Microsoft announced brand new free, Applied Skills that are now available for various Microsoft Technologies.
In this article, we will dive into the brand new Microsoft Applied Skills Credentials, share our learning experience, compare them to Microsoft Certifications, and show you how to get started with Applied Skills.
Table of Contents
When we think about the credentials that are available for Microsoft Technologies, we’re very used to the idea of Certifications, we pay for those Certifications, and then we get them renewed for free by the online assessments as shared above. Those Certifications are very broad tech a breadth of knowledge about the technology, and it’s taken in a very curated environment, we have a lockdown experience, it’s for a set amount of time, and we can’t view or do other things during the exam, then we get this Certification that attests that we have this particular set of knowledge, typically focused around a certain Role.What’s being introduced by Microsoft, are the new Applied Skills focused on a very specific skill, if you think of the normal Certifications as a very curative lockdown experience, the Applied Skills are not, it’s all web-based, not locked down in any way, I can still be doing other things while I’m taking one of these, it is very much just an interactive by using the real Azure environment. At the time of this writing, the Applied Skills are all 2 hours long.
Don’t think of this as an either/or option. The Applied Skills complement the normal Certifications nicely. I can think about when my Certification shows I have a certain set of broad breadth of knowledge around a certain role I may want to do, Applied Skills show I can perform some very specific targeted sets of actions around a very specific scenario, and that’s what the Applied Skills are all about, but again it’s free with a fantastic 2 hour in the real Azure experience, it’s not a simulated environment, I’m creating the resources in Azure.
Related: Microsoft Applied Skills Poster.
Microsoft Applied Skills
If we take a look at the Microsoft Learn portal, we can see there are thirteen of these Applied Skills: Microsoft Sentinel, Azure Networking, Power Automate, ASP.NET, Kubernetes, Azure Monitor, Azure AI, Azure SQL Database, Microsoft Defender for Cloud, Azure Files and Azure Blob Storage.
- Configure SIEM security operations using Microsoft Sentinel
- Configure secure access to your workloads using Azure Networking
- Create and manage automated processes by using Power Automate
- Deploy and configure Azure Monitor
- Deploy containers by using Azure Kubernetes Service
- Develop an ASP.NET Core web app that consumes an API
- Secure Azure services and workloads with Microsoft Defender for Cloud regulatory compliance controls
- Secure storage for Azure Files and Azure Blob Storage
- Build a natural language processing solution with Azure AI-Language
- Build an Azure AI Vision solution
- Create an intelligent document processing solution with Azure AI Document Intelligence
- Create and manage canvas apps with Power Apps
- Migrate SQL Server workloads to Azure SQL Database
I can just go in and take one of these Applied Skills, now for each of these Applied Skills, if we look at “Deploy and configure Azure Monitor” for example, the first thing it has is, it tells you the tasks you’re going to perform, it gives you a learning path to help you prepare for this assessment, it shows that you’re going to have 2 hours to complete this assessment, and then once you’ve prepared, then I just click Start and it will launch me into the experience.
The way this is structured is that 2 hours is plenty, I took two of them, I did the Microsoft Sentinel one and the Azure Storage one just to get an idea, each one took me 40 minutes, and that was while I was doing other things, so you have a lot amount of time, obviously they have to limit the amount of time because it’s using real Azure, it’s doing real consumption, and it wants to make sure you stay focused to some extent on the task, you are going to get a set of guidance via Open Emails.
Certain Emails include a set of guidelines, we need this done, then we need this done, and then in the Azure portal, you go through and perform these various actions. Of course, I’m referring to the Azure portal, it will vary the interface based on the specific technology it is asking you to perform, again it’s not a simulation, I’m in the real tools.
Now in those emails, make sure you read the guidelines very carefully, they might tell you to do it in a very specific Resource Group and you must follow this exactly because what’s going to happen is at the end of the 2 hours lab, it’s going to take a dump of the resources that exist and compare them to what it’s expecting if I followed the instructions correctly, so if I went and created things in different places, or if I don’t follow the instructions, it’s not going to match what they’re going to go and look for.
But again this is not locked down, it’s a window in your browser, I can be doing other things, and while taking the assessment if you’re not sure about something, you may go and reread that particular bit of learning, so then I can understand it, that’s the key point.
Now make sure you don’t click the “Submit Assessment” button before you’ve read all of the emails, and if you are doing provisioning and creating a new resource, make sure it’s finished, you always have that little icon that shows the progress… check everything is finished deploying, everything is finished configuring, and then I can go ahead and click the “Submit Assessment” because again it’s comparing what exists the time you click submit, to what it’s expecting to be there if you followed all of the instructions correctly.
Then within 60 seconds, you’re going to go ahead and get your score. In this case, I did the Microsoft Sentinel and the Azure Storage, and if you click on one of them, you can view your credentials and share it, I can go and add it very easily to LinkedIn for example, but I can share it on Facebook, X (Twitter), or send it via email.
Then you see the total score and what you’d see after within about 60 seconds when you take this skill, you’ll see your results and your results will tell you if you got a certain task wrong, if you did, well then you know you can go and refocus on that task, spend a bit more time and reread those materials that’ll help with that task.
If you fail an assessment, you’ll receive an email with preparation resources to help you earn a Microsoft Applied Skills credential. When you’re ready, you can retake the assessment. The content of the email looks similar to the one below. Currently, you cannot see what exactly you did wrong in the end or get a hint, hopefully, they’ll improve this part too.
Then 3 days later, I can take it again, you can’t retake it immediately, there is a wait because you’re using Azure resources, so there’s a little bit of a delay before I can retake it, but every 3 days (72 Hours) I could retake it and I get 2 hours window, I can’t pause it, it’s a continuous 2 hours period, but again that’s a lot of time, you’ll be able to go and read materials and check things as you’re taking it.
Related: Microsoft Certification Changes.
I think the Applied Skills is fantastic, it’s a great way to go and show that I can do this particular skill, but for someone trying to learn Azure, well it enables me to understand what the common tasks are associated with that skill, and it gives me a way to validate my knowledge of that skill, it’s an environment to perform that skill in, so maybe I don’t have an Azure environment, maybe I’m restricted on things I can create.
Applied Skills gives you an Azure environment or whatever particular technology is for that period, so even if I don’t even care that much about the applied skill, it gives me a chance to go and practice and use those skills to fine-tune and just keep getting better, and then, of course, it does help validate to employers that I can perform those skills.
The key point of this is all for free, I think this is a huge improvement for Microsoft learning to help practicing and diving into a particular skill. I do recommend them, there are thirteen Applied Skills already today and I think these are going to grow over time, they just complement very nicely the normal Certifications that show a broader breadth of knowledge, to have a very specific set of skills, they’re very low stress, there is no curation about it, you’re just logging in, there’s a set of emails to guide you do this in the portal and you got a very generous amount of time to do that.
Have a lot of fun! Go and get your hands on Applied Skills.
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