Episode 072: AZ-104 Microsoft Azure Administrator Certification

In this episode I catch up with fellow MS MVP Tim Warner to discuss the AZ-104 Microsoft Azure Administrator Certification exam and what you should to prepare.

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Full Transcript:

Mike Pfeiffer:
We’ve got tons of people already online with us, Tim, and it’s good to see you man. How’s everything going with you?

Tim Warner:
Likewise. It’s been busy. I’m grateful that, given that everything’s going on with this pandemic, I’m grateful to have some semblance of normalcy. The work that I think both of us do is pretty immune to outside circumstances. Would you agree?

Mike Pfeiffer:
Totally, man. It’s crazy, right? It seems like it’s just gotten a little bit busier for me, which is [inaudible 00:00:29]. But yeah, good to see everybody here. About 60 people online with us right now, which is awesome. Everybody, feel free to add your questions into the comments. Tim and I will take those as we go through, but our game plan for today … Make sure you stay til the end as well. I’ve got a cool announcement for you, but our game plan for today is to break down the AZ-104 certification and talk about what the differences are between 104, and the previous version and also help you come up with a strategy of how to take the test. I know, Tim, you’ve got a game plan to take 104 Beta tomorrow or this week or something?

Tim Warner:
Yeah, tomorrow bright and early. 6:30 AM, I’m going to sit for the AZ-104 Beta, so I’ll have lots to share outside the scope of the NDA as of tomorrow morning.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Right. Yeah. You just took 400 on Friday, right?

Tim Warner:
I sure did.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Busy guy.

Tim Warner:
I haven’t taken a remote online exam for a long time, and the last time I did I had a terrible experience, so I was really grateful to see how they’ve streamlined the process. I was thinking this morning, because I do hear from students occasionally who say that they were doing a live online examine, and it blew up. I’m trying to think. I wonder, I’d love to ask them, did you take the time to do the system test? Did you make sure that you killed all background processes on your system? I think if you cover the bases and have reasonable bandwidth, you should be okay.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Yeah, it’s interesting. That makes a lot of sense. I’ve been lucky with the remote proctor stuff. I haven’t had any major issues. The only issue I had was I didn’t go to the bathroom first and you’re not supposed to leave the webcam view, right? So make sure you do that. The other thing that’s changed because of COVID-19 and all that is Microsoft’s not doing any free credits, so if you go to do a class, there’s no Azure passes. If you go do a trial right now, I’m pretty sure that you have to activate your credit card and start paying, because just the demand for resources is through the roof because everybody’s online. I’m wondering how did that impact the test, the 400 just this past week, because did you have hands-on labs?

Tim Warner:
Wow. You just lit a light bulb in my head. No, I did not have any performance-based labs on AZ-400, and I never thought that maybe Microsoft has turned off the labs to reserve that capacity for paying customers. Wow. I thought that they were just doing … Actually, I wasn’t 100% sure that they did decide to turn off the performance-based labs. It’ll be interesting to see tomorrow when I sit for the administrator if they’re going to be on or off. But I didn’t have any for 400, and I never thought of that, Mike. Good point.

Mike Pfeiffer:
I’m thinking that’s probably what it’s got to be, right? Because that’s just spinning up a non-paying customers environment to let people do labs. I’ve never really been worried about the labs personally, because to me I think the challenge wasn’t the technical depth. In my opinion, it was do I have time to read all these questions and type everything out, but if you’re worried about the labs, this might be an opportune time to like get your tests done, right?

Tim Warner:
Exactly. Exactly. For something like AZ-103 or AZ-104, it seems to me that the performance-based labs are pretty much the centerpiece, because that certification is mostly concerned with hands-on practical deployment configuration, that kind of stuff. If you can sneak by without having to do those labs, which can be tedious. I found that even though I have a really fast internet connection at home and my computers, there’s nothing short with that in terms of RAM or processing power, I still had a somewhat laggy experience just loading up ordinary multiple choice and interactive items. We’re not sure exactly where that overhead was coming from, but I thought to myself, “Boy, I hope I don’t get a performance-based lab, because it’s probably going to take forever and a day just to spin up.”

Mike Pfeiffer:
Yeah, really. That’s a good point. I think it’s no big secret in the community of people that are really active and talking about certs that administrator certification is not an easy walk in the park. One test, and “Oh, yeah, it’s just admin focus,” but the truth is it ain’t easy. There’s a lot of networking and stuff, so I’m hoping to talk about that a lot today. I think, to me, AZ-103/104 parallels, AZ-300 and what that’s going to be 303 in the future. There’s a lot of parallels there, in my opinion, of a lot of administrative work, but it’s a tall glass of water so to speak, the AZ-104. Maybe not as much as the 103. Do you have a gauge yet from what you’ve looked at? Do you feel like 104 is going to be a little bit less technical or less of a scope?

