to think outside of the box. First, let’s address what experience with the cloud actually is? Is it sitting behind a desk and troubleshooting why your ERP virtual machine isn’t accessible via the network? Is it debugging that function that just keeps throwing exceptions in line 22 no matter how you rewrite it? Is it writing a YAML template to automate your DevOps pipeline? 

Well, it’s all of that. But it’s also just being confident with using the tools and consoles at your disposal. It’s all about being aware of the features a service provides and how to configure the service. It’s thinking of ways to use a service instead of using a server. It’s knowing how to think about protecting your application and what vectors of attack are possible against it. 

In essence experience with the cloud is knowing how to work with the platform in an optimal, reliable, and secure way. Lessons you can learn only by working with the platform. Now, wait a minute! Doesn’t that just fit into the same catch 22? Don’t I need a job to get that kind of experience? No, you don’t. All you need is an account with your favorite cloud provider and some time and willingness to learn. Most providers will allow you to use their platform for free for a certain amount of time or with a certain amount of budget. Take advantage of the free usage provided by playing around with the environment. Pick some kind of task. Challenge yourself. Pick a hobby. Do you like gardening? Build yourself an online reminder that sends notifications on when to sow. Are you into mountain biking? Set up a cheap archive for all your action videos in the cloud. Are you into gaming? Deploy a game or chat server. Pick something you are interested in and build a prototype. Build something that you can show off. That will be your proof of experience.  

My advice to you would be to create an account, activate your free tier or your complimentary credits, and then start building. Make sure to start with something that is familiar to you. Most vendors will provide all of their management tools and all the documentation in an easily consumable format. Start with the web-based management console just to get a feel for the environment. The graphical representation can be a good way to visualize what you are building and is a great learning tool. While you’re in the management console make sure to take a look at the monitoring tools available. Whether you are an admin, developer, architect, or your job is only loosely connected to the cloud, understanding the metrics that are available in the monitoring system will be a benefit to any role. 

Once you can confidently navigate the management console, start some virtual machines. Store some data on the cloud. Set up a message queue and send and receive some messages. Maybe get adventurous and start up a NoSQL database. All of those can be done for free. This way you can get some experience working with the platform. 

Finally crack open the CLI, the SDKs, and try your hand at writing an automation template. Once you get to this stage you are really using the cloud. Once you get to this stage you are ready to apply for that job again. Good luck!

Learning AWS Against a Deadline – Tips From a Veteran Instructor

It was on a snowy December Tuesday.  I was just preparing to start a virtual Architecting on AWS class. I was glad it was virtual, so were my students. Not needing to leave the house on a gloomy, snowy day like this and having to brave the commute was a relief to everyone. Before the start I usually have a chat with the students and I ask them questions like: “Why are you in the class?” “What are your expectations?”

The first answer comes from a young and eager solutions architect working for one of Vancouver’s biggest insurance companies. His answer is: “I want to get started with AWS quickly. We’re migrating to AWS next week.”  I ask: “Do you have any experience with AWS or any other cloud solution already?” The firm “No.” answer is surprising. This is going to be tough. But we brave through it. We spend a bit of extra time after the class ends each day to talk about their use case, how AWS can help and what to look out for.

A week after the class I get an email thanking me for all my help. The student also leaves me one of the nicest reviews I have ever gotten in almost a decade of training deliveries. That was a great experience and the student was really happy that it worked out well for them. But it might not have. I am fairly confident there out of several thousand students that I have taught, there possibly were a few for whom such tight deadlines did not work out.

So what is the best way to approach learning about AWS? Here are a few recommendations:

Start early. Cloud adoption is in full swing right now. Even if you can’t foresee cloud being adopted, don’t let yourself get surprised by a migration “next week”.

Make a plan. Understand the training resources available and choose the ones that fit your needs. For example, there are plenty of self-study, certification-prep and other types of books on AWS. Pick up a book and see if that fits your needs.

Determine the goal. Is it getting certified? Is it being able to independently architect a solution? A goal will help you better decide on what will be the best training track for you.

Get some hands on experience. Open an AWS account. You can use quite a lot of resources for free for 12 months. For example you get 750 hours of a small compute instance for free!

