Learn Microsoft Power Platform from an MCT and get inspired

Posted 15 Jun 2020 by Nancy Tandy, Business Strategy Manager, Worldwide Learning

This is the first in a series of posts based on interviews with experienced Dynamics 365 Microsoft Certified Trainers (MCTs). The premier technical and instructional experts in Microsoft technologies, MCTs offer live virtual and in-person instructor-led training that provides in-depth, hands-on experience tailored to learners’ needs. We talked with three MCTs about their approach to teaching Dynamics 365 skills and preparing partners and customers for Microsoft Certification: Julian Sharp on Microsoft Power Platform, Beth Burrell on customer engagement, and Brandon Ahmad on finance and operations. Whether you’re a business owner in search of training for your company or someone who wants to build your skills and get certified in Dynamics 365—or if your goal is to become an MCT yourself—you’ll find their take on Dynamics 365 training as inspiring as it is valuable.

Julian Sharp, MCT, is the founder of Ready 365 and a self-proclaimed “power addict.” He’s worked with Dynamics 365 since v1.0 and has delivered training to thousands in Dynamics 365, Azure, and Microsoft Power Platform. In the last six months, with all the new functionality now available, he’s focused more and more on Microsoft Power Platform (the collective term for Power BI, Power Apps, Power Automate and Power Virtual Agents), which enables companies to easily visualize data, build custom business apps, and automate processes. When Microsoft Power Platform is used with Dynamics 365, it enables people with no-code or low-code experience to perform high-level tasks with data—tasks that used to require one or two IT people. The catch is, Sharp says, as more companies adopt these two technologies, the need for workers skilled in using these technologies has increased. And he clearly enjoys teaching people those skills.

For this interview, Sharp focused on how he teaches Course PL-900T00-A: Microsoft Power Platform Fundamentals, which prepares people for Exam PL-900: Microsoft Power Platform Fundamentals. As with most of the other Microsoft Power Platform courses he teaches, he adapts and supplements Microsoft Official Courseware (MOC) to help learners get the most out of the material. Using MOC as a “backbone” helps everyone stay focused and pay attention, he says, and the way he customizes the course to learners’ needs deepens their learning. How does he do that?

In a two-day virtual course, for example, he starts with a poll to find out how many have built an app before, how many have a background in SharePoint, Dynamics 365, Office 365, Excel, or development, whether that experience is broad or narrow, and if they’re familiar with sales or other areas. He then tailors the course to their experience level and areas of expertise. Usually, since so many are new to Microsoft Power Platform, he starts broadly, digging into how to get started with Microsoft Power Platform, and moves on to cover all the parts of the course—the manual, slides, and labs. Along the way, he enhances learning by tailoring how he presents the course material and adding his own material based on his deep experience as an instructor and with Microsoft Power Platform.

One of the ways that Sharp tailors the Microsoft Power Platform Fundamentals course is by creating his own Collections of modules for learners. Collections is one of the most valuable features of Microsoft Learn, he says, and one that he’s most excited about. There’s such a wealth of material available on Microsoft Learn that it can sometimes be hard to know where to start and what to choose. To help students focus their learning, he handpicks modules for them to work through, sends them a link to his curated Collection, and asks them to pre-read the material, so they come to the course able to jump in faster.

Once the course is underway, he adapts the courseware—not only to students’ experience level but also to their needs and learning styles. He may use the courseware in a different order, for example. All along the way he uses lots of demos and adds stories of his own to engage students. “No reading slides,” he notes. When students are completing a lab, he checks in with them, asks them questions, and makes sure they know that they don’t have to worry about using the official naming—they can use their own terms—and they can do a task the way that works best for them, even if that way is not in the documentation. That way, he explains, they learn more than a set of skills—they learn the flexibility and possibilities of the technology. And he learns new ways to do things in Microsoft Power Platform that way, too, which he loves. “Students are always showing me new ways to use Power Platform,” he says. Another way Sharp engages learners is by pairing up participants or having them work in teams so they can discuss what they’re doing and teach each other, and he also has private chats with students about what they’re struggling with or what they’ve figured out. He loves “the energy of thinking with others,” whether that’s in person or in a virtual live classroom.

Engaging students’ initiative and creativity is also central to Sharp’s teaching style. For example, he gives homework that’s not in the course materials, inviting students to use the homework problem as a guide for creating their own problem to solve. “Every learner is different, and Microsoft Power Platform has so many possibilities for being used differently.” Most people are in the course to learn how to use it, he explains, not only to pass the exam and get certified. Being prepared to pass the exam at the end of his course is “almost a bonus,” he says. The fundamental value of the course is in learning what Microsoft Power Platform is about, what it can do, and how you can use it to solve the business problems you have. That’s why he sometimes goes off on little asides related to people’s interests or based on his own experience of where others have gotten tripped up or the challenges he’s seen.

By the end of the course, Sharp wants everyone to know the mechanics of how to configure and implement an app with Microsoft Power Platform. And he also want them to experience the excitement of creating an app with no or low code, building an app to solve a business problem specific to them, to have a sense of accomplishment and even get excited about the great possibilities of Microsoft Power Platform. He’ll walk them through how to solve a business problem, for instance, and they’ll say, “There’s not an app for that.” And “that’s where the magic happens,” he explains—when they design and create the app themselves. “I want students to understand the value of Microsoft Power Platform, much more than what it does.” In that sense, he calls himself an “ambassador” for Microsoft Power Platform. He enjoys helping people make new connections, watching them move from “My manager wants me to acquire these skills” to “Hey, this is interesting!” and from “I’m not sure I can do this” to “Look what I just did!“ “I get a kick out of that,” he says. His goal is to get students excited so they, like he, will never stop learning more about Microsoft Power Platform and Dynamics 365, which are always expanding and advancing.

One of the goals of inspiring students in this way is to help them expand possibilities for their company, as well. If you have narrow experience, or everyone in your company is working in silos, understanding Microsoft Power Platform can help give you a broader view so you understand how integrated different areas of a business are, from analysis to marketing to sales, and it can help you connect with people in your company.

Sharp’s passion for teaching and for Microsoft Power Platform extends to inspiring people to become MCTs. “There’s a real shortage right now,” he explains. Microsoft Power Platform trainers are few and far between, so it’s a good time to train to become an MCT in Microsoft Power Platform. In addition to expanding your employment opportunities, becoming an MCT has other advantages, like collaboration and networking. The Dynamics 365 and Microsoft Power Platform MCT community is especially strong and supportive, he says. “It’s a great group and we learn a lot from one another.” Sharp himself seems to be always learning—from Microsoft experts, other MCTs, and the learners in his courses.

Taking a Microsoft Power Platform course from Sharp or another MCT can help you gain in-demand skills, build connections with colleagues, and get inspired to use the technology to solve your business problems your way.

Explore more Microsoft Power Platform certifications:

Browse MCT-led courses offered by Microsoft Learning Partners that prepare for certification in Microsoft Power Platform.