Over the past few years as I've spent more time focused on delivering training and education events, it's become even more important to try to stay as up to date as possible. This is definitely becoming more challenging with the accelerated release cycle of Windows 10, but it's not something that needs to be overwhelming when adding to your skills incrementally. Hopefully some of the advice I provide in this post will help those of you looking to update your skills in 2018, and make the world of constant change less problematic than you think it might think.
I've long been a fan of keeping certified. Sure, sometimes I'll go for a while without doing any MCP exams, but then I'll get the bug again and knock some exams out. Why? Well, sometimes I don't really have a choice, it's either a requirement I place upon myself, or that certain engagements require. I'm more comfortable doing my job when I know I've forced myself to look at more closely at capabilities of familiar products that I haven't had a need to investigate yet. If I was only focused on learning what I needed to know, as opposed to looking at MCP exam objectives, my breadth of knowledge would suffer. Drastically.
What I'm seeing more often these days is a relatively high non-awareness of just how many new capabilities have been added alongside the features we already know exist. Whether we are talking about the modern management capabilities (Azure Active Directory Join, Mobile Device Management, Windows Update for Business to start as examples) of Windows 10 versus traditional capabilities (Group Policy and WSUS). If your Windows desktop skills stopped at Windows 7, and you are treating later versions of Windows the same way, there are lots of great things you are missing out on. The same applies to many other products, but I'll stick with desktop Windows editions as the example here. If you are one of the many who has done Windows 7 or earlier certifications, take a look at the Windows 10 certifications to get an idea of some of the things you should be familiar with.
To give you a bit of an idea before you explore the next few links, these exams all expect you to not just know about traditional Windows approaches to deployment and management, but also cloud services integration with Azure Active Directory and Microsoft Intune. Your skills will be tested on consumer level features all the way to features only included in Enterprise versions, which is a bit broader than most would deal with on a daily basis, but this goes back to my earlier point about being forced to look at areas that are outside of your comfort zone.
If you are a Microsoft Partner location in Australian and interested in this exam, do yourself a favour and sign up for NEXT UP: 70-398 Planning for and Managing Devices in the Enterprise which provides the following...
- 4-week subscription to Opsgility Learning Portal commencing Monday 12th February 2018
- Exam + Retake + Practice test voucher
- 4-hour virtual instructor-led exam cram
- Yammer Community focused on your exam
- Sit the exam in person 19-26th of March, see link for more details.
If you aren't an Australia based Microsoft partner, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary or local learning partner to see if they offer anything similar.
The final exam I'll mention is a special case... well, because this is an OEM blog!
This is only for those of you who need to build commercial Windows images for factory deployment. If you are focused on deploying images inside your organisation for end users, the other Windows exams listed are better options for you). Here's the recommended audience for this one...
Candidates for this exam are OEM, ODM, or IDH Windows image builders who are familiar with using the Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit (Windows ADK) to manage and deploy Windows 10. These candidates install or assemble hardware with genuine preinstalled Windows 10. These candidates also create complete images for deployment to customer devices such as desktops, laptops, and tablets.
In Person Training
While I would usually recommend in person training, it's not always possible for a variety of reasons. Why would I recommend it? The additional things that will be picked up in a classroom environment with other participants is a huge advantage. It also gives a better opportunity to ask questions specific to your needs, but remember, the course has a structure that needs to be followed, and can't address all of your individual requirements. The other benefit of in person training is that any new announcements or updated information can be incorporated, which is critical in this day and age. A pre-recorded online session is going to suffer from aging content at a rate we didn't need to deal with in the pre-cloud world.
If you are going to attend in person training, one of the recommendations I would make is to do some research and some self study before attending. The better equipped your are for the material that will be delivered, the more you will get out of it. What do I mean by this? Something I see a little too often is when someone doesn't really meet the published (or sometimes, the assumed) pre-requisites for the material. If the material is positioned at 300-400 level, and it's a product or concept you've never had exposure to, you will need to do some pre-work to be able to keep up.
If learning more about some of the Windows 10 capabilities is something you are interested in, take a look at the following training course that will be run over the first three months of 2018 in Perth, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. This is not strictly Windows 10 training, as it reaches into other areas as well, but it will help to give an idea of the capabilities that are available.
Specific topics will include Enterprise-Level Identity Protection, Windows Defender Exploit Guard, Windows Hello, Credential Guard, Azure Information Protection, Conditional Access using Health Attestation, and Ransom-Ware Protection. We’ll also address Security and Compliance Policy and discuss how it can be implemented.
When it comes to online learning, there are no shortage of options these days. From Microsoft provided sites like the free Microsoft Virtual Academy that us open to everyone, to some of the partner specific learning portals, and then the world of paid online training providers. I won't list them because I will receive complaints about any I leave out. Remember though, when it comes to pre-recorded online training you should be looking out for signs of the age of the content, which is easier said than done.
It's not always as easy as looking at the date it was published or refreshed, because sometimes content publishing can be delayed, or it may be current and correct when it is published, but need a refresh within a short time period. This is one of the challenges that can be faced head on with in-person training, so here are a few things to watch out for... old product names eg Windows Azure or Windows Intune versus Microsoft Azure or Microsoft Intune, the Windows 10 content only referring to older builds, as indicated by the MMYY number eg 1507 the first release through to 1709 the current release as of this post going live. The challenge here is that this kind of issue sticks out to someone familiar with the topic and the content makes them cringe, whereas someone trying to learn doesn't know what to look for yet.
To get you started, here are two MVA courses for Windows 10 that are on two of the exams listed above.
That's it for this post, hopefully this helps you decide to take the plunge and invest in your skills and maybe even sit one of the exams. If you are interested in a similar post for Windows Server 2016 let me know in the comments, and I'll jump on it.