Certification is not for certification

    Hi, Habr! Today we talk about the practical experience of passing Microsoft certification and obtaining MCSA status. More details on the certification path. Well, at the end of the article you will find useful resources, including courses and books that will help you better prepare for exams.

    I give the word to the author

    Objectives and benefits of certification

    Obtaining certificates for various products or areas in the IT world is ambiguous: some consider it useless collecting paper / electronic artifacts that have nothing to do with real knowledge and skills, others seek to replenish their LinkedIn profile with regular “regalia”. In my opinion, it is important to understand the goals and objectives that you are pursuing, because passing a certification exam, even if you know the product well, still requires some preparation, and this takes time, which is often a valuable resource that is not enough .

    The primary goals of preparing and passing certification exams for me were the expansion, deepening and structuring of knowledge on the Microsoft Azure cloud platform. It is important to understand that even if you constantly and intensively work with a product, especially a complex one, you often well and deeply understand the individual options (services) of the product, sometimes weakly affecting the rest. When you are preparing for an exam, during the preparation process, you will cover a fairly wide range of different topics, services, product functionality and a platform, which allows you to expand your professional horizons.

    Another advantage of obtaining certificates is that it may be desirable, and sometimes mandatory customer requirements when hiring specialists for a project or simply a requirement for a position from an employer. An important point is that the presence of a certain number of certified specialists is sometimes simply necessary to maintain a certain level of partner status of a partner company with a vendor. However, it would be a mistake to think that certification, by itself, will significantly increase your value in the labor market as a specialist. Knowledge should be supported by good experience with the product in real projects.

    Certification paths

    The product for which I decided to certify was the Microsoft Azure cloud platform. The options and certification paths for Azure are presented on this page . Certification involves several steps: when you pass one of the exams (for example, 70-533), you get the status of Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP).

    The first step of the certification path is the status of the Cloud Platform Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) - for this you need to pass two exams from this list . The second step is the status of Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) , to obtain it you must have the status of MCSA and supplement to pass one more of the exams from this list. In this article, I will try to reveal my experience in preparing and passing two certification exams for the Microsoft Azure product:

    1. 70-533: Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions
    2. 70-535: Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions

    Successful passing of both exams allowed to pass the first step of certification on the Microsoft Azure cloud platform and get the status: Cloud Platform Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA).

    Training materials and training

    I started preparing for the exam already having the skills and experience with Microsoft Azure. In total, the preparation for the two exams took me about 3 months of intensive training (combining with daily work). Additionally, I attended the official five-day training course 20535A to prepare for the exam 70-535.

    During the preparation I used various sources, below I will give their list with a description in the order of information for me:

    1. Official documentation is, in my opinion, one of the best resources for exam preparation. It is beautifully structured, informative, easy to read and understand, and comes with a large number of code examples, commands, and practical exercises for consolidating theoretical materials. Whatever textbook and materials you use, I strongly recommend viewing the topic you are studying in the documentation, if only because it is updated regularly and this is one of the most current sources of information on the product. Given that the Microsoft Azure platform is constantly evolving, then the documentation is simply necessary to keep abreast of the latest changes in the product and individual services.
    2. The Azure Architecture Center is an excellent resource in which collected best practices, and Microsoft's experience in designing various solutions in Azure. Much attention is paid to various architectural patterns and their applicability in various scenarios. It also provides recommendations on how to implement an architectural template using Azure services. Trying to deploy an architectural template in Azure is easy and simple, using links to deploying ARM templates through the Azure Portal. I strongly recommend the use of this resource not only in preparation for the exam, but also during the daily work on projects.
    3. Study guide . I used the official electronic textbook for the course 20535A , which Microsoft provides on the Skillpipe platform . Since there are a lot of common topics in the two exams 70-533 and 70-535, the tutorial was useful in preparing for both exams.
    4. Training courses on third-party resources. The edx portal has a lot of official Microsoft training courses, including materials on Microsoft Azure. Instructor for many courses, such as Azure IaaS, is Microsoft MVP - Corey Hynes. He perfectly expounds the material, complementing it with demonstrations and explanations. Other resources, such as Udemy or Linux Academy , may also be useful as additional material. I used edx training courses and one of the training courses on the Udemy portal.
    5. Video channels on YouTube. I recommend the Microsoft Azure and Microsoft Mechanics channels . In the framework of short clips, the presenters invite product managers and engineers to the studio, who tell in detail about the service they develop and make interesting demonstrations.

    In addition to theory, it is obvious that it is important to have enough practical experience with the platform. Surely, you have already used a number of services in real projects and tasks. But exams, especially 70-535, cover a fairly wide range of services, and it is likely that with some of them, you did not have enough work experience. In this case, you can help practical exercises (tutorials) that are in the documentation. But, in my opinion, it is better to set up your own experiments with services, within which you can solve some small applied problems. This will allow you to more intelligently explore and explore the product.

    CloudPro 2020 program

    The CloudPro 2020 program allows you to receive a free certification voucher for one of the exams. It is necessary to pass a very simple test, after which you successfully pass, you will receive an email with information on how to obtain and apply a voucher for your chosen exam. The pleasant thing is that the voucher is given for the exam with an attempt to retake, which is very useful if you did not pass the exam the first time.

    The program is now suspended, but it is likely that it will continue very soon.

