05 Aug

'Everything you’ve always wanted to know about the AWS certifications – but never asked' by Zek Chak, Just After Midnight

Zek is our principal consultant for the APAC region. He has achieved a whopping eight AWS certifications over the past three years, the latest one being the Certified Data Analytics – Specialty. Besides sharing his AWS expertise with the other solutions architects at JAM, juggling multiple projects and working directly with our clients, he manages to find time to constantly further his knowledge and skills. We asked him to share some insight into his AWS certification journey.

Why eight AWS certifications?

What drives me is the desire to be a good problem solver. Every certification I’ve taken has equipped me with skills I’ve been able to use in my day-to-day work, whether it’s discussing solutions with teammates and customers, or optimising internal processes.

Studying Certified Data Analytics – Speciality has been captivating: knowing that everything I’m learning is the result of decades of technological evolution. Data warehouses and ETL (extraction, transformation and loading) tools were considered a luxury two decades ago, as well as being difficult and expensive to maintain. Now, they’re far more accessible. And it has opened up a whole new world of opportunities for businesses to leverage their data.

The mental image of standing on the shoulders of giants inspires me to keep learning.

How has it helped you understand AWS (beyond the obvious)

I’ve realised that AWS has made it easy for a business to grow a workload from a simple web application to something more complex: one that involves streaming analytics, batch processing, machine learning and more. All this can be done by introducing just enough complexity at each stage to make it work. There are overlapping services such as Redshift and Athena, which allow for similar use cases, but offer different tradeoffs when it comes to performance, price and effort-to-maintain. I’ve also found the answer to a burning question: when to use Kinesis Streams, Kinesis Firehose and SQS?

Now, I feel I really understand the worlds of big data processing, interactive analysis, data warehousing, real-time analytics and BI dashboards. I’m able to identify the right tool for the use case in those spaces, at least within the AWS ecosystem.

How did you study for them? Any pro-tips?

I used two main tools: TutorialsDojo’s practice papers and the AWS Certified Data Analytics Study Guide by Asif Abbasi. I read the notes and links on the questions that I got wrong and saved notes in Notion for review.

Since I enjoy learning through video courses, at the start, I pick one from Udemy (Stephane Maarek’s courses are great) or A Cloud Guru and watch them at 1.5x speed to get an overview. Adrian Cantrill is another excellent instructor I highly recommend.

How did you choose the order of exams to take?

I usually let my curiosity lead the way. But once I’ve started, I stay on the same certification before moving on to the next one.

Which one was the hardest?

I’ve heard many people find the Solutions Architect Professional the hardest. For me, it was the Advanced Networking Specialty, because it was an area that I wasn’t familiar with and had the most ground to cover.

What’s next for you?

There are three more AWS speciality certifications to go. I’ll pick one and start chipping away at it soon!

I’m always appreciative of  Just After Midnight for supporting my learning!

Click here to find out about how Just After Midnight supports AWS solutions, or for questions about a specific AWS project, get in touch with us.

Also – we’re always looking for new talent, with a passion and curiosity for all things AWS. If you’d like a new challenge, visit our careers page to find out which roles we’re currently recruiting for.

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