I thought that I would share an update of my Microsoft cloud certification journey with you. This will accompany an article that I’m working on that provides my thoughts to guide you in choosing your own cloud certification path. My path started in 2019. Let’s revisit the timeline.
Actually, late 2018, I obtained my first Microsoft certification. It was the MTA certification for Cloud Fundamentals. I had waivered for years about Microsoft Certifications through the MCP program. I was more of an architect and networking professional with limited Windows Server experience. So, I pursued other certifications, such as the CISSP and PMP. The Cloud Fundamentals MTA made much more sense to me and as the role-based certifications became available, I felt that they were more closely aligned to my expertise. So, that was the direction that I went down.
Azure Fundamentals. January 2019, I took my first role-based exam. I was preparing at the same time for the Azure Administrator exams, but felt that it was a good idea to familiarize myself with the exam process and format by taking this exam. At the time, this exam was very new. I had been around Azure for a couple of years as I built cloud services as a Product Manager. I found Nick Colyers Skylines Academy course on Udemy which was very helpful providing a structured learning environment around the objectives. I was able to pass this exam on my first attempt.
Azure Administrator Associate. February 2019. At the time that I went for this certification, two exams were required, AZ-100 and AZ-101. This changed around March/April of 2019. I again used Nick’s Skylines Academy courses, and I also found great courses from Scott Duffy. I followed the demos within both of these courses on a second laptop to get more hands-on experience. I took these exams in February a week apart and was able to clear them on the first attempt.
Azure Architect Expert. February/March 2019. I was beginning to feel pretty confident in my Azure knowledge and had gotten the certification and learning bug. I continued my path to certification with the Azure Architect Expert certifications, at this time they were the AZ-300 and AZ-301 exams. I took the first exam eight days after obtaining the Azure Administrator Associate certification. As I have told many people that I have taught and that have passed AZ-104 for the Azure Associate, this exam is very close the same objective areas of the now AZ-303. Therefore, going directly into this exam is a logical step. I passed the AZ-300 in February, and the AZ-301 exam two weeks later. Again, using Skylines Academy and Scott Duffy.
Azure Developer Associate. March 2019. At this point, I was 5 for 5 on exams in 2019. For my next exam, I stepped out of my comfort zone with the Azure Developer Associate exam. Scott Duffy again helped me through this one. His demos on Docker and App Services were invaluable for me passing this exam again on the first attempt.
Microsoft Certified Trainer. March 2019. At this point in 2019, I began to go through a transition. I was a Product Manager for a Managed Service Provider that decided to rebuild the Marketing organization from scratch by letting go of about 75 people, including me. I was given an option to apply for a position in the new Marketing organization, but chose that it was time to move on. I have always enjoyed teaching others what I know and took great joy in seeing those that I have supported and mentored succeed. So, I applied and obtained my MCT to be able to train others on Azure technologies.
Azure Security Engineer Associate. June 2019. I wasn’t completely silent in April and May, but I did not obtain any new certifications. For one, I started at a new company, but I also was not successful in a few exams, AZ-400, DP-200, DP-201, and the beta exam for AZ-500. The AZ-400 and the Data exams were beyond my current capabilities and understanding within Azure at the time. These were my first unsuccessful attempts on Azure exams, but would not be my last. I was not deterred by these unsuccessful attempts. Security has long been an area of interest to me, but was not properly prepared for the topics on the AZ-500 exam. When the exam came out of beta and I was given my score, it didn’t take me long to prepare for the exam properly and pass on my next attempt. The same will not be said for the other exams. As you continue to read, you will find that I have yet to obtain my AZ-400. The data exams also took some time and hands-on experience.
Azure Data Scientist Associate. June 2019. This exam was very interesting. I gained enough knowledge from reviewing the Microsoft Official Content used for the teaching of the course to pass this exam on the second attempt. Not a course topic that I have approached since passing the exam.
Azure AI Engineer Associate. September 2019. The AI and Machine Learning capabilities within Azure are amazing and very interesting. I put some effort over the summer in preparing for this exam after an unsuccessful attempt in June. Though I do not get involved in AI solutions often, I do enjoy teaching this content and the various real life applications that surround the services.
Over the remainder of the year, I did clear the first Data Engineer Associate exam, DP-200. I also took a few beta exams in December 2019 for MS-700, MS-600, AZ-120, and PL-900. I also had a close but unsuccessful attempt at the DP-201 exam in October.
