9 Microsoft certifications in 7 months

If you follow me on any of me any of my social media accounts, you may have noticed me posting several posts around passing (and in some instances, failing) Microsoft exams.

Over the past 6 months or so, I have managed to pass 9 exams. This wasn't a personal choice (who on earth would want to put themselves through that?!), but one that was pushed my Microsoft and their change in the Partner model - which I'll write about at some point.

I'll be honest, I wouldn't recommend trying this many, so quick, as it was exhausting, stressful and rather expensive, especially when trying to work, run a business and still have a home life, where the wife doesn't want to throw things at you for always been online! I would however recommend choosing yourself a set of exams that align to your job role (whether current or future) and focus on them.

Anyways, I did it!

I was originally going to give a break down on each exam here, but after giving it some thought, it makes more sense to give a breakdown of some of the techniques and resources I used, rather than the actual exams (I'll do a post for each in the coming weeks)

Work/Life Balance

The first aspect that really struck me was how my work/life balance would be impacted by doing this. It hadn't really hit me, until I posted my tips on twitter, and I got a fair bit of shit about it.

I'm very fortunate when it comes to how this actually went. Since having kids (at the time of writing, we have 3x that are 5 and below), I've always wanted to have there and not let me career impact the family. This was a key requirement for me in this challenge. All my revision was done in the evenings once all kids (and the wife) were tucked up in their beds.

This isn't always possible, especially with older kids. So, it makes sense to get the family onboard with any exam goals you set yourself. Don't let the revision consume you, take time out and have days off. It doesn't matter how long it takes...

Get hands on

Long gone are the days where you can sit down and read a book and pass the exam. The new style of exams may be multiple choice and scenario based, but you are tested on how you do something. You may get asked in what order or what screen you need to follow to configure the environment in such a way.

Get yourself setup within with a test environment. There are free trials of most of the technologies to be tested on (Developer Program | Microsoft 365 Dev Center and Create Your Azure Free Account Today | Microsoft Azure to name 2), that lets you build and configure, using the full technology stack.

I'd also recommend you try and build out your environments to be as close to the real world as possible... and I don't mean highly available etc. Think about a business case, choose some business requirements and build out the tenant. Always think security! So, take a look at the security baselines (Security baselines guide - Windows security | Microsoft Learn) from Microsoft, and you won't be disappointed.

Learn the core technologies

Looking back across all the exams I took, there was a glaringly obvious theme. They all tested me on the foundational technologies across the stack. Azure Active Directory, Virtual Networks, Role Based Access, Virtual Networking, Privileged Identity Management and Storage Accounts. Although they had varying levels of depth to them, understanding the ins and outs are probably the reason I scraped through some of the exams that I don't work on day in, day out.

Therefore, before you approach the exams, get yourself comfortable with enabling, configuring and securing the key technologies. Read the official Microsoft documentation, run Defender for Cloud analysis on them once done, test monitoring and watch as many YouTube videos as you can. It will help you alot more than you realise.

Mix up your learning

Everyone thinks that you need to pay for expensive, classroom-based courses to be prepared for an exam. What if I told you I didn't attend a single course for the challenge?

The community is a wonderful place, with people creating content day in, day out that will cover any exam requirements. Log into YouTube and look for exam crams, free courses and product demos. This will give you a well rounded knowledge from people who have so much experience, across so many verticals, that it is invaluable.

As well as video, I found the official Microsoft test exams from MeasureUp were really helpful. Although they don't include exam questions, the format, feel and question types are bang on. Best of all, they give you the answers, and an explanation as to why each was wrong or right. Invaluable when planning to book the exam.

Don't be disheartened if you fail some

I failed a couple of the exams on the first go. I was gutted, angry and at times, wanted to just not bother continuing with them. However, it was a learning curve. It showed me that I hadn't covered the exam prep enough, wasn't strong enough in certain areas, or was just too tired.

If you do fail, download your score report, read the recommendations. It will give you a breakdown of the objectives you were weak on. This gives you a revision plan for the next attempt. Focus on these points, and rebook when you feel ready!

So, what's next?

I'm going to have a bit of a break from exams for a while, and try and get back into my fitness and general life :) . However, once I get the bug for certs again, I'll be tackling my CISSP.

Feel free to get in touch.

Feel free to give me a shout on twitter or in the comments below if you had any questions or feedback. I'd love to hear how you are getting on! Best of luck.

This article was written by:
Author image

Paul Sanders

Hi, I'm Paul Sanders, and I'm from Manchester, UK. After many years working in the IT consultancy industry, I decided to setup on my own. Now an independent strategy consultant.
You've successfully subscribed to A blog by Paul Sanders
Great! Next, complete checkout for full access to A blog by Paul Sanders
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.