Tim Warner:
I don’t think it’ll be less technical, but I do believe it’s going to be tighter in scope. If you talk to Microsoft Worldwide Learning, I think they’ll tell you frankly that they kind of rushed out the initial administrator, developer and architecture exams, and it kind of shows. Number one, like you said, Mike, there’s huge overlap between the AZ-103 and then the two architecture exams, AZ-300 and 301, way too much overlap. They’re going through a yearly review cycle with the certs, so what’s going on right now with AZ-103 and 104 is that the learning team completely reshaped or sculpted the objective domain. I think they’ve done a good job of paring out some stuff that really is more of an architecture thing, things that deal with planning and decision making. They’ve taken out some things that might tread a little bit too heavily in developer territory, logic apps and function apps and that kind of stuff. I think it’ll be a nice exam.

Tim Warner:
All the changes I’ve seen thus far to all these exams, in my opinion, are net positive. The AZ-900 is another good example. I think that the objective domain is much more sanely logically and realistically laid out than it was originally.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Cool. Yeah, that’s good feedback. That’s a good perspective. One of the guys in the chat, she said Oracle made their certification exams free during this period, and he’s like, “What do you guys think about that?” Well, that’s interesting. I don’t know if that’s going to happen for us in the Microsoft world, but there’s a lot of free training right now. Pluralsight for the month of April is completely free. We were giving away courses last week that are still open, so any of the cloud skills courses like the Docker course, the Azure PowerShell fundamentals, or the basic ones. There’s some free training out there, but I don’t know. Have you heard anything about Microsoft doing any credits for exams or anything like that?

Tim Warner:
I haven’t heard it, and I seriously doubt it would happen because it’s just business. Microsoft Learning has to keep the lights on, so when you think about it, it probably costs a fair amount of money in between what they need to pay their partners like Pearson VUE, who puts on the exams, MeasureUp, who’s their official practice test provider, the infrastructure, like we were talking about for those performance-based labs, so I doubt they’re going to do a freebie just in the interest of financial preservation. My guess about Oracle doing free tests is that it’s just, again, them trying to keep the lights on. The base, the certification numbers for Oracle are so far below Microsoft, I can see where Oracle might feel that they want to take a more drastic measure to attract more candidates.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Yeah. One of the comments in the chat was thanking us for different things that we put out, like Tim’s YouTube series on AZ-900 that’s been super helpful. There’s been a couple of references in that. One from Ray. Thanks, Ray. I agree. Tim stuff’s always awesome. The 900 is just tons of great content in there, and, yeah, it’s awesome to see people that went to the Docker stuff that we put out. Thanks to Hector and everybody else, because there’s been questions like, “Where’s the free courses?” and other people are placing them in the comments, so I appreciate you guys big time. You guys are on my Christmas list now for doing that. Tim, what’s your strategy? Obviously, you spend all your time in Azure, but if you weren’t coming from such an experienced background, tomorrow going in for the test, what would be your strategy or somebody else listening that maybe he’s not such an expert as you are.

Tim Warner:
Yeah. Thanks for bringing that up, because I wanted to be sure to address at least a couple learners who reached out to me directly or indirectly recently saying, “I’m losing motivation because the more I get into this, like the administrators’ skillset for instance, the more overwhelming it is because of how vast the skill set is.” I think that if you’re feeling that way, it’s great that you’re recognizing it, number one. That may be a perfect opportunity for you to step back and look at the AZ-900, the Azure Fundamentals. The fundamentals exam, it’s meant to be easier so to speak, but the real value proposition of Azure Fundamentals is that you’re going to come out of that with a nice ground level wide scope familiarity with Azure. You really will, from SLAs and TCO calculator and a lot of the public sites to a good survey of the most popular Azure resources. Take that for what it’s worth, and once you have that badge, that’s something that you can share and put on your CV, just like you could with administrator anyway.

Mike Pfeiffer:
One of the things that I’m starting to get into, and I’m seeing this with people in our community and just other people that are randomly getting into this is I’m starting to really think hard about and even talk about path of least resistance, right? What is the minimum you’ve got to do to actually get a certification, because there’s so many. Chances are if you’re going to do more than one, you’re likely going to hit the content again and go deeper anyways, so I’m starting to think more of … Not brain dump, because that’s stupid, but what’s the minimum I can get away with for studying and go and take the tests? I’m a big believer of, I’ve always talked about hands-on practice, but also practice exams to me are becoming more interesting, because it’s like you can find the holes in your knowledge.

