When learning new technologies many people will go towards training courses (in person or online) but many also go for certifications such as MCSA / MCSE, which I no longer pursue for many reasons.
Microsoft now have this idea of Professional Programs (https://academy.microsoft.com/en-us/professional-program/) with the aim of gaining technical job-ready skills and get real-world experience through online courses, hands-on labs, and expert instruction within a 3 month class period. They offer:
I decided to pursue the big data track which I want to talk about. Overall I like it. I used this program to bolt onto existing knowledge that I already had within classic databases and Azure. Having Azure skills definitely helps here. I say it took me about 75 hours to watch all videos, take notes, pass the module questions, lab questions and the final project module.
I passed all the below where you need 70% or higher. My overall average was 80%.
Introduction to Big Data
Course number Microsoft: DAT229x
Analysing and Visualizing Data
Course number Microsoft: DAT206x
Delivering a Data Warehouse in the Cloud
Course number Microsoft: DAT220x
Developing Big Data Solutions with Azure Machine Learning
Course number Microsoft: DAT228x
Introduction to NoSQL Data Solutions
Course number Microsoft: DAT221x
Orchestrating Big Data with Azure Data Factory
Course number Microsoft: DAT223.3x
Processing Big Data with Azure Data Lake Analytics
Course number Microsoft: DAT223.1x
Processing Real-Time Data Streams in Azure
Course number Microsoft: DAT223.2x
Querying Data with Transact-SQL
Course number Microsoft: DAT201x
Microsoft Professional Capstone : Big Data
Course number Microsoft: DAT230x
I will say it is a great starting point to get your “hands dirty” with the technologies, a concept that I loved. I rather (and prefer) learn via practical work than classic certification style based learning of reading book after book which I did during the MCITP days of training kits. Now I will say, it doesn’t mean that I have suddenly become an expert overnight like Paul Andrew, Terry McCaan and those clever guys but I am definitely more familiar and comfortable with Azure Data Factory (v1 sucks by the way), Azure Date Lakes, USQL, Event hubs, CosmosDB, streaming analytics.
This is where the professional program is superior to certifications. From experience I know people that have passed certificates like the MCSA with just reading (and probably cheating via dump questions) and with the end result? A qualification. Okay, I am not saying everyone does this but those that do, well from my point of view it takes the shine off the certificate.
You cannot do this here. Not only will you be asked questions during the modules but you must complete all lab quizzes ready for the module exam where you will have to setup a solution from scratch and if your solution is correct only then will your answers be correct!
For example, for the streaming analytics course I ultimately had to set up an event hub and get data writing coming into and out of the hub and some streaming analytic queries to get some answers to the questions that I was being asked. It is a great feeling when you are a newbie such as myself and you get them right.
Now, the downside(s). Microsoft want $99 per certificate to become officially certified meaning $999 (for 10 modules) that you need to shell out to become “official” which I find ridiculously expensive. Also I don’t like the 3-month hard time limit to get everything complete. It’s too aggressive and should be relaxed. Hopefully this has given you some insight into the professional program.