Episode 006: Cloud Career Strategy | CloudSkills.fm

In this episode, I talk to Tim Warner about cloud career strategy. Tim is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) in Cloud and Datacenter Management who is based in Nashville. His professional specialties include Microsoft Azure, cross-platform PowerShell, and all things Windows Server-related.

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Full Transcript:

Mike Pfeiffer:
Hey, what’s up everybody. It’s Mike Pfeiffer. Today is February 5th, 2019 and you’re listening to CloudSkills.fm. In this episode I’m talking to Microsoft MVP, Tim Warner. He is an Azure cloud expert, he’s a trainer, a consultant in all around just a really great guy. In this episode we obviously discuss all things Azure. We also talk about the certifications that are out right now. Well, one of the things that I’m excited about is we really kind of went back and forth on cloud career strategy and I think that regardless of whether you’re kind of brand new to IT or maybe you’ve been in the game five or 10 years or anywhere in between that you’re really going to get something out of this episode. So I’m really excited. So let’s go ahead and get straight into the interview.

Mike Pfeiffer:
All right everybody. I’m super excited to have here today and I’m really excited to have Tim Warner, Microsoft Azure MVP or Microsoft cloud and data center MVP here on the show. Tim, welcome to CloudSkills.fm.

Tim Warner:
Thanks a lot Mike. It’s an honor and a privilege to be here. I listened to your conversation with Jeff Hicks and I thought, I hope I get a chance to talk shop with Mike someday. Here we are.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Yeah, man, it’s awesome. I love that you’re here and we’ve been connected online for a long time and I see your tweets a lot. You’re sharing quite a bit of Azure content all the time. Really helpful stuff. I know you’re doing tons of Pluralsight courses just goes on and on and you’ve had, I don’t know, how many tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of students spot. You’re doing amazing work and it’s just really clear. What’s really exciting that you’re, what are you excited about right now and that you’re working on and kind of stuff you’re seeing?

Tim Warner:
First of all, thank you for that. Yeah, it’s especially rewarding. I’m having students all over the world. I got into the industry in 1997 or so and I started just teaching end user stuff and then I realized I wanted to go deeper, which turned into technical stuff, Windows NT server at the time. And ever since it’s been, I’ve either been in the industry full time and taught and wrote part time or I taught and wrote full time and was doing industry work part time. So more recently, like you said over the last handful of years, my specialization is really kind of collapsed upon Microsoft Azure. And one reason I think is, and I think you can relate to this probably is that there’s so many tools in that tool box, it’s almost impossible to get bored.

Mike Pfeiffer:
It’s so true. It’s actually funny because I was telling that to some people earlier this week. I was like this cloud solution architect thing and like if you’re a geek there’s something in here for you to like go deep on because it really is just the IT platform. There’s storage, networking, security. You could get into programming. There’s just, it doesn’t end. So it’s like you can find your thing anywhere in Azure. I think in going forward that’s what really people need to do, right? Like they need to understand kind of the platform and then maybe go deep into their kind of like portion of that. Do you think that’s true?

Tim Warner:
Yes I do. There’s no escaping the cloud, seems like anybody with a smartphone you are interacting with the cloud even though you don’t know it. And the only thing about cloud as a career, I’m thinking more of the hardcore IT roles like systems administrator or IT operations, professional developer, database administrator, those kinds of jobs. I feel like I’m a little bit grumpy and get off my lawn when I say this, but I worry about newcomers, younger people in particular who may get into IT and jump right into cloud initially and never get road miles on them with their experience, racking a server physically. Working with and ethernet network, a switched and routed network physically to just go directly to the software defined networking. I worry that they’re not going to have the necessary foundation that I’m so grateful I have because I date back to 10BASE-2 Ethernet, literal bus network with those BMC connectors and terminators.

