AWS Training and Certification Blog

My learning path to become an AWS solutions architect

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Before joining AWS as a solutions architect, I worked for more than a decade architecting, designing, and implementing various large-scale networks. I’m motivated by learning new things and the challenge of certification exams. Friends and LinkedIn connections frequently ask me what certifications or courses I recommend they pursue to start their cloud learning journey or to become a solutions architect. In this blog, I answer that question by sharing how I set out to acquire the technical knowledge and skills to be an AWS solutions architect.

After I wrote my second CiscoPress networking design book in early 2017, I started thinking about what to do next. Should I write another book, or should I consider learning something outside of my comfort zone of network engineering? I decided to consider something relatively new to me and set my sights on a new goal.

I first asked myself what areas of focus are in high market demand. In terms of market demand, I knew AWS stands as the world’s leading provider of cloud solutions. I also considered what areas I am personally interested in. I have always been passionate about architecting solutions that solve a business problem (e.g., make something faster, cheaper, etc.) or that provide an innovative approach (e.g., a better user experience). I found that with cloud technologies, there are limitless possibilities to architect such solutions, especially when it comes to data engineering, machine learning, and automation. I saw an opportunity to build on my experience and also challenge myself to learn something new.

So, I set a goal to become an AWS solutions architect.

Mapping out my path

I began by seeking out courses to help me build my knowledge and industry certifications that could show my skills. AWS Training and Certification–in particular, the learning paths–were a game changer for me. They offer a recommended progression of courses and resources, and also show where an AWS Certification may fit in. These learning paths helped me master the skills to become a solutions architect.

I started by making a list of my goals and mapping those to the AWS Certifications that validated those skills, and the learning paths to achieve them. I also took into account my own areas of experience, particularly in networking. Each of my goals built toward the next, which are below.

Goal #1: Build foundational knowledge about cloud architecture and become a cloud designer/solutions architect
Certification: AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate
Resources: The AWS Architect Learning Path outlines the progression of courses, exam readiness, and certifications for anyone who wants to learn how to design and build systems on AWS.

Goal #2: Master designing advanced AWS Cloud networking solutions
Certification: AWS Certified Advanced Networking – Specialty
Resources: The AWS Advanced Networking Learning Path is designed for individuals who want to validate their advanced networking technical skills and experience in designing and implementing AWS and hybrid IT network architectures at scale.

Goal #3: Build in-depth knowledge about data engineering
Certification: AWS Certified Data Analytics – Specialty
Resources: The Data Analytics Learning Path is designed for individuals who design and implement AWS services to derive value from data. The courses take you through learning how to collect, ingest, store, process, and visualize data.

Solutions Architect – Associate and my continued learning

The AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate exam was exactly what I expected of the topics covered and the depth of each topic. And, it set me up well to show I can architect and analyze small-to-medium-sized AWS Cloud architecture. As part of my studying and hands-on experience, I also took advantage of the AWS free tier credit.

Coming from a networking background, it was natural for me to pursue the AWS Certified Advanced Networking – Specialty certification. I used my new AWS Cloud knowledge, plus the networking learning path, to study for and pass the exam.

Next I set my sights on the AWS Certified Data Analytics – Specialty certification. As mentioned above, I find data science, data visualization, machine learning, and artificial intelligence fascinating, and applicable to today’s modern application development. The knowledge and practical experience I gained through AWS Certified Data Analytics – Specialty helped me to build a strong foundation to assess, architect, and optimize solutions with different data pipelines (a completely new skill I attained through this learning path). This certification was also outside of my comfort zone and appealed to my overarching goal of learning something new.

Fast forward to now, I have been with AWS six months as a solutions architect and am working to earn AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional. I am eager to go deeper in my knowledge of the AWS Cloud, and become an advanced cloud solutions architect/designer, capable of architecting large-scale solutions.

Continuous technical knowledge development is something I have always valued. If you’re like me and are considering taking on a new cloud skills goal – whether in the sweet spot of your comfort zone or a new opportunity, the AWS Training and Certification resources are readily available and set you up for success. As long as you have set a clear goal to achieve, you can always expand on it as you progress in your learning journey. Why not set a big goal to achieve one – or all! – of the AWS Certifications? Set the goal and map out your learning path to learn and improve.