How I Learned AWS

How I Learned AWS

Dec 7, 2022   ·  6 min read

Cloud computing skills, like AWS, are amongst the most sought after in the industry. Having these skills can make you highly employable, with average salaries being over $100K. 

TL/DR — I spent the last two years learning AWS in my free time and at work, eventually becoming a pro. I share my learning journey and tips throughout this article. I chose to use Pluralsight, an online education platform, to track my progress and help me learn faster. I highly recommend signing up to use their Skill IQ tests to assess your proficiency in AWS and receive helpful feedback on what you should focus your learning on!

When friends ask me what they should learn to get into the tech industry, one of my first recommendations is to become knowledgeable in a cloud platform. Of the many platforms out there, I recommend learning Amazon Web Services (AWS). However, learning AWS can be a massive endeavor. 

Here are my tips and tricks to make your learning easier, faster, and more effective.

Quick Intro to AWS

I remember my father talking to me about the "cloud" while I was in high school. I didn't understand it at the time, but I knew it was something that was changing the world. The term would remain vague and mysterious to me for many years.

What is the Cloud?

Simply put, the cloud is the internet — more specifically, it is all of the things you can access remotely over the internet, along with the infrastructure that supports such access. When something is in the cloud, it means that it's stored on hardware somewhere else other than your computer. That hardware is often distributed across massive data centers throughout the world, which allows people like you and I to access our files and favorite websites/apps whenever and wherever we are.

What is AWS?

AWS is the largest cloud provider in the world. It offers individuals and businesses a pay-as-you-go platform of services, hardware, and infrastructure to do all sorts of things in computing. AWS was the first company of its kind and is nearly bigger than its next three competitors combined!

Top Cloud Providers by Market Share

Just like its market share, AWS has a big platform, offering well over 200 services today. Don't believe me? Check out this song made by A Cloud Guru to get an idea of how many services it provides, each with their own unique purpose.

My Learning Journey

I was a complete beginner two years ago. Since then, I've moved on to now being in the 70th percentile of all AWS practitioners in the world. It took a lot of work, but it paid off. Over the course of the last year and a half, I have captured three professional AWS certifications AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner, AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Associate, and AWS Certified Machine Learning - Specialty

You can see my learning journey in the following graph, which I documented through a diligent and honest use of Pluralsight's Skill IQ product, periodically self-assessing myself as I learned about AWS Networking, Operations, Storage, etc. 

I created this graph by aggregating and averaging my assessment results across eight Pluralsight Skill IQs, namely Architecting in AWS, AWS Identity and Access Management, AWS Cloud Security, AWS Networking, AWS Operations, AWS Scalability, AWS Cloud Compute, and AWS Storage.

This growth came as a biproduct of several different approaches that I used to learn AWS. I spent many hours watching videos, reading guides, working through hands-on labs and personal projects, and learning from on-the-job experience. Through this, I've outlined three tips in the next section on how  you can also learn AWS.

Why You Should Learn AWS

Cloud computing skills are amongst some of the most sought after skills in the industry. Having these skills can make you highly employable, with average salaries being over $100K. Not only that, but knowing AWS can put you at the forefront of job applicants simply because of how popular the platform is relative to its competitors. You know that company you've been interested in applying to? Yeah, chances are they use AWS.

Aside from making you highly employable, knowing AWS can open up the world of computing to you. The platform offers free trials to experiment with their services, along with discounted prices for solo developers. Want to build an app or website? Great! Check out services like EC2, ECS, and Elastic Beanstalk to get up and running. Need a cheap place to store your personal files? No problem! S3 has got you covered. Want to play around with IoT and robotics? Take a look at services like IoT Core and RoboMaker. The list goes on and on.

As you learn AWS, you'll also gain an awareness and understanding of other in-demand skills and technologies like networking, security,  software development, operating systems, data, and more. I can't recommend learning AWS enough!

How to Learn AWS

I'm not gonna lie, learning "AWS" as a skill and technology takes time and dedication. Because of this, I highly recommend you use a curated and data-driven learning approach that will help you obtain the skills that you need NOW, rather than trying to learn everything all at once.

I've found that there's no better solution for this than Pluralsight, an educational platform equipped with courses, learning paths, and assessments authored by industry experts to help you benchmark your expertise, identify skill gaps, and speed up your learning and development. 

Tip #1 - Start by first gaining a contextual understanding of AWS

Learn more about what AWS is, what it has to offer, and how to start using its services. Below is a list of the broad skills in AWS that I recommend you focus your learning on. I personally used Pluralsight's curated course paths and assessments to help me learn each of these skills and fill in my skill gaps. If you can, I'd recommend taking advantage of these materials, especially the "Getting Started" and "Big Picture" courses, to start gathering your contextual understanding of the AWS platform. 

