26 September 2022

Microsoft | Learn

I decided to write a little bit about the Microsoft Learn portal. We all know that Microsoft is one (if not the) standard for many business applications and cloud offerings. They also offer certifications on their products from basic fundamentals all the way up to the expert level. But how do you learn, practice, and eventually master the skills/knowledge needed to either professionally use or become certified in any of the Microsoft family of technologies? Well, the answer is Microsoft Learn.

The Microsoft Learn portal can really meet all of your learning needs. It can provide you the documentation for any of their current product offerings. It can walk you through any of the Microsoft exams, and the skills they cover. Microsoft has put together self-paced training modules that you can use. And best of all, they basically offer some sort of module for everything they offer. If you are interested in learning anything Microsoft-related, then it really behooves you to start looking at the Microsoft Learn site to begin or supplement your learning materials.

There is so much knowledge that is just sitting there, waiting for you. If it’s a Microsoft product, and you’re interested in it, then Microsoft Learn is where you need to go!

16 May 2021

GitLab Certified Associate Certification

GitLab - GitLab Certified Associate

I’ll be honest; I’ve little experience using Git, or any other versioning software for that matter. I have had an interest in Git for a while now though. Mostly for keeping a personal code repo; scripts for working in the Azure and AWS clouds, PowerShell scripts for system administration tasks, and most recently to use to learn and deploy Docker and Kubernetes in my home lab. Previously, I just never thought that I had had the time to learn it. So when I stumbled across a link to register for FREE, for the GitLab Certified Associate (GCA) Training and Exam, I decided “What the hell. let’s do it!” (The link only lasted 2 days before they took down the free offering due to overwhelming interest, so sorry folks, I can’t provide you with the link.)

In my personal opinion, this certification is much more of a knowledge certificate than a technical certification. I feel like the course is designed to take you from 0 to drive. You cover all the basics and afterward, you’ll be able to jump right into using git without feeling like an imposter. If you have no experience, like me, this is the perfect place to start. If you’re already familiar with Git, well tough… You’ll still need to get the GCA before you can get one of their ‘specialist’ or ‘professional’ certifications. More info on their more advanced certifications can be found here.

The hands-on, self-paced, training lab was informative. There was definitely a sprinkle of marketing in there, like the inclusion of GitLab’s history. But they did do a good job of teaching the various Git concepts and terminology. They also included a bunch of labs to work on while proceeding thru the training. The hands-on portion, doing labs, was by far my favorite part. I like to learn by doing. So doing stuff like making a pull request, making changes in the WebIDE and from the command prompt, tagging code, and committing code to a project was what really made the training count. I also was able to recall that hands-on training to complete the exams later on. Like I mentioned early, I didn’t think I had the time to commit to learning Git… Well by spending 1-2hrs a night, for just a few nights, I was totally able to learn how to use Git.

The exam was twofold. One part was a “written” exam with questions you had to answer. The second part was a “lab” exam where you had to work a project and submit that project for grading. The written exam was not too bad. They give you a series of questions and you have to score 100% on them before you can proceed to the “lab” project exam. The questions dealt with terminology and things that GitLab could do. Honestly, if you did the labs, it was pretty easy as they had already covered all the information. I didn’t feel like there were any surprises or gotchas. I was a little more worried about doing the “lab” project. But again, having done the hands-on training labs, it was pretty straightforward of an exam. Some of the verbiage in the lab instructions had confused me up, and I had to reread the task it asked for a couple of times. But in the end, they again were only asking you to do stuff they had covered in the training materials. So nothing too bad if you take your time to complete it.

I feel like unless you work in development or DevOps, this is not going to be a high-priority cert for you to get. For most folks, I feel that this certification is going to more of a skill that they can add to their resume to show one more item that they are knowledgeable in. That said, it won’t hurt any to get the GitLab’s GCA if the opportunity presents itself like it did for me. You never know what you will be working on 1, 2, 5, or even 10 years from now in the future. IT is always changing. Who knows…. Tomorrow could come, and you or I might find ourselves in some sort of role needing to deploy code to a production CI/CD pipeline and using GitLab to commit our code change and push it. You never know… It could happen and when it does you’ll be happy you got yourself the GCA.

14 January 2020

IT Academy @ Stanly CC

Staying up to date and current in IT work and IT specializations is important. Things are always changing, and vendors are always introducing both new products and new paths to certification on their new products.

