How Microsoft helps customers adopt Azure through developer education

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App Dev Manager Robin Smith discusses Microsoft’s approach to enterprise learning, highlighting key resources and programs for Azure education to help customers empower developers and close the tech skills gap.


Introduction

The pace of change in technology has never been as a fast as it is today and all indications are that this pace will continue to increase. The 2020 paper “Jobs of Tomorrow” published by the World Economic Forum estimates that “fully meeting the labor market demand for emerging professions and skills to meet the needs of the new technological era could add US$11.5 trillion in GDP growth over the next decade”. Furthermore, it’s highly likely that many of the key jobs in Data & AI and Engineering & Cloud Computing ten years from now don’t even exist today!

So how do companies manage this ever-increasing rate of change and all of the challenges that come with it? Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella continuously stresses the importance of “tech intensity”. Satya defines tech intensity as “the potential for companies to jump-start their growth by not just adopting technology, but by building their own technology too”. He further elaborates: “There are two aspects to tech intensity: First, every organization will need to be a fast adopter of best-in-class technology, and equally important, they will need to build their own unique digital capabilities, which starts with workers who are deeply knowledgeable about the latest technology.”

In this post, we review how Microsoft is helping our customers achieve tech intensity by providing a wide array of Azure learning opportunities to constantly build, maintain and strengthen the cloud capabilities of their developers and IT staff.

The Microsoft Approach to Learning

Microsoft is not a newcomer to technical education, but the approach has changed as software has evolved from shrink-wrapped CD’s delivered every few years to cloud services that are updated daily. The training offerings of yesteryear were relatively narrow, focused on specific products and changed slowly. In contrast, the training offerings of today are focused on key roles and skills, and content changes every couple of months to reflect the rapidly changing technology landscape.

Role-based Training

Microsoft works closely with internal and external partners to gather and analyze data on the key roles in modern enterprises large and small. For each of the roles, a Job Task Analysis or JTA is performed. This process results in a master list of skills for the role – i.e. the set of capabilities an individual needs to be highly effective in the role. This is an ongoing process and new roles and skills are added as technology evolves.

Microsoft uses the output of this process to develop role-based training for the roles that it considers critical, both from the perspective of current needs and the perspective of strategically important emerging needs. Role-based training is currently available for these Azure-related roles:

  • Azure Administrator
  • Azure Data Engineer
  • Azure Security Engineer
  • Azure Database Administrator
  • Azure Developer
  • DevOps Engineer
  • Azure Solutions Architect
  • Azure Data Scientist
  • Azure AI Engineer

Fundamentals and Specialty Training

Microsoft also offer a range of fundamentals training courses for those such as IT managers who do not need the depth of role based training. Fundamentals training is also a great starting point for developers who are new to a technical are and need to establish foundational knowledge (e.g. Azure Fundamentals).

At the other end of the spectrum are specialty training courses that cater to the specific needs of projects or applications. A good Skilling Plan (discussed later as part of the Enterprise Skills Initiative) will often combine fundamentals training, role-based training and specialty training into a layered plan, with each stage building on the foundation established in the prior stage.

Many Routes to Success

Another signature aspect of the Microsoft learning approach is the recognition that different people learn differently. To maximize the success of all learners, Microsoft offer a mix of self-paced online learning and instructor-led virtual & in-person training. The training offers the ability for participants to get hands on with labs. Many of the Azure labs are delivered in easy-to-access, free sandbox environments. There is also a focus on interactivity, with frequent quizzes to check knowledge and provide feedback.

Key Resources and Programs

Microsoft offers many resources and programs to help guide customers and their teams on their learning journeys. In sections below, we are going to focus on Microsoft Learn and three key programs: the Cloud Skills Challenge, the Enterprise Skills Initiative and Microsoft Certification.

Microsoft Learn

Microsoft Learn is the cornerstone or “front door” to all training at Microsoft. There are over 1000 self-paced modules currently available with more being added all the time. Microsoft Learn is truly an “a la carte” offering: users can browse individual modules for guidance on a specific subject, or choose a learning path that aligns with a specific role such as Azure Developer. Learning Paths are a logically arranged group of modules that build a well-rounded understanding of a specific area. Many learning paths lead to certifications, covered in a later section of this blog post. Content in each module is presented in written form, video, interactive quizzes and hands-on labs.

Cloud Skills Challenge

The Cloud Skills Challenge adds some fun and friendly competition to learning! Leveraging the learning paths on Microsoft Learn or custom collections of modules, participants can track their learning progress and earn virtual badges and trophies on the way to achieving their learning goals. Compete against your friends for bragging rights, or connect with your Microsoft Application Development Manager, Technical Account Manager or Cloud Solution Architect to set up a team challenge at your company. Team challenges include leaderboards and prizes (availability depends on participation level and other factors) to encourage participation and to measure the skills gained.

Enterprise Skills Initiative

The Enterprise Skills Initiative (ESI) offers a programmatic way for enterprise customers to address knowledge gaps in their organizations and enable rapid, effective adoption of Azure. A Training Program Manager (TPM) is assigned to each customer, and a customized Skilling Plan is generated. The Skilling Plan will often combine self-paced learning resources on Microsoft Learn and Cloud Skill Challenges with virtual training day events and live instructor-led training to achieve specific learning goals. A key aspect of the TPM role is to work with customers to align learning with key initiatives and to track metrics to validate skilling impact on important projects.

The ESI program is available worldwide to selected customers and is continuously evolving to meet enterprise needs. Coming soon to the program are new learner and customer portals to make access and management more efficient, and live online Azure certification exam prep sessions. Contact your Microsoft Training Program Manager, Application Development Manager, or Technical Account Manager to learn more about the Enterprise Skills Initiative, and how your company can benefit from this program.

Certification

Microsoft consistently emphasizes the importance of certification to the learning process, and exams are updated frequently to reflect the latest changes in the underlying technology. Ideally, all of the knowledge gained by learners through Microsoft Learn, the Cloud Skills Challenge and the Enterprise Skills Initiative is validated and rewarded with one or more certificates. Individuals benefit from certification by gaining international recognition as experts in cloud technology and enhancing their professional credentials. Certification also allows IT leadership to quantify the value of their training programs and gain confidence that their teams are ready to leverage the power of Azure.

Conclusion

A culture of continuous learning is a cornerstone of successful companies in today’s world of fast-paced change. Microsoft is committed to helping customers achieve tech intensity and close the tech skills gap by providing a range of quality learning opportunities for developers & IT staff. I hope that this this brief review of key programs and resources for Azure education has been helpful. To get started on your own custom learning journey, check out the resources at Microsoft Learn, sign up for a Cloud Skills Challenge, contact your Microsoft representative about the Enterprise Skills Initiative, and get on the path to certification!

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