Tim Warner:
So that’s something I always as a trainer, especially when I’m working with newcomers, I stress. Even if it comes down to purchasing a couple old clunker computers at a yard sale or a flea market, crack them open and make sure you really have a clear picture in your mind how CPU, Ram storage and network function and then you can adapt that to the cloud.

Mike Pfeiffer:
It’s really interesting to say that and honestly it’s like one of the things I’ve honestly overlooked that a little bit because maybe taking it for granted a little bit unlike you, I started in '98. One of the things I did to get my MCSC in in T4 was basically building white box PCs in my house so I could do the whole primary domain controller, backup domain controller thing. But along that way I had to learn how to build PCs and all that stuff was super valuable and the first consulting job I got it was like IT was just IT guys you did everything. Like I was pulling Ethernet cabling and punching down cables.

Mike Pfeiffer:
I was building servers and PCs and installing software and so to your point I think got pretty lucky to have that foundational knowledge. So that’s an interesting perspective. What do you think would help solve that, well, you mentioned building some stuff now and getting some basic hardware, do you think like A+ network plus stuff would be good for people coming in and then go into cloud?

Tim Warner:
Yes, actually it’s good that you mentioned that certification has a valuable role. I know I’ve seen it as I know you have certification, IT certification kind of abs and flows and its importance. CompTIA I think has been pretty steady and I give them a lot of credit because they’re vendor neutral. They’re not tied to a particular technology stack or vendor, and in particular they’re A plus that certifies you on basic computer hardware and software maintenance and network plus, which is a vendor neutral introduction to networking of all types, absolutely. If nothing else, I often recommend to newer students that studying for these certifications is a fine excuse to go out and source a couple junker computers or a laptop that’s just totally dead and it doesn’t matter if you break it right down to the motherboard so you can get some of that physical experience with the technology. Yeah, and it’s even better that if you already are in the industry and your boss can comp you those exam registrations because they’re not cheap and the cost is per attempt.

Mike Pfeiffer:
No doubt. Yeah, totally.

Tim Warner:
I do want to say that what I mentioned about, in my opinion, the importance of having some experience with physical networking before going to the cloud. There’s a other side to that coin that I’ve experienced where I’ve worked with folks who do have all of that data center experience and make the naive assumption, okay, we need to move some workloads into AWS or Azure or GCP. We’re just going to replicate one-to-one virtual machines and network segments. I don’t think that has a happy ending in all cases. It’s important to stress that it’s a paradigm shift from on premises, physical infrastructure into the cloud and you do not in any way, shape, or form have to by necessity try to replicate your typology that’s on premises up in the cloud. In fact, it may not be a good fit at all for cost, performance, security, scalability, et cetera.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Right. Yeah, so that’s really interesting. One of the things I was thinking about too that you were talking about was obviously the uphill battle of getting in completely brand new. Obviously that’s going to be challenging and I agree with what you’re saying is get those foundational skills. What about the folks that are five, 10 years in? They’re working in a completely on premises environment and now they’re feeling the heat, right. Their boss is coming in and saying, “Hey we heard it’s really easy to go to Azure and this kind of thing.” How about those folks? Like where did they get started? What’s the best path for them to kind of start getting their feet wet with something like Azure?

Tim Warner:
Yeah, good question. And Azure is a great case study for that because and you know this the Microsoft community in general is super friendly, welcoming. So to an experienced IT person who’s seeing the writing on the wall with the cloud and maybe feels pressure, how did they get started? Well there’s a good chance that you’ve got an Azure user group in your city. I live in Nashville, Tennessee and we have quite a thriving Azure user group.

Tim Warner:
So what I would recommend these it pros, these developers, these DBA folks do pop open meetup.com look up Azure or cloud computing user groups that are in your city. You’re going to meet people who by definition are interested in sharing knowledge. Otherwise they themselves wouldn’t be at the user group. You’re going to see recruiters or headhunters. So if you’re thinking in your position I really don’t have the growth potential here in this company that I think is valuable. Well, you could start a conversation with a recruiter. So user groups are a good spot. Social media, I’m not a fan of social media like Facebook, but LinkedIn and Twitter, super great way to get plugged in to cloud, Microsoft Azure specifically and make connections with people.