I'll try adding more references to free content (i.e., Articles, Youtube videos, etc.) in the future for each of these skills.


To learn more about AWS Identity and Access Management, I highly recommend watching the Pluralsight path AWS Identity and Access Management. You can sign up for a free Pluralsight trial here.

AWS Networking

To learn more about AWS Networking, I highly recommend watching the Pluralsight path AWS Networking. You can sign up for a free Pluralsight trial here.

AWS Security

To learn more about AWS Cloud Security, I highly recommend watching the Pluralsight path AWS Cloud Security. You can sign up for a free Pluralsight trial here.

AWS Architecting

To learn more about Architecting in AWS I highly recommend watching the Pluralsight path Architecting in AWS. You can sign up for a free Pluralsight trial here.

AWS Operations

To learn more about AWS Operations, I highly recommend watching the Pluralsight path AWS Operations. You can sign up for a free Pluralsight trial here.

AWS Storage

To learn more about AWS Storage, I highly recommend watching the Pluralsight path AWS Storage. You can sign up for a free Pluralsight trial here.

AWS Compute

To learn more about AWS Cloud Compute, I highly recommend watching the Pluralsight path AWS Cloud Compute. You can sign up for a free Pluralsight trial here.

AWS Scalability

To learn more about AWS Scalability, I highly recommend watching the Pluralsight path AWS Scalability. You can sign up for a free Pluralsight trial here.

Pro Tip: When starting out, the most important skills to first learn about are (1) Identity & Access Management, (2) Networking, and (3) Security. These three skills apply to all services within AWS and will provide you a foundation to better understand, deploy, and work with AWS.

Pro Tip: I watched hours of video courses to help me gain a contextual understanding of the many AWS services available. I would actually walk on a treadmill and watch videos with a tablet at the end of each day to both learn and burn some calories while doing so. Seriously, if you're planning on learning AWS, I'd recommend investing in a gym membership or an under-the-desk treadmill as a nice pairing to your study time

Tip #2 - Grow your technical understanding through strategic and hands-on learning

The best way to gain a technical understanding of AWS is to start getting your hands dirty with your own personal projects. You can do this through the use of Free Tier resources offered by AWS

As I practiced working with AWS, I used Pluralsight's Skill IQ assessments to periodically track my progress and identify gaps in my knowledge (e.g., "Skill gaps") that I could revisit through brief, module-level course recommendations. If you are not ready to work on a personal project, Pluralsight also offers many hands-on labs with walk-throughs and objectives that you can work on, instead.

Pro Tip: Try configuring your AWS deployments with the AWS CDK and your preferred programming language. This will really help you to understand the different parts involved with an AWS deployment, while ensuring that it is all saved in code! If you don't already know a general-purpose programming language, check out my article to Learn How to Program in Python. Python is a popular language that works well with the AWS CDK.

Pluralsight Skill IQ helps you to benchmark your technical understanding through periodic quizzes consisting of multiple-choice questions.

Pro Tip: Each Skill IQ question comes with an "I don't know yet" option for your answer. To get an honest assessment of your progress and skill gaps, I recommend selecting this option whenever you don't confidently know the answer to a question. 

Pluralsight Skill IQ Assessment: Architecting in AWS

After each assessment, you'll receive module-level recommendations to quickly fill your existing skill gaps.

Pro Tip: Try taking a different AWS Skill IQ once a week while you learn. Use these "Quick learning" recommendations afterwards to help fill your skill gaps faster and while they are top-of-mind.

Skill IQ recommendations

Tip #3 - Get your AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner certification

I personally am a big fan of certifications. Not everyone feels the same, but I believe that a certification objectively proves that you have an understanding and proficiency of a subject. Additionally, the pursuit of a certification is also a goal that you can hold yourself accountable towards to ensure you retain what you learn during your studies. Watching a video or reading a book on AWS is one thing, but doing so while knowing you will also have to pass an exam afterwards is another (and much better) thing. Pluralsight also has a specific learning path for this certification here – Which is the exact preparation I used for when I studied for my exam.

You can sign up for the AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner exam online. The exam is 65 questions and can be taken either in person or remotely from your preferred location. If you have the option, I'd recommend taking the exam in person. You'll avoid technical difficulties checking into your exam that way and will be in a better mindset. Trust me. I've taken two exams remotely and neither one was a positive experience. You'll be given a list of vendors (Often times technical colleges in your area) that host in-person examinations when you sign up for your exam. Pick the closest location to you.

Pro Tip: When you successfully pass an AWS certification exam, you'll be given a 50%-off voucher for your next AWS certification exam. I would recommend pursuing the AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Associate exam after attaining your Cloud Practitioner certification.

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