September saw Godel’s DevOps division host a discussion on the topic of devops/platform engineering certifications; what they are, and the value which achieving them adds for platform engineers. This article explores this topic, together with their Head of DevOps Sergey Sverchkov.

Why do companies and their engineers need certifications?
Certifications are equally necessary for both a company and its engineers, so it’s important to understand how they can mutually benefit most parties. Certifications are a definite advantage as they put a stamp on engineers’ skills, which in turn helps to shape the image of the company. Not only does this add to the company’s assets , but it also improves the engineer’s profile as it demonstrates their ability to deliver on clients’ needs and expectations.

Godel’s partner status with Microsoft and Amazon confirms their key expertise. The status of a partner with technical competencies requires that the company regularly proves the availability of certified specialists. For example, a partnership with Amazon requires such confirmation annually, with details of engineering certifications, which must be kept up to date. This is undeniable proof of competency for the company in these areas, evidenced by its certifications.

Why do engineers need certificates?
It’s important to understand that passing an exam doesn’t necessarily guarantee full practical experience, because theory and practice are not mutually exclusive things. Practical work is a mandatory addition to the knowledge which is acquired during preparation for a certification (theory).

Combining the two elements: theory and practice, makes it possible for an engineer to reach their full potential. Projects often require us to work with certain tools and technologies, without going beyond a limited set of resources. The world of AWS, for example, demonstrates a much wider variety of tools than what would be accessed in a single project. In order to be able to acquire certifications from AWS, an engineer is required to have the knowledge and expertise necessary to tackle a variety of business challenges.

Sergey explains that “Passing the exam is a good stimulus for growing engineering expertise. If you know you’d like to become certified, then you build a plan for yourself, to reach certain goals by certain dates: you study materials and put your knowledge into practice – this motivates you to gain new knowledge and experience” says Sergey.

What difficulties can arise when preparing for tests?
When learning about technologies related to AWS and Azure, there are some issues which can arise. Often, an engineer must be able to demonstrate his skill set for the purpose of a specific project. Firstly, it’s vital to acknowledge that preparation for this takes time; there is a lot of theory to be learnt, which must be followed by hours of practice, in order to understand it fully. Unless circumstances allow access to specialised training within existing employment hours, the engineer should prepare in their own time, which requires a certain level of self-motivation.

In order to understand what issues can typically arise, as well as how to solve them, an engineer must simulate such situations, repeating it multiple times, in order to understand how to react, and how to solve a similar problem when it arises in the future. By doing this, they are contributing to their own professional growth, and the certification is confirmation of their success, affirming that their endeavours have been worthwhile. The knowledge gained by the engineer during preparation for the test will help them in their future tasks.

How long does it take to prepare for the tests?
Undoubtedly, preparation for certification exams requires a lot of time and effort from any developer, but the speed at which things can be learnt depends on the individual. However, speaking from experience, Sergey explains “When you have engineering experience or a higher level of thinking, it’s easier to prepare. If you have little experience, you must study more. For the second level of the AWS Associate certification, the process can take about a month: you need to go through the course materials and do practical tests. And for certification of the AWS Professional level, preparation, and practice tests can take up to 3 months or more which, of course, can be a significant investment of time.”

In conclusion, it’s clear that certification is an important factor in assessing the competence of an engineer – and obtaining this can be seen as a personal challenge for any individual. Initially, the process requires a heavy investment in time. But as a result, certification provides a qualitative growth of a specific employee, and consequently their team and the company as a whole.