Tim Warner:
I’m a huge believer in the power of professional networking and I think just about every engagement I’ve had including my position at Pluralsight has been through professional networking. How about you?

Mike Pfeiffer:
Yeah, it’s a really good point man. I love that you brought that up because the first 10… I’ve been in the game obviously 20 years, like you somewhere around there a little bit more. In the first 10 years of my career, man. I was just like headphones on or hoodie on and just heads down grind in a way. And I got pretty good. I’ve got a good distance in and had some good success by doing that. And then, but the last 10 years has been really to your point, professional networking and really embracing that. somebody was asking me the other day like how do you advertise your consulting business? And the reality is haven’t really had to because of the relationships that I build working at Amazon, working at Microsoft’s, working with the folks in the community, like yourself and the people that are just coming up.

Mike Pfeiffer:
And so I think that that’s an underestimated thing for a lot of IT people, especially since a lot of us are analytical, a lot of us are introverted and we’re just kind of doing our own thing and it’s not natural. And also the other thing I really keyed on what you said was the Microsoft community does thrive online and if you look at some of the other ones, there isn’t the same type of community there. And so getting involved is I think super important. And so I’d love that you brought that up. How’d people start that process? If they’re introverted or shy, what’s a good way to kind of get in the game?

Tim Warner:
I would say off the top of my head, social media because and I can relate to this because I’m in many ways a stereotypical IT person. I married a woman who is about as extroverted and bubbly and social as you can get, the opposites attract thing. So the question of just going into a room like a user group would be a good example. I mean frankly before I got into the user group community, I either never really thought of it or hesitated because of the awkwardness of going into a room of people that you don’t know yet.

Tim Warner:
I think what helps that is to get into the water in the shallow end first, start being a little more active on Twitter, LinkedIn for instance, leave comments, ask questions. This starts to get conversations going and then you have more of a basis for when you do show up at a technical conference or a user group or something else for interpersonal interaction. And another piece that helps me honestly is that I realized that when I’m at say a tech conference or a user group or whatever, of all the people in the world, I’m really among my people. Who in all likelihood feel very similarly to how I do. And when I remember that it takes some of the adjuncts and then once you start talking shop and having fun, it becomes all good. And finally like any repetitive action, over time it becomes more natural and more spontaneous.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Yeah. So true. A lot of success I think is just repetition, right? It’s just like getting some reps. So I really agree with that. I bet too. I would, I’m guessing since we had similar backgrounds, I think for me the thing that amplified my career the most in the last 10 years is getting into teaching and public speaking. How I got started? Like I said, I wasn’t very vocal at all. And the first thing I did is exactly what you said. I went to a user group meeting and I’m eventually started doing some speaking and then that turned into teaching and that turned into speaking at conferences and eventually I was doing Pluralsight courses and courses with other platforms like lynda.com which was the first one I think wherever had some videos on.

Mike Pfeiffer:
So I guess what I’m asking is like what is your perspective on the importance of public speaking to take your career to the next level? Kind of what’s the impact it’s been on you and how do you think it can help somebody that’s kind of listening to this right now? Let me think that they’ve looked at it and maybe they kind of got a gut feel that that’s for them, but they’re afraid to get into that kind of dive into that world.

Tim Warner:
Well, as it happens, public speaking is one of my very favorite topics. So glad that you brought that up. Yeah, I mean, I often say to people that to me, the career fields that seem like are almost always a greenfield of opportunity are IT and medical, nursing, whatever. Those are you’re pretty much never going to hurt for work. So given that in IT, soft skills are certainly a secret sauce, but the ability to transmit knowledge and information in a clear and concise way. Super valuable.

