Saturday, April 25, 2020

The courage to decide to do what is necessary

Just about a month ago, we made the call to safety for everyone in the company. A month past, we have to make another tough decision that will greatly affect the business and the workforce.

The US economy is at the moment in bad shape and unemployment rates have been increasing in all states. While our main market, California, reached over 1,058,325 claims as of March 28, 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought havoc to most companies, including Onerent. And as it badly damaged the business' cashflow, our leaders were put into a situation where they have to decide how to stay afloat amidst the economic recession.

This week is a tough week. We have benched more than a quarter of our workforce to be able to squeeze our operational cost to the revenue we are generating throughout this crisis. While this left most of our people in shock, there just wasn't any other option left. The blueprint for growth that we were so focused on for the past months (pre-covid19 days), has been changed to a plan for survival.

It's painful to see people undergo such circumstance, especially during these trying times. But we just have to look at the big picture with the aim to address the greater good.

Considerations are as follows:

  • We ultimately believe that as a company, we'll be able to bounce back once the pandemic ends, and once the global market resumes its normal operation.
  • There are people who is solid with their belief about the future of Onerent. From the investors, the board members, the co-founders, the executive management, the middle management, and those who are working on every scope within the entire operations.
  • We pledge an oath to serve our homeowners and renters, throughout their stay in Onerent.
  • We believe that the services we offer are essential these days. During these times of crisis and in dealing with the aftermath.
  • We believe that our business model will play a vital role as the economy gets back in shape.

Knowing all these, we just can't close down the business and call it quits. We got to do what is necessary in order for the business to survive in the hopes that it can open more job opportunities in the upcoming months, throughout its existence.

As we always value our people's welfare, the company vows for the following terms to bring aid to the families of those who are on floating status.
  • The company allowed those that are on floating status to keep the computer units and broadband modems that were brought home. Thinking that at least, by these resources, they'll be able to work on side-gigs that will temporarily generate cash to sustain their family's need.
  • The company allowed those that are on floating status to do freelancing.
  • The company allowed those that are on floating status to still avail of the medical services we have in-house, extending it to those who were given end-of-contract for the month.

Facing the harsh reality thought me a lot and brought great realizations.

The greatness of the leaders aren't seen in good times but are tested in the unwanted ones. The unprepared will become paranoid, the one who trains will be put under pressure. If you want to take the helm, you always have to decide -- regardless of the situation and circumstance, good or bad. And you have to accept the truth, that not everyone will rejoice with your decision(s) -- especially those who don't have the visibility of the big picture. Even if how much you explain the thought behind your acts, it's not going to catch people's attention -- especially those who are now selective with their thinking.

The corporate setup isn't like a startup. Yesterday was so glorious that no one thought today would come, in fire and chaos. While it's true that every day in the startup scene, it's always about life and death -- not everyone is well aware of it. In a snap, the job(s) that might be there for people to work-on might no longer be available at all. Working in a startup means, high rewards, high growth, and high risks. It's how it is, the nature of startup.

The leadership principle(s) matters most in times of crisis. When you're given the ability to decide on behalf of everyone, having a clear basis of your decisions will help you be more rational about your selection. Though this will differ in every individual, it's always good to have a solid core of your own.

PS: What makes me more proud is that, for a company that is badly wounded by the pandemic, it still stayed true to its mission towards its customers and towards its people. The promise of hope is still there.

Monday, April 6, 2020

My experience in taking AWS certification online

This write-up is timely as most tech-professionals are now stationed, working from home.
If you are into web programming, engineering, and tinkering -- you might have heard of AWS (Amazon Web Services).

As I look back to my previous self, I can still remember how I try to avoid the path of certifications. As someone who didn't have any formal education, the least I want to collect for myself is a bunch of papers, containing my name and the expertise I would tell myself, I know. Instead, I was eyeing more on the objective of earning experience and battle scars as I go onto my journey in the tech-engineering industry.

You see, I was once a good Devops Engineer, some say I am great but I'll stick to what I know and let everyone else believe what they think is true. As you work for organizations that invite you to have growth, within a short period of time, you'll see yourself working on something else. The servers that were once your battleground now shifts to people-leadership. The terminal that was once your best tool now shifts to the workforce/project management platform. The thought-process that was once only applied to yourself now shifts to influencing others to grasp the mindset.

Back to the present time, I am more appreciative of certifications and exams. Not because I find it advantageous in today's talent search world but because it gives me the cornerstone to test my know-hows over time, especially that I am no longer that hands-on to the realms of AWS.

