My experience with AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional (SAP-C01) exam – June 2019

On June 12, 2019, I passed my fourth AWS certification – AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Professional. I would like to share my experience with it.

The last time I used AWS professionally was on 2017 December. Ever since I joined Accenture, I was working on some private cloud, and never really had a chance to work on AWS. However, I always had this urge to get another cert to be up to date and also to get into an AWS project when I get the chance. However, it was only on Jan 2019 that I finally made that decision to start preparing for the exam. Here is my timeline on my studies.

1) Accenture provided me access to subscription. I watched every single video one time, did not really took any notes. I did the quiz presented after every lesson. Also did some of the labs.

2) Once the videos are completed, I read all the whitepapers mentioned during the lessions. And it was really a difficult task. They were super long, and boring af. I fell asleep a number of times reading them. However, they really gave a lot of insights about the best practices.

3) Acloud Guru also has linked a number of Re-Invent videos in their lessons. I watched every one of them. They were one hour long, however I found them very interesting. It also gave a lot of insights.

4) I did the exam simulator in Acloud Guru, and failed miserably. I was expecting it any way, but wanted to give a shot.

5) I bought the practice exams from Whizlabs, did every set of questions once, and failed all of them. I was expecting that also. However, doing the practice exams actually trains to think the AWS exam way. Also there were so many mistakes in the Whizlabs exams, some of their explanations did not make any sense to me, so I actually read the documentation myself and sent them links proving that they were wrong. This was good for me because it introduced me to some new topics that I would not have looked into otherwise.

6) I watched most of the videos from Acloud guru again, and did their practice test, and passed comfortably.

7) Attempted Whizlabs again, some barely passed, and others failed by short margin. Again it was clear that I was not prepared yet.

8) Bought practice exams from TutorialsDojo and attempted them. Passed all of them in the first attempt, but I still read through every questions and their explanations.

9) At this point I started feeling confidence, so I attempted the official AWS practice exam, and passed comfortaby with 85%. So I gave myself another 2 weeks to wrap up and attempt the final exam.

10) During the last two weeks, I subscribed for Linux Academy trial, watched some lessons that I felt that I am not comfortable with, and did some labs.

11) Attempted Whizlabs exams- scored over 85%, attempted tutorialsdojo exams, scored over 90%, and attempted the AWS offical exam again, also scored 85%.

12) However, the final exam was a totally different level that most of the practice exams. It was so difficult that I was almost sure that I was about to fail. But in the end passed with a score of 826 – guess a lot of my guesses were right.

In terms of my resources:

  • Acloud Guru – good videos, but not everything is covered. The exam simulator is good. Would have been great if they provide lab access also.
  • Linux Academy – I felt that comparing to Acloud guru, the videos are better here. However I think the contents are not up to date for the new exam. Their real value lies in their hands on labs. That was great.
  • AWS Whitepapers – Boring. But if you can survive, they are the best
  • AWS Re-Invent – Really good if you enjoy watching these kind of stuffs. I felt exciting watching them.
  • Whizlabs – Very bad grammar and a lot of mistakes in questions. Their support does not even read what we have asked, they just reply with some random answer. However, if you can exclude these, their exams are good. Around 50% questions give very good explanations and introduce to newer concepts. Some questions are garbage.
  • TutorialsDojo – Jon Bonso is responsive, and replies to queries. There are some good questions and every question has very details explanations, which is really good. However the exams are very easy compared to the actual exam.

I think in the end, I would say that all of these helped. I spent around 6 months doing all these, sacrificing a lot of my weekends and social life. However I really feel that it was worth it.

Whats’s next ? Probably not AWS.

