Certified

First of, all really sorry for the absence. I promised that I would be writing a new blog post every week, but somehow haven't done that since the last two weeks or so I guess. The reasons I attribute for this delay are, partially because I was preparing for my AWS Architect Associate exam for like last month or so, partially because I got a bit lazy and partially because I didn't do something fun or crazy or worth sharing on this blog. I do have an article coming up on stress, social media, fake news and herd mentality coming up so do stay tuned for that. Major blocker for that being that I am confused whether to post that on this blog, or maybe on my personal blog or somewhere else. If you have any ideas for that do post them in the comments. But anyways lets jump back to the main topic. I got certified. This is a small post for memories and whatnot's. Felt like sharing and here I am.

So I got recently certified as  AWS certified solutions architect associate. I know it is just an associate certificate, but for me it is kinda big, and going forward I want to get more experience in this domain and get more such certifications. Honestly speaking I had no intention whatsoever initially to pursue such a track. I was bored and out of ideas. I knew I wanted to do something on the systems architect / solution's side of things but I never thought it would be this soon. My workplace had organized a drive for getting folks certified and mainly out of curiosity and partially because I was bored (this pandemic got me for real this time) I decided to give it a shot. The training was completely online and from a reputed vendor who offered hands on labs / sandboxes and tons of mock exams. For keeping it unbiased as possible I won't spell out their name, but I like their platform and their way of teaching. The first few modules I covered gave me a bit of a confidence that yes I can crack this. I have been building networks and system configs for friends and family from time to time, this time I felt that I can scale up and leverage cloud for it as well.

The initial lessons were easy to grasp and understand mainly because I had experience with such scenarios. However as the product stack grew, I won't lie, it did get a bit difficult. To provide a certain solution, now there were multiple options available, multiple pricing tiers available and overall, one could mix and match. It has been widely said in the AWS community that not a lot of people have entire idea of AWS's offerings due to their sheer volume, number and scale and one doesn't need to as well. However, it never hurts, in just knowing that something exists for a certain problem and you never know when you might have to use it. That kinda became my approach for a better part, until I finished the modules and went for a mock exam. It went terrible. I did horribly bad and managed to score just 56%. That was a big blow, and that's when I realized, this was a real exam. It wasn't just for fun any more. If I had to do it, I would have to give it my best shot, and if I am not giving my best shot, why am I even appearing for the exam.

With some additional determination in place, I started reducing my time in other activities and started focusing on the exam. I even skipped game day for that one week. I went into full exam mode, and didn't let anything bother me. I still did finish my office work and its responsibilities but, the additional time left portion was now devoted to this exam prep. The good thing about the mock was that it pinpointed all the topics I needed to cover. It gave the solutions as well. I went through my weak areas and gave another test. Now here's where the big fuck up happened. My workplace had the policy in place that before one appears for the final test, one needs to clear the mocks. The passing criteria is 70%, which I though was actually 75%. The second mock I gave, I scored 72%. Technically I had cleared the criteria for my workplace. However, since I was under the pretext that it was 75%, I felt even more worse and studied a lot harder.

At this point I started giving mocks almost every other day of the week, this was one week before the last day we had to finish all this process. So in that week , I had scored between 72 - 74 % marks, finally on a Saturday I scored 75% and then immediately dropped a mail so that I could get my voucher. While going through the docs and procedures I read that the minimum criteria was 70% and not 75%. Even though I scored that well, I was disappointed and my day was ruined. And being a Saturday I wouldn't be getting a voucher until the next working day which was a Monday. Eventually I was able to get voucher the coming Thursday, and immediately booked the exam for the coming Monday. This was an incredibly frustrating ordeal as it was getting sold out / slot not available. After multiple tries I was able to book it.

After this point, it was the same as before, appear for a mock, get a score, revise, rinse and repeat. Before, giving my final test I had appeared for about 8 mock exams, and apart from that one time, never managed to score above or equal to 75%. I was worried now. What if my final is the same. I had a target of at least 75% in my mind. This kinda got me and I studied the whole day before my exam. I didn't sleep well either. This was a terrible mistake. On the day of exam I felt sleepy and drowsy. If my exam weren't in the evening I would've definitely flunked it. I revised through all the topics in the little time I had that day. I had actually "napped" for 2 hrs so that I could give my head some rest. Before the exam I went through my notes. I saw a bunch of crash course videos on YouTube as well for some services I wasn't comfortable with as well.

During the exam I was able to answer most questions, though I still had a lot of doubts. I had flagged them and considered going through them in the end. I almost shit my pants when I got disconnected for a brief moment and I had to rejoin the exam. I thought I had blown my chance and I was done for. The questions I had flagged were left to be reviewed. I had marked them, but I wasn't very sure of the answers. Luckily the wait wasn't that long and I was able to reconnect. I went through the last flagged ones and finished it just in time. After it had finished I only got a small message telling I had passed. No grade, nothing. I still wasn't confident enough. Thankfully the wait wasn't long and the next evening I got a mail with the certification and marks and rest. It was the highest I had scored yet. I had scored 761 / 1000.

I never had in my wildest dreams considered that I would break my target. Maybe I should've aimed a bit higher, say 80%. However, from this entire ordeal / experience, I learnt a few things in addition to the AWS material. Practice helps. Even if practice leads to failure, it helps. It is good to fail while practicing rather than failing in finale. And even if it is in finale, crying over it never helps. Learning from ones failures definitely does. Never underestimate yourself, set realistic targets, but also sometimes it is okay to set a quite higher target. You could possibly reach it, you never know. And above all, read the goddamn documentation. It will take say 5 mins of your time, but it gives you a clear picture. It helps you set your priorities and action items. Programmers have a running joke, which goes like "why would I waste 5 mins in reading some documentation and fixing my code, when I could easily utilize 2 hrs debugging the code!" That helps on the job, not while preparing for an exam.

Hope this post inspires others or perhaps provides insights on what not to do while preparing for exams and such. It is okay if you don't like it. It was my story and I am putting things here for the future. Thanks a lot for reading, and hopefully the next post won't be as delayed as this one. :)

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