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My Take On the Kubernetes Certification (CKAD)

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My Experience and Feelings After Clearing the Certified Kubernetes Application Developer

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Photo by Jeswin Thomas on Unsplash

Last week I cleared the Certified Kubernetes Application Developer (CKAD) certification with a 95/100 score, and it was more difficult than it sounds even though this is the easiest of the Kubernetes certifications, the way the exam is designed and the skills that are evaluated on it make you unsure of your knowledge.

I have been using Kubernetes daily for more than three years now. Because of my work, it is required to deploy, define, troubleshoot Kubernetes-based workloads on different platforms (Openshift, EKS, AKS… anything), so you could think that I shouldn’t need to prepare for this kind of exam, and that could be the impression too. But this is far from reality.

I feel that there is no certification that you can clear without preparation because the certification does not measure how skilled you are on any other topic than the certification process itself. You can be the master of any technology, but if you go to a certification exam without any specific exam preparation, you have a lot of chances to fail.

Even in this case that we have shifted from the traditional theoretical test-case question to a more practical one, it is no different. Because yes, you don’t need to learn anything, and yes, it requires that you can really do things, not just know about a thing, but everything else is the same.

You will be asked about things you will never use in real life, you will need to use commands that you only are going to use in the exam, and you will need to do it in the specific way the expected too because this is how certification works. Is it bad? Probably… is there any other way to do it? We didn’t find it yet any better.

I have to admit that I think this process is much fairer than the test-case one, even though I prefer the test case just for a matter of timing during the process.

So, probably, you are asking if that is my view, why I try to clear the certification in the first place? There are several reasons to do it. First of all, I think certification is a great way to set a standard of knowledge for anyone. That doesn’t mean that people with the certification are more competent or better skilled than people without the certification. I don’t consider myself more qualified today than one month ago when I started to prepare for the certification, but at least it settled some foundation of what you can expect.

Additional to that is a challenge to yourself, to show you that you can do it, and it is always great to push your limits a bit beyond what is mandatory for work. And finally, it is something that looks good in your CV, that is for sure.

Do I learn something new? Yes, for sure, a lot of things. I even improved myself because I usually do some tasks, and just that alone made it worth it. Even if I failed, I think it was worth it because it always gives you something more to add to your toolchain, and that is always good.

Also, this exam doesn’t ensure that you are a good Kubernetes Application Developer. In my view, I think the exam approach is focused on showing that you are a fair Kubernetes Implementer. Why am I saying that? Let’s add some points:

  • You don’t get any points to provide the best solution for a problem. The ask is so specific that there is a matter of translating what is written in plain English to Kubernetes actions and objects.
  • There are troubleshooting questions, yes, but there are also quite basic ones that don’t ensure that your thought process is efficient. Again, efficiency is not evaluated on the process.

So, I am probably missing a Certified Kubernetes Architecture exam where you can have the definition of a problem, and you need to provide a solution. You will get evaluated based on that. Even with some way to justify the decision you are making and the thought process, I don’t think we ever see that. Why? Because, and that’s very important because any new certification exam we are going to face needs to be specific enough so it can be evaluated automatically.

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