Viktoria Semaan is a Senior Partner Solutions Architect at Global Strategic Partnership, Amazon Web Services. She is 5x AWS certified and a true inspiration to Women in Tech. Being a proud mom of 3 kids under five years old, she turned challenges into motivation to learn and achieve her goals.
When we reached out to her to share her experience with each certification, her quick response showed us her passion for coaching and mentoring others. She finds time to guide many young people to choose the right career through her LinkedIn profile. She is self-driven to organize and lead learning and development initiatives whenever she can. Her expertise ranges from Industry 4.0, Internet of Things (IoT), Computer Vision, AWS Cloud, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence (AI/ML), Program Management, and many more. The more she learns, the more she coaches everyone who needs guidance. She will continue her efforts to introduce More Women to the Cloud!
Follow Viktoria Semaan on LinkedIn for AWS training and certification tips, IoT and ML/AI solutions demos, interview tips and job opportunities!
In this article, Viktoria talks about the challenges she faced during her 5x certification journey, steps she has followed to overcome those challenges, her beginning of certification path, and her advice to women in tech.
1. Your story is really inspiring to all women in tech. You are a mom to 3 children below 5 years of age. Yet, you were able to take out time for your career, worked hard and got your 5th AWS certification! On behalf of all working women and mothers, let me ask the first question – How Did You Do it?
Every year I set goals on New Year’s Day. Achieving an AWS certification was on my professional development list for this year. However, achieving it was not as easy as I initially thought. I started a new job and had a newborn, thus leaving almost no time for myself.
A couple of years ago, I achieved 3 AWS certifications in 6 weeks and became the first woman certified in Machine Learning at Accenture. I was able to achieve this by diligently following the training plan that included spending several hours per day watching videos, doing labs, or practicing test questions. This time, I could not find even 1 hour a day to sit next to my computer to watch videos or do labs.
I realized that I must change my training strategy to fit into my new lifestyle. Instead of trying to find 1 hour a day, I started looking for 15 minutes. Instead of watching videos on my computer, I installed the A Cloud Guru (ACG) application on my phone. I watched lessons whenever and wherever I had time – even 5 minutes waiting in line in grocery stores were helpful!
Staying consistent with taking micro-steps was the key to achieving the certification.
2. Tell us about the challenges you faced during your certification journey, and how you were able to overcome those challenges.
There were several work streams that I was pursuing at the same time. I had to balance my limited time by prioritization and time-blocking.
The challenge with any learning is that if you take a prolonged break then you might start forgetting the study materials. So, it is essential to keep making steady progress every day.
There were days when I spent only 15 minutes studying for the certification. However, even this small progress was still beneficial, and it helped me to stay motivated.
3. What made you start your certification journey? What role does a certification play in your career?
Professional Certifications played a pivotal role in my career. A professional certification sets you apart from other job candidates. AWS recruiters reached out to me and offered to interview for a position because they were looking for certified and experienced candidates.
Regarding my last AWS Developer Associate certification, I wanted to learn more about Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) process and enhance my knowledge in programming tool kits. CI/CD has now become an integral part of modern software development cycles.
I feel confident and empowered supporting my partners development teams and advising them on implementing the best practices throughout the software development life cycle (SDLC).
Read Viktoria Semaan’s article on Top 10 resources to use while preparing for AWS Certification Exams!
4. What is your advice on selecting/choosing the right certification path? What factors should one keep in mind?
I would advise anyone to start with an entry level certification and gradually increase the difficulty. AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner (AWS CCP) is great for beginners because it does not require technical background or cloud experience.
I started with AWS Cloud Practitioner Certification (foundational level) then achieved AWS Solutions Architect Associate (associate-level). After that, I pursued AWS Machine Learning Specialty Certification. This year I am aiming to achieve a professional level certification.
AWS Specialty certifications have deep and narrow focus areas. They are good for candidates highly experienced in a specific area of AWS. Both professional and specialty certifications require multiple years of hands-on professional experience and extensive exam preparation.
5. As you know, the AWS Certified Alexa Skill Builder – Specialty exam was removed from the AWS Certification path recently. Being an Alexa Skill certified personnel, what do you think about this move of AWS?
I think the challenge with Alexa Skill Builder Certification was that it had a narrow focus area. Other certifications cover a broader set of services. Perhaps, it will be replaced with some other certification that would be more relevant to the current market demands.
6. Rank the 5 certifications that you have achieved, on the basis of their difficulty level. (1 being the most difficult, 5 being the least difficult.)
- 1 – AWS Machine Learning Specialty
- 2 – AWS Solutions Architect Associate
- 2 – AWS Developer Associate
- 3 – Alexa Skill Builder Specialty
- 4 – AWS Cloud Practitioner
Associate level certifications have similar difficulty and require the same level of preparation.
7. What are the tips and tricks you would suggest for anyone who is preparing for a professional certification?
Surround yourself with like-minded individuals, join professional or study groups. Not only will you get motivation from people pursuing similar goals but also learn about the opportunities that the new skills will make available to you.
A quote that motivates Viktoria Semaan everyday is “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and starting on the first one.” – Mark Twain.
8. Which certification are you aiming for next?
AWS Certified Data Analytics and AWS Solutions Architect Professional.
9. What is that one thing you would like to convey to all the cloud enthusiasts, especially women?
As you learn new skills, make every effort to teach others. This is a great way to put your knowledge in practice and help others achieve their goals and grow as a community of professionals.
Thank you so much Viktoria for your valuable time! You are truly an inspiration to Women in Tech!
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