Use the free training resources available from AWS. There are quite a few resources available for free on https://aws.training – everything from 10 minute intro videos to complete free courses.

Once you have a broad idea of what AWS is, you should consider classroom or virtual training. The Architecting on AWS training can be an invaluable resource for gaining knowledge, but you have to know how to make the best use of it.

To get the most out of a training session make sure you already understand the basics. This will help you better grasp the concepts discussed in the training. There will be a lot of content covered in the three days and the easier it is for you to follow the more valuable it will be. Also, having some previous hands-on experience and a basic level of knowledge will help you ask the right questions. The trainers have a great depth of knowledge and can expand on the basics quite a lot, but you need to ask the right questions. Following these recommendations should help you achieve your goal in a much more efficient manner.

Overview of AWS Bootcamp Program

Receiving an AWS certification demonstrates the expertise and commitment necessary to advance your career in the world of web services. This industry-recognized credential is a valuable asset to have, giving you the ability to design, deploy and operate AWS applications and services for all your organization’s needs. While there are tons of training available to you, AWS Bootcamp programs are extensive courses offering immersive exercises and hands-on practices for a comprehensive understanding of the infrastructure.

These Bootcamps are popular at the AWS Summits across the country, but Web Age offers two notable AWS Bootcamp courses for the Administrator Associate and Professional levels.  Here’s everything you need to know about both:

AWS SysOps Administrator Associate Certification Bootcamp Training

This SysOps Administrator Associate training is designed for Systems Administrators and Software Developers who already know the AWS technical essentials and how to maintain operating systems at the command line. You should also have basic knowledge of networking protocols, such as TCP/IP and HTTP.

Over the course of three days and 13 different chapters, you’ll develop a comprehensive understanding of the standard AWS infrastructure features, including Amazon Virtual Private Cloud, Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, Elastic Load Balancing and AWS Scaling from the command line. By exploring the best practices for configuring and deploying, you’ll learn to create automatable and repeatable networks and systems deployments on the AWS platform.

By the end of the course, you’ll also know how to:

  • Build virtual private networks with Amazon VPC
  • Deploy Amazon EC2 instances through command line calls, while troubleshooting common issues
  • Manage AWS permissions, identity and security in the AWS Cloud
  • Determine the best strategy to create reusable Amazon EC2 instances
  • Troubleshoot a basic AWS CloudFormation stack definition
  • Monitor the health of Amazon EC2 instances
  • Use tags, Amazon CloudWatch and AWS Trusted Advisor to manage resource consumption

AWS DevOps Certification Bootcamp – Professional Level

The Professional Level AWS Bootcamp gives you the opportunity to examine and address a number of scenarios which commonly occur in startups, small-to-medium sized businesses and enterprise development settings. By learning the core principles of DevOps methodology, you’ll explore the most valuable patterns for development, deployment, and maintenance of the AWS applications.

Systems Administrators and Software Developers taking the course should already have an understanding of Systems Operations or Developing on AWS, be proficient in at least one high-level programming languages, such as Java, PHP, or Ruby), and be able to administer Linux or Windows systems at the command line level.

With those experiences, this 3-day, 17-chapter course will give you the tools you need to not only implement the primary practices and concepts of DevOps methodology, but also:

  • Deploy the infrastructure required to create development, test, and production environments using AWS CloudFormation and AWS OpsWorks
  • Leverage automated testing in different stages of a CI/CD pipeline
  • Implement several continuous deployment (CD) use cases using AWS technologies, such as blue/green deployment and A/B testing
  • Deploy the infrastructure required to create development, test, and production environments for software development projects using AWS CloudFormation and AWS OpsWorks
  • Use Amazon EC2 Systems Manager for patch management
  • Manage all software development activities in one place using AWS CodeStar
  • Differentiate between all application deployment technologies on AWS, such as AWS CodeDeploy, AWS Elastic Beanstalk, Amazon Elastic and more

With our AWS Bootcamp online training, you’ll be able to learn all about the AWS services and solutions at the Administrative Associate and Professional levels on your on time to help you advance your career as an expert in today’s fastest growing technology.  To learn more about our other AWS courses available, contact us to discuss your training goals.