How to fix AWS SES domain verification failures in Godaddy domains

When we try to register a domain with AWS SES, they will ask us to add some TXT records in our DNS records. The sample TXT record that AWS asks us to add will be  as follows :

Name Type Value TXT pmBGN/7MjnfhTKUZ06Enqq1PeGUaOkw8lGhcfwefcHU=

However, if we add this in our Godaddy console, AWS is unable to verify the domain and it will show a failure notification. The way to fix is simple, just remove our domain name from the Name field. That is, update the record as below:

Name Type Value
_amazonses TXT pmBGN/7MjnfhTKUZ06Enqq1PeGUaOkw8lGhcfwefcHU=

The same is applicable for updating the DKIM records also.

How I managed to get all 3 AWS associate certifications..

You read it right.
Today I got my third AWS certification – AWS certified SysOps administrator.

I think a lot of it comes from common sense, and some general industry knowledge. I only have less than 2 years of IT experience, and even in that 1.5 years was of just desktop support. Its from my current job that I really started some ‘real IT’ job. But for past few years I have been following major tech sites, and so called geeky facebook pages and the famous r/sysadmin. I think all those things gave me some idea on what is happening in the industry although I don’t really have any experience.

Coming to AWS, I first heard about AWS back in 2015 when I was starting to look for an IT job. But then..nothing happened. So its only since my current job, precisely from May 2017, that I really started doing AWS stuffs. That is around 6 months now. In this 6 months, I haven’t really implemented anything from scratch, but just have been maintaining the existing stuffs.

One good thing about my employer is that they value these certifications, and will reward if we get one, and also will refund the exam fee. So, why not? Basically my preparation was same. I bought the courses from A Cloud Guru, watched them all. Once done with that, bought practice exams from Whizlabs. Other than these two, I referred the AWS FAQs.That’s it. As I mentioned earlier, I think its all about common sense and general knowledge about IT and AWS. The exams are not really difficult. Especially the SA and Dev. I got 89% for SA, 96% for Dev and 87% for SysOps.

Why am I taking all these certs ? Well I think its nice to put this up in resume and LinkedIn. And it doesnt cost me anything. So why not?


How to get a Snapshot report from AWS using Python..

I was not sure if I was making a mistake by leaving Micron for a job in a small company. Anyway I don’t regret the move. In fact I actually love this job so far. It has all the good and bad things of working in a small company. Things are messy there. But.. the opportunity to learn and perform are tremendous, and that is what I really was looking for.

I was asked to modify a python script written by an ex-employee to get the snapshot report from AWS. I have never touched python for at least 5 years, and even then, that was all about simple things. And my experience with AWS SDK were none. So when I looked at the code, I did not understand anything. So I decided to do it myself from scratch instead of modifying it.

You can find the script here.

Basically, it collects the access and secret keys as arguments, then connect to ec2, get all the running instances, then the volumes attached to it, and then the snapshots. I have no idea if it is the best way to do it. I don’t even think that I used the best python practices.  Anyway, it works well now. Once the script is executed, it will create a nice csv file as follows, which is great. It has all the fields, and it is easy to manipulate in a spreadsheet according to our needs.Snapshots

This saves us a  lot of time from checking manually for each of our customer accounts if the snapshots are there or not.

I feel pretty proud about this. You know, no matter how bad  the code is, it works. 😉



Experience on taking AWS Certified Solution Architect – Associate exam

I first heard about this whole Amazon web services thing back in 2015, when I was looking to find a job in IT. I felt that it is a great tool, and decided to study it. I created a trial account, borrowed books from library….and in 1 month, I lost interest and started doing other things.

But now, I came to a position where I am working mainly on AWS and other cloud related stuffs and felt that this is the time to go back continue with the vision of taking AWS certification. I watched all the videos in A Cloud Guru, and did some practical labs. Also did a lot of hands on at work. Then I got really busy with other things again. Sigh. But once free again, I read through all the whitepapers, then the FAQs and did all the practice questions available at Whizlabs. Man, I gotta tell you that the questions from Whizlabs came up a lot.

I just came back from my exam with 89% marks. And I am really happy on achieving it. Another one to add to my resume 😉