PASS Summit 2018 Starts in 10 Weeks!

Can you believe the PASS Summit 2018 begins only 10 weeks from today (27 Aug 2018)? I confess, this is sneaking up on me fast!

I will be there. Will you?

Where Can You Find Andy at the PASS Summit 2018?

Precon!

Monday 5 Nov 2018, I’m delivering a full-day pre-conference session titled Intelligent Data Integration with SSIS. I’m going to cover  everything listed at that link but there is an update about my precon content:

There will be Azure Data Factory content and demos!

Why this addition? Two reasons:

  1. My presentation titled Faster SSIS was selected. I usually include the three Faster SSIS demos in my precon. This time, you can just view the Faster SSIS session to see those demos.
  2. may have something cool and new to share about Azure Data Factory that is currently under NDA! Stay tuned…

Enterprise Data & Analytics is Exhibiting!

That’s right, you can find me in the Exhibition Hall! Enterprise Data & Analytics is exhibiting at the PASS Summit 2018!

Have an SSIS or Biml or ADF question? Stop by our booth!
Want to grab a selfie with me or Nick? Stop by our booth!
Want me to autograph your book? Stop by our booth!
Need some consulting or training help? Stop by our booth!

I’m so excited about this – I can hardly wait. We’ll have more information about specific dates and times when I will be manning the booth in coming weeks.

Presenting Faster SSIS

At the time of this writing, the session schedule has not yet been published. PASS has published a general schedule. Keep checking for details!

Conclusion

I am looking forward to the PASS Summit 2018. I hope to see you there.

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“You Do Not Know What You Are Doing”

Peeves make lousy pets.

Knowing this doesn’t help; I still keep a few pet peeves. One of my pet peeves is this statement, “You don’t know what you are doing.” Why is this a pet peeve? It denies the obvious fact that everyone one of us, everywhere, is still learning.

“My Name is Andy and I Own and Operate a Consulting Company.”

“But Andy, you don’t know how to own or operate a consulting company.” That may or may not be a true statement. What is a truer statement? I may not know everything there is to know about owning and operating a consulting company, but I can learn.

“My Name is Andy and I Built a Software Product.”

“But Andy, you don’t know how to build a software product.” That may or may not be a true statement. What is a truer statement? I may not know everything there is to know about building a software product, but I can learn.

Interesting sidebar: SSIS Catalog Compare is not only the first product I’ve ever written, it’s the first complete application I’ve written in C#.

“My Name is Andy and I Co-Host a Successful Podcast”

“But Andy, you don’t know how to co-host a successful podcast.” That may or may not be a true statement. What is a truer statement? I may not know everything there is to know about co-hosting a successful podcast, but I can learn.

I Can Learn

I know I can learn because I have demonstrated this fact many times over. I proved it last month (at the time of this writing – April 2018 thereafter) when I completed the Microsoft Professional Program for Big Data. I proved it by learning enough C# to write Catalog Compare, Catalog Browser, and Framework Browser.

I promise I am learning more every day about owning and operating Enterprise Data & Analytics and building and managing the software solutions and products that make up the DILM Suite – including  products like SSIS Catalog Compare and the SSIS Framework – and co-hosting Data Driven, with Frank La Vigne (@Tableteer).

“I couldn’t so you shouldn’t.”

What I Know

What is someone truly saying – what do they truly mean – when they say or write someone doesn’t know what they’re doing?

They’re making this statement about themselves: “I couldn’t so you shouldn’t.”

No one brings this point home better than Grant Cardone in his book (get the audio book – you are welcome), Be Obsessed or Be Average, or #BOBA. The followup to his (awesome) book, The 10X Rule, Be Obsessed or Be Average complements and completes Cardone’s thoughts on the hard work and time required to achieve success.

“What is the Point, Andy?”

When people make statements like “You don’t know what you are doing,” they are saying, “I gave up so you should give up, too,” or, “I didn’t get what I wanted so you don’t deserve what you want, either.”

This is very fair thinking.

When I write the word “fair” I shudder at what “fair” has come to mean and how it’s been used to justify junk and the crap it’s been used to rationalize.

Conclusion

I am not going to quit learning.
I will continue to try to make old things work better.
I will continue to try new things.
I will fail more often than I succeed (this is how I learn).
I will not stop until I go home.

My advice, encouragement, exhortation:

  • Don’t quit.
  • Make the problems give up before you do.
  • Listen to people who have succeeded (or are succeeding).
  • Do not listen to people who have given up.

I have more to learn and I know that.

Peace,
Andy

Stack Overflow Wants to Change

This week Stack Overflow shared a blog post titled Stack Overflow Isn’t Very Welcoming. It’s Time for That to Change. I admire the courage and the transparency a great deal. It takes guts to admit mistakes and serious guts to publicly air the dirty laundry.