Tim Warner:
I’ve mentioned this to my wife Susan, just last night I said there’s a quite a few IT people who are technically super competent, but there’s a much smaller pool of people who are technically competent but can explain the technology in a way that just about anybody can understand. That’s why those skills are so valuable and I’m so grateful that I have those skills.

Tim Warner:
So yeah, I mean presentation skills, I’ve put a lot of time and effort and study into presentation skills. I genuinely love it. So it’s a genuine passion. It’s something that I have aptitude for and it fits my career, honestly. That’s why I’m a teacher. I know Jeff Hex was like, I don’t like the term technical trainer. I’m a teacher. And I like that idea of the teacher. But yeah, the bottom line is I can’t overstate how crucial public speaking is and in my experience it has been, like you said, repetition. And honestly I’m somehow embarrassed to say this, but I’m not sure I would have gotten involved in tech conferences and user groups as a participant if I weren’t there initially as a presenter.

Tim Warner:
And I don’t mean that to sound like, oh, I’m all ego it out. It’s quite the opposite actually by being invited to speak at some events, it allowed me to realize, wow, what I said earlier, I’m really among my people here. There’s nothing to feel anxious or nervous about and this is a genuinely cool group of people that I want to spend more time with. So anytime that you put into the craft of public speaking and clear communications is very well spent in my opinion.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Yeah, I can’t agree with that more. It’s been a game changer for me. I think the other thing too is that I think a lot of people get stuck on is kind of like what you said, there is some anxiety for a lot of folks. I know for me then when I first got started it was really a hard thing to overcome. Like I was just really more focused on the wrong thing and so worrying about stuff that didn’t matter and it took a while for me to get warmed up. And I think that a lot of people struggle with that. And what I found over the years was something that you kind of mentioned is it was more about the audience, not about you. And I think that the people really that struggle with getting up there, they’re just thinking about their experience more and you really got to kind of shift the focus to service and like what do you actually bring to the audience? Worrying about their experience, not yourself. And that was an unlock for me.

Mike Pfeiffer:
It’s like stop worrying about you and how you look and just deliver. But to that kind of conversation, they’re like, how does somebody get started? How do you get started? Would you recommend like going to a usergroup, maybe doing some YouTube videos or how can somebody like get started slowly and kind of work their way in?

Tim Warner:
Yeah, it’s a risk. I mean, I’ve played guitar for almost 40 years now, but I would be very nervous and awkward to get up in front of even a group of peers at Pluralsight and play and sing a song. But on the other hand, I can get up into, I know that I could get up in front of a stadium full of people and present a lesson on Azure role based access control or something. It’s weird.

Tim Warner:
So that first step is the biggest. I’ve coached a lot of prospective authors into auditioning for Pluralsight, for instance. And that initial fear that I see as a general theme among most is what makes me think that I’m good enough to want to teach for say Pluralsight, just as an example. They think that they’re not worthy. So, I mean, I’m not a therapist or a counselor, so I don’t really know what to say other than let’s find out, there’s no way to know whether you have what it takes to be an effective author or a teacher until you do it.

Tim Warner:
So it’s a question of doing it and it’s also a question I’ve found doing everything you can to avoid the pitfall of perfectionism. The other thing I’ve seen and mentoring or coaching authors, teachers, whatever you want to call it, is getting hung up on having things be perfect the first time around and it can cause a tremendous paralysis where they either wind up not delivering anything and just battling in a worst case scenario or delivering something that could have been so much better as they just loosened up and just did just teach [inaudible 00:18:34]

Mike Pfeiffer:
Totally. So true man. And I love that you hit perfectionism because that was something that I had to work through too. At one point over the years, I think perfection is poison. It’s like you’re not going to be able to perfect something until it’s out there until it’s released. And I think that people get stuck in that loop. But switching gears just a bit here, what do you geeking out nowadays and Azure about? What’s your passion in the Azure cloud?

