Getting 6 GCP certifications in 3 weeks
The Certification List
- GCP Professional Network Engineer
- GCP Professional Security Engineer
- GCP Professional Data Engineer
- GCP Professional Cloud Developer
- GCP Professional DevOps Engineer
- GCP Professional Collaboration Engineer
Why do so many in such a short time?
There are multiple reasons why I decided to go all out on GCP certs in such a short amount of time:
One of my Forrest Gump Streaks
From time to time I get obsessed with something and that’s literally all I will do; morning, afternoon and evening. Before joining Contino I challenged myself to read a book a day for a month, and I ended up reading 47 books in about 6 weeks. I love having occasional moments of intensity like this.
My Employer’s Generous Training Budget
My current employer is very generous with their learning and development budget. So how could I not use this? This article is not really an ad and I wasn’t asked to say this but thanks anyway Contino!
I saw that many of my colleagues had loads of certifications and when looking at my own profile I felt I had to quickly catch up as I only had one GCP certifications.
I love GCP and I always wanted to get more certifications for it but I was too cheap to pay for it myself, now I had no excuse not to.
Can anyone do what I did?
Yes and no. I am no genius and to have a firm understanding of all the topics in all the certifications I did takes a monumental amount of work. The reason why I was able to do it in such a short time was because I had a fair amount of experience with GCP and the other topics covered in the exam, and also I had taken the GCP Cloud Architect Certification before, meaning that some of the knowledge I had gained there overlapped for these certifications — which was very helpful.
Had I been new to all things DevOps and cloud it would have been nearly impossible for me to pass all the exams, and even if by some miracle I had managed to do it, my understanding would have been flimsy at best, because it takes a while to get competency in all of these areas — a lot more than 3 weeks for mere mortals like me.
So in a nutshell, if you have experience with GCP on the topics covered in the exams and the time to review you absolutely CAN do it, you could probably do it in just two weeks if you study hard and push yourself revising, but if you don’t have that, then I wouldn’t recommend doing it this way at all. In fact one of the reasons why I haven’t taken the Machine Learning certification is because of my lack of knowledge and experience in the topic, so for that one I will probably study for a month or two if I decide to take it later.
Timeline of the exams
GCP Network and GCP Security
17 April 2021 and 18 April 2021
Funny story, I actually meant to book the GCP Security exam first but I messed up and I booked the Network exam instead, which I hadn’t prepared for, and I only realised this when I got to the testing centre! I am an idiot sandwich
I took it anyway fully expecting to fail but somehow I passed it. After that, since I had prepared for the security exam and it was fresh in my mind I decided to go ahead and book it for the next day and I passed that too. It was a productive weekend for sure!
27 April 2021
I revised for this exam the most and I read this book. In retrospect I was a bit overconfident and I should have probably left it for last and dedicated more time to it. I have a reasonable understanding of GCP Data products and what they do, but I wouldn’t qualify myself as an expert by any means in this domain, especially when compared with the topics on the other certifications, I was a bit out of my depth.
GCP Developer and GCP DevOps
30 April 2021 and 01 May 2021
I thought these two exams were going to be a walk in the park for me as it is my bread and butter but I found them very tough, it almost felt as if I was totally unprepared for it.
GCP Collaboration Engineer
02 May 2021
I left this exam for last as it doesn’t really cover a lot of things that I would usually work with on a day to day basis, but it didn’t seem like it would be too difficult compared to other certifications so I decided to take it for completion’s sake.
The GCP Exam Experience
If I had to describe passing a GCP exam, I’d say rather than feeling elated, I felt more like I had just survived a car accident.
The questions are more often than not, very confusing, ambiguous and verbose, and in my opinion it feels difficult, but not in the best of ways. Other times the answers are so much alike and seemingly correct that it is very difficult to tell accurately what’s right and what’s “less right”. More about the questions later.