Kudos to Stack Overflow.

Why I Stopped Contributing to the Stack Overflow Conversation

I use Stack Overflow to find answers to coding questions. I searched for me (site:stackoverflow.com “Andy Leonard”) and found some hits though I’m sure not all of them refer to me personally.

I posted a few answers to SSIS questions early on. I write conversationally on message boards, answering the author as much as addressing their question. On forums of all kinds (including this blog), I typically start an answer with “Hi <author name>.”

My answers were edited to remove my greeting to the author of the original post. Although I cannot locate an example, I seem to recall one editor explaining to me something like “replying to individuals is not permitted.”

Me

I understand we come from all different walks of life; that some of us, for example, were raised in New York City while others were brought up on farms in rural Virginia. Having traveled to New York City for the first time about 10 years ago, I understand the culture shock that accompanies such a transition. One example: I learned to not speak to people I do not personally – already – know. Not even to say “Good morning.”

Where I was raised (and still in my corner of Prince Edward County outside of Farmville Virginia), it’s rude to not speak to people. If you can’t speak because you’e driving by, you wave at people. It’s an affront to not speak to people.  Not speaking is akin to denying they’re even people. Telling me I cannot say “Hi” to people in writing, on a site that exists to help people just didn’t seem right.

I tried again later to answer questions at Stack Overflow. I typed “Hi <author name>” every time and then deleted it before I hit the Reply button. This sufficed for a while, but I still felt like I was being rude.

I Have a Problem

You may have read all that (in between eye-rolls of epic proportion), thinking the whole time: “Andy, you have a problem.”

You are correct and I hereby agree with you.

I, in fact, have several problems. This is merely one of them. People, though, are package deals. You don’t get to converse with, or learn from, or teach pieces of people. You interact – all the time every time – with the full person.

There’s an interesting link at the bottom of the Stack Overflow blog post. The link is to a site that contains a list of implicit bias tests. Jay Hanlon, Stack Overflow’s EVP of Culture and Experience, encourages readers of the post in footnote #2:

² If you’re shaking your head thinking, “not me,” I’d encourage you to take these implicit bias tests, specifically the Race IAT and the Gender-Career IAT. If you’re like me, they’re going to hurt.

I support the effort to reduce implicit bias – at Stack Overflow and everywhere. I believe Jay when he writes earlier that it bothered him personally when some complained that they felt left out.

Jay, I felt left out.

Eventually, typing and then deleting my greeting to the person asking the question proved… well, just too awkward for me to continue.

So I stopped answering questions at Stack Overflow.

Did Stack Overflow go under without my answers to SSIS and Biml questions? Goodness, no! They’ve managed just fine without me and will continue to do so.

You

I encourage you to disagree – and even share your disagreement in the comments. I think you’re awesome. I don’t agree with you about everything and I don’t expect you to agree with me about everything.

We’re different. And that’s ok.

People editing your greetings from an answer on a help forum may not bother you at all.

I don’t mind catching black snakes with my bare hands – though I usually wear work gloves because reptiles stink – and taking them out of my house when they come inside, but it may totally bother you. (Cogent because I think I hear one wriggling in the attic as I type this post…)

I’m ok with you being you. I’m actually more than ok with it. I’m even ok with you disagreeing with me on this and anything else.

Regarding matters on which we disagree, I believe you have reasons for believing what you believe. I may disagree with what you believe or even why you believe it, but I don’t think you’re dumb for believing it; I believe you believe it for a reason.

Conclusion

I wrote this because I like the Stack Overflow website. I like the help I receive from the answers I find there. Stack Overflow seems genuinely concerned with ways to improve the site. Maybe (probably) my discomfort with editing my greeting doesn’t rise higher than #3 on the list of things to change at Stack Overflow. I’m not sure and I’m ok if my little post is ignored, not seen, or if nothing changes in the Stack Overflow editing processes and practices. Promise.

As I stated previously, Stack Overflow will not go under without my answers to SSIS and Biml questions and I’ll keep getting answers from Stack Overflow.

I just wish I felt comfortable giving back.

Completed: Microsoft Big Data Professional Program Capstone Project

I’m excited to announce that I’ve completed – with help from my friend and brother and co-host of the Data Driven podcast, Frank La Vigne (Blog | @Tableteer) – the Microsoft Big Data Professional Program Capstone project!

The capstone is the last course requirement (of 10 courses) to complete the Microsoft Professional Program in Big Data. The official Professional Program certificate won’t be available until next month, but I’m excited to complete both the capstone and the professional program.

Although there was some data analysis included in the courses and capstone, I found a lot of data engineering was covered in the curriculum. For people wanting to learn more about Azure offerings for data engineering – including HDInsight, Spark, Storm, and Azure Data Factory – I highly recommend the program.

