When it comes to money, I don’t like to spend it. Furthermore, one of the key tenets to writing is ‘write what you know’ or so says a few people anyways. So here we are. There is a lot of training out there so in the following I hope to provide stuff that’s not only free/almost free but stuff that’s actually good content and worth your time. Even if you are not getting any of the following for ‘free’ because you are not in the Air Force, you can at least get a bit of insight into a few learning platforms and what I find valuable in each.
Access to O’Reilly books can be had by any current military member through the MWR library system. MWR libraries has had available subscriptions to O’Reilly for a long time, way back when they were called Safari Books. These days, not only does O’Reilly provide thousands of digital books, they also offer cloud labs and sandboxes to try out code so you can get a bit of hands along with their book offerings. O’Reilly also has a bunch of video on demand courses and most Packt publishing books.
If you were to purchase this great service on your own it would run you $49/month or $499/year. If I had just $50 to spend on training this is probably where I’d spend it. The amount of content you get here is just unparalleled. Just getting every book by the Manning and No Starch publishing are worth it on it’s own.
DigitalU or DU for short, is a new offering for those in the Air Force. It’s main page tries to get you organized into specific training goals. Once you actually begin a course, skill or goal you are then redirected to one of their many platforms that actually provides the training.
While I currently don’t use Digital University the way it’s intended, as I find it’s UI difficult and non intuitive, it allows access/subscription to some great resources. Namely, DataCamp, Cloud Academy, Udemy and Pluralsight. To get to these websites, you search for a course or skill path within Digital University and then pay attention to who is providing the course, regardless of whether you are interested in that course in general:
Once you click on ‘continue’ or ‘start next’ you will be redirected to the platform I’ve outlined in the rectangular box. Now you can do anything within that particular platform/website, and that’s usually how I navigate and use this resource.
DataCamp has been an absolute joy to use. So far, I’ve completed four courses introducing Python data science concepts. It’s got short explainer videos and then you spend most of your time doing related exercises. Here is the common interface for most of your exercises:
In here you can try stuff out on the iPython Shell before running your script, look at the slides if you need a little help with syntax, get help with a hint if you’re a bit stuck. I just think this is such a great learning tool/environment. I plan to keep using DataCamp to learn some data science skills as I think it’s valuable to get more comfy with Python in general but even more so to wrangle large datasets into something useful no matter where I find myself. If you were to purchase this subscription on your own it would run you $39/month or $300/year. A quick aside, I always prefer the month approach to subscriptions as you never know what sort of projects/interest you maybe in 8 months from now.
This is my other favorite platform whose access is provided by Digital University. So far I’ve completed a Docker and Kubernetes learning path. The video instruction is really clear and concise yet their labs are where this platform really shines. Every lab requires you to access a cloud provider and some initial setup no matter if the topic you are covering is strictly cloud or not. To do this they give you a username and password to Azure or AWS for example and you are on your way. The lab guides are also top notch as I’ve found nothing unclear or incorrect which means they are staying up to date with the ongoing changes of each cloud provider to make sure their labs are accurate and on point.
I just started Microsoft Azure Fundamentals today and hope to test on AZ-900 by mid November. More on Microsoft certifications later in this post. The cost of Cloud Academy if you were to purchase this on your own is, at the time of this writing, $39/month or $399/year.
Pluralsight and Udemy
The last two big offerings through Digital University are Pluralsight and Udemy. I’m not the biggest fan of either platform, so I’m not here to tell you how awesome they are. See how that works. Pluralsight in it’s defense, may have the best mobile app out of the bunch. So if you find yourself with a long commute, and enjoy some of the courses, you may find a home with Pluralsight. The best use I’ve got out of Udemy thus far are the practice tests associated with certifications. There are a few courses that are nothing but some very well written practice exams. Cost for both platforms are comparable to DataCamp and Cloud Academy’s pricing.
Splunk offers free training to veterans. Once verified with your ID.me you’ll have access to many eLearning courses and eLearning courses with labs. Each class with labs is a $300 value. I first got started with Splunk Training with Splunk 7.x Fundamentals Part 1 (eLearning). It seems they broke apart the Fundamentals training into the smaller eLearning modules. Furthermore, instead of having you install a local instance of Splunk to go through the labs, they have you use a cloud instance. Other than that, the training seems to be about the same and of the same quality.
Although I use Elastic for most of my work related tasks, getting acquainted with Splunk, learning how to parse large amounts of data to make useful insights will be great for anyone. While most eLearning training is free from Splunk, you are saving $300 per course with labs and able to get valuable hands on experience.
VetSec is probably the coolest program out there for veterans. I’m not currently active but have been in the past yet continue to have a smile on my face whenever Thomas Marsland (VetSec Board Chairmen) posts come across my LinkedIn feed. As I’m interested in training, I’m continually impressed by what they have put together to offer the military community. Furthermore, their slack channel is where the true magic happens. From mentoring to resume help to job posting to special training opportunities there is an abundance of help there for anyone who needs it. If you need more direction/help/community do not hesitate to sign up with VetSec.
Hopefully this post introduced you to a few new ways to save a few dollars and get some quality training, and at the very least make sure you get connected with VetSec.
Free Microsoft Certs
As mentioned above, I just started going through the Microsoft Azure Fundamentals learning path in Cloud Academy. Well one reason for doing so is because Microsoft is currently offering 100% discounted exam vouchers to those in the Air Force. The discount looks to expire 6/30/2023:
To ‘get’ the discount you simply enter your .mil email before heading to checkout:
So I’m giving Azure a try, you can also do the associated learning path through Microsoft as well but I’m going to stick with Cloud Academy and see what happens. I’ll report back.