If you are paying for your own training and certifications, one great resource you should check out is Stanly Community College’s IT Academy. Through their IT Academy, they offering professional level training at an affordable community college price. Depending on what your looking to learn, you should take a look at what Stanly CC is offering. Stanly CC has partnerships with some big vendors in the IT space and offers online courses that will satisfy the classroom portion on your path to various certifications.

I recently have had some personal experience with Stanly CC. I haven taken two of their VMware courses; “Install, Configure, Manage – vSphere 6.7” and “Optimize and Scale – vSphere 6.7”. The courses themselves were pretty well done. Lots of in-depth videos that dived into the intricacies of vSphere environment and ESXi. They also had lots of really great labs to work through that corresponded to the videos. The hands-on labs, IMHO, were the best part. They really provided the chance to “get your hands dirty” and actually set up things like a VDS switch, configuring tag based storage policies, or running esxtop to determine which virtual machines were experiencing resource contention; just to name a few of the labs.

Overall, I was happy having gone the Stanly CC route. The skills that I learned there definitely helped me towards passing my exams and earning my VMware VCP-DCV certification. I give them a solid recommendation in terms of improving skill sets and advancing your technical knowledge.

5 October 2019

Getting your Comptia Security+ Certification

A few months back I was encouraged by a friend to get my Comptia Security+ Certification. After about 4-6 weeks of studying, I took the exam and passed with a score comfortably exceeding what Comptia considers to be its’ passing score. Woohoo!

The current iteration of the Security+ exam is call the “SY0-501” exam, and contains a maximum of 90 questions of both multiple choice and performance based questions. To pass, Comptia requires you score at least a 750, on a scale of 100-900, Which is harder then it might sound. It really is a pretty big exam, both in terms of subject matter and the sheer scope of security topics that it covers. Many people find it to be daunting and a bit intimidating – and rightly so. Comptia is also a little secretive about it’s grading policy and how it scores each question, meaning some questions might be worth more than others.

To give you an idea of what all it covers, here are just its’ overarching domains, straight out of their “Exam Objectives“:

  • Threats, Attacks and Vulnerabilities
  • Technologies and Tools
  • Architecture and Design
  • Identity and Access Management
  • Risk Management; Cryptography and PKI

That means that there is a lot of stuff that can be covered under all those topics. It’s literally all things security, and well, that is naturally a lot of stuff. I was lucky in that I have worked with many of the various aspects that the exam covers, in one form or another. I was able to draw upon that knowledge, and I know it helped me greatly. For me, using my personal knowledge and reviewing the video series I mention below was enough to enable me to pass.

The good news though is that it is not an impossible exam, even for those that don’t have any pre-existing knowledge of the subject matter. Comptia literally gives us the “Exam Objectives” in a pretty clear and concise document. Everything someone needs to know to pass, is listed right there in that document. I’m not saying it’s going to necessarily be easy… Just that they aren’t hiding what they are going to be asking you questions about. Use that as a guide. Review it and make sure you can describe what each item is and how it might be used or applied. Those objectives should be the very last thing you are reviewing before you walk into your exam.

They aren’t going to quiz you so much on vocabulary and definitions, thought it does help to know those. Their questions are going to be more along the lines of which would be the better choice in this scenario, using ‘A’ or ‘B’ or ‘C’, type of questions. One of great things about the Comptia exam is that they allow you to flag, skip over, and later revisit any question on the exam. My personal exam taking suggestion is to do all of the multiple first, then go back and do the performance ones. My reason for that is time management. It’s easy to get caught up in those performance questions and end up not having enough time to finish all the other questions. So power thru all of the multiple choice questions, then do the performance questions, then circle back and revisit and multiple choice questions you flagged and were unsure about.

In my opinion, one of the best (if not the best) resources I was able to find in my studies was, Professor Messer. He has a complete YouTube series that walks though the exam objectives, covering every bit of it. He gives lots of examples of how/where you might encounter those subjects or topics in the real world. I find having a real world example helpful. He also has some other resources like a monthly study group where he spends time going a little deeper into a study question, then follows it up with a “open line” where he takes questions about anything live on the air and answers them.

The most amazing part is that his video content and study groups are FREE! He does offer a more in-depth study guide book and notes for sale on his website, which if your particular learning style requires a book to read from, you will probably find it beneficial. You can cruise right to his YouTube channel and watch all his videos on the exam and his monthly study. And if you buy his book, you can follow right along with notes. Here is a link to Professor Messer’s YouTube Channel about the Security+ as well as his website. If you’re going to go for your Sec+ exam… Definitely check him out.

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