To complement the PMI-ACP I earned earlier, I decided to take a more technical certification. I thought cloud certification would be the most useful, considering current technological trends and my knowledge gaps. Before jumping on the bandwagon with me, know that this may not apply to you. Your career circumstances are unique, and you need to make an independent assessment before proceeding. I share my thought process below to help you in making your own decision.

Why Cloud?

When it comes to digital transformation, cloud technology is the next biggest disruption to business operations since the internet. Starting with software, more product types have been migrated to cloud in an Everything-as-a-Service (XaaS) model . In fact, many of the biggest tech unicorns in recent years use cloud technology to offer services in a scalable, efficient manner. Airbnb, Stripe, Didi Chuxing and Netflix are some of the more prominent companies in this growing service economy. If I want to increase my employability and relevance in IT project management, an understanding of Cloud concepts is essential.

A simple summary of XaaS. Source: Cambridge Global Payments

Why CompTIA Cloud Essentials+?

Among cloud certifications, most are vendor-unique and highly technical in nature. Each cloud computing company (Microsoft, Amazon, Google) offers their own proprietary certification for cloud professionals. Although there are no strict pre-requisites for most certifications, reviews made it clear that hands-on experience was essential. Being completely green to cloud technologies, I needed to start with something more oriented to business users. I also didn’t want to commit to one particular vendor’s platform without knowing the basics first. Finally, I needed a certifying organisation which had a good reputation to lend credibility to the certification. With these constraints, I chose CompTIA’s Cloud Essentials+, a vendor-neutral certification targeted at business users like myself.

Most valuable cloud certifications from CIO.com

Purchasing the Test

Having settled on the certification, the next step is to decide which “test bundle” to buy. CompTIA bundles their exam voucher (the right to take the exam) with optional add-ons to help in your certification process. This includes an exam re-take voucher, eBook study guide, practice exams and online course. Since I preferred to study at my own pace and have practice questions to work on, I chose the Exam Prep bundle.

Test bundles offered by CompTIA for Cloud Essentials+

Although there is no re-certification needed (i.e. good-for-life), CompTIA reviews its syllabus every few years to keep up with cloud technology progression. This is why the exam code is CLO-002, as it replaces CLO-001 that was released in October 2011.

Because the syllabus is new (November 2019), there were not many third-party courses available at the time of writing. This might have changed by the time you read this article, so do keep a lookout if you think you need more guidance. With enough study and practice, the eBook and CertMaster are more than enough to help you pass.

Preparation

Again, this is not a prep guide, so I will not dive into details of my exam prep or strategy. As I’m working, I set myself a target of clearing the certification in 4 weeks. Four hours on Saturdays plus 1 full weekday (day-off) for study and practice was comfortable for me. I completed studying by the third week so I could have the last week for practice and revision.

CompTIA doesn’t give you a personal downloadable copy of the products. Instead, you are given access to the electronic product hosted on a web portal through a unique license code. This means you will need your computer and internet connection whenever you study or practice.

CompTIA uses Skillpipe to distribute its eBook. Unfortunately, I can’t show you more due to intellectual property regulations.

The eBook is fairly detailed and lays down most of the concepts and knowledge you need to know for the test. Studying the material well should get you to 80% of the knowledge you need. Vendor and product knowledge (e.g. what is Google Cloudline) account for the remaining gap. Do note that many test questions are situational, so memorising is not enough.

**Exam Tip** Pay attention to the first part of each lesson where cloud characteristics, service models and deployment models are reviewed!

The CertMaster Practice has 2 components: a chapter-by-chapter review, and a practice test. The chapter-based section has a mechanism that forces you to re-attempt questions you are unsure of or got wrong. This is good for reinforcing learning, but gets irritating once you are ready for practice tests. I completed it once and did not revisit this section again. The practice test is a decent replica of the actual, although the question bank is limited. As you practice more, you can race through the repeated questions easily. The reduced time limit of 1-hour (1.5 hours for the actual) trains you to think and answer quickly.

The readiness gauge is pretty accurate

Taking the Exam

As with the PMI-ACP, I went for online proctoring. Due to COVID-19 fuelled demand, test slots were more limited than before. I initially booked a Monday evening slot so that I could free-up the coming Saturday to write. At this point, I did not feel very ready, but was assured because I had a retake voucher.

Since I was familiar with online proctoring, I decided to do some last-minute revision and checked in late. I was nervous and hurried: not the best state to be taking the test. As I began, the questions were harder than I expected and I took a while to adjust. I was about 40% done and getting in the groove when, horror of horrors, DNS error! I panicked for 10 minutes as I tried to reconnect, but to no avail. Eventually, I decided to forfeit the attempt.

The irony of this occurring during a Cloud exam…

After some sleuthing, my wife discovered our internet service provider had indeed suffered 5 minutes of downtime, disrupting my exam. In the system, it was recorded that I had failed the attempt though it was through no fault of mine. I tried using Live Chat on the proctor’s site for assistance, but did not get connected despite waiting for ~2 hours. Since I still had the free retake, I used it to book a Saturday afternoon slot. I guess it was all or nothing.

What are the odds?

On hindsight, it was good that I didn’t complete the exam on Monday given my mental state. I used the extra time to do 2 more practices and reviewed the material more thoroughly. When it came to test day, I was calm and collected. Thankfully, this attempt went uneventfully. After submitting my results, I was relieved to know I had passed!

Not a fantastic margin, but good enough

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