Tim Warner:
I’m coming out of a pool of learning on Azure Stack. I just finished up a course for Pluralsight on Azure Stack solution architecture and that’s been exciting because Azure Stack spend on the periphery of my experience for the last several months, but I finally had an opportunity to do a more proper deep dive into it. And that’s been really exciting specially in as part of the MVP program, getting some good access behind the scenes to the various product groups and software architects rather. It’s really impressive how agile Microsoft has become. That you’d agree with me on that.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Oh yeah.

Tim Warner:
Just the amount of risks that they’re putting in to something like Azure Stack and just how new it is and how many questions about it are still yet on answered even though it’s out there in the wild being used. All of those things have made this a pretty exciting project to work on.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Yeah. Azure Stacks is fascinating. When I worked at AWS, I remember I wasn’t like an official announcement or anything, but the vibe from the people that I was talking to at the time was why would we build an on premises solution that’s going to slow us down getting people on our platform? Now it’s just kind of the vibe that I picked up. Nothing had ever happened while I was there to build something.

Mike Pfeiffer:
And so I think from what I heard now is they’re actually working on something only because Microsoft did Azure Stack. And obviously when you’re looking at hybrid cloud and you’re a Microsoft enterprise, that’s a pretty sexy offering, right? Because you can get that thing going, the team knows the tools and technologies that they can eventually use in the public cloud that they can use that on premises for a while.

Mike Pfeiffer:
How does somebody get started with Azure Stack though? Because I know that for production workloads, right? You have to order gear that has stuff pre-installed, right? Can you run it locally so you can do some testing, I’m assuming that’s true, and yes if you’re working on a course about it.

Tim Warner:
Yeah, it is true. If you want to run Azure Stack in production, you do have to buy what’s called an integrated system, which is basically a rack that I think it starts with four nodes and goes up to 16 nodes. But for dev test, proof of concept purposes, you can deploy Azure Stack as a single VM, believe it or not. And what it’s called is Azure Stack ASDK. It’s Azure Stack development kit and there’s links online. There’s some arm templates available and some GitHub repost. It’s kind of like a cat chasing its tail though because like everything nowadays with rapid release cycles, Azure Stack is on about a monthly update cadence and you actually cannot patch the ASDK, the VM version, so you have to redeploy it from scratch. So it’s a little bit painful to do. But that’s the answer to your question.

Tim Warner:
In order to evaluate Azure Stack, you wind up deploying a VM that needs to be a pretty darn robust VM. If you run it in Azure, the size, I forgot the specific instance size, but it winds up being about a dollar upwards to $2 USD an hour to run. But it at least gives you a feel for the capabilities of Azure Stack. And ultimately, like you’d mentioned a moment ago, the main value prop of Azure Stack is that you can use all the same SDKs and tools, templates to deploy applications and stack that you can in Azure public cloud. In fact, you can even say with VSTS build and release pipelines, you can deploy it concurrently to both environments. So it’s meant to be a near seamless environment where you’ve got Azure Stack and environments may be in a mineshaft, a mile underground or Azure Stack and a submarine at the bottom of an ocean.

Tim Warner:
Areas that are disconnected or a government installation that’s air gaped. None of the servers besides Azure Stack would have a network card, those kinds of things. And you can do the same apps and same deployments and same bells and whistles across those two vastly different environments.

Mike Pfeiffer:
That’s insanely cool. I got to check it out. One of the things that you brought up was at a couple of times it’s cloud cadence and how fast things are moving. Every Azure workshop that I’ve delivered over the last three years, even the shorter ones there maybe three or four days, there’s always something during the week that changes in the portal. The feedback that you tend to get, and I’m sure you’ve gotten a lot of this, is there’s a lot of concern about the rapid pace of innovation and the teams that these big companies Microsoft and Amazon and Google, all these guys doing cloud. I think they have a deliverable to achieve certain number of feature releases and things and so they’re actually trying to innovate as fast as they can because that brings value into the product. But us as people supporting it, it becomes kind of frantic. What’s the story on that, how do we deal with that?

