Why might you want to pursue Azure certifications? Maybe your employer (current or future) uses Azure. Maybe you know the future is not one cloud but multi-cloud and you're taking a “gotta catch ’em all” approach to certs to flex your well-roundedness. Maybe you think it’s a good first step in your quest to make Bill Gates your BFF.
Whatever the reason you might be considering Azure, it’s clear that this cloud runner-up is doing more than just keeping pace with AWS and warrants serious consideration when choosing your cloud path.
AWS may be the frontrunner in terms of workload and adoption numbers, but the gap is closing fast. According to the Flexera 2019 State of Cloud Survey, Azure adoption is increasing in enterprises while AWS adoption remains relatively flat.
Microsoft got some serious pep in its step in 2019 — beating out AWS in a (now disputed) photo finish for the monster $10 billion Pentagon JEDI contract. Microsoft has also been making smart moves that play to its unique strengths, using legacy footholds in organizations to ease reluctant organizations to the cloud. Even at AWS re:Invent 2019, Amazon’s colossal cloud shindig late last year, there was a surprising amount of chatter about Azure.
Businesses are continuing to adopt Azure as Big M pushes hard into the enterprise space. Microsoft claims that around 95% of Fortune 500 companies use Azure. Azure has also historically been the preferred choice for hybrid deployments, and (shocker) it plays well with the Microsoft solutions businesses have been using since before the days of dial-up.
Convinced Azure is for you? Excellent! For my next trick, let's talk about certifications.
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What is a certification (and what is it NOT)?
Azure certifications, which are based on job roles, show employers you have a specific skill set. Unlike their sometimes confusingly named exams, the certification names make it pretty clear as to what you're getting yourself into. But whether you’re going to focus solely on Azure or mix it up and go multi-cloud, there are a few misconceptions about certifications worth clearing before you invest the time, money, and energy into earning them.
Certifications are good for many things. But one thing they aren’t is a golden ticket that can be instantly redeemed for a six-figure salary. They’re more like power-ups to make the cloud-career game a little easier for you — and potentially unlock some shortcuts to help you reach the next level.
I like to think of it in the same way I like to think about everything in life: through the lens of Super Mario Bros. 3. Sure, you can beat the classic Nintendo game without any warp whistles, but warp whistles make it easier to get farther faster. But there’s a flip side to this. If you warp from World 1 to World 8 without picking up the skills you’d earn with hands-on time through natural progression, you may get your raccoon tail handed to you fast.
To leave the Mushroom Kingdom behind and put it more simply, certifications help you get ahead by acting as an achievement or trophy. But nothing beats experience picked up from the grind. Get in the cloud and get your hands dirty — or cloudy. Studying up for certifications and getting certified are helpful ways to push yourself to learn new things, but experience is king.
The TL;DR of certifications?
- Certifications ARE proof of knowledge. They are NOT a substitute for experience working in the cloud.
- Certifications ARE potentially door-openers. They can help you get an interview or earn a promotion, but they are NOT a guarantee of a job.
- Certifications ARE valuable. (Average salaries for cloud architects range from $88,000 to $225,000.) But certifications are NOT just about earning. Certifications are often used to get teams on the same wavelength with a common cloud “language.”
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