What’s your learning goal for 2019? Just as with a New Year’s resolution, they can be difficult to keep up with. Let us help you keep your learning on the right path this year.
In a recent Ask Me Anything-style session, hosted by Brian Knight and Devin Knight, they shared their advice and top tips to setting an achievable learning path in 2019. Here are the Q&A from that session:
Q – I’m about to graduate college, where do I begin?
A – This is a typical question. On the networking side, everything is going more and more to the cloud so going cloud is a great way to start. Some of the easiest skills to learn are in the Microsoft Power Platform: Power BI, PowerApps and Flow. But if we had to choose one class to start, it would be T-SQL as T-SQL is the foundation for everything, SSAS, SSIS, SSRS and Power BI. Power BI is probably the most interesting but taking T-SQL will allow you to see if you like it or not.
Check out the link to the webinar video as we discuss jobs in the BI world, as far as the biggest need for roles, as well as some salary info.
Q – How valuable are or how do employers look at things like certifications when hiring?
A – Certifications are good but many look for experience. Certifications are more important for Jr. Developers than a Sr. Developer. If you come to an interview with pieces of work you’ve done to show what you can do, that’s even better.
If you don’t have the experience, share things you’ve built, possibly in a test lab or a data model that shows your thought process for that model. We tell Jr. Developers to bring a portfolio to an interview, even if it’s just a bound book of screenshots of reports you have done or maybe some T-SQL queries. A portfolio will add credibility and place you light years ahead of your competition.
Q – For people trying to pass certification exams, will your training do anything to help with that?
A – Our courses can definitely help. We don’t design our courses to specifically answer all the questions on certifications, but they do correlate, and we tie in certain modules and we will point out how that module will help with a certain part of a test.
The MCSA: BI Reporting or the Power BI certification is probably one of the easiest ones to get. It has a Power BI test and an Excel test; therefore, they are important skills to attain, especially for a Jr. Developer heading into these careers.
Q – How do we make time for training?
A – It can be hard to keep up as things are constantly changing. Just don’t sit still and do nothing; find the time whenever you have it, whether it’s your lunch hour or after hours to watch training or read up on things. If it’s important to you to learn, you’ll find a way.
Some create study groups that will meet and watch a training video and discuss it. We keep updating our courses to stay current and we have a series called Power BI Monthly Digest to point out all the top new features of this ever-changing technology. You can find that on our YouTube channel, as a podcast and also as a monthly blog for you readers out there.
Bottom line is keep constantly learning or you’ll be far behind.
Q – Because technology evolves so quickly, what’s the best and easiest way to digest that and keep up with the times and where you need to be?
A – Depending on the technology, oftentimes the product teams will post updates and it’s a good idea to closely monitor the Power BI and Azure blogs. As they have new releases, they will typically post about them. And keep up with our Power BI Monthly Digest and our Azure Every Day series for up to date information.
Q – Oftentimes, there’s not a big budget for training, how do you overcome not having the funds from your company?
A – There are a lot of places you can get free training, including us with our free webinars every Tuesday at 11 AM EST. The downside here is there’s only so much content we can deliver in an hour. So, we do recommend following up on our webinars with some of our paid training.
We often see companies pool departments together to fund a training purchase so a group of people can take advantage.
Our YouTube channel has well over 1,000 hours of free content with 5 years’ worth of our weekly webinars there for you to view.
If you’re looking for a great start, we recently launched our free Dashboard in a Day course. This is an event that Microsoft holds at training centers all over the country. We created a virtual version of that course with 7+ hours of Power BI training for free! Plus, a 7-day peak at our over 45 other classes.
Q – How do you decide which training is right for you?
A – Some of this is personal; there are platforms that offer virtual, in-person and recorded, among others. Something we do for our customers is a customized Learning Path, where you specify your goal or a project that needs you to be more proficient in a particular skill.
We take that information and build a step by step guide on how to get there (we do this for teams too). It will show you the classes you should take, in what order and any certifications you’ll get. We’ll also cover the average salary for a career and what choices (and salary increases) you have with future career paths.
Our Learning Paths are great for anyone that’s looking to further their skills or expand their career but may not know where to start.
Q – How much time do you (Brian and Devin) spend on learning each month?
A – Devin: I spend a lot to time each week with the all the changes that occur in Power BI and Azure. I probably spend about 2 hours a night reading and catching up with what’s occurring out there.
Brian – This is a personal choice for each person. We have a contract in our family that laptops are closed until 9 PM. I typically spend an hour or two each night. Find what works best for your family or yourself, maybe scheduling 30 minutes at lunch or a few hours a week. But do invest some time no matter where you are in your career.
