From one tech to another – Experiential learning is key


Igor Izotov Cloud Solution Architect
Microsoft Australia


“Where are you from?” That’s the question I’m often asked when people meet me. While my name offers a clue, it’s my accent that leaves people scratching their head. Despite leaving my homeland only five years ago, the way I speak has evolved into a melting pot of dialects.

One person recently suggested I was from South Africa, an hour later the same day I was asked whether my accent was eastern European. Some say it’s my slight Northern twang that confuses people the most.

The truth is I am Russian, and when I arrived in Australia five or so years ago, my English was enough to get by. Sure, I knew how to order a beer or give directions to a taxi driver, but I certainly wasn’t fluent.

My first role on Australian soil was with Capgemini, it was also my first English-speaking environment. Being such a global organisation, many of those around me spoke in a wonderful variety of accents. Come to think of it, I should probably thank my then-boss who, originally from Newcastle upon Tyne, has influenced the way I speak today.

This brings me to my point of learning through experience. Not only does it offer the steepest learning curve – for my English it took a couple of month to go from ‘enough to get by’ to ‘okay’ and another few to get to ‘proficient, although a little culturally mixed-up’, but it also helps internalise knowledge, ensuring it stays in your head.

Here’s another example of why learning through experience is a powerful way to upskill. When I joined Microsoft not long ago, after nearly 4 years as an Amazon Cloud Architect, I used the same technique to come to terms with the Azure platform.

Instead of going through endless PowerPoints and numerous training videos I spent most of my evenings with my head stuck firmly in my laptop, coming up with problems and building stuff in Azure, spinning up VMs locally and in AWS to simulate Hybrid scenarios. And just like studying a new language, it was this hands-on experiential learning that helped me translate my existing knowledge and experience into my new Azure environment.

The ‘formal’ result of my tinkering – from having no prior Microsoft certifications to MCSE in under 3 months. And, being a geek, I couldn’t have wished for a better experience, this ‘work’ felt more like play.

On a more serious note, with innovation evolving at such a staggering pace, there is the very real risk of falling behind and becoming a laggard. It’s vital to stay ahead of the wave - not just on the wave - which is why it’s critical to find the approach to learning new things that works for you.

Getting certified and maintaining your certifications can be a good motivator for some and a good structured approach for others. But if I’m allowed to give you one word of advice – never do certifications for certifications’ sake and do not prepare for the exam, upskill yourself - tinker, try, fail and try again, experiment to know enough to pass the exam.

Azure is growing, 85% of the Fortune 500 already trust the Microsoft cloud, the demand for Azure skilled professionals is fast accelerating. Today, Microsoft is offering a special initiative to encourage partners to develop their Azure skills at a discounted rate.

There are three excellent offers that combine free access to our library of flexible online courses, as well as discounts on our industry-standard Certified Professional exams and Linux certification offered through the Linux Foundation.

This is a great opportunity to jump in and experience the power of the Azure platform for yourself, while developing skills that will only become more and more valuable as the Microsoft Cloud adoption rate accelerates.

And while you may not come away from the experience with a mixed-up accent like mine, it will certainly help you stay ahead of the wave. Time to roll up your sleeves, unleash your inner geek and have tons of fun along the way.

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