Learning – How do I do it? Why do I do it?

The Microsoft MVP challenge is a learning challenge set for all the MVPs to compete in, whilst having fun learning together during the month of May. This is a great idea as I’ve yet to meet an MVP that does not simply love to learn. Introducing Gamification into learning has always been a great concept and its just fun to get on the leader board so I’ll be “playing” across all three of the topics set by Microsoft. 

So, whilst taking part in this challenge it prompted me to think “What’s my learning story? How do I do it?” 

My Learning Story 

I have been taking the exams for the Power Platform as they have been released, this is an area of significant interest to me as its where I work every day. But I find if you just look at your own area in isolation you will miss out on the insight that looking across the whole Microsoft platform can provide.  

This month I will be looking at the Azure Data & AI, Dynamics 365, and Power Platform. 

Right now, I am looking at MS:700 – the Managing Microsoft Teams exam. This is something that brings in more skills across the stack that are added extras for Microsoft Teams. This exam covers not just how to help organisations use Teams but the fundamentals of the unified comms / telephony elements which, as business process automation and knowledge managements workloads, they usually do not touch.   

So how am I going about it…I use a 4 Step model… 

1 – Make a Collection 

The first thing to do is to look at the content you want to learn and create / curate some learning sources that suit the time you have available and the way you like to learn.  

My own ways of learning are: –  

Test my knowledge as I go – find a platform that provides some learning material followed by questions that make me consider what I have just learned and that help me get the best results. For this reason, I usually check Microsoft Learn first for relevant learning paths / content that fits or is closely related to the specific topic.  

I am not a big reader but do love a diagram – I’m not likely to sit and read a whole book on a topic – unfortunately, I just don’t get big blocks of time in which to do that. So, for me an online tool works, I can break up the content into small chunks, working with the time and speed I need to take the information in.  

A diagram, for me is a HUGE leap forward in understanding, if I can draw a diagram while learning I will but those platforms that reinforce the message with a diagram really solidifies the message for me.  

I learn by doing – just reading and seeing diagrams is not enough, learning tools or tutorials with a lab or with an exercise that I can follow along with really works well.  

Let me share a collection I have for my MS:700 study here – https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/users/sharonsumner/collections/d87ycz2z27wywq?WT.mc_id=BA-MVP-5003717  

This is a combination of a couple of learning tracks available and I have found they combine the knowledge that I need to pass the exam really nicely. 

2 – Plan an Exam date 

Depending on how I feel regarding familiarity with the content, I’ll book an exam date for a realistic date. For MS:700 I know I’m not going to get a lot of time until the summer, so I’ve planned my exam in September. It does not matter when the exam is, but I always book it and pay for it. This keeps me focused.  

I find with a date to work to, I can challenge myself to meet a personal goal, without the option to back out. I don’t see this as pressure but rather a commitment to myself and my own learning.  

I often set an early exam date when I know I will have only just became familiar with the content needed, Why? Because, and I really want you to hear this…. FAILING an exam is NOT failure, its learning! 

By taking the exam early, you will flesh out where the exam is focused, what the key areas of knowledge you need are and what you do and don’t understand.  There is a HUGE difference between understanding a topic and knowing the answers – and that’s why, for me I don’t use exam crams or question dumps – if you understand the topic, you will be able to answer any question, if you can just answer questions, you do not necessarily understand the topic.  

3 – Relax  

So, with an exam planned, I can work out how long I have to learn the content and how to break that learning into a realistic schedule (avoiding all the major Microsoft Events and speaking engagements).  

Having a schedule that allows you to learn at a relaxed pace means you are not trying to take on information too quickly (as I find I will lose it just as quick).  

4 – Seek other opinions 

Don’t just cram in all the information, look around for experts and enthusiasts to engage with. You may find this on You-Tube or Twitter or in your own company / friend circles.  

For me, hearing other opinions on the topic, different ways to present or use it and the ability to discuss the topic are fundamental.  

Conversation, asking questions and investigating use cases for the technology can really solidify your understanding. For me, business application is the key – find a problem that the technology solves and understand how and why it does that.  

Talk to people (seriously, ping folks on twitter they will talk to you) about why they used the technology in the way they did, what problems it solved, what challenges they faced and how they overcame them. You can learn so much from a real-life example of the technology you are learning in a business environment that you just would not have considered in a lab.  

So, in conclusion what are my big tips… 

Challenge yourself – Set dates, work to a goal otherwise you will find you will get easily get distracted by work/life.  

Reach out- The tech community are AWESOME! We learn together, we love to talk about what we have learnt and to help others succeed.  

Imposter Syndrome – is real! Continually learning and having an interest in the tech community helps me to overcome this. Challenging myself with exams is not to prove my competency, it’s to fuel my passion. 

My Challenge to you… 

If you can relate to any of the above, then I challenge you to learn with me. My learning path above is for MS:700, please use it and let me know what you think.  

Follow my steps, book in an exam, and keep me updated on how you do.  

If you complete the learning path and have already passed the exam, please let me know any content you think may need to be added.  

MOST important – Please let me know if this has been helpful, hearing my story and how I learn and feel free to get in touch with any of your own tips on learning! 

Thanks for listening – don’t forget to leave comments below or get in touch with me directly if you’d like to chat about the content posted here or anything to do with the Power Platform – I’m a Business Applications speaker and evangelist with a clear focus on delivering real business value from technology. I speak at least once a month so please find me at an event and #LetsGetCoffee

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