How Japanese Network Engineer passed the English version of AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate (SAA)

In July, I took the AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate (SAA) in English and managed to pass it. I wanted to leave a record that has been done in English while repeating the conflict of “Let’s pass it in Japanese instead of English” after having failed three times, and would like to deliver it with such kind of thoughts as “If it helps someone in any way”. I wrote it in Japanese too.

Will Cover

  • Why did I take the exam
  • State before starting to study
  • Study period
  • Study done before passing
  • Exam points
  • Future goals

Will Not Cover

  • Exam questions and trends (because confidentiality and renewal of test itself is fast)
  • Overview and value of AWS SAA exam
  • Differences in difficulty between taking English and Japanese (because I am not taking the Japanese one)
  • How to study when you are short of sleep or when you have physical and mental instability (Please sleep when you can sleep)

Why did I take the exam?

Perhaps some readers are wondering why a network engineer took the AWS exam in the first place. I myself had an image on what to introduce, but was unable to properly use the correct language. Therefore, in the following, I hope to explain my situation.

  • I changed my career in my 30s, so I would like to study and build my skill set, so I can prove to myself, my colleagues and my company, my ability to increase my knowledge in this field.
  • I am interested in cloud, container, Kubernetes and cloud native technologies, and learning about and completing CCNA Route and Switch, LPIC levels 1 and 2. I needed next step.
  • My company’s English language program requirements are “to improve both English and technical skills and acquire qualifications in English”, and I participated in this year with a commitment to “Pass AWS SAA in English”.

State before starting study

  • Semi-professional Network Engineer (work history: about 1 and a half years)
  • In addition to “physical container sales” that I briefly touched on in my introduction, I have almost 10 years of experience in other industries such as “bilingual team leader at a rental car call center” and have little IT industry experience.
  • Design and deployment ISP’s network at present of customer site
  • No experience working with AWS
  • I have an AWS account and I sometimes played with it privately
  • English reading and writing is business level

Study period (about 7 months)

  • January-July 2019 Read the English books in the company’s English program / Seminar exercises / Confirmation of unclear points
  • April-July 2019 Quiz exercise and examination

result

  • 4/25 (Thu) 695/1000 points FAIL…
  • 5/30 (Thu) 612/1000 points FAIL…
  • 6/23 (Sun) 664/1000 points FAIL…
  • 7/14 (Sun) 820/1000 points PASS !!

Study done before passing

Read the exam preparation book

I used to understand the outline of AWS testing and services. I think it’s a good book for studying, but not “Reading this one book”. Since there are already updated parts around the storage section at least, I recommend checking the official latest information.

The explanation was very proper, and detailed parts that were not asked in the test were enriched, deepening the understanding of AWS services. In particular, Chapter 10 developer tools (services around Code) and Chapter 11 provisioning service (CloudFormation) have not been mentioned much in other textbooks in Japanese that moment, so it was very helpful.

Actual machine operation

The instructor explains in English at a good tempo. If you use your own account while watching the explanation, hands-on, you can imagine how to set up and note the points. Differences may appear, so if you check whether it is due to an update or an environment, you can check the latest information and behavior with your own eyes. This course also includes a practice test and quiz.

  • Hands-on for unclear points after problem exercises.

After confirming explanations of problems that were not understood or lacked understanding, it became possible to implement with confidence by operating the actual machine.

Exercise

I did this thoroughly to pass. At the time of taking the first exam, I only scored about 50%, but after the third time of passing the exams at 80%, was able to continue at such a score, even on my worst attempts.

Read English books in the company’s English program / practice exercises / check unclear points

… By the way, my wonderful English teacher is also trying AWS . He is studying network, server, programming, etc. He says that “You must properly understand the contents if you want properly to teach them” and he is an example to students (engineers).

  • Resolving the unclear points that came out in the above problem exercise. Comparing the difference between Udemy’s problem exercises and explanations and the actual machine operation. If I did not understand the nuance even if I researched it, I asked him to do a native check.

Collaboration with the in-house AWS study session on May

An AWS study session by AWS experts (Solution Architect Professional owners and in-house academy instructors) was held using the space and time of the study session day( self-development DAY) held by engineers who gather at our headquarters office once a month on Saturday. The expert’s lecture was very detailed and exhaustive on the point of seeking to perform the practical skill rather than “just to seek passing the certification”, and I still refer to their advice.

