Preparing for Your Azure Administrator Certification (AZ-103) - Part 2

Interview and Use Case featuring Ahra Jo, Microsoft Customer Success Manager

We met, Ahra Jo, a few weeks back when she had posted a question in our Facebook Azure Study Group. When we realized that she works at Microsoft, we reached out and asked to chat. Through our discussion, Ahra revealed that as a Microsoft Customer Success Manager, she created a study group where she is based in Dublin, Ireland to help her peers at Microsoft successfully study for and pass the AZ-103 exam.  

 This is a follow-up blog post/interview to our post from last week: Preparing for Your Azure Administrator Certification (AZ-103) - Part 1 

What’s your current position and why do you need/want to be a certified Azure Administrator? 

Working for Microsoft as an Azure Customer Success Manager, my team and I are tasked with ensuring our customer's Azure environments are following best practices and are continually optimized. CSMs typically work with customers in areas such as Azure Training, Road Mapping and Cloud Strategy. During conversations with my customers, I wanted to understand what they were experiencing. Since the AZ-103 exam leads people to use the Azure platform in a hands-on fashion through labs, I thought it would be a good place to start. Being successful and achieving the certification would give me a stronger knowledge of Azure to share with my customers. 

How did you start to study/prepare for exams? 

Since I felt I was missing some of the knowledge and wanted to get certified through the AZ-103 exam, I began by reading some of the information from Microsoft Docs which breaks down various Azure components and services. I also enrolled in the Skylines Academy AZ-103 course, which I found very useful, not only for the course itself, but because of the additional resources such as the AZ-103 Study Guides. The guides helped me focus on specific Microsoft Docs and helpful links, instead of, having to search through Docs myself.  


How did you create a study group? 
In addition to Microsoft Docs and the Skylines Academy course, I took the MeasureUp practice test but felt it was lacking a bit of necessary content. At the same time, several of my team members in Dublin were looking to get certified in AZ-100 (prior to the release/rebranding to 103). My manager suppored me in launching a study group for myself and my peers and, using available resources at Microsoft as well as external resources, I created a sort of curriculum to help people collaboratively study. 

How was the study group structured? 

First, we met as a group every week for at least an hour. Prior to meeting with the group, it was expected that everyone would study on their own so during the group session, we could talk about and go into more depth on, certain subjects that were particularly difficult. During the in-person meeting, we would go over difficult subjects together, do live demos, share questions that we had created with the group, and discuss tips and tricks for passing the exam. We also had the benefit of having technical and experienced Microsoft employees come to our sessions and deep dive into certain services. 

You’ve seen several successes (and the opposite) in preparing for and taking Microsoft Azure certifications. Tell me about what those who were successful did to pass exams? 

I noticed a trend that those who put in a good amount of hours passed the AZ-103. This time includes not only viewing videos and reading docs, but actually going into the Azure platform and executing labs; those who were able to implement services in the platform were overwhelmingly successful. It's also noteworthy to say that many people do not pass the first time they take the exam but are more likely to pass the second or third time because they know what the exam structure looks like. For instance, the AZ-103 is a bit more complicated than the AZ-100 was as it asks for an additional layer of requirements such as having to know some PowerShell commands and execute them. 

Can you tell the Skylines Academy community what the AZ-103 exam looks like? 

Well it could always change :) but from what I recall, there are about 60 questions total, which includes two labs with 6-8 questions each. Question structure varies and is made up of yes/no, multiple choice, drag and drop, etc. 

What's the difference between the AZ-900 and AZ-103 exams? 

AZ-103 is about how to build and implement Azure and overcome complex scenarios where as AZ-900 will give you fundamental definitions of Azure. I recommend the AZ-900 if you have little to no experience with Azure and then you can graduate to the AZ-103. People who have some experience with the platform are often more successful with AZ-103.

What do you recommend to readers who want to create a path for learning Azure? 

A few pointers: 
Create a schedule; for our study group in Dublin, I recommended a minimum of 30 hours to study (one hour per day for six weeks) 

  • Be best friends with the Azure portal (it will be quicker and easier for you to understand answers when taking the exam) - Create a free Azure account and use the platform! 

  • Ask for and find similar questions to what's on the exam 

  • Understand how to navigate tricky questions and know that the exam isn't always straightforward 

  • Find resources that work for you but use different options; Read Microsoft Docs, take an online course, use available study material