Through LinkedIN I have had the opportunity to share my learning journey with a lot of people. Fortunately for me I have had a lot of those people reach out and I have had a lot of discussions sharing advice on how to go after cloud certifications. I would like to summarize that advice here.
First, Here are some contemporaneous thoughts on the first cloud certifications that I obtained:
After passing 10 exams, it is hard to get back into the mindset of that first time, so the writings from that time are as close as I can get.
I have a preference toward Udemy currently for the reason it is all delivered as videos and I can turn the speed up to 1.5x, 1.75x or 2x. For GCP content on Udemy, I really like the content from Dan Sullivan and Ranga Karanam. I usually use “Gale” to access Udemy through my local library and get the courses for free through that. If you happen to have a Johnson County Library card this is where you access gale. If the courses are not available through the library then I wait for sales that happen often and the content is usually $9.99 - $14.99 per course on the sales. When I am ready to get Certified I also use Udemy to find practice exams. I often do not get a passing score on the first time and study the areas that I miss. Most of the tests have really good explanations of the correct and incorrect responses. Google Certifications are the most opaque of the 3 for the actual exam. You only get pass/fail feedback, whereas AWS and Azure give you a percent (I missed a MS cert by one question one time).
So when you want to move on past top level how things fit together and you have chosen specific things you want to know how they specifically work, then you want to get hands on. At this point there are 2 options that I like best. First is Coursera (same platform I used at UIUC) these courses are created by Google and are awesome. However they can be pricey. Perhaps look to your work to cover the cost. These will have hands on exercises, likely through Quiklabs (https://www.qwiklabs.com/). The second one that I like to use is Quiklabs itself, prior to joining Google I was able to get free credits for Quiklabs by attending GDG (Google Development Group) virtual events.
I have also used Pluralsight, CodeAcademy, Linux Academy, A Cloud Guru, LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lydia) and more. If your work happens to pay for any of these, that may be the way to go.
If you have some Cloud Computing knowledge already and you use Cloud in your day job, the low level ones for each Hyperscaler are likely a week or two of studying (AWS Cloud Practitioner, Azure Fundamentals, and/or Google Cloud Digital Leader). These are often ones that executives or non-practitioners take and then stop. However I find them interesting because they are the ones that cover billing and a lot of other things that are foundational.
The next level are the Associate level ones, these are a bit more complicated. I would study for these for about 1 month. Then the Professional/Specialty are the hardest. Some of these are 2 or 3 hours with very complex scenarios. I did not attempt these until I had been working regularly in the cloud for a few years, as it draws on some practical knowledge.
In all cases, I think back to how a friend put answering the actual individual questions on these exams: “Pick the least shitty option”. Sometimes there is not the way that you would inherently do it as an option so you have to read repeatedly and cross out options that have flaws until you are left with just one remaining.
As far as certifications, I am likely biased (by currently working for Google Cloud), however on most of the lists that come up with you search the Google Cloud Certified Professional Cloud Architect comes up as the #1 highest paid certification. All 3 public clouds have cloud compute which is rather commodity at this point, however Google Cloud has BigQuery and AI/ML capabilities that the others do not compare to. Google Cloud is also the only cloud that has TPU’s. The performance on TPU’s is much better than GPU’s. In addition to TPU’s being more efficient (using less energy to solve massive problems), GCP is already very close and will be carbon neutral by 2030.
The day of the exam, if you are taking it remotely, think ahead and do not drink too much water. For most remote proctored exams you cannot leave the room you are testing in. Also read all of the instructions ahead of time. You likely cannot have any other screens in the room, other than the laptop you are taking the exam on. You will likely be asked to take off your watch, hat or hoodie. And you will have to use your computer camera to show all 4 walls of the room. You will likely have to set your phone somewhere that the proctor can see it.