I’m old enough to remember when there were no software companies, so I’ve also had a chance to see many of them come and go. That also means attending a lot of conferences over the years — including AWS reInvent 2017 — and I came away very impressed. Here was a company that had figured out how to build an ecosystem of software that was better integrated and more accessible than anything else I had seen in my career (including during my time in the glory days of Microsoft). I think even the stock market has come to recognize the power of the borg as they AWS-ify more services. Just look what happened with MongoDB last week.
It was at reInvent that I decided this was something we needed to do. More importantly, that this was a force that would change how we deliver software solutions. I also knew that this is an unstoppable trend on which I would bet the rest of my career. From my point of view, there is no better or faster way to build bigger ideas than by piecing them together with big building blocks in a well-architected public cloud solution.
The challenge is keeping up with the pace of innovation as they absorb and relaunch each new service in a way that feels right within the AWS ecosystem. To help with this, I decided to use the certification process as a way to force myself to get beyond my narrow but deep understanding of core services like IAM, EC2, and S3. I also wanted to learn the right place and time to use the hundred other services that are available at cloud scale.
After the conference, I bought the Architect Associate study guide, subscribed to the AWS Podcast available through the Apple Podcasts app (there are 289 to listen to, so you better get started), and discovered all of the free training available in the Learning Library at https://www.aws.training/Dashboard. My goal was to pass the test in 2018, and I waited until the last possible day to do it.
Along the way, I learned that there was much more to do and learn, so I tackled the online training and free online test for the TCO & Cloud Economics and Well-Architected Framework. For the latter, I found it to be a good framework for thinking about “Enterprise Ready” topics such as scalability, security, and reliability. It’s a valuable approach to solution selling and technical design. These accreditations count towards our partner goals as well, so if you are so inclined, I do recommend them. They are quick and relatively painless.
It’s worth mentioning that the world of cloud-first or cloud-native solutions is going to affect all of us in every technical role we have. “Infrastructure as Code” and DevOps will make most of our QA work much easier as we easily create and tear down production-representative environments whenever we need them. Developers will find their jobs affected as well as we write less code and build faster by bolting Internet-scale things together instead, and the inevitable gravity created by the economics of open source operating systems and databases are changing the languages, tools, and runtimes we use to build new solutions.
Don’t panic, though. No matter what languages or tools you prefer or know, there’s probably a path that allows you to continue to use that skill. It doesn’t mean we have to learn new languages — an old .NET guy like me can still use C#/.NET and SQL. It is increasingly important, however, that it must run on a .NET Core Runtime in a Lambda serverless environment, and that my web UX will be built in React, Vue, or Angular and run as a static site hosted on S3.
So, why get certified? Because you want to know more about what your career will be like in 5 years when all of this is the new normal, whether it is AWS, Azure, or Google Cloud. Even if you disagree with my conclusion as to which might be best or most useful to learn, it is more important that you pick one and learn it.