Category: Training

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First ever Azure & AI Conference in Las Vegas!

I’m thrilled to be a part of the inaugural Azure + AI Conference in Las Vegas on December 3-6, 2018! Co-located with DevIntersection we will have a first of its kind Azure and AI focused conference! Join me along with industry experts Scott Guthrie, Zoiner Tejada, Michele Leroux Bustamante, Eric Boyd, Donovan Brown and Scott Hanselman.

You will have the opportunity to train and network with the Microsoft engineers and Azure & AI industry experts. Registrants who sign up for the conference and workshops will take home some great hardware such as a Surface Go, XBOX and more. The convergence of cloud and AI open entire new worlds of opportunities to achieve new capabilities, but also a lot of new technologies to learn. 

Save $100 by using the Code “BuildAzure

The convergence of cloud and AI open entire new worlds of opportunities to achieve new capabilities, but also a lot of new technologies to learn. Whether you are a born in the cloud developer looking to increase your AI capabilities, or a data scientist looking to understand how to build powerful AI in the cloud using the tools you already know and love or if you are a data engineer with some expertise in both, but want to learn about the latest in cutting-edge approaches, the Azure + AI conference is the one place you can attend that will help you tie the Azure and AI together in order to build amazing AI-powered solutions. In this casual environment, experts are here to talk to you, share their knowledge and experience and to help you build the knowledge, skills, and network you need to succeed in your Azure + AI endeavors.


New Big Data and Web Dev Microsoft Professional Program (MPP) Tracks Open for Enrollment

Last year Microsoft launched the new Microsoft Professional Program (MPP). This is the latest initiative from Microsoft to provide training and an educational platform to help fill the ever growing skills gap in IT. Initially, Microsoft launched the program with a single track; the Data Science Microsoft Professional Program (MPP) track. Due to the huge success of this initial track, Microsoft announced earlier this year they are expanding the Microsoft Professional Program to 2 more additional tracks; Big Data and Front-end Web Development.

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Renew MCSD & MCSE Annually by Retaking Certification Exams

In the past once you passed a specific Microsoft certification exam you were not allowed to retake that exam again, ever. After all, there wasn’t really any benefit to since you passed the exam and it counted towards earning you a specific certification. Back then the exams did not undergo any major updates or restructuring until they were retired and replace with a brand new exam on the latest technology and product releases. With the recent changes and restructuring of the Microsoft certification program, the exam are now getting updated periodically and you will now be able to retake an exam after such updates have been made.

As of March 17, 2017, the necessary changes have been put into place to allow for exam to be retaken on an annual basis. After a period of 365 days from the date you pass a certification exam, you will now be able to retake that exam again. This will allow for you to retake a particular exam, or at least the most recent update of that exam, to be used as the qualifying elective exam necessary to renew an MCSD or MCSE certification and keep it active for the current year.

Currently, the exams eligible to be retaken are:

This new retake policy is a really great improvement. It was previously assumed that only a new elective needed to be passed every year to keep the MCSD or MCSE certifications current for the given year. If this were required then you would be required to keep learning new technologies and product releases to pass an exam even if they didn’t relate to you job duties. However, by allowing already passed exams to be retaken annually, you will now be able to renew and keep up-to-date by continually brushing up and maintaining the exam skills that pertain to your daily job duties over time.

This change goes along with the other improvements being made to the Microsoft certification that are really making the program much better than it was in the past by keeping the certifications relevant and useful.

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Microsoft Professional Program (MPP) Expanding with More Tracks

The Microsoft Professional Program (MPP) is the most recent program from Microsoft to provide training and an educational platform in an effort to help fill the growing skills gap. According to Microsoft there are 1.5 million jobs going unfilled as a result. The program was initially launched with a Data Science track and has been a big success.

In the Data Science track of the Microsoft Professional Program (MPP) there have been nearly 4,000 learners enrolled in the program since July 2016. There has also been over 700 graduates of the program develop their skills and earn the Data Science certification.

There has also been over 700 graduates of the program develop their skills and earn the Data Science certification.

As was announced in October 2016, Microsoft is following through with a planned expansion of the Microsoft Professional Program. This expansion is brining with it the addition of 2 new tracks to the program. The 2 new tracks are:

  • Big Data – The track will teach the skills required to design systems for capturing, processing and analyzing big data.
  • Front-End Web Development – The track will focus on developing skills with programming languages, standards, libraries, and frameworks ranging from HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to frameworks such as Angular, Bootstrap, and jQuery.

New Big Data and Front-end Web Development tracks are being added to the program.

Enrollees in the Microsoft Professional Program are getting a new benefit added to the program. The new benefit is the addition of a free 12 month Pro membership to Gooroo is a resource for learners interested in careers in technology that will give them access to employment opportunities from some of the world’s leading tech startups and corporations.

