Learning (and) communities

Q1 2021 was full of learning, speaking opportunities and celebrations with my communities 🥰

How I became a certified Solution Architect in 3 months

I’ve worked with technologists for 20 years and my role has involved innovating on behalf of my customers or creating capabilities so they can innovate and move their business. I’ve realised along the way that BD or Advisory roles now have larger tech components and I joined a cloud learning community Cloud Seeders in 2019, and it served me well. I came for 1 workshop and am now a core member of the leadership team. The beginning of the calendar year is typically slow at work in Singapore (between Xmas holiday and Chinese New Year around end of January / mid February depending on the lunar calendar). So after acing my AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner in just 4 weeks in July 2020 thanks to my Cloud Seeders study buddies, I decided to go for the Solution Architect Associate certification in 2021. Also, because my other half aced the SAA certification in just 7 days around Xmas, it built some healthy competition at home 😉. Here are the resources I used:

  1. I did Udemy Stephane Maarek course (super helpful, he also gives a 670 pages PPT so you can copy/paste in your own notes ). I really liked doing labs with him, where you don’t have the comfort of provisioned account like the Hands on AWS labs (by using my own account it forces me to clean my resources, setup my MFA and budget alerts…) 
  2. I signed up to the AWS She Builds, CloudU program where you have access to the official AWS digital course for SAA, weekly 30min live sessions, a dedicated Slack channel to ask questions or revise concepts with AWS tech trainers, solution architects and a lively community of learners. It really helped in terms of motivation and anchoring learnings as some sessions would become whiteboarding sessions from experts. The program includes 2 weeks of exam prep too. Current cohort has started 31 May 2021 
  3. I took notes along the way on both Udemy and CloudU courses. 
  4. Udemy has a final quiz that I took without revising to set my level. I was at 55% but the quiz explains really well where I was wrong and I used that to prepare my final notes that I would use to revise. Based on the feedback from our Cloud Seeders buddies, I knew that Udemy quizzes are harder than the exam so I didn’t feel defeated with my score. 
  5. I used the Cloud Seeders study plans with the links & resources to revisit my learning and prepare for the exam (videos, links to white papers and to cheat sheets). I mostly used the cheat sheets to add to my final notes. 
  6. After that I booked my exam! 7 days before the exam, I was focused on Whizlab quizzes. Their initial CSAA Free test with 20 questions is hard and they do a really good job explaining where you get things wrong and subtleties (or even when you get it right by guessing). That helped me refine my final notes for my revisions. I did 1 quiz a day, passed the first 3 (first one narrowly and the 2 others quite well), then failed at quiz 4. At that time I was still refining my notes but didn’t really revise or look back at them. So after that, I spent 3-hour revising my final notes before taking another quiz, I took their “final test” Friday and passed. Same routine Saturday with another quiz that I failed. Refined my final notes along the way and on Saturday I re-did the 1st test that I narrowly passed and saw my score jump from 72.3% to 89% so felt confident going into the exam Sunday. No quiz on Sunday (exam day), I just spent 3-hour revising my final notes then had a swim and dinner before the exam.

I gave myself approximately 3 months to study and take the exam. Starting 12 Jan 2021, it took me 14.5 weeks to sit (and pass) the exam on 25 April 2021. Oh and I had a better score than my other half, so that’s for healthy competition at home 🏆 🍾 My main advice: set a goal, but be kind to yourself. It’s okay to take a bit more time. From the quiet early days of studying in January, work really accelerated for me mid-February after CNY. It took a village to give me confidence, support me, keep me accountable and motivated. I wouldn’t say I aced the exam. It was really hard and I used all the time with my 30min extension (I asked for an accommodation as English is not my mother tongue, if you qualify ask for it don’t hesitate to ask for it) to carefully read the questions and answers. I’m super grateful to my beautiful communities, everyone sharing their experience to make us take a leap of faith.

Speaking for Cloud Seeders at AWS Online Summit ASEAN – Community track (18-19May)

What kept me busy also in March was the preparation and recording of our Community track talk at AWS Online Summit ASEAN with Menglin and Shehara, representing Cloud Seeders. Fantastic opportunity and I’m super proud of our collective learning and how we complement each other in this group. Also it was fun to record at home, and it took the support of my other half as sound engineer to ensure a good quality despite the storm outside. It went live both 18 and 19 May 2021 and we got some great feedback from practitioners. You can find our Security by Design for developers video on-demand and the deck on AWS Online Summit ASEAN.

Becoming a Certified Professional Mentor with AIM (the Asia Institute of Mentoring)

As if it was not enough (and again because January was quiet), I signed up to the Certified Professional Mentor program at the Asia Institute of Mentoring. Through the 6 modules, I learned a lot about mentoring vs coaching, my own mentoring style, my values and became more aware of my bias as a mentor (eg. not creating mentees in my own image – love this quote from Spielberg). Out of all the frameworks and models that we were exposed to, once we started the mentoring practicum which is mandatory for the certification, the wheel of life has been the more powerful one. My mentees really like that it starts the mentoring relationship with a 360 view of where they’re at in their life (this holistic approach is at the heart of AIM methodology).

Celebrating International Women’s Day with Joanna Ludkiewicz and the SheSaysSG community

Talking about mentoring, as part of the International Women’s Day celebrations in April, I had the privilege to interview a mentor of the SheSays SG community that I lead (Who’s Your Momma program) and friend Joanna Ludkiewicz. In the past 3 years, Joanna has mentored countless mentees and helped our community develop their career, prepare for interview, change job and negotiate their salary. It was great to hear her journey and how she landed her dream job of becoming an HR business partner during the pandemic. In our short 25min discussion, she also shared useful tricks to master our CV (given we have 7.4sec to make an impression) and even provided a template. View the recording, get her key points AND the CV template here (download your own editable version).

How I became a Silver certified IamRemarkable facilitator with Google Developer Group Kuala Lumpur

Few days after talking to Joanna, the International Women’s Day celebrations continued as I facilitated an IamRemarkable workshop with Google Developer Group Kuala Lumpur. It was my 4th workshop since my certification in May 2020 and after facilitating the session with my SheSays SG peeps, at work as part of Hyper Island APAC Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging (DIB) curriculum and with my Cloud Seeders community. Indeed, “practice makes perfect”! And because I impacted more than 30 participants overall in less than a year, I believe this is why I earned my Silver tier badge. It was such a nice surprise and totally unexpected. It just shows that when you help others, you end up learning something and helping yourself 🤗 I’m now able to attend exclusive trainings, facilitator summits and discussion forums. Excited about the upcoming #IamRemarkable Week 2021 in 8-15 September.

#IamRemarkable is a Google initiative empowering women and underrepresented groups to speak openly about their accomplishments in the workplace and beyond, thereby breaking modesty norms and glass ceilings. Listening to this HBR IdeaCast podcast episode How To Talk Yourself Up (Without Turning People Off), I was reminded why self-promotion is important and why attending IamRemarkable workshops helps:

“LESLIE JOHN: Yes. Sadly the answer is yes. So, for women, for example, when women outright convey their successes, they are penalized more than when men do it. And by penalized, I mean, they’re perceived as more arrogant or egotistical, more insecure, less likable, and so on. So it’s really unfortunate. And why is that the case? It’s probably because a woman’s self-promoting goes against our societal, though it’s changing, refreshingly, slowly but surely, instinct on how a woman “should behave”. I’m aggressively using air quotes because that’s, of course, not how it ought to be, but that’s just how it is. And so, unfortunately, I think women need to be particularly sensitive to these things because we face I think bigger penalties when we violate norms of what’s expected.”