Impressions about the Google Professional Cloud Architect Beta – and other ramblings

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The past 15th of March, I sat down at Google’s Professional Cloud Architect Beta, so I’d like to share some of my thoughts now that some time has passed.

If you haven’t taken any Google’s certification before, let me tell you that this test could be very different from your expectations. This is not a highly technical exam-focused, just on architecture scenarios. To understand it better and get a contrast, let’s explore another vendor’s version of the test first.

AWS’s version

You are presented with seventy-five questions-scenarios, highly technical and mostly based on their tech. It’s a challenging test, where you need to know many of the platform’s technical intricacies. As with Google’s, I think it reflects the culture and their idea of architecture; in this case, highly specialized in the vendor’s technologies; don’t get me wrong, it’s challenging and a lot of fun. I allocated around nine months to take on that certification, and I had experience with the platform since 2010. The thing is, working for AWS probably’s like that. I had some experienced with them last year, and they were highly specialized in certain areas and technologies.

What’s the problem with that approach? I think that type of certification is confusing many. AWS is very clear, though; you’d need “Two or more years of hands-on experience designing and deploying cloud architecture on AWS”. This is a professional test and means that you should back that certification with professional experience because the exam is only a highly abstract version of the job’s technical side. You are supposed to have the soft skills, broad experience in different technologies and industries, and the intuition that comes with the job to succeed in real life.

Most architectures don’t live in a vacuum, and any change requires a lot of technical work – usually integrating with other technologies. But no company or customer it’s going to take your proposal at face value. Still, a lot of discussions with different teams, questions, presentations, budgets, validations, certifications will happen even before you could do any change … in a few words, it’s not all about knowing the technical side of things; sometimes, it’s the easiest part.

I get many messages from people from other fields and even other industries – Finance, Entertainment, Hospitality – that reversed the process. They took the certification with little experience in Cloud or Architecture, and now they can’t find a job. Why? Because you are missing many other skills, and some you’d need to get at the job. It’s an organic process.

Google’s version

I’m discussing the Beta version of the test, but I don’t think the final version will be very different, at least in the core values. I think this test pushes you to show the experience as an Architect as a whole, not just the technical side of things. So it can be a more difficult exam than AWS’s, even though it could be seen as easier on the surface as you don’t get that many complex scenarios with multi-choice answers that look very similar.

  • You will get questions reflecting Google’s SRE culture. Some of them just about that with not other aspects involved. I was surprised to find questions delivered in that way in an Architect test.
  • You will get questions including other technologies and, of course, about Open Source, again reflecting the vendor’s culture: Istio, Terraform, Vault, Github,Kubernetes and Google’s offering, GKE, are always present, and this test is no exception. This relates directly with my main complaint about AWS’s take, which leaves containers underrepresented in their certifications, not only Kubernetes – non-existent – but also with their own technologies, meaning Fargate or EKS, which are very cool.
  • You will get typical questions about classic Computing and Storage, nothing really stands up there as extremely difficult.
  • You will get many questions about Networking, Security, Compliance, APIS, Serverless and their no-ops container offering Cloud Run. Definitely, a step-up in complexity and scope. Without a good knowledge of Networking and Security, I think this test could be challenging to pass.
  • You will get questions about Data Analytics, Machine Learning and tools: Tensorflow, AI Platform, DataFlow, Pub/Sub, DataPrep, DataStudio … not many and not especially difficult. I was expecting more questions of this type, to be honest.
  • You will get questions about the case studies. There are now four of them, two new and two up-to-dated. In the beta, there were like 20 to 25 questions, and they were really challenging. Don’t expect a simple selection between technologies. They are questions related to certain aspects of the system, technical or business, and are not straightforward. It could be Security, Networking, SRE, Compliance, Computing … In my case, I struggled because I got the two up-to-dated scenarios linked to the old spec; I guess that was a glitch in the beta exam. So I picked up questions based on the best possible answer to the related scenario using what I remembered. In any case, it’s the most difficult part of the test – at least in the beta.

Conclusion

Overall, I think it’s a good and challenging update that now ranks high in terms of difficulty and reflects a bit better the Architect’s job – and Google’s take on it.