Mike Pfeiffer:
If I just took 900, to your point, Tim, there’s so much base level content that I probably already know that I may not need to go study that again. Maybe I’ll just find the gaps in my knowledge. To me it’s like use a practice exam to find the holes, close that gap, and then just go take the test and let the chips fall where they may. Is that too [crosstalk 00:11:33], or …

Tim Warner:
No, I don’t think so. I think that another perfectly good application of the AZ-900 Azure Fundamentals exam would be as a diagnostic. Number one, Microsoft priced at a lot lower. If you’ve looked at the registration price and USD, it’s $99 compared to $165 USD for the associate and experts, and it’s a shorter exam too. It’s only 60 minutes instead of two and a half or three hours. But from the perspective …

Tim Warner:
Two and a half or three hours. But from the perspective of figuring out where you want to go and Azure, it’s a good opportunity for you to survey each of the major divisions, compute, serverless, containers, development data platform, AI, IOT. And hoping you might come out of there inspired to go along a particular path. And nowadays the Azure and cloud platform portfolio is broad enough to where there’s a badge for just about any of these job roles and you could just go from there.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Nice. Yeah, I love that guidance. It’s a great point. Steve in the chat said, and this is such an awesome question, this is such a needed question. What is the difference between AZ-103 and 104? And I think maybe even, what’s the difference between … What was it before? Like why did we have 103 versus 100 or 101. Like what was the complete history and why are we switching from 103 to 104? We should probably call that out, I guess. Right. So originally didn’t administrators was supposed to be two tests, right?

Tim Warner:
Mm-hmm (affirmative) Oh yeah, I forgot about that.

Mike Pfeiffer:
It’s supposed to be 100 to 101 or something. And then it went to like … I don’t know. But anyways, we got the 103 because they combined multiple and now we had one, 103 and now it’s getting the next version is 104.

Tim Warner:
It’s disappointing. I mean before all of these role-based certifications came about, all of the exam IDs were 70 dash something and there was really no relation at all what came after the 70 dash and what the product was, whether it was Windows Server or .Net development or SharePoint. Initially these AZ exams were meant to have a really nice structure and they flowed really well. The 900 series is for the fundamentals and that’s still the case. AZ-900 is Azure fundamentals. I think MB-900 Microsoft 365 fundamentals. So you can roll with that. And then the 100 series administrators, 200 series developers, 300 series architects, and then it starts to get a little wonkier from there.

Tim Warner:
So it started off with good intentions, but started going off the rails quickly. Like Mike said, originally you had to take two exams to earn the Azure administrator credential. I think it was AZ-100 and 101. And they collapsed that with really no advanced notice. They just kind of did it. They said, “Okay, surprise. Now instead of having to do two exams to earn your Azure administrator badge, you can take AZ-103 and you’re done.” Of course, there are plenty of people who said, “Hey, I’ve already invested the money and taking one of the two exams. What are you going to do?” So Microsoft Learning was handing out quite a few vouchers to kind of make up for people who have taken the two exams. It’s like, hey, this isn’t really fair. So Microsoft Learning tried to square up that way.

Tim Warner:
Lastly, Worldwide Learning revisits each exam content every two months to make sure that as new products come into general availability, if they’re in scope for the exam, they’ll be added. If product names change, which they do all the time, those updates can happen. But every year Worldwide Learning revisits the whole certification and that’s currently what they’ve just finished doing for administrator. And their rule of thumb, at least what they tell me is that if the content of the exam, the objective domain or OD as it’s called, if it changes more than 30% then they have to give it a new number.

Tim Warner:
So that’s why they actually created AZ-104, instead of just saying we’ve updated the content of AZ-103 and in this case it’s probably makes sense because they’d made pretty big changes to the organization. I don’t know if there’s a 30% difference in content, honestly. I think it’s mainly the structure. If you go out right now and search for exam AZ-103 and look at the PDF that shows all the skills. The first half of that skills measured doc just shows AZ-103 but then at the tail end of it, there’s a comparison table that shows AZ-103 in one column and 104 in the other. So you can eyeball them side by side.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Yeah. And that’s a really good point. Gregor Sude who’s in the chat helping out manage the comments, posted a link to that exact document you’re talking about Tim. And so-

Tim Warner:
Thanks Azure Greg.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Yeah, Azure, Greg in the house.

Tim Warner:
Yeah.

Mike Pfeiffer:
So for the person to ask that question to Tim’s point, you’ve got to scroll all the way to the end. Because there was a followup question and you addressed it Tim. He’s like, well what is the actual content differences? And that document will show you like it’ll scratch out the old stuff for 103 and it will show you side by side. Like what’s on 104 and so with that there was also a couple other great questions that popped up, which was somebody said, well if I’m taking 104 as a prerequisite for AZ-400 which is the dev ops test. Can I just go straight to AZ-400 and take it now?

Mike Pfeiffer:
And so the answer to that, actually no, we have somebody in our community that’s done that. So you can take a test that has a prerequisite and if you pass it, it’s cool. But you still have to take the prerequisite exam before you get the certification. So you can take AZ-400 right now and if you pass it, that’s awesome. But you’re not getting the cert until you pass one of the pre-recs which would be the administrator certification or the developer cert. And you just got to pass 103 or 104 right Tim? It’s not like if I only passed 103, now I’m screwed. Like you got the certification right. So it’s just passing whatever version to get the cert and then you’re good for whatever it is. Is that the two years?