The overall price for the completion certificates for each of the courses in the Microsoft Professional Program is also increasing. Previously, the majority of the courses for the program would cost $49 to receive a certificate of completion for each course. While enrollees are also able to audit each course for free. The free course auditing is remaining, but the fee for the certificate of completion of each course will be increasing to $99. This will result in an increase of the full program from costing approximately $500 USD for the Data Science track to the new cost of nearly $1,000 USD. This is somewhat of a significant cost increase but still far cheaper than a technical college or university degree. Additionally, the reason for the cost increase is to help pay for the cost that Microsoft has been putting into the development of the program tracks and courses.

In addition to the above, there are a few other smaller changes and updates being made to the program. Overall it’s been a fairly good success so far, and will undoubtedly keep growing with the expansion of the 2 new tracks in Big Data and Front-end Web Development.


Microsoft partners with Opsgility to level up your Azure skills

Alongside the Visual Studio 2017 launch event, Microsoft and Opsgility have announced a partnerships offering all members of the Microsoft Dev Essentials program free access to Opsgility on-demand, video training service. This benefits brings a 3-month subscription to that grants access to the Opsgility industry leading Microsoft Azure cloud training courses.

Opsgility is the global leader in Microsoft Azure cloud technology training for Developers, IT Professionals, and Architects. They are built around an esteemed network of industry experts and technical authors that includes Microsoft MVPs and Microsoft Insiders from all around the globe.

Opsgility provides Live, Instructor-led (both onsite and virtual) training courses as well as self-paced, online courses that go above and beyond simple videos or blog posts. Each course is designed to comprehensively guide the student through the subject by providing expert instructors, step-by-step hands-on labs, and knowledge measures to assess and ensure new skills are mastered.

Microsoft Dev Essentials offers developers many great benefits. Now those benefits include the best Azure training available! You join Microsoft Dev Essentials, as well as see the full benefits list, at:


My recent Azure Training Courses on

As you may, or may not, be aware, my day job is working as a Senior Cloud Solution Architect at Opsgility. My job duties are generally the normal duties of a Senior Solution Architect, but I focus entirely on Microsoft Azure. It’s also my job to build out training content (courses, slides, demos, hands-on labs, etc) and as an instructor to deliver that content (on-demand video recordings and instructor led classes online and in-person). The primary goal of Opsgility is to enable businesses and teams in the Cloud.

On-Demand Azure Training

I know I haven’t posted much here on my day job with Opsgility, but I thought I’d share a list of some of the on-demand courses available from Opsgility that I’ve created, recorded, and published to the Opsgility video streaming service recently.

Here’s a list of my recently published Azure training and Microsoft Certification prep courses at Opsgility:

When signing up for an subscription, you’ll get a free trial initially to try out the service, before billing begins. I recommend you check out the service! I don’t only recommend because I work at Opsgility, but because we have the most up-to-date Azure training, and certification content in the industry. As a testament to our content, many large corporations, including Microsoft, hire us to train their Developers, IT Pros, and Database Engineers in Microsoft Azure.

Instructor-Led Azure Training

Opsgility offers MANY different Instructor led classes online as well as in-person. We train Microsoft as many other large corporations in Microsoft Azure all over the world! Personally, I’ve taught classes in many cities across the United States, as well as classes in Canada and Germany.

Here’s a short list of just a few of the Instructor Led classes that I’ve either built, taught, or both:

  • Azure Fundamentals – This course introduces key concepts for cloud computing and how Microsoft Azure aligns with those scenarios. Students are introduced to several key Azure services and solutions that align with the following technical disciplines including Infrastructure as a Service, Hybrid Cloud, Application Development, and Big Data and Analytics.
  • Designing and Implementing IoT Solutions – This course provides a comprehensive introduction to designing and implement Internet of Things (IoT) solutions on Microsoft Azure. The course covers both directions of message flow from device-to-cloud and cloud-to device, building analytics solutions atop the real-time telemetry, managing devices and securing the solution.
  • Architecting Azure Solutions – Exam 70-534 – This course is designed to help students gain valuable and in-depth architecture skills on Microsoft Azure along with gaining the essential skills to pass Microsoft Exam 70-534. This course will put the students through several interactive architecture sessions where as one or more teams they will design the appropriate solution to address an architecture scenario based on several services in Microsoft Azure.
  • Developing Cloud Solutions with Azure .NET – Exam 70-532 – This course is designed to introduce students to developing cloud based applications using Microsoft Azure and the Azure .NET SDK. This course covers key compute technologies such as virtual machines, cloud services, and App Services, as well as teaches how to build a developer environment and compose new applications using platform-as-a-service (PaaS) components.
  • Developing Cloud Solutions with Azure using Java – Exam 70-532 – This course is designed to introduce students to developing cloud based applications using Microsoft Azure and the Azure Java SDK. This course covers key compute technologies such as virtual machines, service fabric, and App Services, as well as teaches how to build a developer environment and compose new applications using platform-as-a-service (PaaS) components.

