I’m now a Google Cloud Certified Professional Cloud Architect and that feels really good.
It’s one of the highly sought after qualification in IT industry, especially if you are someone focusing on Cloud Technologies. It’s a tough exam! It’s tough because the exam questions are based out of real world scenarios and sometimes answers can be pretty similar with a minor difference which means you should know exact the details/ experience to answer.
Beginning of this year I set myself a goal to take my first Google Cloud certification. My manager and mentor, Mani K kept pushing me to get certified since last year, he definitely had confidence in me (Thank you Mani). Motivation diluted overtime and I was procrastinating over and over again. Why was I procrastinating? I was afraid! I didn’t have hands on experience, unofficial pass rate for GCP PCA is said to be 80% (by online sources ) and almost all my friends who had passed the exam had build cloud based systems. However I finally said no to procrastination in end of June 2020 and passed the exam in July after a months preparation.
About GCP Cloud Architect Exam in a nutshell
- If you want to showcase your architecting skills using GCP, choose this exam. If you want be developer centric/ hands on check out Associate Cloud Engineer or Professional Cloud Developer Examination.
- 50 multiple choice scenario based questions
- 2 hours
- In my exam about 12 questions came from pre-provided case studies provided here.
- Can be taken online (proctored) or going to a test center. (I took online and it has its pros and cons)
- Pass mark (unofficial) – 80% (Thats what online sources say)
- Result will be binary, Pass / Fail.
- During exam you can mark the questions which are harder and attend later.
- It will take few days to receive the certification.
- Yes, Google Cloud will let you choose a goodie. Either a hoodie or a bag and I went for the bag
Which materials did I use to prepare?
I come from a background where I was coding for few years, tech evangelist, technical account management and developer relations type of a background and not years of experience in hardcore enterprise grade software development background and I only got into whole cloud scene in end of 2018 and its too around community management (nothing much technical there if you choose to). Since I had only a very high level conversational type of knowledge, I needed the materials I chose to start from basics and go deep dive. Below is my list.
- Linux Academy – I took the GCP Cloud Architect exam prep course by Matthew Ulasien. Linux Academy was recommended by a colleague of mine and then found this one course which is useful and matches my criteria. The course has training videos, hands on exercises, a summary type of a shorter note (Masterbuilders Guide) and most importantly mock examinations
- Qwiklabs – Hands on training definitely comes in handy. I received one month free access to Qwiklabs through goo.gle/gcp-certoffer & goo.gle/cloud-training
- Google Cloud Documentation – I kid you not, this is one of the best documentations I have read written in easy to understand English (Kudos to GCP Tech writers) and the areas which arent covered from above two, I got them covered through the documentation. Super uber important!
- Google Cloud Platform Videos – Since I didn’t have much implementation experiences (other than consuming a few APIs for a couple of apps I built or hosting by blog in GCP), I listened to the folks who have walked that journey and learnt from them. Link here. Pick and choose what you really want to watch. Tons of great content <Woohoo>
- Free GCP Trial Account – Sign up. You will thank me for this one.
PS – I have seen some candidates taking Coursera Architecting with Google Cloud specialisation. Thats good too. I also referred to Learn GCP with Mahesh and AwesomeGCP Youtube channels for specific contents.
How did I prepare for the exam?
No pain, no gain! First, I went ahead directly and did the GCP practice exam first. I failed miserably (Got 8 correct out of 20 questions). That gave me the confidence that I will fail miserably in the actual exam (tougher than this practice exam) if I dont prepare myself first. Below is the routine I followed which can be way different for you and this is not a magic mantra to pass the exam.
- I followed Linux Academy course. Some days I wasnt able to do read / watch videos so to catchup I used weekends.
- I was so eager to practice questions but when I failed I was demotivated every single time but something I didnt realize was that’s only because I havent covered all the contents yet. So its up to you if you want to do practice questions early on.
- After I finished following the Linux Academy course videos and practicals, I took the practice exams. First time I scored about 66% and thats not good enough to reach 80% so I failed again. What I did next was the game changer.
- I started to read the summary guide in Linux Academy while I read relevant Google Cloud documentation, signed up for a free GCP trial to get hands on (uber useful) and watched GCP videos in parallel. Now I saw my scores were getting better. I continued to do this 15 days straight. Took advantage of long weekends and utilising my holidays.
- Deadlines motivate people. I signed up to take the online proctored exam so I know when my deadline is. This happened during the 15 days I mentioned above.
Exam day arrived!
I was scheduled for 25th July 10.45 pm (yes thats an odd time to take an exam). But I prefer to work after sun goes down so didn’t feel much odd. Whole day I feeling nervous and I did know I had to cover some parts on BigQuery and check out Google Clouds enterprise best practice guide.
I took a practice test in Linux Academy where I scored about 88%. Until the exam time I started to watch “Get Cooking in the Cloud” for Infrastructure and networking topics.
Actual exam started after verifying my identify and surrounding, first question itself was a tricky one. I marked it to review and moved on with the questions. It was a mix of easy questions (specially from the case studies) and tough ones where I had to think thoroughly. Completed the exam within 1 and half hours. Final result was a Pass 🎉🎉🎉. All that hard work finally paid off.
I’m in this IT industry for almost 7 years now. Last couple of years, something I started to really like is to have deep meaningful technical conversations with people which yields towards real world problem solving. Maybe it’s something to do with people I surrounded myself with last 2-3 years. I think passing this certification gave me an additional license to do it in public and do it more often.
Choosing a wife who is also in the same IT industry was one of the wisest decisions I ever made in life. I should definitely thank my wife for keeping up with my mood swings during the exam prep time, excusing all the evening walks, date nights and not helping out household work. She understood and that underscores why she is more happier than me now.
It’s been almost 7 months since I saw my parents physically as travel bans kicked in because of Covid-19, I’m super close to my mother since I was kid and she scarified couple of days of video calls and helped me in every way she could. They went over the roof when I called and said I passed the exam (Big or small parents love when you achieve something in life). They are extremely proud & happy their boy doing meaningful things in life.
By writing this blog I’m sure I will be encouraging and motivating more IT professionals to take Google Cloud certifications or any other certification. Motivating people to take action, thats something I do best. So there you have it!
Finally I wanted to say, utilize these working from home days to uplift your life, career or business.
All green lights!
Muhammed Bilal Abdulkany
Congratulations on your exams Shafraz! Nice tips for prepping. Let’s catch up soon. Tc