Most of us have been in a position when you felt you were ready to take on the next step. Maybe, you were in the final year of your college studies; maybe, you are a self-taught developer, or administrator. In either case, there comes a time where you feel ready to pounce, ready to take on real-world challenges. You send out CVs, you start networking, you talk to people. Some offers have already fled, you see, for they were never within your reach. Other offers are on the table, but you are not completely sure of them. What’s more, they are not completely sure of you, either.

For some people, there is this magical, ever-elusive gap of ‘almost-yes-but-no’ answers from the world around us. You go for an interview, you feel you hit it off with the people, and yet someone sends you a friendly, personalized email, apologizing, saying that it will not work out. You can sense the email is sincere. You can also sense that you almost had it. I know that happened to me a couple of times. This is especially true when you want to switch careers, like I did.

If this happened to you, you have a couple of options. You can give up, and some people do. You can continue what you were doing up to that point, and hope you’ll bridge that gap, inch by inch, however long it takes. What did I do? I turned to Red Hat for help. And let me tell you, there are so many things you can do with Red Hat!

Right from the start, you can take these completely free courses by Red Hat. For aspiring administrators, you can take and complete the Fundamentals of Red Hat Enterprise Linux course. For aspiring Java EE developers, you can take the Fundamentals of Java EE Development course. And, should you want to bridge the gap between administrators and developers, Red Hat’s got you covered with the Fundamentals of Containers, Kubernetes, and Red Hat OpenShift course, or, for example, the Deploying Containerized Applications Technical course.

This is an amazing way to really push your knowledge and skills, for free. After all, these are courses that are done by people with an incredible amount of experience in their fields! My recommendation is to take all of them. Regardless of what your dream job in IT is, the concepts from one job are often transferrable to other jobs within the industry.

These free courses may be exactly what you are looking for, and you may run with it. They give you grounding, and you can then start building and creating, reading the documentation, and you can showcase real-world projects using Linux, Kubernetes, and Java EE at your next interview. If that is you, that is amazing!

However, there are some people who love challenges. Who are problem-solvers at heart, and who do not necessarily want to stop there. These people are often determined. They want to show the world that not only they were able to build something, they know the technology. They want to prove they understand the principal concepts behind the technology. That is me, and I discovered Red Hat’s exams are an amazing way to go!

Red Hat’s exams are generally not for people who have zero knowledge in the respective area. However, I wanted to highlight two exams you can work towards from zero knowledge, and achieve them if you are determined enough.

Note, that for the exams I’m going to mention, there is one or more Red Hat’s official trainings. If you can get your hands on the training, don’t even think of doing anything else first; it’s the way to go for clearing an exam. If that is not an option for you, you should be capable of preparing for the following exams via other means.

Red Hat Certified System Administrator (RHCSA) exam - EX200

Most people know the RHCSA exam. Let me reiterate, this is not an entry exam. Still, just by preparing for the exam, you will gain a respectable amount of knowledge that will surely help you in your next interview. Should you pass the exam, that says a lot about your ability to manage a Linux server, navigate yourself in the command line, manage networking, and even to manage security and much more.

These skills are, of course, most useful to those who wish to be on the administrator side, that is mostly what is nowadays called the ‘ops’ and ‘devops’ side. Still, as a developer, there’s a large chance you will develop on a Linux platform, and I can’t tell you how many times Linux skills saved me even if I tend to be more on the ‘dev’ side of software development cycle.

This exam is mostly designed to give you a confident command of a number of Linux concepts, that will most likely come up in your career. Whether you’re setting up a software-defined network for your Kubernetes cluster, or wondering why your software cannot reach the API it needs, RHCSA has got you covered.

Red Hat Certified Enterprise Application Developer Exam - EX183

The Application Developer exam is an entry-level exam… Kind of… Maybe...  I am hesitating, because EX183 is an entry level for Java EE, but definitely not for Java. The target audience is a developer, who already has the knowledge of Java. If you aren’t that sure of core Java concepts, such as OOP, or core Java APIs, you will have a hard time preparing for this one. However, if you have knowledge of programming, and you want to get into the enterprise sphere, this is definitely the exam I’d recommend to every developer.

To me, personally, the Java EE exams, like EX183 (and its predecessor, EX225), have probably been the most valuable exams I have ever taken as a developer. By studying for it, you will learn a number of concepts that are implementation-independent, such as context dependency injection, JPA and connecting your application into a database, messaging and JMS, REST, and much more.

I’m specifically mentioning the technologies above because those are technologies I was being asked about at more than one job interview. And if there are any self-taught developers, this is probably one of the best exams you might clear. I’m not even mentioning side benefits you’ll get out of this one, like getting familiar with Maven (a dependency management tool), software development practices like test-driven development, or software development patterns. Last but not least, the training Red Hat provides for this exam, JB183, is amazing. If you could choose only one training, and you are a beginning Java developer, choose JB183!

There are many more exams I could mention. There are also many more trainings I could mention. In the end, I believe Red Hat trainings and exams provide so much value because of the desire to show the amazing capabilities of free and open-source software. The desire to be the catalyst in communities applies also to you, the learner community. The community of knowledge seekers. The community of problem-solvers, who want to tackle bigger and better challenges.

And so, if you are experiencing this gap of ‘almost-yes-but-no’ answers, for whatever reason, my suggestion is to embrace it. To use it. How? Look down into the gap, take a few steps back, and run faster than ever to jump over it. Whether you will run by yourself, or you will ask Red Hat for help… Maybe you will do a combination of the two, or you will do neither… That is up to you. The important thing to know is, you have been catalysed. It’s time to run.

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