Aug
27

“Innovate or die” - a quote that applied to me 5 years ago. 

As someone who was always comfortable putting all his eggs in one basket, my career growth plan has been tied to increases in salary and more people to manage. What I’ve recently discovered is that, for me, that trajectory is not how I find fulfilment.

It was always my desire to be listed among the top Network Engineers around the world, recognized in terms of earnings and the brands I worked for. That might sound foolish to some of you, but at the time, it epitomized the sophistications of my dreams. 

Fortunately for me, life happened, and the cloud came and wiped away all my dreams. I came to a realization that even though I had acquired a lot of experience working as a network engineer, new metrics came along that rendered my personal benchmarks obsolete. By accepting this truth, I challenged myself to design a new future. I realized I needed to work on a path independent of certain uncontrollable industry drivers. 

My passions have always been in helping others succeed. After 15 years of network and systems engineering experiences, I decided to document my experiences and learnings through online courses in a way other engineers could benefit from. My approach to certifications has also evolved over the years - from a focus on specific technologies to a broader focus on the “why” we use the tech we use today. 

I also realized that with cloud platforms, organizations benefit from engineers who understand the importance of people, processes in addition to the technology and products - The DevOps philosophy. After reading lots of books and working in organizations interested in adopting a DevOps and agile approach to building great businesses, I decided to fully understand how the Microsoft Azure DevOps suite enables team success. 

Part of this DevOps pursuit led me to attempt to become a Microsoft Certified Engineer - DevOps Expert. This blog post documents my journey towards achieving this difficult-but-highly-rewarding certification. 

What is DevOps? 

In her book DevOps for Dummies, Emily Freeman describes DevOps as a “philosophy that prioritizes people over processes and process over tooling”. This is also the first book I read to start my journey into becoming a certified DevOps expert. It gave me the foundation to understand the “why” and “what.”

What is version control? 

Now, you can’t truly implement a DevOps pipeline without some form of version control system such as Git. My biggest challenge was understanding why we needed version control in the first place and what Git truly is. There is a lot of information on how to come up with branching strategies or the commands used in Git, but my new approach is to understand the why. It’s very hard to find such details on YouTube or Udemy. After a proper search and reading reviews, I decided to go ahead and buy and read the book “Professional Git” by Brent Laster. Laster’s work helped build my comfort zone with Git. 

These two books (DevOps for Dummies and Professional Git) are the first books or material I read before switching to Microsoft Azure DevOps related topics. After understanding the why, I decided to move to the Microsoft documentation website. 

What is the Microsoft Certified - DevOps Engineer Expert certification? 

Frodo: I wish none of this had happened. 

Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. 

COVID-19 has affected each of us in different ways. Personally, I decided to use the time during lockdown to become DevOps Engineer Expert certified.  I managed to pass the CISSP certification in two months, so I felt like my goal was attainable. For those who have gone through the CISSP experience, it is equally as tough (in my opinion) as passing a CCIE lab. 

My approach to Microsoft Training

Objectives 

  •  Pass the Designing and Implementing Microsoft DevOps Solutions (AZ-400) exam by June 15 2020. June 15 was the last day to test for that version of the exam. Hence, the highly unpopular approach to passing the most difficult exam of the required two exams. 
  • Pass the Microsoft Certified Azure Administrator Associate exam before June 30, 2020. I chose this option instead of option 2 because I come from a network engineer and system administration background. 
  • Pass the Microsoft Certified Azure Developer Associate exam by July 30, 2020. I do not need this option to achieve the DevOps Engineer Expert accreditation but as I intend to support software developers, I will add this to my resume. 

 

Study materials 

Objective 1

Completed the Microsoft Learning Path: Build Applications with Azure DevOps

Completed the Microsoft Learning Path: Deploy Applications with Azure DevOps

Completed the Microsoft Learning Path: Automate your deployments with Azure DevOps 

Objective 2

Completed the Microsoft Learning Path: Prerequisites for Azure administrators

Completed the Microsoft Learning Path: Manage identities and governance in Azure

Completed the Microsoft Learning Path: Implement and manage storage in Azure

Completed the Microsoft Learning Path: Deploy and manage Azure compute resources

Completed the Microsoft Learning Path: Configure and manage virtual networks for Azure administrators

Completed the Microsoft Learning Path: Monitor and backup Azure resources 

Other resources 

 

Microsoft Azure platform - Azure Portal, Azure CLI, Azure PowerShell 

Credit card - Yes, you will make use of lots of Azure resources which require cash expenses Lots of labs available on Azure DevOps labs

Time - I dedicated more than 1000 hours to achieve this feat - considering I work with developers, everyday at work added to the preparations. 

Outcome 

I am glad to say I succeeded in achieving all of the above objectives (I have yet to take the optional Developer Associate exam - see objective 3)

Summary 

This is a journey I would like to encourage others to experience. My future blog posts on INE will be used to demonstrate some of the DevOps capabilities in Azure. 



Mbong Hudson Ekwoge
About Mbong Hudson Ekwoge

Mbong Hudson Ekwoge is a multi-certified Azure Expert and Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP). He is very passionate about securing cloud applications.

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