Phew! Microsoft Ignite is over for another year, and what a year! There were tons of new announcements, especially as you would expect around cloud technologies and Azure which keeps iterating at a faster pace than ever. However, what particularly caught my attention was a change of emphasis this year, led by the senior Microsoft leadership team, in learning and certification. As a Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) for 22 years, this has always been my focus at these events, but this year has been different, in a good way.
A genuine change in how learning and certification exams are designed has taken place. As announced back in July at the Inspire conference, Microsoft released (in beta) two new exams, AZ-100 and AZ-101 that lead to the certification ‘Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate’.
Azure Certifications announced
It turns out that this certification was just the tip of the spear in a whole new generation of job role-based certifications. So, what is a job role based certification? For many years, learning products like books, instructor-led courses and online courses have been driven by the technology. Job role based, means being more real world and linked to the actual tasks that an administrator or developer or architect actually perform in their jobs.
So, the process starts with Microsoft deciding upon an idea for a job role, let’s take the example above, Azure Administrator. The next step is to invite subject matter experts to come together, and starting with a clean sheet, identify using their industry experience what list of skills someone needs to be able to perform in order to be described as an Azure Administrator (or another role). They also define very clearly what that job role is and the key responsibilities.
From the JTA, modularized training options are created with offerings in the traditional instructor-led course, online learning, exam and course books and bite-sized microlearning, such as the content you can now consume for free at www.Microsoft.com/Learn. If you have a Pluralsight or LinkedIn Learning account, watch out for new content with those providers using this new framework too.
So, if you are in the Azure space, what should you be looking for?
There are 3 new certifications available now, and more announced or in the pipeline. These fall into three levels, fundamentals, associate and expert (note the lack of MCSA/MCSE designation with this new generation).
What is potentially of interest to readers of this blog is the Azure Developer, Azure DevOps and Azure Solutions Architect roles. Note also that the Architect does not have a dependency on other associate levels first which should please cloud solutions architects who often struggle with implementation/administration level exams when they typically don’t perform those tasks.
Hey, what about if I’ve already certified in Azure? They’ve thought of that. Where there is an overlap to existing certifications, Microsoft have created transition exams to test you on the areas that are covered on the new tracks that you wouldn’t have been asked questions on before. Think of these as ‘delta’ exams. Taking a transition exam along with your pre-existing exam will earn you one of the new certifications, as shown in the table below.
|Existing Exam||Transition Exam||New certification earned|
Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions
|AZ-102: Microsoft Azure Administrator
Microsoft Azure Solutions
|AZ-202: Microsoft Azure Developer
Microsoft Azure Solutions
|AZ-302: Microsoft Azure Solutions Architect
These new job role-based pathways look like the future of learning and certification should be bright, and judging from feedback from other Ignite attendees, people are excited about them. However, get your skates on, as the transition exams are only available until the end of March 2019 and if you are still working to finish off a 70-53x exam, those will be retired at the end of 2018.
Oh, and look out for performance-based testing in the new exams where you will be given a series of tasks to perform in the Azure portal (of course you could use the cloud shell in there if you prefer CLI or PowerShell). These look really good as you are being tested on performing actual tasks in the actually portal – not in a simulation. Looks like I’d better book my transition exams – wish me luck!
Chris is a Windows MVP, delivering technical training on Microsoft technologies for over 20 years. He is an event organiser and speaker with both the Windows User Group and Microsoft 365 User Group, and he regularly presents at conferences such as MS Ignite.