You can audit the courses, gain the same knowledge, and pass the same tests Frank and I passed – and even participate in a similar capstone project – all for free. You only have to pay to receive a certificate.

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On Working Remotely

I read a re-published article titled Working From Home Vs. Working At The Office: Who Gets More Done? by
Nate Hindman. The article was published on the Small Business blog of an insurer, The Hartford.

Of interest to me – a proponent of working remotely – was the comparison section, accompanying data, and the conclusion (which I share here):

Lister notes that when determining the efficacy of remote vs. in-office employees the culture of a team is as important as the work itself.

“If a team doesn’t know each other that well, it is far better to work face to face,” she says. In-person interaction “gives people the time to build social connections that make it easier to collaborate remotely and create that level of trust to be effective when they’re not in the same room.”

The salient points?

  1. Culture matters
  2. Rapport counts

Culture Matters

You can have the best people. They can be intelligent, talented individuals who know how to play nice with others. But if your culture is oppressive, their endeavors will fail.

Since I know and work with talented technologists I see this time and time again. Tip to employers:

If you want to keep top talent, you cannot pay them enough to put up with your crap. You have to stop the crap.

If you, as an employer, want to practice handing out participation trophies, you need to engage in a neighborhood sports league. People who are self-motivated enough to seek the knowledge they need – and wise enough to then apply that knowledge in creative, innovative ways – are demotivated by the recognition of “everyone as equal.”

But there’s a flip side: These same individuals are also not motivated by applause at the team meeting, Employee of the Month parking spots, or Starbucks gift cards.

I can hear you thinking, “So how do I motivate my top performers, Andy?”

I’m glad you asked,

Training.

That’s it. Training. Send them to training. They’ve self-identified as people who like to learn. Do you have a top shelf developer interested in cloud technology? Send her to Reinvent or Build. Save your Starbucks gift card money and allow someone else to park closer to the building. Send your top performers to more training.

I have been told thrice in the past six weeks about great people who left their last job or are about to leave their current job because their employer killed the training budget. Is training expensive? Yes. But not as expansive as finding a new employee – let alone a new top performer.

Employers, please do the math.

Rapport Counts

At Enterprise Data & Analytics, we often consult remotely, but we insist on starting projects face-to-face. Why? See the quote from the article above. Email is extremely subject to interpretation. People who don’t know me may misinterpret what I write in an email – unless they’ve had an opportunity to get to know me. there’s no substitute for building rapport. There’s no other way to build trust. Both trust and rapport are best built face-to-face.

A little-known fact: poor rapport with the customer team is the number one project killer. I and my team cannot be successful if we are unsuccessful at working with your team. Fortunately, I and my team are fun to work with! We are not prima donna’s, we learned because other people shared with us and one of the things we learned from the people who shared with us is: We should share with others. We love learning! I think that’s why we love sharing and helping others learn.

Customers are often shocked that I consult. I have a great team working with me but yep, I still show up and deliver. I think folks get the impression that someone who’s authored / co-authored a dozen books just isn’t accessible. Nothing could be further from the truth!

I help people every day!

In addition to public training with Brent Ozar Unlimited and SQLSkills, I deliver customized private training to companies on-demand.

I and my team deliver data integration solutions for customers, and we bring value when we do. (The post linked in the last sentence is worth the read. The short version is: Expensive developers are not as expensive as they appear.)

How may we serve you? Let us know!

Conclusion

  1. Be a dependable adult. This isn’t about age. It’s about maturity. Penny Trupe is a millennial and she’s a rocking consultant at Enterprise Data & Analytics.
  2. Share knowledge if you have it, seek out a mentor if you need to learn. (Pro tip: we all have something to share and something to learn.)
  3. Work hard and work smart. For more information, see Grant Cardone’s books The 10X Rule and Be Obsessed or Be Average. A tip o’ the hat to my Data Driven Podcast co-host and brother from another mother, Frank La Vigne (blog | @Tableteer), for turning me on to Grant.

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I Don’t Just Teach, I’m a Student!

I write a lot about training I deliver:

I also share about courses I take:

Why?

Training is Valuable

Think about it. A lot of what you and I have is volatile – it can go away (or be taken away). Most stuff is not within our control, at least not 100%. Education, though? Once we learn stuff, we own the information. Studies on poverty repeatedly show some correlation between education and less poverty:


via https://poverty.ucdavis.edu/sites/main/files/imagecache/medium/main-images/povedu2014.jpg

Why is Training Valuable?

My friend Monica Rathbun (Blog@SQLEspresso) posted this the morning I wrote this post:

Monica is right. Everyone I now consider an expert was once a beginner. I’ve even witnessed some go from beginner to expert! How did that change? Education. They learned. They experimented. They read blog posts. They attended training sessions at free events like User Group meetings and SQL Saturdays. They watched videos and attended webinars and virtual group meetings. They paid for training from experts at private training companies and events like the PASS Summit.

