Learning Azure, becoming an MVP, failure and more

18 months ago I decided to learn Azure, it was about time I learned some cloud skills (Azure for me). The following is a quick run through of my journey to where I am now, I’m really just getting started but in reflection happy with where I am heading, always to remember to invest in yourself.

I work full-time at Sword IT in Glasgow, Scotland and have had some hands on time with Azure through work, couple of projects have helped me learn. I’ve managed to help our company get more in the way of Gold certifications this year which has been pretty cool, that means we get more benefits as a company, something I am proud of.

When trying to start learning Azure, its easy to get lost in the enormity of the platform, being a dev, I decided to take a look around and formulate a plan for learning Azure. It soon became clear that the best for way me to learn something new is to work towards a goal, so my first goal was to sit and hopefully pass an Azure exam. Goals are important for me as it means I have a plan and can work towards achieving something.

Recently I have had a number of people reach out to me asking how I went about it, what tips can I give them and how did I go about learning Azure and passing exams etc.

Which exam would I start with, and which exam should you start with? –  well that depends on your experience and background, its not the same for everyone but here are my thoughts and how I went about it.

I have a blog title Azure Exam Study Guide which describes my method for studying for Azure exams.

I looked for resources to start learning Azure and read a fair bit to get me started, not too long after that I saw a blog post announcing the AZ-100 beta exam, which was only going to cost me £27 ,the problem was if I recall correctly, I had 2 weeks before the beta closed to sit the exam, it may have been a month but it wasn’t long. I created a OneNote page with all of the links and notes I took whilst I went about my study, for this exam I set a learning goal of 2 hours per night studying. I found some very handy Udemy courses from Scott Duffy and went through the entire course end to end and booked the exam. I sat my very first Azure exam (actually my first Microsoft exam since the days of the MCSD exams) so it had been a while.

I failed the exam with a score of 671 out of 1000 (passing score was 700), for me this just whet my appetite and if you know me learning is my thing. Six days later I sat the AZ-101 beta exam and again failed with 655 out of 100 (passing score was 700). Taken 2 exams and failed them both, bummer you might say, nope, I had learned a serious amount from where I had came from and was loving learning all about Azure. Read more about

At this point the burning desire to learn was there, nothing was gonna stop me from passing my first Azure exam, I kept studying even though I knew these 2 exams weren’t really my cup of tea, I didn’t have much hands on experience of the content and I struggled with Azure Networking at the time.

Fast forward 2 months and the Azure Architect Beta exams (AZ-300 and AZ-301) were announced and I thought lets give them a go, I had been studying relentlessly for 2 hours a night every single night, when I say I didn’t even watch television I really didn’t watch any at all, I wanted to pass the Architect exams. I sat both, failed the AZ-300 and passed the AZ-301, I actually thought that I would pass AZ-300 and fail AZ-301, but who cares I had passed an Azure Architect exam (which does cover a lot) my studying was paying off, I had spent a lot of time doing hands on labs, finding the best resources, it was sinking in now, where previously in the other 2 exams I was still unsure to an extent.

Let me say one thing, the feeling of passing your exam is worth all of the hard work, I was super delighted and just wanted to keep going.

Crazy as this sounds I sat the 2 Developer beta exams 3 and 4 days later, I have a dev background, I had been using Azure on a project at work building a distributed system with these tools, I sat both exams and passed them both, I was now a certified Azure Developer, badge and all.

Not long after that I sat the Azure Devops exam AZ-400, Devops was something I had done in a lot of previous jobs and I had a lot of experience with numerous tools. I sat the Azure Devops beta exam and failed with 685 out of 1000 (passing score was 700), man that hurt! – I didn’t put the effort in, I spent time studying but after sitting the exam realised what I had been studying wasn’t the right material, I got lazy basically, didn’t do my homework correctly by carefully looking at the Microsoft exam page and going over each link carefully on places like docs.microsoft.com, lesson learned. I passed the exam after taking some time off from studying, I was officially burned out from 2 hours a night for 3-4 months.

In the end I had sat 9 exams in just under 4 months, crazy yeah, not a great idea in retrospective but when you fail an exam the burning desire to pass and learn more, took over for me.

All whilst this was happening I had been nominated for the MVP award (I wrote about that here) and I’ll move onto cover what I was doing for that, I’ve covered all of this before in previous blog posts, which I will leave you to find but here’s a list of a few of the main things I was also up to whilst studying.

My advice for people looking to become an MVP is think of ways you can help the community, not just blogging, go further, do more, you’ll learn a lot, you’ll grow as a person by being uncomfortable, push yourself and you’ll be rewarded in many way’s.

I’ve been lucky enough to been asked on podcasts, asked to do training videos, write books, I’ve met Scott Guthrie and a lot more just from being active in the community. Follow more people on twitter, honestly grow your network.

Next up, I don’t share my goals, I have a few still to attain this year and next year is when I’ll start looking at doing more talks.

I have a lot of people to thank for where I have gotten to but I have thanked them all personally or online as I haven’t met them yet, going to Ignite and the MVP Summit I hope to meet many more and also thank them personally.

Hard work pays off.

  • You can find all of posts on Azure here
  • You can find all about the Azure exams here

Please feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn or Twitter, happy to mentor anyone if I can with anything I can.