Tim Warner:
Yeah, these exams have a two year lifetime. Please note though that after two years elapses, if you don’t take action to renew that badge, it doesn’t disappear forever. It’ll be on your Microsoft transcript forever. I still have certs going back to 97 and I would bet $50 to a stale jelly donut, Mike does as well. They’re just in a different section of the transcript.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Yeah. Cool. So somebody asked if I was a veteran, I’m not. But for all the vets out there, thanks for your service.

Tim Warner:
Indeed.

Mike Pfeiffer:
I’ve been asked that, because the shaved head a lot and maybe because I got the flag on my sleeve here, but that’s just part of the T-shirt. Rogue Fitness T-shirt. But yeah, not me. I was a computer geek and didn’t go down that road. I appreciate the question. Awesome. So I guess what else, Tim, what do you think in terms of some of the other ideas? We talked about hands on. I’m another believer of like once you find the holes in your knowledge in the exams, go lab it up with practical projects, there’s so many things you could do, but administrators heavy on networking, right? So I think networking could be a thing that hamstrings a lot of folks.

Tim Warner:
Mm-hmm (affirmative) Yeah. My understanding is that the Azure support desk receives the most of their questions about networking. I think the second most popular subject is storage, but networking is a tough lift because it’s an entire career onto itself, isn’t it? I’m fortunate that I’ve always been a networking geek, so I’m able to deliver a good value there as an instructor and as an IT professional. But that’s not the case for everybody for sure. So yeah, I’m a big proponent of the three legged stool. If you want to look at that as a metaphor with the theory which can come from training sessions or books or websites or the docs. Hands on practice, which we can discuss. There’s ways to do that with minimal or no investment and third practice exams. So that you have an idea of how Microsoft will evaluate your knowledge.

Tim Warner:
Now, I don’t have any relationship with Whizlabs, but I’ve been kind of evangelizing them quite a bit lately. They were very helpful in my preparation for AZ-400 and I’ve heard that their practice tests are just as good for AZ103 slash 104. So I wanted to throw that out there a bit too.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Whizlabs does have some pretty good practice exams. I’m not affiliated with them either, but I have been kind of ever since I realized that they do have a good framework in place. I’ve been kind of recommending them a little bit and they’re cheap. So it’s not like you’re going to break the bank. I think 25, 30 bucks or something like that. And then they even have a free one. So you can go watch like the or take the 15 questions. And I think what it does for you, the thing that I like is it gets you focused on the stuff you should be thinking about because it’s so easy to go into the docs and just be like, deer in headlights. What do I go read now?

Tim Warner:
Mm-hmm (affirmative) mm-hmm (affirmative)

Mike Pfeiffer:
So the questions like help you start thinking and then the labs [crosstalk 00:21:05] building stuff, that’s another way. Like in my head when I’m answering a question on a test, I’m literally like drawing on the hands on experience that I’ve had in the past. And that’s huge.

Tim Warner:
Yes.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Yeah, and then just looking at the questions here. Kind of back and forth.

Tim Warner:
I’m at the Whizlabs.com website right now and it looks like they’re still running a site-wide 50% off promotion Whiz site 50 yeah, so I got my AZ-400 practice exams for 50% off. So it was like 10, 12 bucks in my currency.

Mike Pfeiffer:
I know.

Tim Warner:
Nice stuff. And another thing that I like about Whizlabs is in their explanations, they present little snippets directly from the docs to back up whatever the correct and incorrect answers are. And I think what Mike said, bears amplification. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with this content, I’d suggest that you pay extra attention to a practice exam. So it can show you the parts of the technology that you’re much more likely to be asked about.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Yep. One of the things that’s a really good exercise for everybody listening, that might be a challenge on the networking stuff. It would be if you go into the reference architecture center, one of the architectures they show in the networking section is the hub and spoke V-Net architecture, which is very common with enterprises and you if you can go in and build your own version of that and peer at the V-Nets and kind of build up a lab around that and that’ll teach you a lot. But you also need to understand some of the basics around just general networking. Understanding IP version four and the difference is between TCP and UDP. Some of that basic stuff. You can get that off YouTube, right? Or studying Network+ type stuff. So I don’t think a certification is necessarily warranted, but some kind of deep dive like hands on lab experience to help you get past the hump.

Tim Warner:
Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Mike Pfeiffer:
A couple of other themes that’s been popping up in the comments is re-certification. Like how do you continue on? Do you have to start over? And so I think role-based certs are still kind of evolving, Tim, but it sounds like if we take a test that is beyond where we’re currently at within the window, we can upgrade that way. Does that sound right?

