The challenge

It was back in June I believe that I got a newsletter about GCP items, which included something called the “Google Cloud Certification challenge”. I did not think much about it then, but when I got a reminder email close to the end of September that time was running out for signing up for the challenge, I took a closer look at it.

The challenge is that if you sign up to complete one of the listed GCP certifications that is part of the challenge within 12 weeks, you get some free training in Qwiklabs and Coursera and you qualify to win a $100 Google Store voucher.

I do not care so much about the voucher for the Google Store, the fun and interesting part is the path to get the certification itself.

The learning path

I have a few certifications for Amazon Web Services and I used GCP a little bit with a previous employer a few years back, so I am a bit a bit familiar with GCP but also a bit rusty on the topic. So it would be nice to do something hands-on with GCP and also compare the GCP certifications with the AWS certifications. I picked the Associate Cloud Engineer certification option, which I guess is the easier one of the ones provided and perhaps also similar to two of the AWS certifications I have (Solutions Architect Associate and Developer Associate). An ok starting point to try out.

The learning path outlined by Google has a few required and recommended items on the list:

Month 1

  • GCP Essentials Quest @ Qwiklabs (required)
  • Cloud Architecture Quest @ Qwiklabs (required)
  • Book certification exam (required)

Month 2

  • Architecting on GCP Coursera specialization (recommended)
  • Take practice exam (recommended)

Month 3

  • Take the certification exam

Before starting any learning project I like to create some plan or map for how to learn what I should learn. The required and recommended items on the list from GCP themselves are a good starting point there, in particular, if they were provided for free.

I also have read the exam overview and guide for the Associate Cloud Engineer as well. It is pretty detailed in what kind of tasks one should master so that hopefully provides a good view of what will be asked on the exam - remains to be seen though.

Practising the actual skills one wants to learn is a great way to learn things, so the Qwiklabs labs look like a good start. However, this kind of labs is a bit too guided - they provide step by step instructions on what to do. But they do not train for unguided problem solving - figure out what to do given a specific goal in mind. That is a slightly different skill to train. So I will complement with just picking various goals and just set that up. This will be useful with a free trial account.

Testing the skills is a great way to learn also, so I will probably take the practice exam fairly early and repeat that as well.

Right now I am also considering complementing the studies that were recommended/required with some exercises from Google Codelabs, I will look at that after completing the Qwiklabs quests. This may also be an inspiration to look at for the unguided problem-solving practice.

Progress so far

I have completed the GCP Essentials Quest on Qwiklabs and started with the Cloud Architecture Quest - two labs completed there. GCP Essentials was quite easy and basic - more to get a little bit familiar with some basic concepts. What I like with the labs here was that was mostly focused on using GCP from the command line, via the builtin Cloud Shell. Real-life work is most likely scripted and automated, so it is good to have an early start with that.

There is less of that in the AWS training labs I have done - that has probably a lot to do with that it is more complicated to get a useful command-line set up to use with AWS compared to GCP. In GCP it is dead simple. The GCP interface is a bit easier to navigate I think, but part of the reason for that is that there is simply not as many services in GCP as in AWS.

The GCP Essentials quest labs are reasonably short, about 30-45 minutes maximum time to complete. Actual time perhaps 20-30 minutes in my experience each doing these labs. Some useful links and descriptions are part of the lab description, so there is some good extra material there.

Many services were similar to their AWS counterparts, but there are also differences - for example when configuring VPCs (Virtual Private Clouds) and networking.

The Cloud Architecture Quest has in general longer labs, about 60-90 minutes max time for each one. It involves automation with Deployment Manager, using StackDriver for monitoring, Kubernetes and continuous delivery pipelines.

Overall it is quite fun and I think Qwiklabs provides some pretty nice labs.