The Certified Q&A — A Video Series to Learn GCP
Introducing a video series using ‘scenario based solutioning’ to learn GCP.
The Certified Q&A is video series that will takes a ‘solutioning’ approach to help you learn Google Cloud. Do subscribe to the AwesomeGCP YouTube channel for great content that will help you understand Google Cloud to create good solutions and also help you get certified! Channel link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCIGDDqu5DzlaaC4XzXj_4-A
In this post, I want to convey my motivations, plans, and approach for this video series.
After writing each of my certification exams, I wrote a bunch of notes to help others get an overview of the exam. (On Passing All* Google Cloud Certifications.) I can see that it is getting a lot of traffic daily. Probably as a result of that, I get a bunch of questions on my LinkedIn regularly, most often requesting guidance on something. Often people ask for the format of the questions, material to study with, assistance on planning study time, how to recover from failed attempts, and indirectly, just encouragement and support. They want to know how others made it and whether they can too. To answer and respond to these questions, I maintain this git repo: https://github.com/sathishvj/awesome-gcp-certifications.
Among all these, the number one question — and also the toughest to answer — has been a variation of: “How do I know when I am ready? How do I know I’ve covered all the required material?”. I’ve responded to that question individually and also in this blog post where I’ve collected my responses to the Frequently Asked Questions: Frequently Asked Follow-up Questions on Google Cloud (GCP) Certifications. It’s not a convincing answer, I admit, because I don’t believe I had a good one. I’m trying to fix that with this endeavour.
Why isn’t existing material giving confidence?
Many people have posted online and messaged me privately that they resonated with something I said about the exam experience: confident before, doubtful during, relieved after. Not everybody has been lucky with the last part though. I’ve wondered for long why that experience is so common. My conclusion is that the way current courses and material is constructed gives some new knowledge but also a sense of false confidence. We feel we’ve done the course, which seemed fairly easy, and we expect that has served our learning comprehensively. Unfortunately, not.
These courses tend to be easy to skim through, but tough to retain. Worse yet, they are even tougher to apply to real world situations immediately. Unfortunately, this is exactly what the certification exams attempt to test you on.
What is not is as important as what is.
One other downside to course like content is that we nod and agree through each of the sections. Everything that is said seems reasonable. There seems no reason to contest it. However, in the real world we have to also deal with what is not reasonable. We have to identify why a proposed solution will not be appropriate and why an alternative would be better. We have to know enough to reject a solution without even having a working alternative yet.
This is another situation where courses leave us short with that lack of confidence. When confronted with a real world situation we have nothing to counter the wrong suggestions. Many of them seem like it could work, but we are unable to qualify why it isn’t a good option. I wanted an approach that would complement the courses and get you better prepared for real world solutioning.
Are courses not useful?
In my opinion, they are useful. When we start off, we need a wide view of what all technologies and solutions are available. The documentation could do it, but that’s a rabbit hole that could consume all your time — both breadth-wise and depth-wise. The courses set some reasonable boundaries. It limits the content which will help you get started, but it is also what makes it limiting. A thorough, comprehensive course would almost be a copy of the documentation and doing that wouldn’t be worth it or maintainable.
Courses are great to start with and I would strongly recommend that you do any of the better ones. The labs, like QwikLabs, which are sometimes bundled with these courses, are also great — absolutely great to gets some hands-on practice. Even then, as I’ve taken some time to explain, there are some gaps in the knowledge process.
Is there an alternative that could fill this gap?
I believe there is. And that’s what I am working on. We need an approach that builds on the courses and labs, and takes people closer to their work and to the certification. My answer to this is what I call ‘scenario based solutioning’. Pick up a real-world scenario and come up with relevant, recommended solutions for it.
Coincidentally, a similar approach is followed in the Google Cloud Certification exams. The questions are mostly scenario based and parallels what you would encounter at work when creating solutions for your clients. In working through these questions, I’m confident that you will become more proficient in Google Cloud and be able to provide better solutions.
And, this also works to build Google Cloud skills?
I have personal evidence that it does. Sometime last week, a company that I’ve been giving some guidance on Google Cloud and GoLang reached out to me about a requirement — given their growing scaling requirements, would BigTable be a good alternative to MySQL on Cloud SQL, which they were using now. The discussion we had was essentially the process I followed in answering the certification exams. First, understand the requirements. What did the company want to achieve as a business objective? What were the current technology limitations and what were they trying to achieve? What were the typical use cases for these technologies — scaling factors on both storage size and computation? Was their workload more ready-heavy or write-heavy? What were the lock-in considerations? Were they serving a global audience or regional audience?
Then, consider the appropriate and recommended solutions. We weighed the pros and cons of MySQL and BigTable. At this point, as I was explaining the optimizations and limitations for each of them, in my mind I was running through decision flowcharts which I know very well from learning for the exams. I was also able to suggest technologies that they didn’t know about yet. Given their team’s current skills, it seemed that Cloud Spanner could have been a good option for them and we discussed that a bit. However, in the end, I thought BigQuery — an option which was not even on the table when we started — probably suited their requirement the best. Given that their new use-case was very read heavy and analytics based, they could continue to keep their existing solution without a big change in technology and add on a fast analytics solution. That would have been the quickest and cheapest path to a successful solution.
This approach to arriving at pertinent solutions is the same that I experienced when doing the certification exams. It clearly also stands you in good stead when working with real world solutioning. Hence my approach, scenario based solutioning.
How do we come up with these scenarios?
There is an easy option that I can get started with — the official practice exams. We’re going to start with solutioning the questions on the official practice exams. Later, I intend to create my own new questions/scenarios too. We will cover all the certification exams and also learn to apply Google Cloud solutions in real world use cases.
I intend to release the first video soon — a day after this post goes live. I shall also break down that first video in a post that will give you an insight into the approach I am taking.
Are these free?
Yes, they will be on YouTube for free.
What does it cost to create these videos?
Quite a bit. Mostly time. And of course, time is money for an independent trainer/consultant like me. A quick break down would be:
- The research and creating the slides on each question takes me about 4–8 hours. Some are straightforward, but some require way more time. Most are midway on that time spectrum.
- Recording and the re-recording (because I don’t get it right the first time) takes about half an hour to 45 minutes.
- Editing, rendering, uploading, editing, subtitling, etc. add another hour or two.
At this point, having done many repeated trials, I’ve spent many weeks on a single video. However, going forward, I expect it would cost me a little more than a work-day per video.
Why do it then?
I think there is an overall benefit for the community. So I’m excited to do it.
How about income? Do you take sponsors/advertisers?
It is definitely a consideration. This will take me many months of effort and I can’t afford to not have a reasonable income. I have to make it sustainable or else it will die out. Here is what I hope will happen. The free YouTube version could eventually bring in some ad revenue, but given this is niche content, I can’t expect it to be much. You can help out by subscribing though! The other options are some sort of freemium version on some course sites where there will be additional content that the YouTube format does not support.
If your company is willing to sponsor and advertise, please contact me on LinkedIn. The content is niche, but then the target audience might be exactly the right niche you want to reach. The audience will be people using and learning Cloud technologies in general and Google Cloud specifically. If you are looking to hire, sponsoring/advertising here would be perfect. If you have other courses that you want to promote, this series would be complementary to that and you should see good reach.
What is AwesomeGCP?
The Certified Q&A is a series based around the certification exams. But I think that is only a small part of what I feel would be useful for this community. I’ve a few more ideas based I want to implement based on what I am seeing. I plan to bring them together under this name.