Sharing knowledge in workshops and English club activities in the company’s English program

  • Pass / Fail Report and Pass Celebration

In my company, several people in 2018 had already passed this exam in English, but one person passed this year before me. I unfortunately reported the failure in the previous session, but what one of the guys did to pass, was not much different from me, because he had a higher understanding of the exercises.

I stopped doing all around study, and practiced the main problem thoroughly as described above. After passing, the Pass celebration in the English member team was a special memory of me. For those who passed first and my time too. I can’t wait for the next one.

Exam points

Make it possible to select the one that meets the requirements

This exam asks for an “architect’s point of view”, so you need to choose the best of the choices based on your evidence. The wrong choice may be correct, but “not the best” choice. For example, When there is no security team “cost / performance point of view / combined services and configuration” , I think that may enhance the learning and troubleshooting while taking into account the characteristics and combinations of services. I was not good at this type of problem.

Prepare your mind and body

There are a reasonable number of exam questions (65 questions), and the exam time is 130 minutes. I recommend that you plan as much as possible before and after the test and take it in perfect condition.

Misjudgments and delays may occur due to tension, fatigue, or impatience. I always completed the test in about 60 minutes in the practice exam, but I used all more than 120 minutes in the actual test every time. The difficulty of the problem and the environment may have had some influence, but I will note that some of the test takers had the same symptoms.

In my case, the following were the main factors.

  • From April to June, I had a shift work schedule with night shifts. It was a schedule that did not consider my mental/physical state.
  • In July, I was meant to be transferred from an operations member to a design and deployment member, so it was an urgent task to learn network technology and project-specific information.
  • It is important to be prepared, and not to bring any worries or anxiety factors to the test center, when you had time to do other things you want to do. For example, for translation activities and participation in study sessions inside and outside the company.

Example of problem exercises to increase points / knowledge

  • 1. Purchase problem exams such as Udemy
  • 2. Review / Study the resulting answers.
  • 3. Check Udemy and other commentary, linked materials, official AWS documents and commentary videos
  • 4. If there is any doubt or anxiety, verify with actual machine operation / confirm with experts

Check the latest information

You should read all the latest updates of official materials such as the AWS Solution. As of 2019, containers, serverless, and automation are themes that I often hear, but new services and useful features will be on the exam, and I think there is no loss to learn about it.

Summary

Up to this point, I think that it was quite natural to think about such things as “checking official materials”, “deepening understanding through problem exercises and actual machine operation”, “preparing the state of mind and body”.

Depends on the test period, the individual situation and character, the required information during the present period , needed advice changes with up-to-date information. I was allowed to take in basic content in this place. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or need to check individually.

I managed to pass it by getting advised by as many people as possible, mainly involving people who were involved in my company. I think that if you get influenced by someone, you will get involved, so I’d like to give back as much help as possible voluntarily.

Future goals

I aim to acquire the following

  • KCM100 ( Kubernetes and Docker Certification by Mirantis)
  • CKA (Certified Kubernetes Administrator)
  • GCP Associate Cloud Engineer / GCP Professional Network Engineer

Since I am interested in Cloud Native technology, I am studying. I am currently a network engineer as a practitioner, so routing protocol is quite important. I understand about how to configure the cloud and on-premises infrastructure and assemble it. I want to deepen my technology skills.

  • Starting with continuously blogging and creating outputs by habit, I would like to do my own activities such as presentations in English and Japanese-English translation. Last week, I started writing a blog in Japanese.The next day, was when I started a busy week when I had to run an event doing an English presentation. I feel like this will happen again this week, but I will try hard.

Finally

In the world there are many blogs that explain about Japanese people passing examinations in English, but I could not find anything with the keywords of “Japanese Engineer passed an English exam” and “Network engineer”’, so if this article helps you if you are in a similar situation, or even not, I hope it will help those who are trying to challenge themselves. In order to increase the number of channels that can be delivered as a “Transporter”, I will keep posting technical articles in English and Japanese.

Bye now!!

Yoshiki Fujiwara

An infra engineer in Tokyo, Japan. Grew up in Athens, Greece(1986–1992). #Network, #Kubernetes, #CKA, #CKAD, #Certified AWS SAP

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