AWS Developer certification – Associate level

The Developer certification exam is interesting, in that it covers in detail the AWS best practices for CI/CD, Continuous Integration / Continuous Delivery and Deployment, which is very nicely covered in the following white paper: Practicing Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery on AWS, with the subtitle: Accelerating Software Delivery with DevOps. (I am referencing the June 2017 version of this white paper.) This document is well written, of especial interest to Software Engineers. While Development is the principal component of this certification (30%), there are altogether five domains:

  1. Deployment (22%)
  2. Security (26%)
  3. Development with AWS Services (30%)
  4. Refactoring (10%)
  5. Monitoring and Troubleshooting (12%)

Some of these domains overlap with other certifications. For instance, the 2nd domain, Security, is covered in detail in the Security Specialty exam, which I passed in December 2019 (and described in this post from Dec 3, 2019), and all the domains refer to the knowledge contained in the Solutions Architect certification (which I passed in the spring of 2019; see this post). However, I had to acquire a lot of new knowledge. For instance, the certification assumes advanced knowledge of some programming language, and since the Python3 SDK is one of the best developed AWS SDKs, I studied to become familiar with boto3, the AWS SDK for Python3; see here.

Of course reading manuals to understand boto3 is boring; I suggest to find a project that you always wanted to implement, and work on that. The excitement of building an application helps with the learning of a new tool. I worked, topically, on a pandemic simulator and an url shortener (which I called Tout Court) as I always wanted to have my own bit.ly application.

In order to develop both applications, I used a set of AWS tools that are covered in depth in the Deployment and Development domains: Cloud9 for writing the code (I was happy to find out that Cloud9 has a “Vi Editor” mode), I used GitHub instead of CodeCommit, but GitHub can be integrated into the AWS development environment, CodeDeploy in order to automate the deployment of the applications, and CodePipeline to bind it all together. X-Ray is an important tool for the exam, and helps to isolate “bottle-necks” in your application.

Refactoring is an interesting concept. It means to re-architect or re-imagine an existing solution but leveraging cloud-native capabilities. I learned quite a bit about it from Ahead in the Cloud: Best practices for navigating the future of enterprise IT, by Stephen Orban from AWS.

As AWS certification requires a significant investment of time (for me at least), it is important to understand why one does it. In my case, as a Computer Scientist, I believe it is important to systematically acquire new knowledge, as ours is a fast developing field. I also find the AWS curriculum very well designed, interesting, in-depth, and I have become fascinated by the new paradigm of Cloud Computing. Finally, the most important reason for me is to be able to bring this expertise back to campus, and share with students, and given them an edge in the job market upon graduation.

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