There's a ton of resources you can utilize that enables you to prepare for any AWS exam, and this article isn't one of those. My focus in writing this article is for me to provide anyone who eyes the path of certification, the knowledge to not stumble on the same roadblocks I've encountered. Most especially to those who are planning to take the exams online.

The pitfalls:
  • DO NOT BE OVER-CONFIDENT. You might tell yourself that you already know what you need to know to be able to answer and pass the exam. Well, think twice. It would be a disgrace for someone to fail the test, especially to the one who thinks he already knows it all. Use confidence to your advantage, be confident. We all need that to boost our self-esteem so we can keep moving forward in achieving our desire, which in this case, to pass the certification exam. Here's a good resource to check out: JOCKO PODCAST - SHORT CLIP.
  • DO NOT STICK TO A SINGLE RESOURCE. While there is a course, might it be paid or free, that covers a great number of topics to prepare yourself for the exam, the context and the way things are interpreted (by the authors) might not be the same. Always cross-check, always have cross-references and make sure the source of truth is verified by others. 
    • Some of the best individuals I personally know in the field now run their own firm. If you and your team are interested in in-person teaching, focus-group learning, check out APPER PH. Often, our very own AWS HERO, Raphael Quisumbing runs a study group for free.
    • If you want more flexibility, go for online courses. Udemy, ACLOUDGURU, and LINUXACADEMY are some of the best platforms for learning. Take note that the idea of online courses is not about how fast you can finish each track but how fast you've understood and how much you've retained what is taught.
    • The resources that triumph it all are the ones that come from AWS. Check out the AWS Whitepaper and AWS Blog. You can also subscribe to the official Youtube Channel of AWS.
    • Ask questions to the official Facebook Group of AWS-User Group Philippines. Note that everyone in this group is working, so when you ask questions, you have to be as articulate as possible. Do not waste people's time by letting them probe more what you're trying to find out, instead, over-emphasize the things that confuse you.
  • DO NOT TAKE THE EXAM WITHOUT TAKING THE PRACTICE TEST. You might think, but why?. If you are really prepared for the exam, you should be able to pass the practice test. Though taking the practice test incur more cost, it's worth it. This is essential for you to determine whether you are ready or not. An additional $20/$40 USD for the practice test will serve its purpose, trust me.

The exam know-how:
  • Assuming you're ready and you've passed the practice test. You're good to proceed to the next steps.
  • Make sure you already have an account with AWS. If not, create one.
  • Visit

  • Note that only Pearson Vue offers the exams online with an online proctor checking on you as you answer each questionnaire.

  • As you schedule your exam, read each dialog carefully and make sure you understand every instruction.
  • As you go through the application process, upon you select the date of your exam, please make sure to change the timezone so you won't have any confusion with your schedule.

  • You need a credit card to pay for the exam cost.
  • Prior to your scheduled date, you will get an exam reminder as to what to prepare and what to do. Make sure to go through those steps ahead of time to avoid hassle on your exam date.
    • A software will have to be installed on your machine. This software will be tracking your activities, from the applications running on your host, to the motion recorded from your webcam, to keyboard activities.
    • You will also be asked to take photos of your table. (1) Front, (2) Back, (3) Left, and (4) Right
    • Make sure your room is quiet, closed doors if possible.
  • On your exam date, here's what you need to prepare:
    • You might be asked to redo the steps above. If so, redo.
    • Make sure your webcam, microphone, and speakers are working
    • Make sure your table (where you'll be taking the exam) is clean. No extra peripherals like a paper, notebook and other writing materials.
    • Make sure your mobile phone is not within your reach.
    • You'll be receiving a call, via an application that they'll ask you to install and you'll be welcomed by your proctor.
    • Then, you can proceed with the test.
  • Additional note. The proctor allows you to have drinking water be stationed on your table. It's always good to have a bottle handy, in case you'll be tense and get dehydrated.

I wish you luck on your upcoming exam(s).
As you acquire more knowledge and specialties, pay it forward. Teach. 

*** Bonus Track ***
The good problems:

  • I am living in Davao City. And one challenge for all AWS Professionals is that there aren't any testing centers in Mindanao. More so, there isn't any company (at least that I know of) that is offering training for AWS that are officially accredited to the organization.
  • Not like any other metro city, Davao City is still on its way of booming. Digital footprints for cloud-service oriented professionals aren't that big.