So the most valuable cloud engineers or developers in many established organizations don't necessarily have loads of certifications. Instead, they bring extensive experience in IT infrastructure and have hands-on experience with the cloud and a habit of self-taught learning. I think there are two sides to cloud certifications and I want to cover both.
I'll start with the pros, cloud certifications or certifications in general in IT, this has been a long-going debate and just like everything there are upsides and downsides. So one of the great benefits of certifications is they provide you a structured learning path to understand a particular cloud provider or technology. What I mean by that, let's take an example of the AWS Certified Developer Associate certification, if you take that certification, it shows you a structured path on all the tooling that's available in AWS for developers: AWS CodeBuild, CodePipeline, Version Control, etc. and how you might use them.
My point is you get a structured learning path to learn these skills. Similarly, with DevOps Engineer Certificate both in Azure or AWS, it gives you learning paths to learn the tools that are needed by DevOps engineers which are provided by AWS or Azure. So you learn about Azure DevOps, how you can build CI/CD pipelines, and how you can have version control in Azure DevOps. So for a structured learning path, I think certifications are great!
There's also one very important point Cloud based certification has been a very good way for people to transform their careers, especially if you compare it to traditional degrees, these are a lot more affordable. And just like me, there are 1000 others who didn't have computer science degrees but were able to pivot into the cloud or were able to start their careers in the cloud through these certifications.
Now, I want to talk about the cons.
One of it being theoretical knowledge. I've seen a lot of exam dumps being shared on the Internet. And that defies the entire purpose of you learning a new cloud provider or a new skill! Because then you're just doing it for the sake of passing the exam and it just doesn't hold any real value, you won't be able to answer some tough questions during interviews if you don't understand the underlying technology. I feel like a lot of the cloud certifications right now are based on theoretical knowledge and can be cracked through exam dumps or doing practice exams.
Another con can be, that you might not have prior experience and you can pass cloud certifications with no experience working in the cloud even though there are certifications that would say you need six months hands-on experience which I think you should have because lack of in-field experience working with cloud sometimes creates dissatisfaction from the hiring teams. However, if you can justify that, through the right projects or making sure you have built two or three solid projects in the cloud utilizing different services, and you're able to answer questions about why you chose those services, what were some decisions you made when picking those services and designing the architecture for your projects. I think this con can be avoided.
So I would say certifications are good for structured learning paths. Even if you don't sit these certification exams but just go through the learning path because you'll get a proper structure on which service to start with first and what are some fundamentals you need. Cons being: People have been cracking certifications without really knowing the underlying fundamentals and just going through practice questions and passing those certifications. I think that defies the purpose of you upskilling to get into the cloud. That's my take on either certifications in IT or cloud are worth it or not.