AWS Training and Certification Blog

How a mechanical engineer gained cloud skills to become his own boss

AWS Community Builder, Igor Soroka.

AWS Community Builder, Igor Soroka.

In 2020, Igor Soroka, a former mechanical engineer, took the self-employment plunge and became a freelance cloud software consultant near Helsinki, Finland. As an engineer working on aircraft engines, his interest in automation and machines led him to programming. From there he delved into back-end integration, where he saw how complex the server environment could be. “At some point,” he says, “I realized there’s something else out there.” For Igor, JavaScript led to Node.js; Node.js led to the cloud; and today, he validates his mounting cloud skills with AWS Cloud Certifications.

When Igor decided to pivot his career to the cloud, many of his engineering and programming skills were helpful. However, he knew he would have to embark on a cloud learning journey to gain the hard skills he needed to be successful in his new career. Igor learned first-hand how AWS Training and Certification resources could move the needle toward achieving his goals.

Today, Igor has six AWS Certifications under his belt. Already experienced in coding, he first set his sights on the AWS Certified Developer – Associate certification in 2019. He followed this by earning his AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate certification, then tackled the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner certification, which he said he valued for its “ten thousand-foot view” of the cloud. Since then, he has added his AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate, AWS Certified DevOps Engineer – Professional, and AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional certifications.

In this blog, Igor shares highlights from his cloud learning journey and outlines the resources he used to earn six AWS Certifications, validating his knowledge and building credibility with his clients.

Building new cloud skills, credibility, and better client results

Learning to use the right cloud language and recommending the right IT tools when communicating with clients is the most important knowledge gained while training to earn AWS Certifications. I see certifications as not only a list of specific skills, but also as a pathway to learning a generalized set of best practices that help you interact with a client’s architects and developers.

If I had it to do over again, I’d start with AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner certification. I recommend that as a starting point for every person who works in the cloud, even though my past work experience allowed me to start elsewhere. That’s because Cloud Practitioner is foundational—it lays out terminology that’s central to other certifications. People from non-technical backgrounds can take the AWS Cloud Practitioner Essentials course, but it’s also helpful to developers and architects. To continue to build on your cloud knowledge, I recommend earning associate-level certifications, like the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate.

The professional level certifications can be more complicated because they require more cloud knowledge and experience. They can be especially challenging for non-native English speakers. But in my experience, the AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional and AWS Certified DevOps Engineer – Professional certifications gave me the best ratio of time and effort to value. In my work as a freelancer, those two professional certifications have done the most for my reputation.

My AWS Certifications underscore the theoretical foundation that supports my everyday work. For example, preparing for the Solutions Architect – Professional exam helped me with my most recent project, which was to migrate a monolith application packed in one AWS Lambda function. Thanks to this course, I was able to come up with the strategy and approach to the migration. My AWS skills were also critical during the creation of a greenfield project with Amazon API Gateway, AWS Lambda, and Amazon DynamoDB.

Overall, the certifications show everyone that I know about many options within AWS. They add credibility and demonstrate my commitment to learning and implementing best practices in real-life projects. They also give the perception that I care about developing my career and put in the work to stay on the cutting edge of cloud technology.

The value of AWS Skill Builder

AWS Skill Builder is a great learning resource because it gives you the most accurate, up-to-date information about the AWS Cloud and the training courses are built by AWS experts. I took about five Skill Builder courses including, Getting Started with DevOps on AWS, which gave me a broader perspective on provisioning cloud resources. You can explore the Developer Learning Plan for more details and developer training courses. In my opinion, the greatest Skill Builder assets are the Exam Readiness courses, including Exam Readiness: AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional, Exam Readiness: AWS Certified DevOps Engineer – Professional, and Exam Prep: AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate. These courses give you free test exams, the roadmap of exam questions, and how to determine the best answer. No matter your background, it’s still good to confirm your knowledge and ensure it’s up to date.

Advice for fellow learners

Looking back, it took longer than I anticipated to earn my first certification—AWS Certified Developer – Associate. That’s why I recommend starting with the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner certification, which will give you a ten thousand-foot view of the AWS Cloud. Build time into your schedule to study. When you’re pursuing an associate- or professional-level certification, remember that it will be more difficult so you should choose one to focus on and set aside as much time as possible to complete trainings, watch videos, and even read AWS whitepapers. Check out this blog post to learn more about each level of certification and what to expect. Plan a few months in advance and schedule your exam date, because having that target is helpful.

For most of my certification exams, I went to the test center in person. It was easy for me to get there and provided an environment that was the best fit for me. I decided to take the AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate exam from my home because I wanted to complete it ahead of a trip my wife and I were taking, so I could relax on holiday. During the exam, I quickly realized that taking the test virtually wasn’t the right option for me. I like to move around and sitting in front of the laptop for hours while our cat scratched at the door was tough. I suppose the lesson I’d take from that experience is that each person should find the setting that best suits their approach to test-taking. Read tips for success taking the exam virtually.

When you’re preparing, I recommend creating a study plan that corresponds with the resources available on AWS Skill Builder. Take the time to work on as many sample questions as you can, and pay attention to the overall exam structure—there are always five or six areas of focus. The certification exam times vary from 90 minutes up to 3 hours. During the exam, you’ll need to appropriate the time necessary to answer each question so it’s important to know which areas of focus you’re comfortable with and which will likely require a bit more time.

And don’t forget the most important success factor—yourself. Sleep, fresh air, and stress management really help. It’s important not to be anxious. And if you feel you aren’t ready, it’s better to reschedule the exam, which you can do up to 24 hours prior to the exam. The good news is that the more certification exams you take, the better you become at the preparation process.

Paying it forward

As a member of the AWS Community Builder, Igor now uses his knowledge to guide other rising professionals as they navigate the AWS Cloud. Readers can find insights on AWS Training, leading cloud practices—and his passion for skiing—on his blog. You can also catch Igor on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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AWS Certifications validate cloud skills and expertise, offering employers a means of identifying and developing cloud talent, and showcasing the capabilities of AWS Certified individuals so they are better positioned in their careers.

There are several resources and tips to consider when preparing for an AWS Certifications, including:

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