Tim Warner:
Yeah. Yeah. I often say because I’ve been especially deep into Microsoft certifications lately and I often say I feel sorry for the Microsoft Learning folks because their chase and their tails keeping their certification exams current with features going out of public preview and into general availability pretty much every day or every week. And frankly working at Pluralsight, I’ve got courses that I made just a few months ago that I have to heavily edit now because of drastically different experiences in the Azure portal.

Tim Warner:
So how to answer that. I do have an answer to that actually. And that is if you’re going to do any appreciable work in Azure, then you need to be committed. You need to A be accepting of the fact that the only constant in Azure ecosystem has changed, that things are going to change, new features are going to be in there regularly. User experiences are going to change and evolve.

Tim Warner:
You have to come to a level of acceptance about that and you have to be committed to being eternally vigilant in terms of learning and keeping, I use RSS. But keeping a news stream up have new tendrils into the Azure community in order to stay on top of future directions, roadmaps. And it’s not the easiest thing to do because as you know different product groups at Azure have different levels of engagement. Some have blogs that are team blogs that are updated lickety-split, others don’t. Some are really active in the Azure advisors group, others aren’t. So it depends. I mean, but then again, think of what a gigantic org Microsoft is. You know, you work for them, then you’re never going to get everybody doing the same thing at the same time. But that’s how I would summarize it. It’s accepting that the experience is going to change daily and that you need to be an eternal student.

Mike Pfeiffer:
I say that. I tell the people that I deal with as well the same thing. It’s the new normal. You pretty much have to, like you said, accept it, embrace it and stop worrying about things being in a certain spot. You really have to get into a space where you’re just finding solutions to stuff. Stop worrying about step-by-step and just focus on solving problems. That’s the new normal. But the other thing that you brought up was the certification stuff. I’m actually kind of midway getting in my certifications for Azure ramped up and kind of current and I know that I’ve seen tweets, a bunch of tweets from you, like super valuable stuff like just tweet tips about different exams and things to think about and study. What do you think of the new certifications and what tips do you have for us on getting certified and especially me, what should I be focusing on?

Tim Warner:
Yeah. Overall I think that Microsoft Learning’s doing a great job. Previously you had the MCSC and cloud platform, which was one site. They tried to make it one size fits all and the bottom line is it’s a rare person indeed who’s equally spread across job roles in Azure. IT, ops, developer, business data analyst, machine learning. There’s so many job roles, so now the Azure certifications are focused on job roles and you can pursue these badges aligned to those roles and even better yet you have these digital badges that are validated so you can demonstrate to whomever, a hiring manager or a prospective client or whatever that you have the certification through their Microsoft’s partnership with Cradley, they’ve got the shareable badges, which are really, really neat things. So I’m been a real fan of that, how they’ve designed the new program. The exams again have been subject to continuous integration, continuous deployment.

Tim Warner:
They’re changing and continue to change, Liberty Munson from Microsoft Learning told me a few months ago that they’re on I think a two month review where every two months the contents refreshed so the exams are volatile. The development track was recently collapsed into a single exam instead of two. So again, there’s the same thing with Azure exams is there is with Azure, the technology stack being an ever learner and also being prepared for adjustments and changes along the way. Finally, the actual structure and content of the exams I think is largely been really good. And the Microsoft Learnings had to hammer out a lot of it through the beta process. And even the initial release for instance, the architect exams 300 and 301 from what I understand initially they were skewed way too much towards the development side so I think they’ve calibrated it just right. I took both exams over the last week and I was really pleased with how true those questions were to at least my understanding of the Azure solution architect role.

Mike Pfeiffer:
That’s good. Yeah cause I was looking at the objectives for solution architect certifications. It did seem like there was a fair amount of development background, which makes sense because you kind of have to know the landscape if you’re truly a solution architect, which solutions make sense in a design and things. Hopefully they didn’t go too far off into the weeds in terms of like writing code and things like that. Was it really hot, more high level like building blocks type thing?

