Certification stories: Mario Rodríguez Hernández

How one technologist’s Terraform certification journey helped him refresh his career as a practitioner after being a CTO at a small firm.

The Developer Relations team at HashiCorp loves to hear from the community of certified users, learning about their motivations for becoming certified and how their certifications have impacted their careers. The first in a series, what follows is an interview with Mario Rodríguez Hernández, a technologist from the Canary Islands who’s worked in roles at the top, middle, and bottom of org charts across several companies. Mario is certified in Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, HashiCorp Terraform, Kubernetes, and many other technologies.

Lauren Carey, HashiCorp Developer Relations: Can you tell us about yourself, your background, and your experience with HashiCorp?

Mario Rodríguez Hernández: I am from Spain, from the Canary Islands, and I've worked in the IT field for more than 20 years. I started as a help agent, then I moved to system administrator, coding, and different Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) tools like Microsoft Dynamics, BC and Finance & Operations, and other kinds of tools. Eventually, I moved up into leadership, working as a CIO at different companies in the Canary Islands, and managing 10 people.

Eventually, though, I wanted to return to the more technical side of things. I was frustrated with the politics and the bureaucratic type of work I had to do. I wanted to feel the satisfaction of doing things again, of making things happen. So, that’s when I decided to pivot to a more technical role again.

During the pandemic, I started studying cloud and DevOps, and I started to prepare for and take different certifications. I now have maybe 60+ certifications. I started with the Azure certification and moved to AWS, and I am now fully certified on Google Cloud.

I also felt that Terraform and the infrastructure as code framework was an important piece of the DevOps and cloud-native fields, so I decided to go for the Terraform Associate certification as a part of my transition as well.

Lauren: Tell us about your current role.

Mario: Today is my first day at Minsait as a senior specialist in the fields of architecture and DevOps.

Mainly, I work for utilities companies in Spain and out of Spain. Minsait is part of Indra Group, which is a big company in Spain. I work for customers in Argentina, Spain, Africa, and other places all over the world, mainly focusing on utility companies and electric companies.

We have different products for utility and electrical companies, and we develop for the specific needs of the customer too. I mainly have the role of Cloud Architect, but I also participate in DevOps, pipelines, and creating infrastructure with Terraform and multiple clouds, like AWS and Azure.

Today I am working on a project with Terraform to create infrastructure in AWS. Terraform is a well-known tool in the IaC field, and having a certification demonstrates to Minsait that I know how to use this tool.

Lauren: What motivated you to earn the Terraform certification?

Mario: I chose to study Terraform, specifically, because it is the number one product in the infrastructure as code (IaC) space around the world, so I knew it would open doors to help me make the career changes I described earlier.

It implements the strategy of IaC in a tool. It helps you create infrastructure and allows you to read the infrastructure that other people have created. It gives you the opportunity to make versions of infrastructure, to experiment, to fail, and to roll back to other versions. It is a great tool to develop in, but also to work in with other people and to collaborate in, which is very important. Instead of creating infrastructure manually every time through a point-and-click cloud-vendor portal, you can write reusable code that automates this process quickly and easily.

Lauren: What role did the certification play in your career move to a more technical role? Do you think that having the certification helped you get a job at a company?

Mario: Of course. As I said before, I'm from the Canary Islands and compared to the Spanish market, it is a very, very small place. If you want to shine in the world market, you have to stand out from others, and the way that I found to stand out was with the certifications.

As I said, before: I did have knowledge of other tools and systems, but I had no certifications. I know what I am doing, but others can’t be sure. A certification is a badge proving that you know the technology.

It opened the door for me to find a job. All of the companies that gave me an interview talked to me about my certification. All of them. I'm pretty sure that if I didn’t have this certification, maybe half or more of these interviews would not have happened.

Lauren: What was your experience of preparing for and taking the Terraform Associate exam and preparing for it. Did you use any of our materials? Did you use outside materials?

Mario: I used both. I used HashiCorp’s materials, which I think are very good; the website, documentation, and sample questions are all very good. But I combined that with books related to the certification.

I practiced, of course. I had my little practice exercises. But, mainly I think that it is a very clear tool, so it is easy to learn. It's very, very logical. If you have experience with another programming language, then it's very easy to transition to. If you know a little English, all of the terms are easy to learn. It's a perfect tool.

Lauren: Do you feel more confident starting new projects because you have the certification?

Mario: Having my Terraform certification makes my employer say, “Oh you have a Terraform certification, you are a Terraform expert, I have a couple of projects for you.” If I didn’t have this certification, it would be difficult to transition onto a project like that. So yes, certification is very important for the type of projects I want to work on.

Also, my interviewer said, they didn’t have any Terraform specialists on the team, so it made me stand out that I had the certification and could be a Terraform expert for them.

Lauren: Do you have any career plans that you can envision certifications fitting into?

Mario: Now I am studying more Kubernetes and things like that. I recently passed the CKAD (Kubernetes Certified Application Developer) and am now already preparing for the CKA (Certified Kubernetes Administrator).

When you get deeper into the cloud and start to study things like Kubernetes, you feel the need to dive more into microservices, service mesh, and how to manage secrets in applications. HashiCorp Vault and Consul are perfect for that. Those certifications are on my roadmap. I don't know if it will happen this year, because I set my goals at the beginning of the year, but I surely will add another certification from HashiCorp.

Lauren: Did you know that we have a Terraform professional certification coming out? Our Professional certifications are live scenarios, so you're actually working in the application during the exam. So that'll be a good one to sort of, you know, take it to the next level.

Mario: It’s perfect, because now I have expertise with Terraform. I'm doing real projects, so that’s perfect for me.

Lauren: If someone asked your opinion on HashiCorp certifications, what would you say?

Mario: I think it’s a great certification. And taking into account the prices of other certifications, it’s inexpensive, especially considering the value you get from it. There are other certifications on the market that are quite expensive, but really I think that the Terraform Associate exam is under-priced. It is a great offer for us in the community.

I recommend studying Terraform, practicing with Terraform, and then trying to earn the certification.

Lauren: What other thoughts or stories have we not covered yet that you think might be helpful for others to know? What's something that you want to see in this interview that I didn't cover?

Mario: Oh, let me see, it's important to me that I'm a single person from a little island off of a little country, and you are talking to me from such a big company in the IT world all because I studied and I passed a certification. It means a lot to me. It serves as motivation for anyone that, if you want something, anything is possible.

Lauren: Finally, how did you celebrate when you got your certification? Did you share it?

Mario: I always share new certifications with my network on LinkedIn. I have my teammates and followers, and we share our certifications together.

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