How learning about Cloud infrastructures can benefit all developers

Cloud deployment is slowly becoming a new normal, and several studies already showed that there is a dramatic shortage in Cloud-skilled engineers. That’s a very good reason already to start learning Cloud concepts, but to my point of view there’s even more to it.

How I started learning Cloud for free

During the first months of the lock-down, two big players of the IT world decided to boost to their Cloud aficionados community by giving free online trainings access and certification vouchers. Microsoft Azure started their one-day training sessions on Azure fundamentals, with a free voucher to take the certification, while Oracle gave free access to their online courses on Cloud Infrastructure and a free voucher for any certification of their Cloud Infrastructure catalog. I’m not following Google Cloud Platform or AWS closely, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if they did a something similar.

I hardly knew anything about networking, hardware or infrastructure, because my studies mostly focused on development and analysis. But after some hesitation, I just thought I had nothing to loose anyway and gave a try to both certifications.

Edit: Nowadays, all Azure training material is still free to use and they regularly offer free vouchers to pass their fundamentals and role-based certifications.

I found that the next thing I needed to do since I was starting from zero was to obtain a few certifications.
Although there’s plenty of debate on whether certifications will be really
helpful for your next job or promotion, the knowledge gained while studying
for them is invaluable. I set aggressive timelines for myself, allowing three
months to study the material and attempt the exam. This was an extremely
motivating factor to keep studying and push myself to the next level. In most
of the interviews I’ve had, when I was asked how to solve a particular prob‐
lem, I was able to draw directly from the material I’d learned to answer the
question and secure a job offer. Getting a certain score on a certification
exam isn’t nearly as important as knowing the material. Even if you don’t
want to or can’t afford to get a certification, just looking at the study material
is worthwhile.”

Rachel Sweeney, “From Zero to Cloud Engineer in Less Than a Year”, from the book “97 Things Every Cloud Enginer Should Know – Collective Wisdom From The Experts” (O’Reilly)

Why Cloud trainings helped me as an on-prem developer

I gotta say, I work in a field where the Cloud adoption might still take some time, so I’m not developing for the Cloud in any way.

However, I found these trainings really interesting and I really feel it benefited my career as a developer.

Basically, learning Cloud development is learning about information workflows, in a very concrete, solution-focused way.

I don’t know about you, but at school, we only learned the on-prem model. My first satisfaction when learning Cloud infrastructure was retrieving the notions we heard about at school, but with state-of-the-art protocols, workflows, technologies

What I found really enjoyable was to see big pictures of full application life-cycles, how all the information transit and are organized, what happens concretely between two components. Demystifying the magic into concrete use-cases. Not being limited to knowing what’s inside my front-end app and my back-end app, but understanding all the elements that gravitate around it.

This might seem trivial for a developer with more seniority, but I, for example, had never heard of message queues and topics before I took these trainings. How would you get to think about information loss between components if the information workflow is totally opaque to you?

I like this example because some time later, I came to work on a project with IoT, which lead me to work with… queues and topics! Although I could have learned it on the field of course, it’s always a big asset to have at least a superficial view on a technology you will work on.

As DevOps philosophy becomes more and more popular, developers will be expected to at least know high-level concepts of infrastructure, and I truly think Cloud-based knowledge is a big help in capturing a lot of concepts quickly.

Your turn: how you can learn Cloud, try it and pass certifications for free

Good news is, due to lack of Cloud-skills, the Cloud providers are regularly setting up events to attract learners. You might follow them on LinkedIn or subscribe to their newsletters not to miss the next ones. Apart from temporary events, they all grant free credit to try their services during a 30-days period, which you can use to play with it!

  • Microsoft Azure has a huge learning material offer that is always free on Microsoft Learn. They often let you take an online challenge where you have to finish a path within 30 days to benefit from a 50% rebate on a certification exam. They also organize several times a year one-day sessions to learn the fundamentals of Cloud, AI or Data on Azure with a free voucher for related certification. Finally, you can play with the 30-days free trial.
  • Oracle opens access to their online academy once or twice a year, with self-paced learning and a free voucher for certification. They also have a 30-days trial offer.
  • I haven’t explored Google Cloud Platform yet, but it seems you can register for one-month free on-demand online courses. Their free trial includes a pretty big credit.
  • I haven’t looked at Amazon Web Services yet either but it seems the learning material is in free access. And of course, there’s a free tier to try it too.

Taking the courses is really interesting, especially if you do it wisely (so, not studying exam dumps by heart just to get the certifications). Creating a little project and deploy it to the cloud and thinking of the best option for your use case is even more interesting. I took the opportunity of my graduation work to do it, but any project you have in mind can be tested. Trying to deploy the same project on several platforms from different providers would prove very interesting too!

These trainings are based on the provider’s specifics, but the information workflows, technical requirements and so on will remain pretty similar. The advantage is that those training are solution-focused, then make the learning way more concrete.

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