Get Your First Cloud Architect Job: AWS Cloud Certification Path Tips

July 29, 2021

AWS Cloud Certification Path Tips: Don’t Get 10X AWS Certified

Are you looking to start your cloud computing career? Do you want to get that first cloud job, but you have limited experience? Want to figure out what to study and what not to study for your cloud training? Don’t know what AWS cloud certification path is right? If there is one piece of advice I would give, don’t get 10X AWS certified. I am going to show you what to do instead.

How to Get Your First Cloud Architect Job

aws certification

Let me begin with why I say don’t get 10X AWS certified. Here’s the thing, as someone that has been in the tech industry for a long time, I know that you can only focus and have any degree of competency on a small subset of the whole spectrum of things that you could be dealing with in the tech world. When someone comes in with 10X AWS certifications, and they claim to know everything from software development to networking to security, I know that’s not possible. I have spent much of my career in networking. In networking, I spent the first five years of my career on a single routing protocol called BGP. Then, I spent the next five years of my life working on another routing protocol called PIM. This experience might’ve been just 10% of networking, but still, I managed to spend almost a decade doing it.

During this time, I got so good at it that I was asked to speak and present on the topics constantly. This only happened because focused on a specific area. Because of this, every time I presented on the topic, I received unsolicited job offers. The employers making these offers expressed how hard it was to find a BGP expert or a multicast expert. My goal is to provide you the path to give you those same career opportunities. I want you to be able to show you have a depth of knowledge in a specific area and by default be more hirable. I want to make you desirable. And that’s what this whole article is about.

As I already explained, when hiring managers see candidates that have a little bit of everything, they know that the candidate doesn’t have a solid understanding of anything. The hiring manager knows that the candidate essentially bought a bunch of practice tests and learned practice tests and answers, and they’re good at memorizing and taking tests. What’s going to work instead? Focus. Focus is the answer to not only getting your first cloud job but having your cloud architect training path serve a purpose. Having a focused cloud architect training path will allow you to rise progressively. Be a specialist. Be someone that has a depth of knowledge.

Let’s look at what this would look like. There are different types of cloud architects. For each cloud architect type, you need to have a different background, different training, and different levels and types of cloud certification. You should make sure that your goals and your career are completely aligned to become the type of cloud architect that you want to be. There is no one size fits all option for proper cloud certification. When you are preparing for your cloud certification path, it is important to evaluate your desired role and then focus on the trainings and certifications that will help you in that specific area. Don’t get 10X AWS certified, just because someone you’ve never actually spoken and who doesn’t know what your desires are said to do it.

Generic Cloud Architect

When you focus your goals, your career, your messaging, your learning, and all your knowledge on one objective, amazing things happen. We want amazing things to happen for you. Let’s use an example where you like the architecture of the cloud, and you want to be someone that focuses on the generic architecture of the cloud. That’s great, you’ve already started focusing. Know we need to determine what you need to know, what do people that work on the cloud really need to learn? If they’re going to be good, they’re going to have some operating system knowledge, specifically Linux. They might even have some Windows knowledge which could help with some IM things and Active Directory and Windows workloads too. So, a good generic cloud architect is going to have some type of operating system knowledge.

For this example, maybe a Linux certification, and a Microsoft certification. Most likely Linux would be better, but in either case, both show some infrastructure knowledge and understanding. You would then add a professional-level cloud vendor certification, such as the AWS Certified Solution Architect Professional or the Google Professional Cloud Architect. You might consider both because we predict that multi-cloud and hybrid cloud environments are going to become much more common due to recent decisions by vendors in the cloud industry.  It would be good to have a professional level of knowledge on two clouds and have some type of operating system certification. Ideally, a Linux one, Red Hat makes some great certifications that are highly recognized in the industry. And at least there is some depth as it pertains to the generic perspective.

