Linux Academy student, Adam Divall, started his journey in IT as a child playing computer games. Today, Adam has 8 of the 9 AWS certifications and will continue feeding his love for AWS! Read more about Adam’s journey below!

Thank you for sharing your story with us and for letting Linux Academy be part of your learning and success! Congratulations on recently passing the AWS Security Specialty exam. Tell us a little bit about what you do. What is your current role? 

I currently work as a pre-sales Solutions Architect at CenturyLink in the United Kingdom. In my role, I’m responsible for providing pre-sales technical design for Managed Hosting Services to clients across several different sectors.  What I enjoy about the role is that every day is different. One day I could be working on designing a hyper-converged private cloud and the next I could be working on a large-scale transformation into AWS.

We’re glad to hear you enjoy the work you do! How did you first get into technology and AWS? Were you always interested in AWS?

As a child, I always loved playing computer games back when you had to load games via tape cassettes! I wasn’t very academic at school and left after a year of doing my A-Levels. I ended up going to college and did a National Diploma in Computer Studies where I found a passion for IT.  After completing college, I got my first full-time job doing Desktop Support for ICL (that later became Fujitsu) just prior to the ‘.com,’ an era in the late ’90s.

Adam divall student interviewAfter a few internal moves within that company I found myself working more with Internet technologies but in those days, virtualization was still unheard of.  Fast forward around 10 years to when I started getting experience with a few different hypervisors such as Virtual Server, Hyper-V and, VMware.

I’d read a lot about AWS but had never gotten to start learning about it, nor had I even used the platform. The company where I was working hadn’t started adopting public cloud services.  Having said that, I noticed that the pace of innovation on the AWS platform was gaining significant momentum year on year and thought about how my current role was going to evolve over the next few years. I made the decision to start focusing on the formal AWS certifications around 2 and a half years ago.

Throughout my career in IT, I’ve always taken a proactive approach to learn modern technologies, as I find you must continuously keep learning or you become stale and no longer relevant within the industry.

You now have 8 of 9 AWS certifications—that is so impressive! In what order did you tackle these exams?

I started out with the Solutions Architect Associate and then moved on to the SysOps Associate and Developer Associate. I passed all 3 within a space of a month.  I found that there was quite a large amount of overlap between the topics that were covered on the 3 exams which made studying easier. After passing the Associate certifications, I moved on to the Solutions Architect Professional, which I spent around 5 months studying for, having watched hours of re:Invent talks and whitepapers. I passed that exam on the last day of AWS re:Invent in Las Vegas last year.

The Cloud Practitioner exam was then released by AWS, so I decided to go back and pick that one up. Then, I went on to the Advanced Networking Specialty. I’d read a lot of blog posts by people saying it was the toughest exam behind the Solutions Architect Professional, so I saw it as a bit of challenge, given I come from an infrastructure background and not a networking one.

I then received an email from AWS advising that my SysOps and Developer Associate certifications were going to expire in 6 months. Rather than have to re-sit both of those, I decided to focus on the DevOps Engineer Professional next to recertify those at the same time. After successfully passing that, I realized that there were only 2 more left that I could take, so I decided to pursue the Security Specialty.

Security is always top of mind when I’m speaking with clients and therefore thought this would provide more value in my current role.

This just leaves me with the Big Data Specialty to sit now, which I plan to start studying for over the Christmas holidays and potentially sit in the New Year so that I don’t need to recertify 5 exams in the same year within a quick time frame.

We wish you the best of luck in training for the Big Data Specialty! Did getting certifications help advance your career? If yes, how?

I believe it has, as I personally think it’s all about the differentiator between yourself and the other candidates.  Whilst certifications aren’t the be-all and end-all, they provide the level of differentiation. Experience though is just as important in progressing in your career.

For myself personally, I’ve started at the bottom in IT and worked my way up.  When I started with my first full-time job back in 1998, I’d obtained my MCSE on Windows NT 4 within 6 months and that allowed me to progress through the varying support functions. I was seen as a Subject Matter Expert and this has continued throughout my career.

