By Anupam Phoghat
Over the last decade, technology has evolved exponentially. Unlike the ‘old days’ (I mean the time before 2010) when a particular technology would remain at its peak for good 5-6 years or so, shifts in technology now happen in a year, maybe less.
One of the biggest developments initiating change has been the emergence of cloud technologies. For those in the industry, comparing different public cloud providers often dominates discussion.
Well, in this blog post, I’m not going to discuss which cloud platform is best — that’s up to you or your organisation! What I am going to discuss in this blog post is how I made the transition to GCP, having worked on AWS and Azure for the last few years, with the aim of providing some tips for people who may be considering the same move.
Kickstarting the journey
You might be thinking why have I put all those logos above? Well those are the certifications that I have earned in the last few months in my quest for expertise in Google Cloud Platform.
Something else you might be thinking is: Is getting certified necessary? In my opinion, absolutely. That’s how I’ve been learning new technologies while they evolve at such a rapid pace and testing whether I’m ready to take on new challenges. Being able to do this becomes more critical when there is no opportunity to shadow someone for a real world experience.
The aspect I like most about these certifications is that most of them are scenario-based, which ensures you can apply what you learn. Memorising the concepts and technical details will not help much if you’re not aware of the real-world application.
Where to start
I know many people think it’s not necessary or even relevant to do the certs to be able to deliver real life projects. But I would argue that depends on your learning style. For me personally, studying for certifications helps me get the resources needed to embark on a new journey.
The amount of information available on Google Cloud Platform (GCP) is massive and navigating through it needs time… a lot of time! Getting through the content efficiently can be challenging, especially if you have a full-time job, family, kids, personal commitments and so on.
The way I tackled this challenge was by starting with the GCP Professional Cloud Architect exam. However, if you’re a GCP newbie, I’d suggest beginning with the Associate Cloud Engineer and then doing PCA. Having already done the hard work to pass PCA, I didn’t have to study for ACE.
Why do I suggest studying for ACE first if you’re new to GCP? Studying for ACE will help you familiarise yourself with the GCP basics and services offered. It will also help you in preparing for the PCA exam, which discusses all the services and topics in more detail. There are many resources available online, including blog posts from individuals who took the exams, that discuss how to prepare. I highly recommend going through the ‘awesome gcp certification’ repo being maintained by Sathishvj. Here is the link to repo. This contains a huge list of resources that will help tremendously in preparing for the exam.
After completing the ACE and/or PCA exams, you should have a good understanding of the services offered by GCP as well as where, when and how to use a particular service while designing solutions for the platform.
It should be about this time when you start thinking of specialising in a particular stream. And if you’re like me, that would pretty much be all the available specialisations. Coming from a storage and virtualisation background with a die-hard interest in data science, choosing to start with data engineering was an obvious choice in my case.
Which certification to go for next
You should have a solid understanding of most of the services offered by GCP after doing one or two of the more general certs. I think which certification to tackle next depends on your background and which area you feel more comfortable with.
Just a suggestion in case you want to sit for either the network engineer or security engineer before the developer exam: do them both together.
Too much to handle in one go? Most of the topics covered in these exams are the same and overlap. They test you on different aspects of the same products. I personally feel that if you are studying for either of the exams and understand the products and features quite well, you should be well enough prepared to study for the gaps and sit for the exam.
My step-by-step guide for preparing for these certifications
- Go through the exam guide thoroughly to understand what is expected from you while sitting for the exam.
- Read blog posts written by other people who have shared their experience from the exam to get a feel of the type of questions asked in the exam. Please remember that there’s a non-disclosure clause around not sharing the exam questions. However, going through these blogs put you in a better position to decide which areas to focus on more by revisiting them before the exam.
- Start with a relevant specialisation course available on Coursera.
- Try out Qwiklabs quests and labs. Attempt all the questions from quizzes available after each module.
- Complete the training courses for the relevant certification on Linux Academy. Attempt the practice exam at the end of the course.
- Attempt the practice exam available on Google’s site.
- Review your scores from all quizzes and practice exams and analyse the sections that you think you didn’t perform well in.
- Do the Linux Academy courses again.
- Attempt the practice exam one more time and see if you feel better.
I suggest sitting practice exams (both Linux Academy and Coursera) multiple times, until you feel comfortable. The questions in Linux Academy practice exams keep on changing like any other real exam, so you’ll cover a wide range of topics by attempting them again and again.
Where to from here
Complete the Google recommended training on Coursera for Professional Cloud Architect and Professional Data Engineer. Restart the journey with Linux Academy with $50.00 a month. It can’t get cheaper than that! If you are an experienced professional, it should take you about 8 to 10 weeks to get ready. Again it all depends on the time you are able to commit. Running the videos at a higher playback speed might help. Listen to the audio and perform the labs step by step (all covered in subscriptions). After you’re done with all of your sections, attempt the practice exam once to identify your weak spots.
Whizlabs also offers a bundle of three practice tests for $35 or so, and the questions sometimes feel more difficult than the actual exam. So I definitely recommend trying those out. I guess Whizlab has practice exams only for Cloud Architect and Data Engineer exams, not for the rest.
Before doing the Professional Cloud Architect exam, you should read the three case studies multiple times (so that you don’t have to read them in the exam). This will help you review the whole Google Cloud Platform and get certified.
I hope this has provided a good overview for beginning your certified Google Cloud journey. There’s a lot of material out there to support your journey and it’s a matter of read, practice, read, practice and read – your confidence should just grow. I’ve provided some more links below to provide a quick reference to what I found was helpful information.
Google Cloud resources
- Compliance certifications and supported products: https://cloud.google.com/security/compliance/#/
- Getting started on Google Cloud: https://cloud.google.com/gcp/getting-started
- Google Cloud Solutions Architecture: http://gcp.solutions
- Google Cloud Solutions and GCP Products & Services: https://cloud.google.com/solutions/
- Read through the 3 case studies (PCA) (~40 to 50% of questions based on the case studies): https://cloud.google.com/certification/guides/cloud-architect/#sample-case-study
- Take the Practice Exam: https://cloud.google.com/certification/
- GCP Podcasts: https://www.gcppodcast.com/
- Github repo: https://github.com/sathishvj/awesome-gcp-certifications
- Linux Academy: https://linuxacademy.com/
Online course providers
- Coursera: https://www.coursera.org/
- Qwiklabs: https://www.qwiklabs.com/ (good practice sessions covering different use cases and products in GCP. These hands on labs will help you understand the features and expose you to various functionalities in GCP)
- Architecting with Google Cloud Platform Specialization: https://www.coursera.org/specializations/gcp-architecture
- Free practice sessions: https://www.roitraining.com/google-cloud-platform-training/
- Whizlabs Practice exams: https://www.whizlabs.com/
- Google cloud demos on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLv2a_5pNAko2-F3TDGMaRcMCU1Z8_uVll
- GCP service in four words or less: https://storage.googleapis.com/gregsramblings-downloads/gcp-products-4-words-or-less-2017-10-25.pdf
- Different Networking options in GCP: https://youtu.be/afx_Kjk4czs
- Choosing your storage and database solutions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mmjuMyRBPO4&feature=youtu.be
- Understanding IOPS (Persistent Disk): https://medium.com/@duhroach/tweaking-persistent-disk-performance-aa9fc3059e94
- GCP Flowcharts: https://medium.com/google-cloud/a-gcp-flowchart-a-day-2d57cc109401
- Performance best practices in GCP: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLIivdWyY5sqK5zce0-fd1Vam7oPY-s_8X
- A cloud guru resources: https://info.acloud.guru/resources/newbies-guide-to-google-cloud-certifications