old dog, new tricks

old dog, new tricks

TL:DR Old dogs *can* (un/re)learn new tricks - passing the Associate Cloud Engineer examination.

I’m generally a curious person especially when it comes to matters tech. I enjoy experimenting, trying out new stuff. I also enjoy building products. The process of discovery, learning, and building is something I hope to never get over. Some months back, I decided I needed to ‘hit refresh’ on my technical skills - especially after a 3 year hiatus away from tech related roles. This was out of necessity: building a tech company, particularly one that’s exploratory in nature requires one to unlearn, learn, relearn on an almost daily basis. I used to be a developer once upon a time, as well as a systems engineer. I then took a break and spent 3 years full time in leadership at iHub (loads of personal growth!) before leaving at the end of 2017. Tech-wise, I’ve since jumped back to coding, into Golang (very elegant!), spent some time dipping my toes in data science (via wqu.org) and refreshing on the engineering math I once knew), while diving deep into public cloud - which brings me to Google's Associate Cloud Engineer Certification.

The Associate Cloud Engineer Certification is a job-task based certification focused on core Google Cloud Platform technology. This certification is a good starting point for those new to cloud or new to GCP and can be used as a path to professional level certifications. Recommended experience is 6 months+ hands-on experience with GCP.

I’ve been using GCP for about year, so was familiar with most of what was tested. I still found the questions tricky. I’m not going to post any here - not that I remember them :) - and it’s against the terms and conditions. One has to however think carefully about the question posed and chose the optimal answer from those presented.

Passing the exam

What helps? Experience, lots of practice, understanding the basics. I'd say:

  • make sure you completely understand the areas mentioned in the certification guide - inside out especially the fundamental elements (compute, networking, storage, security)
  • take the practice exam if you haven't to get a feel of the format
  • take advantage of the free tier if you haven’t and practice practice practice
  • qwiklabs - if you have credits/can pay for credits make sure you take advantage and practice as much as possible
  • go through the HOWTOs in the documentation

Closing thoughts

Infrastructure has come such a long way, and for developers, lots of things have been abstracted away. This is a good thing from a certain perspective in that it allows one to just focus on the code. However, one potentially loses out on really understanding what happens ‘under the hood’. The days of building custom kernels in order to get a certain mail server to work (my first encounter with Linux), or performing a migration of a production OSS HP-UX system to a more modern Red Hat based system (from physically mounting servers, storage, cabling and networking configuration to building a migration manual from nearly nothing) are probably gone (though I guess you could for kicks on the cloud). The fundamentals do remain. Those experiences do mean that many ‘old dogs’ have valuable experiences (and horror stories to share) but shouldn’t stay stuck in the past - they should unlearn some things, learn new things, and relearn new ways of doing infrastructure, platforms and products.

[Edit: I sat the Professional Cloud Architect exam one week later and passed!]