That’s a great way of looking at it, Adam! So, what resources did you use to study for those exams?

I’ve utilized a number of different resources across the exams since starting on the AWS certification path including Linux Academy, re:Invent videos on YouTube, official practice exams, AWS whitepapers, documentation, and FAQs, whilst not forgetting to get my hands dirty in the platform itself.

You just recently passed the AWS Security Specialty exam. What was your study plan for this exam?

I didn’t set myself a timeline for passing the exam. I took the course on Linux Academy and went through the varying video modules. Then, I spent time going through the sample labs which are AWSome.

Subjects that I didn’t feel comfortable on, I rewatched the videos to try and get it right in my head and tried to practice in my own personal AWS account, as well as retaking the lab exercises.  Similarly, I also tried to think of how some of the examples that are walked through in the videos could be utilized in my current role and how those could resolve challenges some of my clients have.

You seem to have had a very thorough study plan. Great work! How did you discover Linux Academy?

I discovered Linux Academy on LinkedIn as I noticed a significant amount of people thanking Linux Academy for their training courses when they passed their own exams.  I’d also spoken to a few ex-colleagues who had also used the platform in the past and they were only positive comments.

I decided to sign up to the weeks free trial and have become a paying member since.

We are very glad to have you in the Linux Academy family! What features did you find most useful on our platform when you were studying?

The length and quality of the videos are great. They’re not too long that your eyes become tired and you start to lose concentration, which is something I’ve struggled with when I’ve been on instructor-led training. They also provide examples of real-world scenarios as to why you may do something a particular way as opposed to an alternative option.

The labs are AWSome and allow you to practice what you’ve learned in previous videos without you having to necessarily do it within your own AWS account and incur additional costs. The Slack channels are great for asking questions if you’re not sure on something, as there are plenty of individuals willing to help answer questions.

Our community is definitely a great resource and we are so glad you are a part of it! Which courses did you take with Linux Academy?

AWS DevOps Engineer Professional by Craig Arcuri AWS-DevOps-Engineer

AWS Certified Security Specialty by Adrian Cantrill 

Did you have any trouble balancing your work, training for AWS, and your personal life?

It certainly can be challenging to balance the three. It does take discipline to come home after a long day at work and then focus on the studying without watching any television or socializing.

I’ve also got an extremely understanding wife and an impressive set of noise canceling headphones for when she’s not quite as understanding (only joking!) and to block out noise and distractions.

Discipline really is everything. What other advice do you have for someone else who is preparing for an AWS certification?

Practice exams are invaluable. Not just the ones on Linux Academy but the AWS official practice exams within the PSI portal. They give you a good indication as to where your weak areas are as well as whether you can handle the time allowance.

If you’re not sure about something, research the subject until you feel confident about it and practice playing around with it until it becomes second nature.

That’s great advice, Adam. What’s next for you? 

At present, I’m busy at work with active projects and having just done the DevOps and Security exams over the past 2 months, I’ve taken a few weeks off. I’m planning on taking the Big Data Specialty next to obtain the 9/9 AWS certifications and then have the Solutions Architect Professional to recertify next year.

Do you plan on expanding to other technologies besides AWS? Will you be using Linux Academy to learn about other technologies?

I’ve already obtained my MCSE Cloud Platform and Infrastructure for Microsoft Azure, but personally, I like the AWS platform. I’ll continue to focus on expanding my knowledge to other services within AWS such as containers based on ECS, EKS and Fargate with a view to understanding CI/CD platforms based upon tools such as CodePipeline, Jenkins etc.. I’d also like to learn Python so that I can start working more with serverless technologies.

I see my own future working solely on the AWS platform and whilst the courses are available on Linux Academy, I’ll certainly continue to use them. 

Thank you again for sharing your journey with us, Adam. Your experience might just be the motivation another Linux Academy student is looking for. Keep pushing forward and learning everything you can about AWS!


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