Tim Warner:
That is true. I don’t know how far along in the two years I am with my administrator, I actually earned mine when I had to do the two exams. So I’m probably coming close to the two year mark with it. When you pass a more recent version of the exam, that absolutely does refresh that two years. Unfortunately, the story for this is a little messed up. Worldwide Learning still has not definitively announced to us what the research requirements are. I did talk to the leader of the of Microsoft certification and he said, "We’re well aware of this …

Tim Warner:
… Of certification and he said, “We’re well aware of this and we want all the cert holders and cert candidates to understand we’re not going to let you flap off in the breeze.” In other words, if, worst case scenario, you do reach your two years and Microsoft hasn’t published the recert requirements, they’re going to give you an extension or something. They’re going to take care of it. They’re not going to just let you hang out in the breeze. And I heard a rumor on good authority, that we may have an option to do like Microsoft Learn courses as a way to renew our certifications as well. Microsoft Worldwide Learning is strongly considering not having you have to buck up to actually buy another exam to recert. And I liked that for many reasons to study, because it’s like a continuing education unit or CEU approach. I hope that they do that.

Mike Pfeiffer:
I really do too, because this is a lot of work. Somebody else made a comment about that in the comments. It’s becoming a job, almost, to keep up with some of these. And I would like to see that too. More of a continuing education type of approach. The good news that it sounds like Microsoft’s listening and-

Tim Warner:
Yeah.

Mike Pfeiffer:
That’s a good thing. One of the other … Oh, go ahead. You have something?

Tim Warner:
No, I was just going to amplify. I can confirm they are listening. It’s just that they are too silent, in my humble opinion, at the moment.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Yeah. And it seems like learning is in a transition too. Right? And so I think we’ll see that change. Hopefully it’ll be more thought about how do we continue to keep this going versus starting over and doing new certs? I think with what’s happened, they’ll be more careful about that.

Mike Pfeiffer:
A couple of the other questions that have come up, [Sayeed 00:25:45] was wondering, now that MCSA and MCSE are going away and retiring, which certs should you take to become Azure MCSE certified, but that’s not really the way they’re doing it, right? So we’re going into a role based scenario, and so the MSCE as we know it, if you had it, great, it’ll be on your transcripts, but not anymore. There’s not going to be an MCSE, right? For Azure? It’s just going to be a role based certs, admin, developer, architect, things like that, right Tim?

Tim Warner:
Yeah, the big dustup, the reason why hundreds and hundreds of people, including myself, signed that petition to Microsoft is that their decision to just abruptly stop all of the product based certifications and just say, “We’re just doing role-based and they’re all cloud platform,” that caused a lot of problems for many good reasons. And I don’t have the URL, maybe as you’re … Greg, if you can dig it up. There’s one announcement on the Microsoft certification blog, the latest announcement they made, where they’ve extended the lifetime of the MCSA and MCSE until, I think, January of 2021. So it’s nice that there’s some extra time for who are still pursuing those certs.

Tim Warner:
Now, again, like Mike said, the program is definitely in flux. Worldwide Learning was pretty committed to keeping the product based certs dead and buried, but I think that enough pushback is coming to where we may see that change, honestly. Because, there’s practical questions. Not every business is fully or even partially on the cloud, but yet they may need to qualify on data center products, system center, exchange servers, SharePoint, Windows server. There’s still a need. And I don’t think just trying to bury them quickly is the right approach, so we’ll see what happens.

Mike Pfeiffer:
That’s pretty interesting to hear. It’ll be interesting to see how they handle that. I know that when I did my very first MCSE starting way back in the beginning, '99 or whatever, for me anyways, my first test that I took was an elective. It was TCP IP. Nothing else. It wasn’t anything really much about Windows and NT 4.0. It was just about how to understand IP subnetting and all this kind of stuff. And I am curious about, if they do eliminate the MCSE track and all the system stuff that’s equivalent to working on Windows operating system and stuff, where will people get systems skills if they didn’t have them before? So it’s kind of hard to wedge all that in with Azure Administrator certification. It’s just like we’re assuming, yeah you start a new network and now you’re doing it in Azure. So maybe your point, that would be a good thing to have some of that OS and networking stuff, and more of a systems path for you. I don’t know.

Tim Warner:
Yeah sometimes it seems to me that Microsoft makes certain decisions to literally make room for partners and vendors, independent software vendors, because, my gosh, there’s so many businesses that make all of their coin being a Microsoft partner. And I wondered, in the back of my mind if, if not consciously, unconsciously, Microsoft Worldwide Learning is opening up the ground for other companies to develop certifications on, say, the Windows Server platform. I know we at Pluralsight, that subject came up. This could be an opportunity for Pluralsight, and any business, to develop a certification on this skillset. If Microsoft’s going to walk away from it, it’s fair game.

Mike Pfeiffer:
True. It’s a big opportunity for some other [inaudible 00:29:34] company to come in and close the gap there. Because there’s going to be that. I mean right now what’s happening is most of us are existing IT industry practitioners moving into cloud, but eventually it’s just going to be kids coming out of school that need to do that, and they’re not going to have an IT background, really. So at some point, somebody is going to have to address that.

