Ambition and Drive to Learn Azure

This blog post takes a look back at 2018 for me, and what I achieved throughout the year.

This time last year I knew absolutely zero, nothing, nada, not a jot about Azure, I decided to change that and 1 year on I passed the Azure Architect 70-535 Exam and I’ll try to cover my journey below.

I have had many a tweet from followers saying that they have been inspired by my learning and so I decided to blog about how I went from literally knowing nothing to passing the Architect exam which has a big learning curve.

If there is one thing I am good at, its finding the right resources to learn something, I have a knack of finding the right content and locating the right people to ask for help or to learn from.

My original goal for the year was to sit and pass 1 Azure exam, once I got started learning Azure I was instantly hooked, I have now sat 8 Azure exams in the last 3,  maybe 4 months (yes I’m crazy!, yes I even sat exams at midnight)

I sat 7 beta exams and my thinking was to sit them and see where my level was and use them as guidance on what I knew, what I thought I knew and what I certainly did not know, each exam cost me £27 so it wasn’t a huge expense.

Ok so people seem interested in how I went about it so let’s get to that now, here is how I tackled my Azure learning, it was haphazard but when the betas came out I had little time to learn what I needed to learn before the discounts expired.

  • Read through the exams and start off with one of the easier ones (none of them are easy when your starting out)
  • I chose the AZ-100 and I think that’s not a bad place to start
  • Read the website link for the exam carefully especially the skills measured (these can be updated from time to time)
  • Search google for people blogging about their study notes
  • Use links like mine for finding useful study resources
  • I used udemy and Scott Duffy’s courses and Pluralsight (too may authors to thank here, see below)
  • I signed up to his Facebook Azure Exams User Group (Only thing I used Facebook for)
  • After a couple of weeks I booked the exam 2 weeks in advance (that forces you to study)
  • I used Azure a lot as nothing beats hands on experience – this is very important!
  • Practice is the only way I really learn something and remember it


I used to sit and watch a lot of crap on tv and binge watch season’s on Netflix, I cut down the amount of tv I watched, just stopped it altogether, I’ve barely watched a thing this past year on Netflix.

If I want to learn Azure it required being laser focused and dedicated to the subject. I would say on average I was spending 10+ hours a week at night after work just studying and using the tools within Azure, now this isn’t possible for everyone so maybe I can list some of the best resources I found and my tips for learning Azure, lets come back to that later on.


So what was the motivation for doing this amount of learning and almost giving up watching tv – mad right?, I know your thinking that.

When I want to learn something I reckon I’m pretty good at finding good resources for learning a subject.

The motivation came from last December (2017) I read up on tech, what was going to be big and its clear to see that the cloud is huge, I wanted to learn something new as well, having been a .NET developer since .NET first came out, I had tired of the new front end JavaScript frameworks coming out every week or every day and that just wasn’t floating my boat, .NET core was still not something that wasn’t grabbing my attention based on tweets I was reading about it at the time, so I chose to learn some Azure.

How I got started

I decided to start by first of all taking my time, I didn’t dive right in, I looked around, read some blog posts, but always ended up back at the – which by the way is awesome.

I check out the beginner courses on Pluralsight, searched for Azure and off I went – the more I read the more I thought this is very cool  stuff, I just got immersed into it and my learning became quite addictive, its when you first deploy something to Azure your like wow that was super easy, what can I do next, and so I just kept at it.

After a month, maybe two I decided to think I may as well check out the certifications,  if I’m learning Azure I may as well see what’s involved in the certifications, so I checked out the Azure certifications, looked for advice on where to get started and it was looking like one of the exams was easier of the 3 available, so I got reading.

After some time I took a practice test and got 12% I think maybe slightly higher, I had very little idea what the questions were talking about, I still hadn’t even heard of some of the content in the questions – that drove me to keep going and learn even more rather than getting despondent, I did the Pluralsight IQ test thing they do and it was slowly going up over time – any progress is good progress right? – I mean I’m learning, I’m investing in myself and what harm can that ever do?