    Obtaining certificates for Microsoft Azure as part of the Cloud Pro 2020 program provides an opportunity to additionally complete an online course on preparing Blockchain architects for Azure specialists. This course is designed for certified Microsoft Azure specialists who want to study in detail and in depth the Blockchain technology, starting with the basic fundamentals and creating and building the architecture for complete solutions using Blockchain technology. After listening to the course materials and performing practical tasks, the listener has the opportunity to pass the exam and receive the Blockchain Architect certificate. For myself, I take the Microsoft Azure certification exams as an opportunity to take the next step in the development of professional skills and delve into building the architecture of blockchain solutions based on the Azure cloud platform.

    Exam Rules

    Detailed rules for conducting Microsoft exams are available at this link. Here you will find information about testing formats, types and number of questions, rules and terms of retake. A separate point that I would like to mention is the so-called “brain dumps”. I strongly warn you against using them. Well, firstly, it is a violation of Microsoft policies, punishment for which could be the cancellation of the results of exams and deprivation of certification. Secondly, both the Azure platform itself and the exam content change quite often, so using the next “dump” to prepare you runs the risk of running into outdated content. And finally, we have the same “fair play” and we pass the exam primarily for ourselves and to increase our level of knowledge.

    Exam format

    The exam is available in various languages, including Russian, but I strongly recommend that you pass it in English due to the fact that initially all the terms in the documentation and literature in English. Before the exam, you will be asked to take a short survey in which you answer questions about your experience with Azure, the reasons that prompted you to take the exam, and so on. Answers to these questions are collected for statistical purposes and do not affect the course of the exam.

    Separate questions on the exam are in the nature of situational tasks. For example, in exam 70-535, a number of questions are divided into separate blocks, which initially describe a certain customer scenario, which already gives architectural tasks in the format of questions with different choice of answers (multiple / single choice, the need to streamline answer options, etc.) d.) Thus, the tasks are formulated on the understanding and role of each individual resource (service) in a specific scenario of building the infrastructure. In my opinion, this is a very correct approach to testing, which makes the examinee think and think logically, and not automatically learn the facts from the documentation.

    For incorrect answers points are not removed, this is clearly indicated in the rules for conducting examinations. Separately, I would like to quote an excerpt from the rules regarding the question “What does my grade mean?”: “Having passed the exam, you simply demonstrated competence in the assessed skill area. In addition, the assessments of candidates who passed the exam do not allow comparing their competence; a higher passing score does not mean higher levels of competence. The same is true for grades below the passing score; lower scores do not mean lower levels of competence. Having passed the exam, you have demonstrated competence regardless of your grade; without passing the exam, you did not confirm competence. "


    Having passed 2 exams and received the MCSA status, I have done only the first step in the Microsoft Azure certification pyramid. The next step is to get Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) . For this, I plan to pass the 70-538 Implementing Microsoft Azure DevOps Solutions exam , which is not yet available for passing, but I hope it will be available soon.

    Choosing certification paths and exams for passing, make it meaningful, so that it correlates with your career development and growth plans.

    Success to you on exams!

    about the author

    Emin Askerov is a cloud solutions architect at BANKEX , Microsoft Certified Professional, Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate. In the past, CSoft developer of geo-information systems, technical evangelist and consultant at Microsoft and Oracle, where he helped the partner community to implement cloud solutions and on-premise middleware products in their projects. Currently focuses on cloud computing and Microsoft Azure / Visual Studio Team Services platforms.

    Useful materials (courses + books)

    Blockchain Architect Training Course

    This course is designed for certified Microsoft Azure specialists who want to study in detail and in depth the Blockchain technology, starting with the basic fundamentals and creating and building the architecture for complete solutions using Blockchain technology.

    Download / View

    Online course on preparation for the certification exam 70-533 "Implementing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions"

    This course consists of 8 video lessons:

    1. Introductory session
    2. Develop and implement applications using Azure App Service
    3. Build and manage virtual machines with Azure Resource Manager
    4. Design and implementation of storage strategy
    5. Design and Deploy ARM Templates
    6. Implementation of virtual networks
    7. Azure Operations Management
    8. Azure Identity Management

    In addition, the course provides for 7 laboratory work (homework), for better absorption of the material.


    Exam 70-535 Preparation: Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions

    This course covers the main points to consider when preparing a cloud or hybrid architecture. Consider examples that will enable IT professionals to gain practical knowledge in the preparation and planning of infrastructure services and business applications. As well as passing this course will allow you to get closer to passing the exam 70-535 Architecting Microsoft Azure Solutions.


    Preparing for the 70-533 Implementing exam Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions

    After studying this video, you can get to know Azure technologies and confirm your expertise with a Microsoft certificate. In addition, you will learn how to deploy, configure and administer services and virtual machines in Microsoft Azure, migrate local servers and services to the cloud, and use Microsoft Azure to host web and background services of mobile applications.


    Microsoft Azure Security Infrastructure

    This book provides general information, design tips, deployment scenarios, best practices, technology survey results, and step-by-step instructions to help you make a comprehensive presentation of Azure security features. → Download

    Cloud Application Architecture Guide

    Use a structured approach to developing cloud applications. This 300-page e-book on cloud computing architecture discusses architecture, development, and deployment recommendations that apply regardless of the cloud platform you choose. This guide includes steps to:

    • Choosing the right style of cloud application architecture for your application or solution;
    • selection of appropriate computing and data storage technologies;
    • implementation of 10 development principles for creating a scalable, fault-tolerant and managed application;
    • following the five principles of creating high-quality software that guarantees the success of your cloud application;
    • using constructive patterns designed for the problem you are trying to solve.


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