Tim Warner:
Yeah. From what I understand, the beta and maybe even the original release did have code. That’s what I mean, that they skewed way too much toward development. No, it’s like you said, it’s about understanding which Azure services you need to compose for a solution. A good example would be event pipelines. You might have a case study where they ask you about needing to take events from when operators create virtual machines and then based on that do some others. So you’re thinking hopefully of things like, okay, I need a vent grid to subscribe to those events coming out of the activity log and then maybe I’ll do a function in Azure function or a logic app to subscribe out of the vent grid and then go to wherever your target is. So those kinds of, I saw quite a few building black items that worked that way.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Cool. One of the things from a certification perspective that I’ve gotten a lot to feedback over the last several years is you get into interactions with teams when you’re consulting or teaching a class or whatever, where there’s a handful of people that say certifications are worthless. And my thing to my response to that has always been, well that’s usually something someone says when they don’t have any certifications. For me, I know that it was kind of like the way I elbowed into the IT industry. I wasn’t somebody that I didn’t go to college and get a computer science degree.

Mike Pfeiffer:
I got a certification and that’s how I got in and my foot in the door. But what happened was over the course of a few years, right, the landscape got really crowded. The answers got leaked onto the Internet. Everybody was suddenly an MCSC, the term paper MCSC was born. And then that lost a little bit of its luster. Is Microsoft working on any kind of performance based testing and these new certifications that will hopefully address that? I know they’re changing frequently, which helps, but I hope to see these, the certifications remain valuable. I believe they are, and I believe that people should be going out to these, I think it’s super important personally, but I’d like to see some more realistic requirements is, are you hearing anything about that or is that on like in the future for this?

Tim Warner:
Yes, I am. I agree. I love your nutshell summary of certification over the last 20 years and I agree totally. There’s a quite a few things going for IT Certification in general and Microsoft exams in particular to that point of genuinely validating the candidate skills. One, the testing centers, Pearson VUE in particular has gotten so much stricter requiring photo ID and signature. I mean, so they’ve done a much better job to avoid fraud at the testing center. And then as far as the exam go, the fact that they’re MSL, Microsoft Learnings, revving the items every two months makes it much harder for fraud and theft and that kind of stuff to happen.

Tim Warner:
But third, specifically to your point in the administrator exams, Microsoft is introducing performance-based lab items. I can’t speak for the developer because I haven’t taken that exam yet. The architect isn’t about hands-on, so there’s no hands on labs in that, but definitely for the AC 101 and 101 because the point there is to verify you know how to actually do stuff, perform configuration. There are hands on labs and the bottom line there is that you’re placed into a virtual machine with an instance of an edge and you’re into the real live Azure portal using an Azure ID account that Microsoft owns, tapping into a Microsoft subscription. And you’re required to complete N number of tasks and that’s a great way to validate because either you know how to do it or you don’t.

Mike Pfeiffer:
That’s huge. I’m happy to hear that because I took the easy 102 to upgrade. I really would just want to go and do them all just so I have the perspective, but 102 is an upgrade and there was nothing in there. I’m really happy to hear they’re doing that because I think that’s going to separate the folks that aren’t doing things the right way from the ones that are. I think that really will solve a lot of problems there. One of the things that’s driving me crazy though not driving me crazy but I don’t like is the developer certification was supposed to be two exams and now it’s one and now we’ve got admin and architect there too. Is there going to be any consistency or kind of like can we just have one exam for everything and then have it performance based and that way we all know like what the path is?

Tim Warner:
Yeah. That’s funny because that decision that Microsoft collapsed the 200 series exams to one exam kind of tweaked my OCD because they had such great symmetry going on. AC 100 series is admin. There’s 101, 102. For developer it was 200 series, 201, 202. Architect is 300 series, data analyst might be four. I think dev ops is 400 series. So they’ve got really sweet consistency and then when Microsoft had the problems with the developer exams, they’ve collapsed the two into one.