Mike Pfeiffer:
All right. Let’s see. So there was a couple of other questions that I want to address. Number one, there was one about how do you approach this stuff if you’re a developer, or even somebody that’s not an ops person. Because the administrator exam is going to really expect that you’ve got some systems background, and what’s funny is … I heard this from somebody else I know at Microsoft who was in the sales organization, so they’re not a field engineer or anything. They are just a salesperson, basically. And there was a mandate, internally apparently, that, I don’t know if it was all sales people or just a certain division, they had to get Azure Administrator certified. And so you’ve got people that aren’t even operations or even really IT people, going and taking the AZ-103, which, I’ve talked to IT people and they’re like, “Man, that was harder than I was expecting.” so if you’re not an operations person, even if you’re a developer, it could be super challenging. So I think when they were asking the question, “Where do I start?” What you were saying earlier, Tim, is the 900 might be warm up, right?

Tim Warner:
Yeah. That is indeed a heavy lift and it cuts both ways. Imagine, as a developer, I would ask the person, "Imagine if you didn’t know anything about C sharp development, but your boss says that you have to pass this AZ-203 Azure Development exam. You’re going to be burning the midnight oil just getting up to speed with basic object oriented programming before you get even into Azure. So I would say, talking to a developer who’s facing the administrator exam, “I hope you’re motivated.” Because you have to know a pretty darn good degree of depth with ethernet, TCP IPN, or networking, compute the configuration of all these products … It’s deep. Just like an operations person’s going to have a lift preparing to take the 203 Development exam. They are different job roles.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Right. Yeah. Same thing with the 400. It can be a stretch for people too, the dev ops test, where it’s expecting you know the language for development but also operations. And so pretty much anybody going into that one is challenged by some unfamiliarity and some of them unfamiliar territory.

Tim Warner:
True. But you have the prerequisites. I think Microsoft Worldwide Learning was smart by doing that prerequisites, because you’ve got to conquer both of those hills, administrator and developer, to qualify for the dev ops engineer. Now is that fair, strictly speaking? Think of the people who work as full time dev ops engineers. Are they strong equally between operations and development? I don’t know. I’ll leave that open.

Mike Pfeiffer:
I think usually they have their own strengths and weaknesses, just like anybody else.

Tim Warner:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). There you go.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Yeah, and so you’ll know, okay, you’re a little bit stronger over here. Yeah. It’s an interesting time. The dev ops conversation, man, that’s a big hill to climb. It’s a lot. And I think the good news is there’s room, right? There’s room for new people to come in, come from different backgrounds. It’s definitely not … It’s still evolving, right? It’s still emerging. It’s still becoming a new way of doing things, and so there’s tons of opportunity. A lot of people can get into that conversation, I think. It’s just getting past the stuff that you don’t already know, being open to change, embracing some newer ways of doing things.

Tim Warner:
And Mike, you know this more than anybody, the Microsoft tech community is by and large a welcoming group who’s more than willing to share and help.

Mike Pfeiffer:
That’s right.

Tim Warner:
So you’ve got a ton of support, and whatever you’re facing learning, it’s a great thing.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Yep. Over 120 people on our live stream right now …

Tim Warner:
Wow.

Mike Pfeiffer:
I wanted to shout out to all the contributors in the comments, MVPs and otherwise, just people throwing answers to questions that we didn’t get to yet, and just throwing links in there. Thanks everybody for bringing a value to this live stream. It’s really cool.

Mike Pfeiffer:
So thinking about this in a little bit more in depth, one of the other questions was is Microsoft going to give us any credits for all these books that we bought now the exams are changing. They have ended the deadlines, to Tim’s point. And just to plug our own book, Tim, I’ll go ahead and take the opportunity to shamelessly plug the EZ-300 book that we did, even though that’s a different certification path. If you’re going for administrator, there’s been a couple of questions about it. It’s very similar in terms of what Tim was talking about, with going from 103 to 104. A lot of the same considerations and the content and the way that they’re making the changes. So it’s not a huge departure. Plus the existing exams, 103, EZ-300, EZ-301, all those ones are stretched out in terms of the deadlines. I think all the way until September or something. You can go to the exam page and understand what exactly is the date, but still a lot of runway. So I guess what I’m saying is if you just bought a book, especially if you bought ours, don’t worry, it’s still valid. Also, don’t worry, we’re writing an update to the other one. I don’t know what Microsoft’s going to do. They probably won’t be able to extend any credits for new books, but we do giveaways and stuff like that, but there’s plenty of time to knock down the existing tests.

Tim Warner:
Yeah.

Mike Pfeiffer:
So question, Tim, so should I wait to do 104 or should I just do 103 now, if I’ve been already studying.

Tim Warner:
First let me address the Microsoft Press thing. I mean, I can’t speak for them. I doubt they would do a credit, but you never know. But what I will do is as soon as we get off this live stream, I’ll contact my editor at Microsoft Press and ask the question, “How about people who have bought the exam ref let, say, for AZ-900, the first edition, or the AZ-300 first edition, can you do anything?” And I’ll report back on my Twitter feed, TechTrainerTim, when my editor gets back to me.