So my thinking changed after a wee while, I’m not a network/infrastructure type person, I am a developer, I’ll study for the Azure Dev exam. I booked my first Azure exam for the 9th of March, I had been studying since December and thought why not, I failed the exam and was pretty disappointed, it was clear I didn’t know enough I got 670 in my first exam needing 700 to pass, I retook the exam  on the 30th March having booked it after failing and due to some other stuff coming up I didn’t study a huge amount in between and failed it this time with 680, totally different content in this exam after I had reviewed the areas I was weak on last time.

Two exams sat both failed, I was pretty low after the second failure, it wasn’t a nice feeling as I took the second test in Edinburgh and it wasn’t a nice feeling driving home – by the time I got home and sat down I thought right refocus and just keep going, fail fast as they say.


Twitter is without doubt my favourite place to learn believe it or not,  I follow all the MVP’s I come across, I follow as many people I can who tweet about Azure, the Azure team members at Microsoft, anyone who mentions Azure I check out their tweets and if there’s learning potential I follow them – I highly recommend doing this if your serious about learning Azure, and if your serious about learning anything technical locate the people you need to be following, engage with them ask questions etc and learn.

I have made some great friends on twitter special mention to Julie Lerman @julielerman ,Richard Hooper @Pixel_Robots, Sam Smith @samsmithnz , Aaron Ralls @cajunAA – the people I chat to the most on twitter.

From twitter alone this year in 2018, I have been asked to write two books and do training for a cloud training company.


The reason I started blogging was to write down things I came across that I would forget, blogging meant I could come back to it later and find the answers, now I’ve moved on to help other people with what I have learned and share the knowledge, it also ensures I have read into the subject enough so that I at least know what I am talking about.

If you aren’t a blogger then you should look into getting started, it’s very easy to do and can open up new opportunities for you gong forward.

I took part in the C# blog Advent Calendar this year which was fun to do.

Tips for Learning Azure

I will list my tips I would suggest for learning azure the way I did below: –


Being asked to help organize the Glasgow Azure user Group was one of the highlights of the year for me, I get to help the Azure community in Scotland and this is both fun and educational in a number of ways, learned a lot from doing this, particular thanks to Sarah Lean @techielass for asking me to help out.

I also reached out to several of the Microsoft Azure folks asking questions, looking for advice etc, the responses have always been very helpful.


Setting goals I think is an important step, I wrote one goal up above my pc monitors which I haven’t achieved and its there to remind me to stay focused on that very goal.

My goals for 2018 were as follows:-

  • Learn Azure and pass an Azure Exam
  • Get a new job, hopefully one where I could manage people
  • Blog a lot more
  • Join a user group
  • Do some open source work and submit some PR’s
  • Get involved in the community way more

So how did that pan out?

  • Learn Azure and pass an Azure Exam
    • I learned way more Azure than I thought possible in one year, I passed to Azure Architect 70-535 exam
  • Get a new job, hopefully one where I could manage people
    • I’m now Head of Development Services for a company here in Glasgow and loving it
  • Blog a lot more
    • Almost 30 blog posts this year mainly round Azure and Azure Devops
  • Join a user group
    • Was invited onto the board for the Glasgow User Group and help run them ever second month
  • Do some open source work and submit some PR’s
    • Need to do more open source work but did get a couple done,  way more on that front to come.
  • Get involved in the community way more
    • Managed a couple of pull requests but not enough for my liking

In summary its been a good year, I’ve learned a tonne of Azure, made some great friends on twitter and at the user group and I generally feel 2019 is going to be an amazing year, I am going to be starting an Azure podcast with a good friend of mine from twitter, more to come in January.

Thank You

I wanted to thank a few people who have helped me with Azure over the past 12 months, its been challenging but very rewarding, I punched the air after passing the Architect exam and was chuffed for a few days after it to be honest. It’s not possible to list them all but the one thing I always do is thank the person who has helped me, its nice to be nice and the best part in all of this has been able to help other people just starting out their journey to learn some Azure.

Special mention to the following for their amazing learning resources:-

Scott Duffy – @scottjduffy
Barry Luijbregts – @AzureBarry
Mike Pfeiffer – @mike_pfeiffer

Here’s to an Azure filled 2019, and look out for the new podcast and the Glasgow version of the Azure Global Bootcamp which I’m organising in 2019, it’s on April.

p.s. Ping me on twitter If I can help you on your journey, I love to be able to help people and more than happy to help.