Tim Warner:
So it kind of breaks. But I think overall though it’s a much more consistent outlay then it has been in the past. I just think that you might see occasional deviations like we’ve seen with the dev because they’re doing of, what does that dev ops phrase fail fast, fix fast or something. I think Microsoft Learning appears to be living that as they’re developing and releasing and maintaining their exams. If something doesn’t work and they have to re-architect it quickly, they wind up doing it.

Mike Pfeiffer:
I know you do a lot of consulting. I know you interact a lot with your students that you deliver training to. I knew you’d do that in the Azure space very, very often. What is the biggest pattern you’re seeing in terms of people where they’re struggling and like how can listeners that may be struggling with the same thing overcome that?

Tim Warner:
Right. Yeah. Since I’ve specialized in Azure, it’s opened up a great opportunity to keep my hands dirty so to speak in industry. And I’ve had various companies reach out to me through my Pluralsight where, okay, do you do consulting? Yeah. And we get a relationship going. And as far as an overall trend now the group of customers that I have are a self-selected bunch because they came from Pluralsight, so they must have been concerned about their current Azure knowledge for them to contact me initially.

Tim Warner:
See what I mean? So I don’t want to make too broad of a generalization. The biggest trend I see is we either know we have to go to the cloud to be competitive or we see that it makes sense for us so we want to do it. But we’re afraid of screwing it up, doing something wrong that A is going to cost us way more money than we budgeted for and/or B, we’re going to leave a vulnerability open that’s going to bankrupt our business. We’ll get Ddosed or somebody will just outright steal our data or something like that.

Tim Warner:
So I guess if I were to sum it under one word, it would be anxiety. And I think my biggest value proposition as a consultant is that I can teach and explain things clearly and say, okay, calm down. Let me show you. Let’s work together here. I’ll show you how the different parts and pieces work. We’ll look at the biggest pitfalls to go around and to go from there. And just to transmit, not knowledge, not so much knowledge, but confidence. That’s so rewarding as a teacher and as a consultant. That also, give somebody a fish, they’ll eat for a day, teach them to fish and they’ll eat for a lifetime. Transmitting this Azure knowledge and these Azure skills, and then seeing the customer go off and be largely self-sufficient and confident. You can’t beat that. It’s beautiful thing.

Mike Pfeiffer:
It’s really interesting that you brought that up because I found the same thing in my business. So I’ve had two consulting business. The first one it was completely like we’re doing all the grunt work and that’s obviously very challenging. This second time around though, we’ve kind of adopted the same mentality as you have where it’s more of advisory service where we’re empowering the teams, we’re not trying to hold them hostage and do all the work. We’re trying to get them to a point where they use the competence to build the confidence and then end up doing it themselves. Our goal is like, someday they don’t need us anymore and that’s what we want. And just to your point, it’s that everybody wins I think in that model.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Tim, I’ve really enjoyed this conversation man. And I always do and I’m looking forward to having you back on again in the future. For the folks listening, how can we find you and kind of see what you’re doing online, the things you’re sharing?

Tim Warner:
Okay, let’s see here. Easiest URL to remember is techtrainertim.com, techtrainertim.com is my personal website and there you’ll have links to everything else. My Twitter handle is easy to remember @TechTrainerTim, that kind of intentional. You could go to Pluralsight.com and look up my name to see my course list and I’m on LinkedIn, Timothy Warner, Pluralsight or Timothy Warner at Azure, Timothy Warner Nerd. You’ll find me one way or the other. I look forward to engaging with folks.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Awesome man. Well keep crushing it, dude. You’re doing so much amazing work and serving so many people out there. I really respect what you do. And thanks a lot for coming on the show.

Tim Warner:
You’re welcome. Thank you Mike. This was a pleasure.

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