The Good Stuff About Getting GCP Certified
One thing that I like about GCP certifications is that you are forced to review lots of products and features that perhaps experience wouldn’t normally cover for you, so it is a very good ancillary knowledge to have and a powerful motivator to go through documentation pages; because let’s face it, no one picks up documentation and reads it like a Harry Potter novel, if you don’t have a need, it is harder to get motivated, and getting certified can get you that little motivation push.
Another thing I like about GCP certifications is that many of the topics are cloud agnostic, and you will learn many things that can be applied to any cloud, for example the SRE fundamentals you will have to learn for the DevOps certification.
While I don’t feel that getting certified is proof of competency at all, it does give you enough scope of the GCP catalogue and best cloud practices so you are aware of what to do in multiple situations and in the Google recommended way of doing it, in that sense getting certified is very good.
I don’t believe that certifications in general really prove competency, so I wouldn’t say that if you have seven GCP certs, all of the sudden you are going to become a very desirable target by recruiters if you don’t have any experience in the field. However if you do have experience it proves your commitment to the platform and shows that you are willing to put the effort to become the very best you can be, so it could give you an edge when looking for a job.
I don’t have very good statistics here and I can’t say I am a certification expert, but if you want to know about the market value of certifications there are some compelling reasons here.
You are more Unique
As opposed to AWS, there really aren’t many GCP certified engineers. Simply because is not as widespread, so the logical option for most is to go all in AWS. However it also means that when businesses do need GCP talent, there is a much bigger shortage of engineers, so having certifications makes you stand out for sure.
You get free goodies (Swag)
Google is very generous with gifts when you get GCP certified! They send you a voucher code where you can claim a variety of gifts. From JBL speakers, to backpacks, to hoodies, mugs and blankets and some of it good quality stuff too! Sure, certifications aren’t exactly cheap at 240 dollars a pop, but it’s nice to get a present when you pass.
The Not-So-Good about GCP Certifications
As I mentioned before, I find the questions for the GCP exam very frustrating, they are difficult to understand, but in my opinion not in a good, clever way, but more in a way that feels difficult for the sake of making it confusing. Even when being familiar with the topic it is easy to get stumped trying to figure out what they mean. For example when I was doing my first GCP certification, I was using a study guide where they have some “sample questions” written by the author and I got most of them right without even reading the actual contents of the book because they were written clearly and they addressed specific things I had experience with. Later I got a hold of some sample GCP questions and I could barely get any of them right, even when I had experience on what they were asking!
Another very frustrating characteristic of the questions is their ambiguity, which goes kind of like this:
You are at home studying for a test on your desk and it is dark, what will you do?
a. Turn on the desk lamp
b. Turn on the ceiling lights
c. Use a backlit keyboard and turn down the brightness of your screen so it doesn’t hurt your eyes.
d. Go to a room with a bigger window so you can get more light.
e. Go outside and study in the garden where it is bright and you can get fresh air.
This question is obviously made up and tongue-in-cheek to illustrate a point, but it is not very far off from the truth (In reality the question wouldn’t be one line, it would be more like a War and Peace novel). All of the choices given are correct and they would all work but it is very difficult to tell which one Google deems as most right and would grade as correct, and a little too often scouring through their documentation does not give any indication whatsoever what would be the best answer.
Even if you actually manage to get a few questions from the actual exam on a website like ExamTopics, you can see the agony in the comments quite often, people arguing what answer is right or wrong, and how the consensus is so often wrong.
Saying that, there may be a point to this ambiguity. This is entirely speculative but I suspect that when taking GCP exams perhaps they grade you differently depending on what choices you pick. So for example in the above question they may give you 3 points for A, 2 points for B, etc. Again, this is entirely speculative but if that’s what they do, perhaps it makes a bit more sense to write questions like this. We will never know this for sure though, as Google does not release any information as to how they grade the exams, so this will always remain a mystery.
