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This article is part of our Essential Guide: Pave a lasting AWS career path

How cloud vets can advance along an AWS career path

Cloud training companies often gear their material toward newcomers. But experienced cloud professionals can enhance their knowledge, too, with some dedication.

Cloud newcomers, ranging from developers to operations engineers, can access plenty of materials to jumpstart their...

journey down the AWS career path. Websites like A Cloud Guru and Linux Academy offer a variety of courses, and AWS provides introductory videos, free online tutorials and guides, and a seemingly endless amount of service documentation.

But where can experienced cloud professionals turn to ignite their career prospects? There are many IT pros out there with some notable cloud projects and certifications under their belt, but it might not be as easy for them to expand their cloud knowledge and advance their careers.

Here are several ways cloud veterans can broaden or enhance their AWS career path.

Get better at what you already know

When cloud professionals work with AWS, they must acquire a vast amount of knowledge, as the provider offers around 100 services. Even seasoned professionals aren't experts in all of them.

First, gain a strong understanding of the most used services. For example, you can wait to learn a service like CodePipeline or OpsWorks, but you should gain proficiency with Relational Database Service, Identity and Access Management and CloudFormation -- not to mention core networking, storage and compute services, which are absolute musts. Don't neglect services that interest you personally, as they can be a great motivator for continuous learning.

The best way to acquire more experience is to get your hands dirty. If you want more AWS Lambda exposure, you can attempt a home project or, even better, look for some freelance work that will push you out of your comfort zone. Don't rule out a change to your day job either, especially if it doesn't demand many AWS skills. It can negatively affect your career to remain in one such place; if your skills stagnate in the IT industry, your value deteriorates.

Talk the talk, then walk the walk

To improve your knowledge, maintain an active presence on sites like Quora and Stack Overflow. In addition to joining a larger community and helping others, these community-based sites help you identify where your skills are lacking and learn from other people's responses -- especially if you're engaged in a longer discussion on a particular topic.

When you gain some confidence, create a plan for the next AWS certification exam you could take. AWS certifications are valid for two years, and as a cloud professional, you definitely want to stay up to date. Instead of recertifying for an exam you already passed, push for the next level up. If you haven't achieved Professional-level certification, now might be a good time to try, as it can push you to the next stop on your AWS career path.

It certainly won't hurt to strive for more AWS certificates. Even if you don't pass, you'll learn more just by studying for the test. But keep in mind that Professional-level exams can be quite demanding and might cover services or tools that you aren't familiar with yet.

Keep up with hot technologies

As a cloud professional, it can be tough to keep up with the features and availability of emerging technologies. For example, Amazon Elastic Container Service for Kubernetes, introduced at re:Invent 2017, is months away from being generally available. Many cloud professionals want to know specifics, such as its price, what plug-ins it will support and whether users should migrate away from another container orchestrator.

But, even if they lead to new questions, follow the major product launches coming from re:Invent and AWS Summit conferences. And don't stop there. For example, you could wade through hours of written and video material or search through Reddit threads from AWS employees who are willing to share more details. This can be a timely endeavor, but all of this information can propel you down the AWS career path. Also, sign up for service previews when possible to get some exposure to a new technology.

This was last published in February 2018

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