From Azure padawan to Azure knight
Going into the Azure Talent Acceleration Program, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew that it would be an intensive learning experience but coming from a background of on-prem infrastructure management, I knew it would be extra difficult to get out of that on-prem mindset and into a cloud one.
Week 1 was very interesting. We had the whole group turn up to Poznan in Poland. People coming from Finland, Germany, Netherlands and of course Poland.
It was a great time to meet who we will be working with, what their backgrounds are and what they want to achieve in Nordcloud. With the team going out for dinner at Brovaria it was a good place to break the ice.
I was nervous to say the least, with no idea what to expect, but we all just jumped straight into AZ-900 learning materials, with Jarkko (MCT) as our trainer for the first few weeks. Following the learning materials and the online labs, there was a ton of information to digest. To say it was overwhelming is an understatement, but over time as we started to pickup on those fundamentals, the materials started to become clearer.
While week 1 was primarily an introduction to those fundamentals, Darek spoke to us about our career paths in Nordcloud, giving us an overview of what we can expect working here.
We also took part in a workshop with Teemu (Azure Guru). This workshop was jumping ahead to Azure Architecture with small case studies. There’s an existing blog with more details covering that workshop here.
We went into Week 2 expecting a similar experience. But this time it was a bit more in depth with Powershell. Remotely deploying resources through a few lines of Powershell code? Awesome. Being familiar with Powershell, it was my tool of choice as we went through labs. We also had the option of using this or CLI, which although looked intuitive and simple to learn, I’m a Powershell fanboy through and through, so I stuck with it.
The labs were quite easy to follow, as they provided you with a step by step on how to achieve the goal. So, I, along with a few others in the group decided to try and perform these tasks using Powershell/ CLI instead of using the portal.
This made it a bit more of a challenge, but it helped us learn much quicker.
Later in the week were our self-study days to help us prepare for the subsequent weeks. Mostly using Pluralsight covering Git, Powershell, Docker and DevOps.
With the first 2 weeks behind us, I was getting more comfortable with what was happening. Week 3 was focused more with classroom learning, specifically on AZ300. Although much of what was covered, we had already gone through in previous weeks, it was still good to keep our minds fresh with information.
By this time, instead of doing the labs, Jarkko set us some challenges to complete with the information we just learned. Again, instead of using the portal, we’d be using Powershell/ CLI, maybe mix in some ARM Templates, or perhaps utilize key vault… adding bonus objectives with areas we hadn’t covered yet to help us learn the areas quickly. We enjoyed it, and it was fun coming up with different methods on achieving what Jarkko had asked us to do.
Friday of that week though was the first kick off day to our case study. The case study would be the biggest focus for the following weeks.
We were split into teams, representative of the cities we came from. The same teams we used in Teemu’s session.
The case study was split into 4 phases:
- Design a solution for migrating a 3-tier web app to Azure.
- Implement the solution using the portal.
- Implement the solution using ARM templates.
- Implement the solution using Devops.
Our first task, designing the solution.
We had most of one day to design the solution. This took us back to our original task with Teemu for designing a solution in the cloud. All of us learned a lot since then, and felt that this time, our design was clear and informative.
The key part was to remember that what we were designing, was what we were implementing. So, making it overcomplicated would impede us later. Keeping it simple was the way to go.
This week we were primarily focusing on the next 2 phases of our case study. We had a day to implement our solution via the portal. It wasn’t too bad to get through. Using the portal to implement our solution was a great way to learn more features that we hadn’t used previously, but with that said, the knowledge we had already learned helped us get through the implementation without an issue.
But on Tuesday, that was when the difficult part began. Implementing our solution via ARM templates.
It wasn’t just writing out a single template and throwing it up into Azure, we needed to ensure that we were using features such as nesting and linked templates. The extra challenges made it extra difficult.
It was tough, but at the same time the difficulty of the task helped us learn more about ARM templates.
We were still split into teams, but that didn’t stop the groups from helping each other. We would often reach out to other teams to get their take on what we were struggling with and vice versa. After all, although we were in mini-teams, we are all trying to achieve the same goal. There is no shame in asking for help and advice, and it was great to see teams helping each other throughout the tasks.
Our colleagues who were with us in Week 1 came back to Poznan in Week 5. It was great to see each other again after a few weeks. We took the time to go out for drinks to catch up as well as talking about what we had learned and how we accomplished the case study the previous week.
Starting off the week with going out was a good idea considering what we were going to be learning that week.
It was a very detailed and intensive few days of DevOps with Krzysztof, learning Azure DevOps, Git and CI/CD Pipelines.
Considering our next task was to implement our solution using DevOps, the trainings we had were super helpful, and well taught. The lessons were tailor made to our group, and really opened our eyes to the possibilities behind CI/CD processes and automation.
Once we had gone through these trainings and labs, we had half a day focusing on our soft skills. Hosted by a third party, it was primarily focused around public speaking, and getting us used to being able to talk openly to a large group of people. It was a nice break from the intensive technical training, as many of us were still processing the raw information provided to us the days before.
And then came Friday, Kubernetes day. Piotr hosted a workshop not only for us, but for anyone who wanted to join. Going through the many subjects surrounding Kubernetes, performing labs using either our existing clusters from labs before, or using MiniKube.
The workshop was once again super helpful.
That evening though, it was nice to relax at an office party. The timing was great as we still had our colleagues on the TAP in Poznan who could join us. A fun party to get to meet and greet people who we hadn’t yet spoken to, drinks, pizza, it was great!
Not to mention a couple of surprise birthdays on that day too with 2 of our TAP colleagues. An excellent evening that was most definitely needed, after a super intensive week.
In our final week, we had the whole week to complete our DevOps task. This was truly a step up, as we had heard that in the past TAP teams had struggled with this case study. The intricacies in the task were difficult to deal with, but it didn’t stop us.
Building our repo through to building the branches and pipelines… we found ourselves restructuring a few times as we were trying to automate the entire deployment.
Once again, we were reaching out to other teams to get their take on certain methods and vice versa. We also had a lot of help from Krzysztof guiding us in the right direction.
After multiple failures…
We finally managed to get it working. We were super happy with what we had accomplished. The feeling of accomplishment was one of a kind.
That afternoon we talked about the TAP, giving overall feedback and what happens next. We received our diplomas and now… fully qualified Azure Knights! Next step? Becoming an Azure Master.
One thing! We haven’t planned a new TAP yet, however stay tuned since after holiday season it might happen again! So far, we don’t stop recruiting for Azure Cloud Architects in all countries where we have the offices. Follow the link here and check our current openings.
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