Why I Love Earning DevOps Certifications

Why I Love Earning DevOps Certifications

May 07, 2024
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I’ll start with a confession because to be honest – I don’t always love it. 

There is always that stage in learning for an exam where I ask myself, why did I ever put myself into this? My head is all jumbo-dumbo. I can’t seem to make sense of all the data I’m stuffing into it. I’m failing the practice exams and I’m just sure that this time I’m not going to pass. In fact, I’m in exactly this situation right now as I begin to write this article, so I thought I’d take a break from learning to remind myself why I always find myself starting a new certification journey. Well, it starts with feeling dumb. 

The DevOps world is filled with so many tools and technologies; each one is a whole world I could dive into. For me, being a DevOps is being in a learning mindset all the time. I just can’t let myself stand in one place. I feel the need to always continue learning, growing and diving deeper. And although we all know there is nothing like learning hands-on from real-life experience, there are also disadvantages to this kind of learning. In day-to-day work, it’s all about getting results. A lot of times, I end up doing things that work, but if I’m being honest, I don’t fully get the ins and outs of it all. There’s just not enough time to dive deep and truly master everything. 

And then, there’s that nagging feeling of missing out on smarter ways to do things or slicker solutions simply because I haven’t had the chance to bump into the right docs page yet. When I learn for a certificate, I learn about tools and resources that I haven’t yet met in real practice. Now, when a new need arises at work, I can query my own internal brain database for the right answer instead of asking chatGPT.

So, I start learning. At first, it’s interesting and seems easy enough. But as I start accumulating more and more and more data, it gets overwhelming, and an inner voice starts nagging at me that this is worthless. Even if I pass the exam, what will I remember from all of this a week after? A month? Well, that inner voice is right. Most of the info I stuff into my brain before a test is quickly deleted by the mind’s lifecycle policy, which doesn’t like when you heap too much-unused info into it at once. But the brain is smart – it keeps the metadata. Some kind of reference that, hey, I once learned about a resource in the cloud that can tackle this problem that I’m now facing.

There are a few kinds of ‘knowledge status’ you can be in regarding a subject. You either know it, or you know about it, or you don’t know. When you don’t know at all about something, you might miss it when you need it – because you don’t even know how to search for it or think about it. When you know about something, then when the time comes and you need that knowledge, you will know that the knowledge exists and will go and search more about it until you get to know it status. That’s what I want – I don’t need to know everything, but I want to know enough about everything to be able to search deeper when I need to.

I’ll give you an example. Lately, at work, I have been creating many new AWS VPCs, and I needed them all to not have overlapping CIDRs. Every time I created a new VPC, I had to go over all the existing CIDR blocks and calculate what new CIDR I could add. At the same time, I was learning for the AWS Networking Speciality exam. Suddenly, I learned about IPAM, which is an AWS resource that’s exactly for this purpose! I would never have thought of searching for such a simple tool to help manage CIDR blocks. Now, for the exam, I learned about all the nitty-gritty of IPAM. Do I remember it all? Of course not. I even had to search for the resource name to write about it here in the article. But I know that there is a tool for managing CIDR blocks, and now, next time I have the need, I will research it.

In another recent situation, I heard some Devs complaining about the difficulty they were having since they lost their admin password for some Windows EC2. I immediately remembered from a past AWS exam I took a year before that there are ways to restore a lost Windows admin password. Again – I did not remember exactly how, but I was confident enough to join the conversation and ask the devs what server it was so I could help. I was the hero of the day. And again – just remembering that I once learned about it made it so much simpler to step up and help.     

And it’s not just about knowing where to start the research; it’s also about time and ease. Learning something for the second time is always easier than the first time – even if you think you forgot everything. Something is left in the brain. The neurons are already familiar with this pattern and will connect a second time faster. That’s why I’m not afraid of forgetting everything after the exam – it’s never a waste, even when you think you forgot it all.

Another reason I like broadening my knowledge through certificates is that I’m the kind of person who gets lost when I have no structure. Some people are able to come up with their own hands-on projects, read articles, and dive into subjects in their free time. For me, I progress much faster when I put myself into some kind of frame with a clear roadmap and goal. A certificate gives me exactly that. I always start with scheduling the test. That gives me a goal and a deadline. Then I bought a course in Udemy that taught me everything, and then I just got on the road and walked. It helps me.

And what’s even better is that this doesn’t end when I finish the exam. I haven’t gotten there yet, but every certificate has an expiration period. Then you have to retake the exam to get the certificate. It’s kind of annoying when you first think about it, but it does make some sense. Technology progresses, things change, and if you want to keep up you need to always refresh your knowledge with the latest updates. I like knowing that in a few years, I’ll have to refresh my knowledge again. It’s like setting an Alarm Clock to wake me up in the future, just in case I fall asleep. Because that’s the worst thing that can happen to Devops – to stop learning.

And finally, there is no sweeter feeling than getting the badge. It’s even better than the satisfaction of running a CI/CD pipeline that failed dozens of times and finally seeing the green checks twinkling at you. In a world in which we always measure and compare ourselves, it’s nice to get validation of success.

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