So you’re going to take the GCP Cloud Architect’s certification

I am not one to put too much reliance on exams and certs to ascertain a person’s capabilities. Yes a university degree kinda proves you have the ability to concentrate, retain facts , study and pass exams but not everyone has the chance in life to attend University yet are perfectly capable of doing all the things that going to university proves one is capable of .

But a university education is fast becoming such an expensive endeavour that I am pretty sure at some point as it was in the “good ole” days a university education will be something for the elite few who are willing to face years of debt or come from a background where they can afford it.

The world does seem to be taking so many steps backwards this century .

I personally tend to be heavily biased towards your actual experience and general cognitive ability. That aside I totally understand there being some sort of benchmark employers need to help them sift CV’s, consultants, partners etc. So having some sort of certification in the area of expertise the candidate or consultant you wish to hire is super useful.

GCP have been hard at work developing a set of professional certifications

I work with GCP as you may have gathered if you’ve read any of my medium posts and as I help customers with using GCP I felt that I really had no choice but to obtain the GCP Cloud Architecture professional certification as soon as I could so I took the beta exam.

I have to admit I was very happy that GCP is not just focused on how adept you are at python or Java as the previous set of training and tests associated with them seemed to be. imho they didn’t actually help roles other than developers to hone their skills for GCP. As an architect I was nonplussed about those . I wanted to see exams and certs that would help folks with architecting solutions for GCP; hone their sysadmin skills for GCP or have the appropriate big data skills to fully exploit those offerings on GCP .

I’ve held both the AWS assoc and the AWS pro Solution Architects certs in the past and I mistakenly assumed that this cert would be like the AWS associate exam and thus I wouldn’t really need to do any studying .

Shortly before the exam I suddenly realised that wasn’t the case and this was going to be a professional level exam .

This was good and bad!

Good:

None of this over proliferation of certs at various levels . A good solid well thought through cert for each specialisation so it did make me think about the areas of GCP I needed to double down on.

Bad:

As I had one day I could carve out before I sat down to take the cert to do any kind of focused study ( bear in mind what my job is !) . This did mean my co-workers had to put up with me grumbling as I realised the undue pressure I’d put myself under. I couldn’t defer taking the cert either as this would mean deferring till April when I could then get round to it . Do NOT do this study properly set up a study plan read , attend relevant conferences , watch videos , do some of the basic coursera training or an in person training course. This is not a tick in the box exercise it is aimed at making sure that anyone who holds this cert actually does have an appropriate level of knowledge on GCP.

The problem with it being a beta exam and I found this particular issue slightly annoying on behalf of candidates is that there was no reading list to help make sure you had good coverage. Reading stuff is my go to way to up ramp on anything.

There were also a distinct lack of direction towards “useful” videos .

The sample questions are not really representative of the questions you get in the exam and I feel some that are more reflective would be helpful . Two example questions are not enough at all . So I really had no practice questions to help me at all ! I am hopeful this will be remedied

The number of questions was insane but as pointed out here I was helping with the quality of the certification to make sure the final certification was solid . I did enjoy the questions that made me think I was working with customers they were actually fun. I can’t give anything away about the actual exam questions but I can say if you’re an architect you should enjoy those questions as much as I did.

The assessment centre I attended was cold so sat there for just over 3 hours ( you get 4 hours to do the beta ) was pretty uncomfortable . Wish I’d not put my coat in a locker ☹️ . I would advise wearing layers of clothing if taking the exam while the weather is dodgy just in case the assessment centre you choose was as pants as the one I selected on the comfort factor.

My tips for preparing for the GCP Cloud Architecture professional certification

So what’s the point of this post I hear you ask ?

It’s not just to hear me lament about my lack of prep or my personal opinions on the usefulness of certs. I just felt some helpful pointers on preparing for the GCP Cloud Architecture professional certification would be useful until more prescriptive guidance is provided by GCP:

Actual hands on experience — This is ultimately the best way to prepare and is probably the only reason I managed to pass despite my woeful lack of preparation!

Attend In person training courses

No time to actually attend an in person training course then do some online training.

I went through the coursera sysops online course earlier last month ( January) after I’d taken the beta cert just to see what that was like . It’s actually pretty reasonable imho as a baseline to build upon so I would strongly advise doing this early in your study plan. It also would have been useful for me to get me back into practice into taking an online exam. I hadn’t done one for years so super rusty . Note not all the questions are of the same format you will find in the actual cert.

Read the cert guide but don’t be put off by some of the language as it is crucial in helping you create your study plan as the cert exam does indeed cover all the topics. imho this needs a serious rewrite to not put off folks who are perfectly ready to take the cert from doing so.

This extract from section 3 for example is just weird it’s almost as if it’s deterring non US folks from taking the cert

” 3.2. Designing for legal compliance. Considerations include: • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Children’s Online • Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), etc. • audits • certification “

Why not generalise and say being able to design for legal compliance requirements and choose standards that are universally in use such as PCI DSS as examples.

Conferences and Videos your thing then start by attending GCP NEXT or watching the sessions from GCP NEXT . Here are the sessions from 2016 The sessions from 2017 look fantastic imho!. Even if videos are not your thing you should watch the ones from the GCP NEXT conference as they do have plenty of information to help you prepare for the certification.

If you’re attending GCP NEXT 17 then why not sign up for a bootcamp or two and do some of the codelabs and while you’re there talk to some of the GCP Cloud Solutions Architects who will be attending awaiting your questions .

Reading list:

  • For every product as a minimum read the concept cards, how to guides and tutorials
  • Read everything here . okay maybe not everything but most of it ! Subscribe to the GCP blog news feed or follow @googlecloud to keep you alerted to new articles and solutions.

Hopefully this prep list helps you to get ready and not do as I did . It should be a fun experience preparing for the certification .. Don’t do what I did !

Update July 2017

Just a quick update to say some of my gripes have been answered so your prep should be a lot easier now.

Sample questions — Okay this may not be quite as I hoped but what you do get is a look at some of the sample customer use cases

Those are great , read them carefully.

Don’t be fooled by the title “ cloud infrastructure” track this is where the instructor led training for the Architect’s cert starts

Watch the GCP NEXT 2017 videos . Plenty of great material for you to watch

The coursera architects track starts here it consists of 4 courses . The Sysops track has been deprecated . I haven’t gone through this updated track though but I’m sure it’ll be of the same quality as the sysops course so definitely worth considering if you can’t do the instructor led training.

The docs are constantly being updated and new solutions and blog posts added all the time so I can’t stress enough that you should keep up to date with your reading. I love the flow charts to help customers navigate their way through choices that have been produced for storage & compute ( I leave it as an exercise for the reader to find those!)

Above all as well as studying you need hands on and there are a bunch of cloud focused codelabs to assist

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