The Wait for Google to Confirm your Results
Most certifications I have taken you get the results and the certificate straight away. With Google you get the results back straight away, which is great, but then they have you wait sometimes for up to a week to give you the actual certification because they say that Google needs to verify it. Often this wait is not long at all, but if it is delayed a bit, you can’t help but feel paranoid that maybe they overturned your results. I haven’t read of any cases of that happening, however I have seen posts of people online left hanging for a bit too long. This is very rare, but it can happen.
In my case I got the certificate within a couple of working days except for when I did the last three, which took them a week.
Revising for the exams
How I did NOT study for the Certifications
Like I said before, I was capitalising on my experience when taking these certifications, not learning everything from scratch, so my approach to learning was laser focused on revising and identifying target areas where I had weak knowledge or areas that were most pertinent to the questions that may be asked. These are the things I did NOT do, but I normally would if I was starting from scratch:
- Entire Course Videos of any kind in places like Udemy.
- Books (with the exception of the Data Engineer study guide)
The reason why I didn’t use any of these is because of my familiarity with the topics and because it would have taken too much time to go through stuff I already knew reasonably well. I will do Qwiklabs at some point later as part of my own edification with tools I want to get more familiar with, but I didn’t think there was a lot of incentive for me to do it this time around, especially since last time I tried it, so many of the labs were broken, it kind of put me off.
How I studied for the certifications
The first thing I did was look at what topics were covered in the exam and open tabs for whatever I am not too familiar with or where I needed a refresher. This took me a few hours or more depending on the topics.
GCP has a very good channel with all kinds of useful information and well presented videos, so whenever I wanted to learn something in particular I could always find a video here explaining it.
Sample GCP Questions
Every exam has some sample questions, and while it is very rare that those questions will actually be in the exam, it at least gives you some idea of the sort of topics that will be covered in the exam and how prepared you are for it. Be warned that the actual questions are far more tricky than those found in the sample, at least that’s how I felt.
Practice Questions (if available)
There are some sites that offer scores of questions based on what you might get in the exam. The most popular of these sites are Whizlabs and Udemy. Whizlabs has a nice presentation and they do well on explaining most of their answers and Udemy’s quality is usually pretty good too, Your best bet is to check the reviews and see what others say before buying.
That being said, while I did value and learned from going through these questions to pinpoint where my weak spots were. I also must warn that the questions I ended up seeing in the exam were too often nothing like the ones I got there. The GCP Developer and Data Certification for example really threw me off. I thought I knew my stuff from going over the material and my accuracy on the practice questions in WhizLabs but I was in a sweat on the exam… but I passed, so I guess maybe they did help a bit? I can’t say for sure because for the DevOps and Network exams I didn’t revise questions at all and I passed. At any rate, I always try to go through as many questions as I can, as that’s the format of the exam and sometimes they do help throwing light on what you don’t know.
There are many sites that offer exam dumps for a price as well, my advice here is to be very careful as most of them are of very soddy quality and the answers may occasionally or often be wrong, which is why it is important you know the material and not just memorise answers. Perhaps the most popular and “least dodgy” of these sites may be ExamTopics. Some of the questions you will find in the actual exam are there. HOWEVER, despite their claim of questions being “Expert Verified”, most of the answers for the GCP exams on that site are wrong! In order to counterbalance that, there are discussion forums on the site but even then, sometimes the consensus is also wrong or misleading, so beware of trusting these sites too much as a source of study materials. It’s okay to use them as a study guide, but make sure you know your stuff before blowing cash and failing at the exam.
I didn’t wait long to book the exam
If I booked the exam when I was halfway through revising for next day or the day after, you would be amazed how much more intense and serious I got about studying. If I linger booking the exam, I also linger studying for it and I end up watching funny videos online rather than focusing. Of course, I was realistic when doing this, but also shot for ambition and somehow I managed to pull through.
I am not advising here you rush and do what I did, but if you have the desire and experience on GCP and you love it as much as I do, then by all means do give it a shot, GCP certifications are allegedly harder than other cloud providers like AWS, however they are not impossible to get and you will feel good once you have them and you will learn a lot in the process.