Journey to Microsoft Certified Azure Solution Architect Expert – Day 1

Today, I start a new journey. I’ve been looking for a challenge for a while and today marks the start of that new challenge.

After 20 years of freelance .NET developer experience, I’ve finally decided it’s time to get a certification on what I know. After a brief look at the options it looks like the Azure Solution Architect Expert Certification is the choice that interests me the most.

I spoke to some of my colleagues in the Microsoft .NET contractor space about my decision. The general consensus was that with my level of experience, the deciding factor would never be a certification, and that experience with blue chip corps like London Stock Exchange, Deutsche Bank and Chicago Mercantile Exchange would be much more valuable.

Here is the truth. The Certification is not for someone else. It’s for me. After 2 years of pandemic and lockdown and working from home, I dusted off my CV last week to see the last .NET contract I took as a freelance contractor was in 2017, and that was a ASP .NET Core 1.0 project.

To me that was shocking! Where did the last 5 years go? I had to think back. Well, the pandemic wiped out the last 2 years and before that I was full time bootstrapping our training business.

Since 2017, Transforming People Academy has been my full time passion project. There is nothing as fulfilling as working with a group of people and watching them transform their lives over a week of immersive training. While I love the training and teaching business, our training business model is built around live events – both taster events and live training days, both of which died a death with lockdown.

While we did pivot online during the pandemic like everyone else, it’s not the same. If I’m running a solo training business from home, I don’t get the interaction and water cooler conversations that I would get working alongside in a large organisation like IBM or NCR or Microsoft. This isolation and working along for 2 years has really dented my confidence and self-esteem especially around my tech expertise, which is really ironic.

Why is this ironic, you might ask. It is because over the past 2 years of pivoting our training business online, I have learn more about Azure, Hyper-V, Ubuntu, Docker, Pods, Webhooks and integration with different marketing systems that I have learnt in the past 10 years, and yet I feel that with the faster pace of change in the world today, I needs something else to give me the evidence that I’m moving forward.

And, so a new challenge starts today.

What exactly is the Azure Solution Architect Expert

As I see it, there are 3 areas of focus in the Microsoft Azure space.

The First area of focus is with managing hybrid cloud infrastructure, which covers all azure aspects from administration to network engineering, security to windows server administration and a bunch of other specialisations such as virtual desktops, SAP workloads and stack hub operator.

The Second area of focus within the Azure certification is really a support role for data and analytics experts, this include support as a Data Scientist, Data Engineer, Database admin and Data Analyst roles all within the Azure ecosystems

The Third area of focus is innovation and development focus such as Azure Dev or Azure IoT development roles.

Now, within these 3 areas of focus there are several overlapping areas such as AI, CosmosDB, and Data support

However there is only 1 area of focus that is cross disciple and that is the Azure Solutions Architect Expert.

Azure Solution Architect Expert is a cross-discipline role
Azure Solution Architect Expert is a cross-discipline role
Azure Solution Architect Expert is a cross discipline role (click to enlarge)

My understanding today (this is my first day looking into this), is that this role is really important if an organisation is looking to build cloud native application on Azure, taking into account the 5 main requirement of a solution architect. This being:

  • Resource Management and Utilisations – The ability to manage and best utilise Compute, Network & Storage resources (at a minimum) while Monitoring all of the these resource, while building on a bedrock of solid Security principles
  • Business Acumen – The ability to translate the abstract ideas of business and turn this into a series of boxes and line on a whiteboard that can easily be mapped to these Azure Resources
  • Guidance – The ability to give Direction to Developers, Operators and Support engineers in the building, deployment, support of these cloud native applications
  • Expertise – The Ability to dive from strategic ideas and business concepts right down into implementation of every aspect of these solution and trouble shoot at any level of abstraction.
  • Integration – Understanding how each of the azure resources and solution components affect the overall solution from a cost, time, security and reliability/ business continuity perspective

If you don’t mind me saying, that sounds like a kick ass job, don’t you think?

So, obviously, I have a lot to learn and find out so here are my finding for day 1

  1. To pass the exams, I need 700 points or higher  become I can call myself a Microsoft Certified Azure Solution Architect Expert. Isn’t that’s cool. The first exam is the AZ-104 Exam: Azure Administrator Associate. The Second is the AZ-305 Exam: Designing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions. This seems achievable.
  2. I can sign up for a 60-day Practice Test for about £80 and practice the exam before I sit the exam. The company that runs the practice tests are called MindHub and they say “We’re so confidence that you will pass your certification exam after successfully passing the MeasureUp practice test, we guarantee it“, so that’ encouraging too
  3. Exams cost about £200 each including the practice tests, so the total £400 investment is  a fairly small investment for a measurable and achievable outcome.
  4. I prefer to have a plan of action or an online study guide from the start. I found great Study Cram resources on YouTube from John Savill called the AZ-305 Designing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions Study Cram which is over 3 hours long and AZ-104 Microsoft Azure Administrator Associate Certification SUPER Study Cram – which is almost almost 4 hours long. (Links for everything at the end of this article)
  5. For the Azure Administrator Associate, there seems to be a free online learning path via Microsoft Learn that seems appropriate, although I think I will review John’s Study Cram first.
In conclusion, for day #1 a lot of digging and basic research and it appears to be a go. Tomorrow I will start to browse through some of the Super Study Cram  material from John Savill and by then I will have a better understanding of what I have let myself in for.


For reference, all of the links I found are referenced below. You might find them useful if you are on the same journey.

To your Ambition.


Let’s talk about Certification 

Let’s explore the Exams now and what skills are measured in the exams:

Exam AZ-104: Microsoft Azure Administrator – Skills Measured

This is just an illustrate on how Microsoft assess that skill so don’t treat this as a definitive document. (The complete Skills Measured PDF is linked below in links section)

  • Managing Azure Identity and Policy (< 20%)
  • Managing Storage (< 20%)
  • Managing Compute Resources (including containers) (< 25%)
  • Virtual Networking ( < 30%)
  • Monitoring, Backup  and Continuity (< 15%)
 That doesn’t seem to bad, does it?

Exam AZ-305: Designing Microsoft Azure Infrastructure Solutions – Skills Measured 

  • Design identity, governance, and monitoring solutions (< 30%)
  • Design data storage solutions (< 30%)
  • Design business continuity solutions (< 15%)
  • Design infrastructure solutions (< 30%)#
Also, not so bad. All achievable don’t you think?


Here are the references I collected to build this summary study plan.

Microsoft Docs on Azure Certification Programs

Links to Study Guides

Enrol in Exams

“We’re so confidence that you will pass your certification exam after successfully passing the Measure Up practice test, we guarantee it”


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