Have you ever crashed into another person when running around on the playground that results in a nasty bump?  And if it’s really bad then the swelling is accompanied with hues of purple, green, and yellow surrounding the injured area?  This is how it has felt on many occasions in my journey to Red Hat Certified Architect. Now of course most of the bumps and bruises did not come in the form of physical bumps and bruises, but boy the emotional and mental were more than just my imagination and the pain associated with it, well, no less painful then the physical.

Life Happens

Life happens everyday and some things that happen can be devastating and can turn your life totally upside down.  In my journey to obtain the RHCA, I have had life happen and many of the things that have happened, I often couldn’t predict.  Of course the twist and turns could have derailed me entirely, but that is always a possibility. In this article, I will discuss with you some of those twists and turns and bumps and bruises that could have completely stopped me and what I have done and what I do today that has made me much more resilient in the face of them in hopes that you too can learn how to build resilience in your life and in your day to day when preparing for exams and certifications and just keeping up with the demands of a career in Information Technology.

Red Hat Certification Preparation

Taking into considering all that can happen in life and realizing that I will never be able to predict everything that might happen in my journey, I scheduled several exams 2-3 months out (depending on what I already know about the subject matter or the practical experience I may already have). 

I have been using the Linux Academy platform for multiple years to prepare for exams, so I know how valuable the platform is. I have decided to use Linux Academy’s preparation course, “Red Hat Certified Specialist in Ansible Automation Prep Course” to study for the EX407K: Red Hat Certified Specialist in Ansible Automation Certification. I use my google calendar to keep up with my day to day which includes my study schedule.  The prep course at Linux Academy is a total of 31:19:44 hours long but the great thing about using Linux Academy is that there is a great scheduling function built into the platform that allows me to schedule the amount of time and the days I want to study. For this exam, I chose 2 hours Monday-Friday and 3 hours on Saturdays, which I have already completed!  As a reminder, the course includes a lot of quizzes and practice exams (in fact, the practice exam at the end of this course is 2 hours and 22 minutes long!) but it will allow me to see where I stand and still give me a time to take the practice exam several times before my scheduled exam on July 31.  

course scheduler

Scheduling Time to Study

These are the core skills and abilities I will possess once I have completed my Linux Academy training, along with some additional reading using the DO407; Automation with Ansible I course study guide.  I plan to check off these areas as I go along and revisit them at the end of my practical exams:

  • Understand core components of Ansible
    • Inventories
    • Modules
    • Variables
    • Facts
    • Plays
    • Playbooks
    • Configuration files
  • Run ad-hoc Ansible commands
  • Use both static and dynamic inventories to define groups of hosts
  • Utilize an existing dynamic inventory script
  • Create Ansible plays and playbooks
    • Know how to work with commonly used Ansible modules
    • Use variables to retrieve the results of running a commands
    • Use conditionals to control play execution
    • Configure error handling
    • Create playbooks to configure systems to a specified state
    • Selectively run specific tasks in playbooks using tags
  • Create and use templates to create customized configuration files
  • Work with Ansible variables and facts
  • Create and work with roles
  • Download roles from an Ansible Galaxy and use them
  • Manage parallelism
  • Use Ansible Vault in playbooks to protect sensitive data
  • Install Ansible Tower and use it to manage systems
  • Use provided documentation to look up specific information about Ansible modules and commands

The Ansible Automation Exam

Because the EX407 is performance-based (like all of Red Hat’s exams), practice, practice, practice is necessary!  This exam will likely require me to develop Ansible playbooks that configure systems for specific roles and then apply those playbooks to systems to implement those roles.  Also, I may be asked to demonstrate my ability to run Ansible playbooks and configure an Ansible environment for specific behaviors. The length of the exam is 3 hours. Official scores for the exam will come from Red Hat and you’ll be required to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement during the exam.  

Journey to Success

I read an interesting article by Benjamin P. Hardy called “How To Quickly  Blow-Past The Top 1-3% Of Your Industry.” In this article the author stated, and this is a direct quote, “The more successful a person becomes, the more distractions there are.  The harder it is to remain focused on their core objectives.”  The article further espoused that the more successful you get, the more opportunities that come that ultimate lead to distractions. When you get to a certain position or skill-level, the results that are achieved come at a faster rate.  You are less and less afraid and you are more and more confident; even overly-confident making you want to pursue everything and things you have little skill or ability in.

As I have gained further success, that success is not anything determined by others but set by myself: the more opportunities and money that have come, the more likely I am to say yes to things that really aren’t making me more successful or things that I am passionate about.  This, in many aspects, has become a challenge when attempting more and more certifications that will lead to what I hope are better or greater opportunities.

Once I determined that I wanted to pursue the RHCA, I knew that it would require time away from family, from friends, and from doing things that many would consider to be much more fun and exciting than reading, studying, and practicing for an exam.  I decided that the first action I would take after deciding to pursue this designation, was to first, purchase the exam vouchers and setting a date and time that I would take the exam. I have heard of someone completing all 5 exams in 5 months. I think to myself, wow that is amazing, but remembering not to compare myself to others, that this is my own journey, and I returned my focus to me.  

The Bigger Picture

I continue to remind myself that I am only human and I don’t compare myself to others.  There are those that have already achieved the RHCA, but their timeline and their journey is not my own.  These have been invaluable lessons I have learned in my journey. I share my journey, in hopes of inspiring all, but most importantly to influence many that look like me and who have chosen a field that can be constantly challenging and constantly exciting but requires a lot of grit and determination.  

So while on some days I may not complete my entire study schedule because of other things that life will bring, I know that an adjustment is always possible.  For example, if I am only able to get in 30 minutes instead of two hours on say Monday, I will tack on 30 minutes on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, or spend an additional hour and a half on Saturday, making it four and half hours instead of two.  The point is not to get down on oneself but to focus on the bigger picture:  the picture on the end goal. Well, it’s getting late and it’s time to focus on Loops and Conditionals, error handling in playbooks, tagging tasks in playbooks, as well as a quiz, a couple of exercises, and a couple of hands-on labs.  In fact, Linux Academy just announced a hand full of new Red Hat hands-on training content, see the list here. Until my next my next article in this Road to RHCA series, no matter the bumps and bruises that will come your way, have a plan, be flexible, and be comfortable with discomfort. Don’t forget to enjoy the ride. I sure am.

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