I know many of you reading this may already have a Pluralsight subscription, but you should know Opsgility training content on Azure is more up-to-date and is updated more frequently! That’s one of the big differences with Opsgility having expertise on staff, rather than solely relying on contractors like Pluralsight.

Disclaimer: The opinions express in this blog post and throughout my blog are my own. They do not reflect that of my employer, Opsgility. I also don’t mean any offense towards Pluralsight or Pluralsight Authors. Pluralsight has many great courses to learn all sorts of things, it’s just in my strong opinion that the way Opsgility does Azure Training courses is superior. Thanks!


Searchable Azure Book Catalog from Build Azure

It’s generally difficult to find a good book on cloud and Microsoft Azure related material to help learn from. This can be extremely frustrating when you’re new to a technology and are looking for a concise source to get up to speed, and good books are the perfect solution to this. After some deliberation, I’ve decided to start a new project for Build Azure. The new project is the Build Azure Book Catalog, and it’s located at


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Free Microsoft Tech Summit Events in 2017

The Microsoft Tech Summit provides Free, two-day technical training for IT professionals and developers with experts who build the cloud services across Microsoft Azure, Office 365, and Windows 10. These events are being hosted ALL over the world, and you don’t want to miss out on this amazing free training! It doesn’t matter if you already know your way around the Microsoft cloud, or are completely new and just getting started.  These events boast 70 technical training sessions and hands-on labs to help build up your cloud skills. Plus, you’ll have an opportunity to connect with Microsoft engineering experts, technology partners, and your industry peers who can all help you make the most out of the Microsoft cloud!

Find a city and Register for an event near you!

Which cities?

Here’s a list of the currently published Tech Summit events around the globe:

  • Amsterdam – March 23 – 24
  • Birmingham – March 27 – 28
  • Chicago – January 19 – 20
  • Copenhagen – March 30 – 31
  • Bangalore – March 16 – 17
  • Frankfurt – February 9 – 10
  • Johannesburg – February 6 – 7
  • Milan – March 20 – 21
  • Seoul – April 27 – 28
  • Singapore – March 13 – 14
  • Washington D.C. – March 6 – 7

The above cities and dates are just the Tech Summit events in 2017. There were already a number of  awesome events held in 2016 (last year) in Taipei, Prague, Toronto, Sao Paulo, Mexico City, and Tel Aviv!!

Daily Agenda

The daily agenda for the 2 day long Tech Summit events is packed full of Sessions and Networking opportunities! Here’s a breakout of the daily agenda both days.

Day 1 Conference Agenda

  • Breakfast – Registration and Continental Breakfast
  • Morning – Keynote & General Sessions
  • Lunch & Networking
  • Afternoon – IT Pro & Developer Breakouts
  • Reception – Ask the Experts Reception

Day 2 Conference Agenda

  • Breakfast – Continental Breakfast
  • Morning – General Sessions AND IT Pro & Developer Breakouts
  • Lunch & Networking
  • Afternoon – IT Pro & Developer Breakouts

Go Register Now!


Microsoft Professional Program (MPP) Open Enrollment

data_science_illustrationThe Microsoft Professional Program (MPP) is a new attempt from Microsoft to provide a training and educational platform to help fill the ever growing skill gap in the technology industry. According to Microsoft there are 1.5 million jobs awaiting qualified candidates, and the MPP programs goal is to help fill this huge need in better training candidates.

What is the Microsoft Professional Program?

The self-paced training spectrum is made up of certifications on the more self guided end to online courses on the more structure guided end. Both of these are very different than a traditional degree in the facts that they both focus more on the latest technologies and leave out any “general education” stuff. Basically self-paced training, both online courses and certifications, offer no fluff, to the point method of learning and proving skills in a given topic area.

The different between these more self-paced training options and higher education degree programs has really been quite large. As a result, there has been an ever growing skills gap in the technology world. Once someone earns a degree their skills immediately start to become outdated and eventually obsolete. So they need to keep learning new technologies all the time, however it can be difficult to decide what to learn.

There has been an ever growing skills gap in the technology world.

When looking at someone new to the technology industry, they generally have absolutely no idea where to start or what technologies to learn. To solve this people look at job listings as well as what’s popular online in general or with self-paced training course vendors. This generally leaves them with very little direction unless they choose to go with a higher education degree program.

