I passed the Associate exam a few years ago and was planing on taking the Professional shortly thereafter. I still want to advance to Professional but haven’t had the time.
Honestly, you can’t go wrong with any of the AWS Certifications. It’s a great learning experience and forced me to touch many services I didn’t have a ton of practical knowledge about.
All the associates have changed dramatically from the last 6 months and so have the Pro's just recently changes as well so there would be more learning up to do if you go for Pro.
I was like you where I built web-apps but I departed from that last year to just focus on building educational content and I decided on AWS to by my focus.
I was curious to ask since you're a senior tech and wondered what you valued because I don't see as many people with web-dev full-stackers with AWS Certifications at least not up here in Canada.
Solution Architect Pro study is tricky not because it's hard but you have to take the exam in a window of time where you remember enough factoids. You sit on that knowledge for 2 weeks and then it's gone. You're good enough to be Pro but a current failing in the Pro Certification.
The reason I never TopTal myself was because of algorithms. I can not hold that information in my head because the practical use of building web-apps rarely need them and I only ever see them in an interview like processes.
When I got far enough with my AWS videos I was considering to a video walkthrough out of Cracking the coding interview so I can just have proof I can do it but simply can't hold it in memory long enough for it ever be of practical use.
I value my certification and I think it gives me a significant advantage when selling myself. However, the certification alone isn't enough. It's more the icing on the cake where I can sell my experience then back it up with the cert that shows a general understanding of the platform.
It's becoming increasingly harder for full stack developers to distinguish themselves. Just follow some tutorials online and BAM -- you can say you know how to deploy applications to the cloud.
With regard to algorithms, my sense is that TopTal uses them to get a glimpse into how you think. Candidly, I failed miserably at an algorithm test TopTal gave me but I was able to clearly explain myself and walk through the (horrendous) code snippets I did write.
Ultimately, if you have practical experience using AWS, it's easier to pass the exam. Most of the esoteric questions on the exam I was able to answer because I had experienced the edge cases myself. I scored 92% on the Associates and would say I could've scored 75% with no prep. (not a brag, but just some context about experience being a big factor in passing)!
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