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3x AWS Certified: My certification journey

vel12171 profile image Veliswa_Boya 🇿🇦 ・5 min read

I have now written and passed all 3 Associate level AWS certification exams. It's a journey that's taken me exactly 3 years from the time I wrote my first - the Solutions Architect Associate - to when I wrote the last one; the Sysops Administrator Associate.

Yep, probably a really long time taken to complete all three, but I hope as you read on you'll see why it took the time it did - and also realize that it's a personal journey so you determine the pace.
Here's my part personal story, and part guide, of my AWS certification journey.

AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate (AWS CSAA)

I wrote the Solutions Architect Associate on the 22nd September 2017, my first one and a big deal by all counts. A lot was hanging on this certification - this was (I hoped) what would help open the doors to conversations that would hopefully lead to full-time cloud career opportunities. This certification was also at very early stages of my cloud journey, I was therefore using it as validation of what I've learned so far.

Preparation: AWS CSAA

This was to be my first certification so arriving at best resources to use for preparation took some research and asking friends for recommendations - A Cloud Guru was at the top of the list of recommendations and what remained was for me to try the videos out and see if they would work for me. Thankfully they did and they then formed a huge part of my preparation process.

It took me exactly four weeks from the time I started preparations to the time I was able to write the exam. I wrote and passed - really to my surprise :). This feeling of surprise did change into an awesome sense of accomplishment over time, it is not an easy exam by any measure and the fact that I had passed definitely had to mean something.

AWS Certified Developer Associate (AWS CDA)

I wrote the Developer Associate just over a year after writing the Solutions Architect. The delay was influenced by a number of factors; one of them being the fact that getting that full-time cloud job took longer than hoped. Other work and life commitments also influenced the delay - but I always knew that I'd come back and write at least the entire associate level exams.

I found this to be the most challenging of all three. I initially thought that this was because I am not a full-time developer but I think beyond that, my personal view, this exam is just hard.

Preparation: AWS CDA

The preparation process was the same, in that I used the exact same resources as for Solutions Architect (full list to be detailed later). I felt like I was not ready throughout my preparations, I was very anxious about writing this exam that I think I may have over-prepared if such a thing exists.

It was amazing to pass the Developer Associate. I also discovered that my motivation had changed. Unlike the AWS CSAA I was already a Cloud Engineer when I wrote the AWS CDA, so the desperation that went with hoping to get a job was no longer there. The desperation was instead replaced by pure curiosity to learn and be better at my job.

AWS Certified SysOps Administrator Associate (AWS CSOA)

I recently wrote and passed the SysOps Administrator exam. I am still torn as to whether this is the hardest versus the Developer exam. What I will say is that I enjoyed preparing for this one the most. There is a huge troubleshooting aspect to this exam, and I enjoy solving problems - maybe the +10 years of production support that I did when I worked on mainframes right at the beginning of my career has something to do with it.
It took time between the Developer exam and this, but once I finally made up my mind that I wanted to write - it took me exactly three weeks to prepare and write.

Preparation: AWS CSOA

The preparation - although there's a lot of material to go through - felt better because a lot of the concepts were no longer new to me.
Also, interesting to note that this was the first exam where I didn't go into absolute surprise at finding out that I've passed. The surprise was this time replaced by a huge realization of how far I've come, I stared at the "PASS" result on the screen for a while, for the first time allowing myself to be proud of my accomplishments.

What's Next?

Associate level done! It feels awesome to say this, to realize it. So what's next? If you remember I wrote CSAA in 2017! Renewal time is fast approaching. I am preparing for this and hoping to write soon.
Once done with this, I will prepare for the Security Specialty - cloud security is an area I'm hugely interested in, and I am looking forward to doing this course.

In closing, I would like to highlight the importance of finding communities that will support your learning and growth. I have been fortunate enough to find these throughout my journey - on various platforms.

While preparing for my CSOA I came across the #100DaysofCloud challenge on LinkedIn/Twitter/Discord and with that I found a group of like-minded and highly supportive people. If you are especially starting out on your cloud journey, join them on Discord - you will find support and be directed to additional/alternative resources that will help you on your journey!

Attending meetups has always been a key part of my learning. Meetups provide spaces to learn from others, they also provide opportunities for one to share with others what they know.
Now that these are currently held online - one can virtually be anywhere where the learning is. Here are a few that I attend:

Also check out the AWS Community Africa on Slack, we discuss all things AWS - and you are welcome to join us even if you are outside of Africa! :)

Resources I used throughout all preparations

1) A Cloud Guru training videos

2) Labs that form part of the training videos

3) AWS White Papers

4) Relevant videos contained in the Amazon Web Services channel on

5) Jon Bonso / tutorialsdojo
Practice Exams

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Veliswa_Boya 🇿🇦


Cloud Engineer and AWS Community Hero. Serverless Enthusiast. Marathon Runner.

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Congratulations! :D

Are these certifications worth it / taken into account during interviews? just wondering because I'm interested in them aswell


Hi Jashua, Thanks. I would definitely recommend them for a number of reasons, one of them being merely demonstrating your commitment to learning this. Of course you need hands-on to demonstrate what you’ve learned, and that is what will help you during interviews...oh and based on personal experience: during actual interview they don’t care that you have a cert - but I think certs get you the interview 🤷🏽‍♀️


Congrats! That's a great success :)


How much does it cost for enrolling in these certified courses? Is it free of charge?


Some are free - some not. Do consider joining discord community I mentioned in the article and ask the supportive community on there for the different options.