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Infrastructure Cloud Architect

Now let’s see what it would look like for a cloud architect focusing on the infrastructure side of the cloud? This is a completely different study path. The infrastructure cloud architect can either be a data center background or networking background. If you’ve got those strong backgrounds, then the cloud is going to be easy. I would recommend that someone have a good network certification like the CCNP or the CCIE. This will show that you know how the networks work. I’m also going to want them to have a professional-level certification. For example, the AWS Certified Solution Architect Professional, because that’s going to show some depth of cloud knowledge. I might also want them to have something like the AWS Advanced Networking Specialty. This is a very easy exam and it’s nothing compared to the CCNP or the CCIE level training when it comes to networking. But it shows the focus on networking and infrastructure. It tells the hiring manager, that you know how to do it in the industry, you know how to do it on AWS. It portrays a solid AWS background, and that you are someone they want to interview AND hire.

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Security Cloud Architect

Let’s now look at a security-focused cloud architect. What would you want to focus on to be a cloud security architect? You should have some operating system knowledge because you’re going to hack an operating system or applications on the operating system. You need some security knowledge, and I mean real security knowledge. This would be something that goes far beyond a network ACO or a security group. You’re going to need deep security knowledge if you want to focus on security. For that, there’s the Certified Ethical Hacker, which is probably the best certification to show that you have deep in-depth hacking knowledge on security knowledge. And if you can hack a site or an environment, you know how to fix it too. Or you could go with the CISSP, which is a certification I maintained for years. The CISSP certification is based on writing security policies and how you would implement security for a large global organization.

So, for a cloud security architect, I would also recommend a vendor certification like an AWS Certified Solution Architect Professional, to show your understanding of AWS. As previously mentioned, the CEH or CISSP, or even better both, and then maybe the AWS Security Specialty. But that AWS security specialty is light, it’s nothing compared to a CEH and the CISSP. It’s very small and will be super easy for someone that has this background to take that exam. But what the AWS Security Specialty does is it shows that you’ve learned how to do the security things that you’ve done in the CEH and CISSP on the cloud with AWS. The combination of all of these shows a security-focused cloud architect.

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Database Cloud Architect

Database administration, database design, database development, and databases, in general, are a huge specialty and people can build great careers on just this. Now that databases are on the cloud, these database professionals can do the same thing as the rest of the paths listed above. Of course, you will still need a good database industry certification. Oracle’s got some and other vendors do as well, but Oracle is probably the best because it’s the most commonly used enterprise relational database in the world, or at least one of them. So the Oracle certifications will hold a lot of weight. As with the other paths we like to see a professional-level certification, so maybe something like the AWS Certified Solution Architect Professional. At this point, you would then work on the AWS Database Specialty. Just as with the other AWS specialties, this is a light certification. It will be nothing like the industry certifications you might get from Oracle for database administration, but it’s going to show you how to do the database things on the cloud. What all this brings, it’s showing a focus. It’s showing that you know the industry way to do it. You know the AWS way, and if you know the Google way or the Azure way, that’s great too, because as we mentioned before we predict hybrid and multi-clouds to be prevalent in the future.

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I have gone through a handful of impersonal paths for four areas of focus for cloud architecture, generic, infrastructure, security, and database. The theme is the same with each path, FOCUS. Focus your training and messaging on the specific area you want to work in. Get industry-recognized certifications, along with vendor-specific certifications; in the specific area that you want to work. If you want to work in security, don’t worry about the database or DevOps certifications. The same goes for Databases, if you want to focus on databases don’t worry about things that are not database-focused.

What I’m trying to say is I don’t want to see you waste all your time getting 10X certified or 7X certified. You can spot these people a mile away. If you hear them talk about the cloud, they can call something a masterclass. And it’s not even an introduction to junior networking, but they’ll call it a networking master class because they don’t have depth. As employers, we care about experience and focus for one reason, we want competency. And when you lack experience and focus, you’re going to have to show competency in another way like proper certifications. Get all your ducks in a row, match your training and your message, with your certifications. Make sure you all look like the perfect package for that cloud architect job of your dreams.

The last thing that I will say on this, at least in this article, is that there is no one size fits all training path. Anyone that offers you a training path without evaluating or having you evaluate your experience, knowledge, and desire; does not have your best interest in mind.  Without knowing your specific experience and knowledge and career desires, you can’t prepare an adequate learning path. This is one of the primary areas of focus in our training programs. We focus specifically on your personal learning path and helping you find the pieces that work for you.

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