Power Platform Fundamentals. December 2019. Of the previously mentioned beta exams, the PL-900 for Power Platform Fundamentals was the only one that I was successful. This was mainly due to a lack of material that is available to help study at the time that a beta exam is released. There was some content available for PL-900 that I used on Microsoft Learn that was very helpful in my obtaining a passing result.
To summarize 2019, eight (8) certifications obtained in twelve (12) months. I was pleased with my current success, but as many others can attest, once you begin to obtain certifications, you really start to feel like you need to collect them all…
Let’s move into 2020. Obviously, early in the year, we had no idea about how everything would play out globally come March. I had decided that my next step in certification was going to be a focus on Microsoft 365. I attempted the MS-100 exam in January unsuccessfully. I also took an attempt at the AZ-220 IoT Developer exam, also unsuccessful.
Microsoft 365 Fundamentals. April 2020. After the unsuccessful MS-100 attempt, I decided that I should probably start with the Microsoft 365 Fundamentals exam. I still feel that this is the most challenging of the Fundamentals exams simply because the services within Microsoft 365 are so expansive. I took this exam twice within the same week in order to pass it.
In May, I took a couple more beta exams that were outside my knowledge comfort zone, but thought that I’d give them an attempt. DP-300 and DA-100 were unsuccessful attempts. I am not a SQL database person or someone that has built Power BI dashboards, so I have not attempted these since the beta.
Microsoft AI Fundamentals. July 2020. I took this as a beta exam and was successful on my first attempt. Very closely aligned to the technologies taught in the AI-100 exam at the time. I had taught the AI-100 course in May, so the technology was fresh in my mind. This course is one of my favorites to teach because for someone learning Azure for the first time, having real life examples of applications helps to reinforce the material. That can be accomplished very easily with the AI and ML services.
Microsoft Data Fundamentals. July 2020. Another successful pass of a beta exam. This was again helped by my preparation previously for the DP-200 exam.
Microsoft Teams Administrator Associate. July 2020. I had attempted the beta exam for this certification unsuccessfully in December 2019. This attempt was successful as I had spent much more time around Microsoft Teams and had written training labs for my companies on-demand course.
Microsoft 365 Security Administrator Associate. August 2020. As stated previously, I enjoy learning and teaching about security. This was a fun (and broad) exam to prepare. There are so many different aspects to administering security in Microsoft 365. I was very excited to pass this exam on the first attempt.
I shifted my focus back to the Microsoft 365 Administrator Expert exams, but had another unsuccessful attempt at MS-100 at the end of 2020, and an unsuccessful attempt at MS-101 in January 2021. To summarize 2020, five (5) new certifications.
Azure Data Engineer Associate. February 2021. I determined that I wanted to complete my Data Engineer certification by taking the DP-201 exam. This time, I was able to clear it. I had recently built some labs and whiteboard designs with a co-worker that was around the data engineering architectures and services. This was extremely helpful in preparing for this exam. I passed on this attempt.
I did something outrageous one week in February, I took all four of the new SC-xxx exams that were released in beta over the course of three days. I wrote about it here: Security, Compliance, and Identity exams. Only spending a couple hours in the evening on Microsoft Learn was not the best way to prepare for these exams.
Security Compliance and Identity Fundamentals. February 2021. This was the only one of the four SC beta exams that I cleared on my first attempt. Already having my Azure and Microsoft 365 security certifications and my ISC2 CISSP were helpful in passing this exam.
Microsoft Information Protection Administrator Associate. May 2021. Not passing this in beta did not keep me from making another attempt. I re-focused on the objectives and passed this exam on the next attempt. I took this exam immediately after teaching the MS-500 course the previous week, so much of the information protection subject matter was also fresh in my mind.
Microsoft Identity and Access Administrator Associate. May 2021. The SC-300 exam for Identity and Access Administrator is a great exam. I’m currently also working on the Exam preparation guide for this exam. If anyone has prepared for the Azure or Microsoft 365 security exams, Identity and Access is a large part of those exams. This exam is 100% focused on Identity and Access. I was able to pass this exam this week and I’ll be teaching this course in June.
As you can see, I have obtained four (4) certifications in 2021. I am currently awaiting the results of the AZ-140 exam for the Windows Virtual Desktop Specialty. In addition, I want to complete my collection of the security and compliance certifications by getting the SC-200 Security Operations certification, and the Microsoft Certified Educator Expert.
Upon completing these certifications, my feeling is that I may be done for a while. My journey has taken me through Azure infrastructure, data, and AI solutions, Microsoft 365, and Security, Compliance and Identity. Your journey may be different than mine. I have provided some thoughts on your potential path in this accompanying article.