A short guide to cloud computing training and certifications

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One of the areas that took off because of the pandemic was the rise of remote, self-paced training. One option is a company that specializes in providing on-demand training. Some are specific to computer training, and others offer all types of training from playing the drums to the cloud. Another method is using existing learning institutions such as colleges and universities, which began to offer both online and in-person cloud computing education, even undergraduate degrees. 

I suspect you can learn about cloud computing—basic, mid-level, and advanced topics—in hundreds of different ways from hundreds of different remote or in-person learning providers. What’s the best path through this cloud computing training complexity?

I have some basic advice.

First, figure out the end goal. Are you attempting to learn enough to become a cloud computing architect? Are you going to focus on specific cloud services, such as artificial intelligence, serverless, or databases? Or are you going to focus on larger and more valued areas such as cloud security or operations?

Those who don’t understand specifically what they want to do in the world of cloud computing have no way of picking the right training path that going to meet their expectations. I’m taken aback by the number of professionals who mention to me that they are just taking training that others have recommended, without understanding how this adds direct value to their careers. They end up wasting time and money.

Nor should you allow technology providers, including the larger cloud providers, to pick a learning path for you. For instance, they want you to be an architect, but really an architect who just believes that their technology is always a fit. If you’ve been paying attention to me over the years, you’ll know that I think good architects need to consider all viable options, including all cloud providers.

It’s better to pick a more technology-agnostic learning path. Dig down into specific technologies to understand the viable options and what specifically they can do. This means learning about the cloud-native services of several cloud providers, not just one. Drill down to another level of learning when it’s clear that a specific cloud service is the one that’s being leveraged as part of a larger cloud architecture.

Now you understand what the desired end goal is and that it’s best to focus on cloud-agnostic concepts rather than specific technologies. Also, don’t just concentrate on a single cloud provider’s training and thus only their technology. So, how do you map out the best path to enhancing your cloud knowledge and your career?

Second, mix and match learning options for your needs specifically. The easiest thing to do is to focus on a single source of learning, such as your local college, your favorite online training provider, perhaps even self-teaching by reading books (that’s still a thing). The best results are from those who mix and match the training they need with the best ways that they learn.

We all learn differently. I, for one, am not an effective classroom learner. Self-paced training is better for me, but better still is learning through doing. In the past, if I was allowed to do so, I joined teams just for the purpose of learning.

I once felt that my networking knowledge was lacking, so I joined a network architecture team where I followed more knowledgeable people in creating a network solution for an enterprise. I’ve done the same for database design, AI, and other areas that I felt I should understand better. Of course, not everyone has these options available. My advice is to take advantage of them if you do.

The core lesson here is to consider what you need to learn first, then how you learn most effectively, and then pick a custom path to get to those learning objectives. Those who don’t understand this dynamic, even companies that force their employees through a single static learning path, are not going to have the same results.

Those who look at training as a means of obtaining a certification could be moving towards the wrong goals as well. Don’t get me wrong, certifications, certainly vendor certifications, often get you to the higher-paying jobs or even a nice raise or bonus. In those cases, I understand why people have certifications as an objective. I’m just stating that its overall value is still a question for me.

What’s the bottom-line advice about cloud computing training and certifications? It’s really about being dynamic and pragmatic in terms of choosing a learning path, understanding how you learn, and knowing what you’re looking to accomplish. I think that more can be accomplished with fewer courses and spending less money. We just have to be smarter in terms of how we get smart.

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