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Developing Azure Solutions course 20532 at QA

Signpost outside a QA training room

May 2017

Last week I got to go on a Microsoft Azure training course, courtesy of my employer Village Software. The course was run by QA in their Manchester venue, and the experience was really good! So I wanted to write a little here for anyone thinking of taking the same course. It ran from Tuesday-Friday, 9:30 to 16:30 each day.

The exact course was Microsoft 20532 - Developing Microsoft Azure Solutions. This leads to the exam 70-532. You don’t take the exam at the training center like you would with certain other training providers, but QA do provide a code to take the exam for free within the cost of the exam. Mine is booked for next week :)

The class size, AfA, and equipment

Inside a QA training room

Our class size was very small because it was half term - 6 people compared to the limit of 16. One of those guys was remote, using “Access from Anywhere (AfA)” but he was still made to feel a part of the group. The teaching rooms are equipped with a neat short-throw projector which projects onto the wall (and which the teacher can’t block with their body), with a whiteboard to either side.

The whiteboards have clever pen tracking so that the real-life drawing can also be displayed remotely to the AfA students. The instructor has a good quality mic on a strap round their neck, and there are mics suspended above the desks to pick up classroom contributions, as well as a webcam at the back of the room. The AfA learners can be heard through the room speakers so they can participate too.

There are 4 banks of 4 PCs, each one has dual monitors and ours were powerful i7 workhorses. Windows 7 (weirdly not 10). The machines get torn-down and then reconfigured after each week of training, so you get a totally fresh and minimal environment to work in, which is great! That said, the Azure course is set out so that you do all of your work on a VM in the cloud, so it doesn’t really matter!

The QA Manchester venue

A break area

This venue, on the 8th floor of the St James Buildings on Oxford Street is outstanding; clean and professional while also full of modern character. The classroom corridors are wide and open, evenly spaced with stylish break areas. There are water coolers and free-to-use hot drinks machines, beside them are bowls of complementary biscuits and apples as well as a wide range of teas.

You couldn’t really ask for more. With regular breaks, it was easy to stay hydrated with water, green teas, and coffee! The one minor downside is that it was a bit of a walk to the restrooms, as they are outside the main QA space, shared between all the 8th floor businesses. But like everything else, the restrooms were contemporary and well-kept.

The venue is an easy walk to any number of breakfast, lunch, and dinner establishments, as well as a Tesco Express and Sainsbury’s Local. It’s less than two minutes to Oxford Road station, which I was using for my commute from Southport. A quick lunch recommendation: take the short walk to China Town and try Ho’s Bakery for freshly baked pork buns and Chinese chicken pasties. Yum!

The training

Our trainer, Andy, was really good. I think all the trainers for this course have to be Microsoft Certified Trainers, which he was. This meant that we actually got a Microsoft-branded certificate at the end of the course which he himself provided - this proves that you’ve received the training even before you take the exam.

Andy brought a lot of energy, enthusiasm, and experience (hehe, three E’s…) to the course. You could tell he had a lot of real life experience and he was able to back this up with live examples of things. As a small class, we went quicker than anticipated through the material, and Andy was able to add extra material to fill the time which really added value. You could tell he liked the subject, and was enjoying teaching it to us, and the class was receptive to the tangible excitement.

There are a total of 10 Labs (hands-on-activities) over the four days. Some of these are dead simple, ‘go into the Azure portal, create one of these things, you’re done’ activities, and others are more interesting development tasks. You should have experience of Visual Studio first (in fact, go ahead and read the whole list of prerequisites) but you don’t need to make up any code - it’s all there for you to copy, paste, and understand. You can then tweak the activity if you want. All of the code samples are provided as MIT, so you can take as much of it as you want for live projects! Pretty great. You get a voucher for £75 of Azure credit to see you through the course.

The labs are authored and curated on GitHub in the Microsoft Learning 20532 project, so students can raise issues and even Pull Requests if they find any mistakes in the materials. As the Azure platform is changing so quickly, there are little bits which are wrong, and that’s the whole reason for the GitHub repo to exist.

If you can’t afford the course, then taking just the labs is a great idea. You can also get the 20532 course book online, and the self-study questions in there are great. You can get a free trial of Azure on any new Microsoft account.


A corridor