My 2 years as an Azure Technical Trainer at Microsoft

Posted by Azure Readiness starts here... on Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Hey,

April last year, I wrote a post in which I looked back at my 1st 6 months as an Azure Technical Trainer. Where I think it makes sense to update this post in the week I’m officially starting my 3rd year in the role :).

April 2020 was literally in the middle of the (first) pandemic lock-down, where we all thought it would clear out by May; little did we know it would last for another 18 months from there, facing another 2 or 3 lockdowns and still not seeing the end of it, although there is some tiny spark of light at the end of the tunnel.

From a job role perspective, the biggest challenge for me (and several others on the team) was shifting away from 100% in-person deliveries to 100% virtual deliveries. Even now 1,5 years later, I’m still not used to it. Is it going better, sure! For several reasons:

  • Honestly, Teams has improved dramatically! It' more stable, brought it more features (GIFs in chat, hand gesture, background effects, live captions, participant views,… ) - more to be found on what got introduced and what the Teams team has on the roadmap:

  • Attendees have accepted the virtual life; This was a big shift noticeable for me after only a few weeks of VILT deliveries. Participants have their camera on, are building up more interaction by asking more questions, and also accepted the “work from home” noises. It’s actually joyful to hear a little baby crying, to hear a dog barking, to hear a doorbell ringing for another package delivery,… which was not always (not at all??) accepted before the pandemic. I honestly hope this mindset keeps hanging on after we switch back to a mixed world.

  • Whiteboard brings dynamics to the class; if you haven’t used the Microsoft WhiteBoard App yet, give it a spin! You won’t be disappointed. I’m using this for about 70% of my deliveries (the other 30% is live demos, I don’t use any single slide anymore the whole week…). Whiteboarding is something I started doing long time ago during in-person deliveries, and I kept using them in virtual deliveries. It helps building up the story, it helps attendees learning in a different way by seeing it visual and not just hearing about it from the trainer,… and it’s also more dynamic than a static image - which typically feels overwhelming and complex as it shows the end-state of a solution, but not how to get there.

The biggest joy in the last few weeks, basically when the new fiscal started, was the Open Hacks moving into our team as well. If you haven’t heard about Open Hacks, it’s one of the best learning offerings Microsoft currently has in my opinion. Instead of listening to a trainer, an attendee actually needs to figure out - in a team of 5-6 participants typically - how to complete challenges. Each Open Hack comes with a specific focus (e.g. Migrating workloads, Containers, Serverless, DevOps,…) and has 8 or 9 challenges to complete. Starting from real-life scenarios, your team’s task is to figure out how to do it, discuss on a strategy, read through Microsoft Docs and get on with it. Before moving on to the next challenge, a technical coach (that’s the Microsoft Technical Trainer Team) reviews the success criteria and allows you to move on to the next challenge. The key successfactor here is the mix of backgrounds and experiences in each team, the learning method itself, which has a heavy “do it” mindset, and overall the team collaboration.

I actually assisted in coaching Open Hacks in the early days of the program more than 3 years ago already before I joined Microsoft. Consider seeing 400-500 people in a large conference hall “Hacking”, getting frustrated, evesdropping on other teams to pick up what solution they have for a given challenge,… wonderful; quite impressive to see how that in-person model has nicely shifted to a virtual experience. Although, nothing beats that in-person experience!

Last, I had the amazing opportunity to join the DevOps Cloud Advocacy team as a v-member. This means you can contribute to the success of the team, without officially being in that job role. I personally enjoyed (and still am!!) this, because it not only forced me to learn much more about Azure DevOps, GitHub Actions and overall DevOps concepts (Scrum to name one), it also expanded my network of amazing technical folks within the larger Microsoft world. I presented multiple internal and public sessions on DevOps subjects, wrote several public blog posts and overall helped the team in what they are doing. I co-authored docs around Azure Static WebApps, reviewed Bicep Learning Path,… and so much more!!

Some links to my artifacts:

As you can see, there are quite some dynamics in the Microsoft employee world, with a lot of interesting opportunities, challenges (outside of the Open Hack ones :p) and every few weeks there is something coming up that allows you to grab it and contribute to the success of your team, or other teams. I love those dynamics a lot, and get the respect and recognition from my manager, my colleagues within my own team and outside. So I’m sure I’m going to keep on doing this for another while :).

Looking forward to my next “live as an ATT” post in about a year from now, who knows what this role is bringing to the table by then. I personally hope for traveling again, at first to meet several of my peers in-person for the first time, but also for being in front of a classroom again to really see what’s going on in an attendee’s mind during my deliveries, bringing those coffee-corner chat moments back, and the traditional Thursday-evening drinks with my learners.

I miss those moments… but I’m still extremely loving my role!

/Peter