Also find people that you like that have blogs and are putting information out there, whether to listen to them or read, if you like the person’s style, it can make keeping up easier.
Q – Do you have any schedule tweaks or hacks that you’ve adopted over the years that have made a difference?
A – As we said in the last question, time blocking your schedule or focus your learning on a project you’re working on, either at work or a personal one, so you can find a focus. Let’s say you’re a DBA, you could build a PowerApp to help manage your servers or a data science package that gets all the stats from the server or a Power BI report that tells you what your ecosystem looks like. Find something to get you into the BI world and make your learning time project based.
Q – What’s a sequel to Dashboard in a Day?
A – Dashboard in a Day (DIAD) is a great starting point. From there we have a Learning Path for a Power BI Developer. Even after DIAD, it would be very beneficial to take our Intro and Advanced Power BI courses as we cover more and dig even deeper.
The next logical step after Power BI, would be DAX. Another cool class to learn how to add excitement to your reports, and your users, would be our Data Storytelling with Power BI course.
Q – How do you stick to your learning?
Learning can be like working out – it can be tough at times to stick to your plan and your goals. One way we try to solve that problem is our Learning Coaches feature in our On-Demand Learning. Our Learning Coaches are there to celebrate your success or contact you to get you back on track if you falter.
Your colleagues can also help. Set up a learning goal with a partner and just like a workout buddy, you can help each other stick to your plan.
Q – What about other learning services or platforms that might not have as much Microsoft content, how would those work for people?
A – There are some other good ones. Coursera is a good choice that often follows universities where they’ll have a data science program, for instance, that you can follow through different universities.
With most other platforms, though, it is much more hands-off than our training; they give you access then you’re on your own. What sets us apart here, is our Learning Paths and Learning Coaches that we discussed previously. These offer big assistance in reaching your goals.
You will also likely find that many other platforms don’t go as in-depth as our courses do. If you’re looking for Power BI training, we have 12 courses on that alone and our Introduction to Power BI is over 14 hours of content.
Q – Do you see PowerApps replacing C# applications inside corporations?
A – One thing to keep in mind is PowerApps has a narrow scope. The focus with PowerApps is internal applications and it’s a low code footprint, which means it limits the functionality, so it isn’t for all your apps.
We had a C# CMS internal application that we had built over a 12-year period. With PowerApps we rewrote the core management part of that application in about a week. It was replaced dramatically, but PowerApps will not replace C#. For low footprint, easy to use stuff, it’s great but for the hard stuff, you’ll still need C#.
But PowerApps is fun as heck to use and if you’re a DBA or BI professional you’re going to love it!
Q – To piggyback our first question, if you’re not a recent college grad just entering the data/BI world, let’s say you’re a SQL Server DBA or Developer in the past, what are some things you should be looking at in the future?
A – If you’re an SSIS developer, you should definitely start learning Azure Data Factory. If you’re a SQL Server DBA, start learning the Azure side quickly. We’re finding customers that used to say, no way we’re going to the cloud, like hospitals, banks and insurance companies, all making the move.
So, start taking your skills into the cloud and start learning Azure. Logic Apps is also important to learn as we are replacing things we never could have with SSIS using this tool.
Report writers should learn Power BI. And Data Science and Machine Learning is something we’ll see more and more of. If you search for Microsoft Trust Center, this website lists all the compliance that Azure and Power BI meet across many industries.
Q – What about SSRS vs Power BI?
You should have skills in both. There will be instances where you’ll want to use what fits best. You’ll use the SSRS route for more operational and detailed data reporting. But when you have the need for rolling and aggregating data up, that’s where a Power BI dashboard is great.
Q – One attendee compared DAX to a hockey stick, where it’s easy to get the first ramp up, then it gets more difficult for the advanced pieces.
A – Great analogy! This is why we offer Intro and Advanced DAX courses. When we were building our DAX training, we looked at some of the previously released courses. We found that there are many smart people who know DAX but don’t know how to explain things in a way that’s easy to understand.
We’re proud of our DAX courses in which our trainer, Mitchell Pearson, does a great job explaining things in a way that is easier to understand than any others we found out there.
Q – Do you have a great pitch letter to give my employer to get them to pay for training?
A – Yes, we do! When you let us create a Learning Path for you, we’ll get you a letter that tells where you are, where you want to go, and the investment needed for you to get there.
We hope this webinar/blog answered a lot of questions you have about training. Watch the complete video here. To get started on your learning goals for 2019, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and get your custom Learning Path built for you or your team. Don’t let your learning goals fall off track, we’re here to help. Start with your FREE Dashboard in Day course by clicking the link below!
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