Tim Warner:
Now about the question, should you go for the new version or the old version? First thing I want to remind you all, or tell you if you don’t know, is that regardless of which of these Azure administrator versions you take, it’s the same badge. If you take the AZ-1-

Tim Warner:
… take, it’s the same badge. If you take the AZ-104, which I don’t even… Yeah, the beta must’ve started because I’m taking it tomorrow, it better be going on. If you take the beta and pass the 104 or if you’ve taken the 103, it’s the same exact badge. There’s nothing to gain necessarily, other than renewing your two years, like, as I said earlier, my administrator badge is pretty darn old at this point and I hope if I pass the exam tomorrow that’ll refresh it. I’ve been advising people unless you have a compelling reason to go for the next version, stay the course with the current version, if for no other reason that there’s already an enormous body of support and study materials for the current exam. Everybody in the learning industry is scrambling now about this AZ-104. I’m tech editing the next edition of the AZ-900, Mike and I and our coauthors are working on the AZ-303 et cetera. It takes a long time to ramp up all of that training, so why not take advantage of everything that’s current now and pass the current exam? That’s my guidance.

Mike Pfeiffer:
I agree. I think that putting it off is like a secret way of like make an excuse to not do it now. Like that’s my own internal dialogue would just be like, “Dude, you’re letting yourself off the hook. Just get it done. You’re pushing it out, you’re procrastinating.” So that’s how I would do it to myself, I would just go and rip the bandaid off because I’ve already been studying and just go for it. Andrew had a really great comment that I wanted to touch on here and it’s a great question because if no one has done a remote proctored exam before, it’s kind of an unfamiliar process and it can be kind of stressful because you try to understand what the requirements are. So I’ll share my quick experience and I know you’ve got a lot to say about this Tim, but I mean really what he’s asking here is, does Microsoft need to see the whole room you’re in or just part of it? Do you just have to have one webcam?

Mike Pfeiffer:
So yeah, just one webcam. But for me, I actually have a basement in this house, which is pretty rare for Phoenix and I go down to the basement where nobody is in there because one of the big ones that I didn’t realize the first time I took it is you’re not supposed to talk to anybody. So if somebody from my family comes home and I got like people coming in and out of here all the time. I got like 18 year old daughter, like people are coming in and out, it’s like grand central station. Not so much right now, but a lot of times somebody will walk by and say, “Hey, what’s up?” And you can’t talk, you can’t get out of the view of the webcam and you’re not supposed to say anything. And so that would be my guidance is get in a clean spot where there’s nothing on the walls, nothing on the desk. What about you Tim? What about your experience with doing remote proctor? That pretty much it?

Tim Warner:
Yeah. The last time I did it was a number of years ago and it was terrible situation. It was all via webcam and you had to take the webcam, I had one that I could remove from my computer and point, they wanted a 360 panorama of the room. And if you have multiple monitors, you’re going to need to unplug them all and face them down. I mean, it was really disruptive. The situation now is so much more streamlined, it really is. The biggest suggestion I have for you, top line, is do a Google search for Microsoft online exams and you can take a system test and it’s the same procedure that you’re going to take on exam day. So you’ll want to do it from the same room and same computer that you plan to take the exam on.

Tim Warner:
And in a nutshell, what the system test is, is you’re going to need your cell phone, you’re going to get an access code and they’ll send you an SMS message on your phone and then on your phone it’ll pop up a little app where you can upload photographs. You’ll need to take front and back photos of your ID, you’ll need to take a selfie of yourself and you’ll need to take four shots of your room, one facing your computer, one back wall and then left and right, that’s it. And I took mine in my home office and I did take some precautions, I cleared off my desk, I made sure that there were no tech books or anything visible, that kind of stuff. For instance, behind me you can probably see my bookshelf, I think that would have been fine, I’m not in the room where I took the exam the other day. But I had no problems with that.

Tim Warner:
In fact, I wound up never even talking to the proctor. At one point he put up a chat message just to ask a general logistical question, but it wasn’t this long drawn out thing, I mean the exam just literally popped open and started. The other suggestion, as I said at the beginning of this live stream, you’ll want to do some work on your system, make sure that as many background processes as you can close out of, even stuff like anti-malware scanners and stuff, just to be safe, turn all those off. The desktop engine that the exam uses is sensing the presence of I don’t know how many different processes and it might flag you saying, “Oh, we can’t proceed because of such and so process that’s running.” That actually happened to me on my system.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Oh I haven’t gotten that yet. That’s awesome.

Tim Warner:
Yeah. There’s quite a bit of security built into the desktop application.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Yeah, we want that too, right? We don’t want people ripping off and cheating the exam. We want these things to be highly regarded and hard to pass. We don’t want just any Joe Schmoe and taking the test and passing, cheating. You know, I had that same thing Tim, I did the remote stuff early in the beginning, where it was literally like you interface with the proctors from the beginning all the way until now, which is take the pictures with your phone and all that kind of stuff. The only other thing where I ran into a snag the last couple of times where I’ve done remote was number one, when I get halfway through the test and I get tired and I like put my hand on my face like this or like [crosstalk 00:42:15] I had the proctor come on in that because there’s like facial recognition software and if it’s an obstruction they get notified. And so the guy came on the webcam or the call like halfway through the test like, “Hey, get your hand off your face.” I’m like, “Whoa, that was freaky.”

