Crawl. Walk. Run: My journey to becoming an AWS Certified Solutions Architect — Associate

by Kahiga Tiagha, Lead Facilitator, The ITEM

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As you may know, I am pivoting careers into technology without any and began to learn cloud computing in October 2016 and took the AWS CSAA exam on Friday, March 17, 2017 and passed. The following may not make a ton of sense for total newbies but for those who may have some insight into AWS or cloud computing, this how I got there:

1. The ITEM Academy — Cloud Computing Basics.

This was taught by Dovene Deh of Nomadic Systems who coincidentally just happened to be part of Comcast’s team that architected AWS for Comcast’s video streaming services. So by default, we were learning from an already very experienced engineer who has hands-on AWS experience at the highest levels. Without this course, there would NOT have been the basic understanding of key concepts and familiarity with the console. The acloudguru course would have been much less effective because it assume that you have the type of knowledge that we had acquired from Dovene’s course.

2. acloudguru

A critical important resource in my learning. I would strongly completing EVERY lecture including the labs. I did not get through the the Whitepaper on a Well Architected Framework so Ryan’s lecture was very helpful because it provided a detailed summary of the whitepaper. There were a couple of questions on architecture design principles so worth reviewing closely before the exam.


The MUST reads in order: (i) Overview of Security Processes: This is a great way to review ALL services especially the ones likely to come up on the exam especially because there are a lot of questions on the exam that address security issues and IAM in particular. (ii) Overview of Storage Services : this was super helpful for the standard S3 and EBS, both of which feature prominently on the example. Of course, please read the Overview on Well Architected Framework if you can get to it. If I had the time, I would definitely have had the AWS Console open as I went through the whitepapers. When I did stop to explore the console, it added an important visualization to concept that were previously quite fuzzy. I would strongly recommend doing this.

4. FAQs

These are must reads for the subjects listed below and likely in the order listed. I honestly only read one before the last week before the exam — S3. I found out the true value after taking the several tests and being fairly clueless on RDS and SQS. After reviewing each test, I made a running list of the questions I got wrong and the explanations. I noticed that I got the same questions wrong over and over again e.g., S3 naming conventions, RDS etc. I would use this to supplement your notes on each topic. Speaking of topics, focus on these FAQs following listed in order of importance:

VPC — EC2 — S3 — EBS — IAM — Route 53 — SQS — RDS — Cloudtrail, — Cloudwatch — Storage Gateway.

5. The Tests

I did many many tests (I think 6) and went over a couple a couple of times. But as mentioned these were more helpful in clarifying what I did not know, which I found to be in clusters (RDS, SQS). Keep a running list of what you got wrong.

6. What was on the test:

I do not have a super great memory so I do not remember all the questions. The following is from someone who passed last week. I think this is a pretty good summary of what was on the test:

  1. VPC/networking (private and public subnets, private and public IPs, Elastic IPs, bastion hosts, route tables, NATs, Security Groups, nACLs, troubleshooting connectivity) — — this topic probably accounted for about 40% of my questions
  2. Fault tolerance (ELB, auto scaling and launch configurations)
  3. S3 (IA, RRS, Glacier)
  4. Encryption (at rest, in transit, for EBS volumes, using S3 SSE options, etc.)
  5. Volumes and snapshots (management of each, e.g., how to copy a volume from one AZ or region to another)
  6. Route 53 (I saw more questions on this than I anticipated, mostly around its different routing policies and alias resource records)

Also, I scrolled through the Udemy comments on exam feedback and this one was true: “Again as a tip, one of the topic I think that was not covered here in the course that took me by surprise was STS (AWS Security Token Service)”

Important point to note here: I encountered STS through test questions but more importantly through the review of the Overview on Security Processes. It is a concept that ties into federated identities, a concept that I did not fully grasp until the end. Just like RDS MultiAZ = DR + Backup, Decouple = SQS, STS = Federated Identities.

So all that led to this:

Now off to get a job…That’ll be the “Run” part of the Title :-)

Inclusively yours,


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