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🔖 A quick review of the new Cloud Digital Leader (beta) exam 😬

Have you heard the news yet? Google Cloud released a new beta exam.

Cloud Digital Leader is a foundational certification exam for Product Tech Leads paving the way to the cloud. I just attended the exam right after it was released in my time zone (CDT) on May 3rd, around 1:30 am.

This is a post about my observations on the beta exam. If you’re interested in this exam, you’ll find my suggestions on how to prepare for it throughout this article. So, I’m offering review and guidance. 😇

First of all, understanding the scope of the exam will be super useful:

This is a certification geared towards people with a good technical understanding of the services that can transform and scale their business using the vast opportunities happening in the cloud. However, the technical depth is not too rigorous, hence you’ll be able to answer most questions by simply differentiating use cases of the services and the products.

That being said, it is certainly not recommended to view this exam as a 10,000ft view of things. It’s more like 500ft or 1,000ft view. So I’d suggest you pay attention to differentiating and supporting qualities of each service on Google Cloud. Studying them well will serve you well during your testing session.

This is a mini Solutions Architect exam with added focus topics.

Imagine the role of a technical leader who is familiar enough to all (yes, I said all) cloud services offered by Google Cloud, who can articulate them well, understand the difference between each service, their relative strengths and purposes, as well as how to get access to compliance documents on the cloud, how to choose between different Google Cloud support options, how to control and optimize costs depending on various workloads and how to properly structure the projects and teams from the perspectives of the network, resource management, security and compliance contexts.

Basically, you’re leading the way to the cloud for your team. This exam expects you to understand the huge potential inherent in the cloud pretty well.

Things you should be cautious about:

  • Pay attention to the exam guide first and foremost.
  • Google each key concept in the guide and find relevant Google Cloud docs, pin them and study them.
  • The current learning path is not conclusive. Spending too much time on the listed courses will not disappoint you if you want to gain insight into business transformation, but it weighs a little less on the exam, so definitely support them with additional courses.
The current resources listed on the cert page.
  • Business Transformation & Product Fundamentals are beautifully crafted courses. They bring a lot of insights into an effective cloud journey. However, don’t stop after these courses.
  • Cloud Adoption Framework is also a really powerful tool. Definitely check it out.

You’re expected to know at a level of Junior Solutions Architect or at least a Junior Associate Cloud Engineer in order to effectively distinguish between different options available in the questions. Notice I emphasized “junior” as the questions are not deep enough to be at a professional level, but rigorous enough to keep you on your toes.

So definitely go over all the Google Cloud offerings in the following areas:

  1. Compute services ranging from disks and VMs to various offerings such as App Engine and Kubernetes engine just to name a few.
  2. Storage options such as Cloud Spanner, Cloud SQL, Firebase, BigQuery and many more.
  3. Big data and analytics offerings such as Pub/Sub, DataFlow, BigQuery and so on.
  4. Machine Learning options and their most proper use cases, such as when to use TensorFlow vs. when to choose BQ ML.
  5. Various migration scenarios depending on the need in question.
  6. Integrating with 3rd party Identity providers such as Google Cloud Directory sync and SSO.
  7. Various DevOps tools such as Container Registry, Cloud Build and Jenkins
  8. Distinguishing between Cloud Armor, Cloud NAT and Cloud Load Balancer, etc.
  9. Security tools such as Security Command Center and their value in the cloud ops.
  10. And of course familiarity with Cloud Operations tools such as logging and monitoring.

What to focus on while studying?

I’d say focus on strengths and distinguishing aspects of each service or option. For instance, Cloud SQL makes sense for a startup with local user base or for a company with less than 30 TB of transactional data. However, if the question is painting a background picture for a global reach, high scalability, and strong consistency, you can no longer offer Cloud SQL. Cloud Spanner is the clear choice.

Also focus on getting familiar with as many services as you can. There are a lot of topics leaking from different Google Cloud certification learning paths such as DevOps, Network, Security, Cloud Developer, etc. While this is a foundational level exam, having an understanding of as many Google Cloud service as you can will definitely help you understand and answer most, if not all, questions with better confidence. For instance, is a VPC global resource or regional? How does it work? What about firewall rules?

Another thing to focus on is your own role that is assumed in this beta exam. You are a tech lead preparing your team for success. You should get knowledgeable about your Google Cloud support options such as role-based production support, cost optimization offerings such as committed use discounts, compliance management such as Compliance Reports Manager, and various migration scenarios such as rip and replace. After all, you’re the tech lead, you should know how to find your way into the cloud.

How is this exam positioned in the cloud journey?

This is an entry level exam with ambitious goals. By repurposing the Cloud Adoption Framework, I can place this certification under the “Lead” theme and the “Strategic” maturity level. To better picture what I mean:

A screenshot taken from the Cloud Adoption Framework. Although this is for transforming your business, it summarizes the mindset you’ll need nicely as well.

So with this exam, you’re expected to think strategically under all 4 themes and especially the “Lead” theme.

That means, by the time you are ready to take the exam, you should have an idea on how to improve your team’s training collaboratively, how to organize cross-functional teams, how to make use of automation and templated workflows to prepare your architecture for scalability and have a pretty good understanding of the central identity and hybrid networks, albeit not at the professional level.

And as a leader taking this exam, you should be able to manage a group of cloud developers, solutions architects, information security and billing teams and communicate effectively with your team members. This requires you to be well-verses with all cloud offerings, migration strategies and governance aspects of the business with an eye on the transformational maturity level as you progress more into the cloud.

What courses & resources do I suggest?

Must-take:

I didn’t check out the relevant resources on cost management and Google Cloud support strongly enough and I felt sorry during the exam. My guesswork is pretty strong in such cases though. 😬

Not a must but highly-recommended supplemental resources:

  • Cloud Architecture with Google Cloud Professional Certificate. This will help you prepare for the SA and ACE as well.
  • If you already hold professional certifications, doing a quick review of the courses you previously took will help refresh your knowledge.
  • Top courses on Udemy and A Cloud Guru on Associate Cloud Engineer and Solutions Architect will also help you prepare for this certification, obviously. 🙂 Remember to add the courses above to your study though. I will leave this section to your googling skills.

The GA exam will probably be different and might cover less topics than stated above. If you over-study for this one, you’ll thank me later for the professional exams.

I hope I was able to pass on this attempt. We shall see. 🤲

And, I hope this quick review helps you better prepare for the exam and become a Cloud Digital Leader who is focused on strategic, agile and secure integration with and migration to the cloud.

Lastly, thank you to the Google Cloud training team for putting together such a great foundational certification. 👏👏👏

Best wishes to everyone preparing for this beta exam! 💚💚

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