Notes from my beta Google Cloud Digital Leader certification exam

sathish vj
7 min readJul 5, 2021

Subscribe to my YouTube channel that teaches you to apply Google Cloud to your projects and also prepare for the certifications: Check out the playlists I currently have for Associate Cloud Engineer, Professional Architect, Professional Data Engineer, Professional Cloud Developer, Professional Cloud DevOps Engineer, Professional Cloud Network Engineer, and Professional Cloud Security Engineer.

I have created practice tests for the Cloud Digital Leader. Check them out here:

Edit: The Cloud Digital Leader exam contents was modified in January, 2022. I’ve added 40 more questions to give you additional practice on the updated topics. They are spread across the existing 3 practice tests and a new fourth practice test.

I took the Cloud Digital Leader beta exam on the 4th of May. And I passed!

I was supposed to take it on the 3rd of May but due to some technical glitch the proctoring team postponed it to the 4th of May. A side note: usually when there is a technical issue, they postpone the exam by about 15 minutes; but, oddly, this time they postponed it by a day and 15 minutes.

There were also another glitch with the exam. I had marked a few of them for review, but at the end of answering all the questions, the button for “Review All” did not show up. It wasn’t much of an issue for me as there was time to review all the questions. Still, I hope it will be fixed for the generally available exam.

Edit: since early 2022, the question pattern has changed. Also, now there are 60 questions in the exam and the same 1.5 hours to solve them. Additionally, the CDL is valid for 3 years, unlike other certifications which expire after 2 years.

Expectations and Reality

My expectations of the exam were that it was going to be super easy. I barely studied anything thinking that the questions would be very simple for somebody who’s already got other certifications. Since this wasn’t a Professional certification or even an Engineer focused one, I assumed it will be similar to the now defunct Business Professional Accreditation, which was super easy. But, since my exam got delayed by a day, I did read some short posts from people who took the exam on May 3rd stating that the exam was tough. I realigned by expectations of the exam based on those posts.

What it was like

The exam had very wide breadth but limited depth. Except the Professional Collaboration Engineer, content from all other certification exams were represented. The greatest similarity was to the Professional Cloud Architect and the Associate Cloud Engineer, with bits of Network Engineer, Security Engineer, Data Engineer, and Machine Learning Engineer thrown in. Whereas the Engineer and Professional certification exams would ask about command line tools, cli options, and deeper technical features, this one didn’t go that deep. You still need to know pretty much the entire product list, the requirements that they are a good fit for, and how to apply the main/popular products to solution a customer requirement.

Targeted Audience

The exam seems to be (as the title indicates, duh!) for leaders who are leading a technical team. Depending on the size of the company this could be a project manager, a mid-level manager, or head of engineering. It would also apply perfectly for some pre-sales engineer roles, who need some technical knowledge to quickly respond to proposal requests. Though a cloud engineer or an architect could pass this exam fairly easily, it doesn’t add significant value for them beyond the professional exams. However, I would strongly recommend it as a starting point if you are feeling overwhelmed with one of the Professional certifications. I’ve realized that it is quite convenient to pick up the certifications in increasing amounts of difficulty — you learn progressively and also build your personal confidence alongside.

I have also been recommending this exam to people in purely sales and pre-sales too with no technical knowledge of Google Cloud. It might not fully apply to those roles, but I feel that even if you don’t pass this exam, it is helpful to learn about the technologies. There is value in the preparation. So you should definitely give it a shot.

Summary of Learning Goals

Given the 100s of products and sub-products and the vastness of the material, you are likely to be overwhelmed. If you already have other Google certifications like ACE, PCA, PDE, PCNE, PCSE, and PMLE, you could probably waltz into this exam and crack it. For the others, you might benefit from a boundary of material to primarily focus on. This is my recommendation:
* Read about all the products and what they are used for. It’s enough to focus on top level features of products, a summary of which you can even find on the product overview page.
* For main products you need to go a little deeper, some of which are listed below in this post.
* For those, study best practices also.
* Study how products fit together in a data pipeline.
* You can skip Google Workspace, Gaming Servers, Maps APIs from this comprehensive list:

Study Areas That were Relevant for me

* Anthos — when to choose this for migration
* Apigee — knowing what this does would be important for certain migrations. Again, just get a top level idea of product features.
* Architecture choices — how to ingest and process data. Which product options do you have and which will you use in a given scenario.
* Bare Metal Solution — where would you use this?
* BigQuery — for analytics
* Billing — how are infrastructure and managed products costed?
* Billing — setting up billing.
* Cloud Build — usage of build pipelines
* Cloud Filestore vs Cloud Firestore/Firebase
* Cloud Identity — SSO and SAML
* Cloud Storage features — storage classes, redundancy options, managing object life cycle
* Compliance Reports — (
* Compute options that can shut down to zero when not in use
* Containers — Know advantages of containers vs VMs.
* Containers, Kubernetes, Anthos — don’t go as in-depth as you would for PCA or DevOps.
* Cost Management — how do you ensure expenditure is within plans and budgets? How do you keep track of it?
* Creating data pipelines — from ingestion, to processing, to storage, and analysis
* Data Studio — what is it used for
* Data Transfer options — Transfer Appliance, BQ Data Transfer, Storage Transfer Service. When would you use which?
* Database Migration Tool
* Database storage technologies — different options available for different storage requirements. Know things like SQL vs NoSQL, regional vs global.
* Developer options — debugging, tracing, etc.
* GCE — Provisioning VMs according to need
* GCE — use of pre-emptible VMs
* Hybrid Networking Options
* IAM — Groups
* IAM — Principle of Least Privilege
* IAM — resource hierarchy. How to setup org, folders, projects based on departments and teams.
* ML — bqml, automl, api options, etc.
* ML — predefined options vs programmable options
* Migrate for Compute and Migrate for Anthos
* Migration — Choosing between private data center and public cloud
* Migration — how will you migrate VMs, Databases,
* Networking — Cloud NAT, VPN, Cloud Armor
* Networking — Private Google Access
* Pricing Calculator
* Security — Security Command Center
* Serverless vs Serverful options
* Stackdriver/Operations options and features
* Storage options — what is the cost/performance difference between PDs, SSDs, and Filestore
* Support — different enterprise support options available and which to use for your use case
* VM flat reservation

Notes from each of my exams

For those appearing for the various certification exams, here is a list of sanitized notes (no direct question, only general topics) about the exam.

Overall notes across all GCP certification exams

Notes from the Professional Cloud Architect exam

Notes from the beta Professional Cloud Developer exam

Notes from the Professional Data Engineer exam

Notes from the Associate Cloud Engineer exam

Notes from the beta Professional Cloud Network Engineer Exam

Notes from the beta Professional Cloud Security Engineer Exam

Notes from the Professional Collaboration Engineer Exam

Notes from the G Suite Exam

Notes from the Professional DevOps Engineer Exam

Notes from the Professional Machine Learning Engineer Exam

Github Repo: awesome-gcp-certifications

A collection of posts, videos, courses, qwiklabs, and other exam details for all exams:

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Wish you the very best with your GCP certifications. You can reach me at LinkedIn and Twitter. If you can support my work creating videos on my YouTube channel AwesomeGCP, you can do so on Patreon or BuyMeACoffee.



sathish vj

tech architect, tutor, investor | GCP 12x certified | youtube/AwesomeGCP | Google Developer Expert | Go