Tim Warner:
Yeah, that’s right. I mean they’re pretty strict about that. That was my biggest worry, frankly. I talked to my wife and nine year old daughter, “Please do not come in.” My daughter’s like, “I want to kiss you good night.” It’s like, “I’ll come up afterwards, please. If you open that door, the test is gone.” And keep your face in the frame, as Mike said, keep your hands away from your face, which is good guidance with COVID-19 anyway, but that’s another story.

Mike Pfeiffer:
That’s true. [crosstalk 00:43:01]

Tim Warner:
You don’t get a bathroom break

Mike Pfeiffer:
… face before until COVID-19.

Tim Warner:
Yep.

Mike Pfeiffer:
I’ve also had somebody yell at me about or like, “Pull up your sleeves,.” And make sure there’s nothing written on your sleeves. And they’re like, “What’s this? What is all this?” I’m like, “Guys, it’s just a tattoo. Chill out.”

Tim Warner:
Can’t get rid of that, at least not easily.

Mike Pfeiffer:
All right, cool. So as we’re kind of wrapping this episode up for this live stream, I wanted to let you guys know Tim and I are getting ready to work on something pretty awesome. So with the 104 and kind of with everything else going on right now, at the end of this month, which pull out on my calendar, April, let’s see, 27th, 28th and 29th. Right Tim?

Tim Warner:
Correct.

Mike Pfeiffer:
On April 27th, 28th, 29th Tim and I are delivering an AZ-104 workshop. So three days live online, completely virtual course. Just me and Tim bringing the goods, the cloud skills community will be there in the comments helping, answering questions and we’re opening registration for this tomorrow. This is going to be a high access event for lots of people because it’s going to basically almost cost nothing, there will be a small fee for this event but not like going to a regular three day class, a fraction of that.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Also got some other live events coming that will be completely free that will be interesting for everybody. So tomorrow morning I will email out to all of our email subscribers the registration link for the AZ-104 workshop that Tim and I are doing April 27th, 28th, and 29th and that’ll be a something that goes from 9:00 AM central to around 4:00 PM central-ish. It’ll be recorded, people that are part of the workshop will be able to watch the videos if they want to, if they can’t make it live. So if you’re not on our mailing list, let me put the link in the chat or in the comments. So you just want to be on the cloud skills weekly newsletter, so if you get the emails every Friday for our newsletter, you’ll get the email tomorrow morning when we open up enrollment for the workshop.

Mike Pfeiffer:
But if you’re not on the mailing list, let me just drop a link in the comments, just cloudskills.io/subscribe. And then again I’ll send out an email tomorrow morning. This is probably going to be an event where we’ve got… We did this about a year ago where we did a PowerShell workshop and Tim and I and Jeff Hicks and stuff like that, we had like almost 300 people on a Zoom call and it worked flawlessly for like two days. And we’re doing this this time again for three days, AZ-104, Jeff Hicks, not going to be there for this one. But we’re not going to be focused so much on PowerShell, it’s just strictly Azure administrator certification prep and it’s an accelerated prep workshop meaning we’re going to cover the stuff you need to know or focus on in those three days. So that is the game plan. So if you guys want to join us it’s going to be insanely awesome, I can promise you that and you should check it out. But thoughts as we kind of head out of this episode, Tim, on top of anything else that we’ve talked about or we couldn’t cover?

Tim Warner:
Yeah, I have a logistical question. Are you going to post a recording to this live stream and, if so, when and where?

Mike Pfeiffer:
Actually we can post this on YouTube tonight. So I’ll have Matt on my team quickly turn this one around and get it posted on the YouTube channel. So just youtube.com/cloudskills. So we’ll make sure that’s up there sometime before the end of today here.

Tim Warner:
Outstanding.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Cool. Well I think that’s it. Everybody appreciate your guys’ questions and everybody in chat, you guys definitely brought a lot of value answering questions and bringing questions to ask and answering questions. Thanks so much everybody. Lots of cool stuff going on despite the craziness. So we hope that you guys are doing good out there isolated and we’re really hoping that this event at the end of the month will be a cool way for us to all to get together, share some knowledge, have some fun. Again, it’s going to be very easy for anybody to join, so keep an eye out for our emails tomorrow and, once again as usual, the legend Tim Warner, thanks for the advice man man, I appreciate it.

Tim Warner:
Thanks a lot Mike and thank you everybody for being here today.

Mike Pfeiffer:
Thanks all. Replay will be on YouTube later today. Take care. Have a great week.

Tim Warner:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

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