The overall skills gap in the industry not having enough trained professionals to fill available open jobs affect those who are in college, after college, and working to learn new skills using self-paced courses. Unfortunately, there isn’t much in the way of guidance available.

This sort of confused state of the technology industry as a whole not knowing what to learn to fill the skills gap is a growing problem. There are self-paced course companies like Pluralsight,, and others that are attempting to provide a solution. There are also vendor specific certifications like those from Microsoft that are attempting to provide a solution as well. While there are times when these can be very complimentary, it generally leaves a divided and confused industry thrashing to fill the skills gap needs.

The new Microsoft Professional Program (MPP) provides more of a middle ground between traditional higher education and what is provided by self-paced course and certification options. While it seem more helpful for those new to the technology industry, it looks to provide the direction many experienced in the industry are looking for to help them as well. The way it provides the middle ground is that it provides both individual courses and verified certificates of completion  as well as guided direction for what courses to take and skills to learn.

The goal of the Microsoft Professional Program is to help fill the skills gap with qualified candidates.

In a way, the Microsoft Professional Program (MPP) is a sort of a hybrid between higher education and self-paced, online courses or certifications. While it’s certainly not a replacement for any of the three other learning / training options, it’s aimed to fill a need for people those other options don’t fit, as well as help prepare more skilled professionals to be able to fill the ever growing skills gap.

Information about the Microsoft Professional Program (MPP) can be found at

FYI, originally, the Microsoft Professional Program (MPP) was named Microsoft Professional Degree (MPD) program. Microsoft hasn’t stated why they renamed it since it’s initial announcement 3 months ago, but it’s likely due to some pushback and confusion in calling it a “Degree.”

Available Program Tracks

The Microsoft Professional Program (MPP) is still new, and currently there is only 1 program track available. The very first MPP program track available is:

  • Data Science

The reception of the MPP program as gone over very well so far, so Microsoft has announce they will be adding 2 more tracks to the program in 2017. These new MPP program tracks will be:

  • Big Data Engineering
  • Front-End Web Development

The number of MPP program tracks Microsoft is eventually targeting hasn’t been announced. The curriculum of the Data Science track looks promising, and the 2 new tracks will likely follow suit.

Degree Pricing and Auditing

edX-cert-verified-thumbThe cost of the entire Microsoft Professional Program is broken out so that students will pay for each individual course to get a Verified Certificate that will provide proof for them to earn the Microsoft Professional Program track in Data Science. It’s $49 for each of the verified certificates from, with the exception of the orientation class that’s $25 and the “Statistical Thinking for Data Science and Analytics” that’s $99. This comes to a total of about $500 USD for all the verified certificates required.

When the additional tracks are announced / available the prices for their courses will likely be very similar, if not exactly the same.

Where to Signup?

The Microsoft Professional Program website has further information on the courses necessary to complete the program tracks available. If you’re interested in one of tracks in the MPP program, you can signup at the following link:

Note, at the time of writing this, the Data Science track is the only current track available in the program, and Open Enrollment has just opened for anyone who is interested to signup and start taking courses!

Data Science Track Curriculum

The curriculum of the Microsoft Professional Program (MPP) Data Science track is broken out into 9 courses, as well as a final Capstone Project that needs to be completed to achieve the MPP Data Science certification.

Here’s a simplified breakout of the courses:

Unit 1 – Fundamentals

Course 1: Data Science Orientation
Course 2: Querying Data with Transact-SQL
Course 3: Analyzing and Visualizing Data with Excel OR Analyzing and Visualizing Data with Power BI
Course 4: Statistical Thinking for Data Science and Analytics from Columbia University

Unit 2 – Core Data Science

Course 5: Introduction to R for Data Science OR Introduction to Python for Data Science
Course 6: Data Science Essentials
Course 7: Principles of Machine Learning

Unit 3: Applied Data Science

Course 8: Programming with R for Data Science OR Programming with Python for Data Science
Course 9: Applied Machine Learning OR Developing Intelligent Apps OR Implementing Predictive Solutions with Spark in Azure HDInsight

Unit 4: Capstone Project

Project: Cortana Intelligence Competition

As you can see above, a few of the course areas have multiple options to choose from for which courses to take. For example, on the programming side you can choose between either Python or R to focus on. You can also choose between focusing on either Excel or Power BI for visualization as well. It’s nice when you have some choice in what courses to take since that really helps you customize the certification for your needs, expertise or interests better.

Happy studying!

Also, if you’ve already participated in the Microsoft Professional Program, please post a comment on this article to let us know your experience and overall satisfaction level with the courses and program as a whole. This program is still very new with a bit still unknown by many of us on the “outside”, however it does look very promising!