All experts were once beginners. Maybe that discourages you because you want to be an expert – or just know more – now. I get it. I promise I do. The only difference between you and the experts is: They started earlier. Many started a decade or more in the past. Maybe you had an opportunity to start before now and, for whatever reason, didn’t.

As I wrote in The Second-Best Time:

The best time to do something may have been years ago. The second-best time is right now.

Be a Perpetual Student

Buck Woody (Blog | @BuckWoodyMSFT) is a perpetual student and posts regularly about the value of education. His post, Prepping for learning Data Science, actually inspired me to pursue Data Science and Data Engineering training. (True story.)

If statistics are any guide, most of us have ditched our New Year’s resolutions (or will later this month). That’s ok. Make right-now goal to become a perpetual student.

How?

Make some time today to read a blog post or listen to an audio book or watch a video – or even sign up for some free training!

Need Inspiration?

Follow some inspirational people on Twitter! ere are some (not all!) of my favorites:

You can even follow me if you’d like: @AndyLeonard!

Happy Learning!!

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Learning for Free

I’ve been blogging lately about training and certifications and it’s generated a fair amount of questions. One question is:

“How much does certification cost?”

Well, some of it is free. A surprising amount is free, in fact. Biml Academy offers several hours of free training, for example.

YouTube is chock-full of learning opportunities. The quality of training varies, but it’s difficult (not impossible, unfortunately) to complain about the quality of free training.

Like Biml Academy, WintellectNOW offers a mix of free plus paid training. My friend and co-host of the Data Driven podcast, Frank La Vigne (blog | @Tableteer), authored a free course at WintellectNOW titled Data Science for Developers.

edX is the site I’ve been using lately. In partnership with Microsoft Virtual Academy, edX offers Microsoft-recognized certifications. If you want the certificate, you have to pay – usually $49-$99 USD at the time of this writing. If you string together enough certifications, you complete a program. This feels a lot like leveling-up, career-wise.

BUT…

You can receive the education – the training, the knowledge – for free at edX. You can audit the courses! Here’s the best part: You can audit the courses today, pass them, and then purchase the certificate later. How much later? I do not know. I like this, though – a lot. Why? I get the knowledge and experience (edX labs – in my experience – are good). As a lifelong learner (which sounds so much better than “learn-aholic”), that’s really what I’m after: the knowledge. And then I can pay for the certificate later.

Why Seek Training?

Once you acquire knowledge you can apply it. Start applying what you’ve learned and it won’t be long before the (hiring) world beats a path to your door.

Think I’m kidding about this? I added certifications to my LinkedIn profile late last year.  The number of people who have viewed my profile in the last 90 days is now 2.5X what it was prior to that time.

Please keep in mind that I worked on three books that were published last year. Three. Books. Nothing increased my visibility to the professional community as much as training.

Focused Training

Training can lead to a level-up in your career. You may find a new job at a different – or at your current – employer. Free training can take you far, provided you can locate excellent free training (it’s out there but sometimes difficult to locate). You may want more focused training – training that’s more intense and takes less time. Your employer may want this too.

This is when you want to invest in professional training. Where can you get such training? I’ve learned a lot at SQL Saturday and PASS Summit precons. Beyond that, you may want to attend online or in-person training, classes delivered by experienced and recognized experts. You can find this training in lots of locations. Two of my favorites are Brent Ozar Unlimited and SQLSkills. Full disclosure: I deliver Expert SSIS training for Brent Ozar Unlimited and IESSIS1: Immersion Event on Learning SQL Server Integration Services for SQLSkills.

Courses – such as the training I deliver – efficiently improve your level of knowledge. How do I know? I’ve been delivering training like this for over a decade in the SQL Server space. I hear it over and over again from students: they learn a lot and appreciate the experience and knowledge.

You don’t have to get training from me, but when it’s time to kick things up to the next level, please consider a focused training experience from someone.

Writing about Apache Storm Stirs Up a Storm

A storm is coming…

I’ve been spending some time learning other data integration and analytics open-source-y stuff. Perhaps you’ve noticed recent blog posts like:

If you read MSDN Magazine, you may have noticed a familiar name at the end of Frank La Vigne’s (blog | @Tableteer) new column, Artificially Intelligent – especially the October, November, December (2017), and January 2018 articles – I’ve been helping Frank with some technical editing for his column.

Maybe you noticed this and wondered, “Is Andy bailing on SSIS?” The answer to that question is:

No.

Goodness no! If you only knew what I have on the drawing board and in the pipeline, you’d understand me abandoning SSIS is nothing to be concerned about. (I don’t blame you for not knowing – I’ve not shared more about these endeavors… yet!)

I’ve repeatedly shared that I enjoy learning. I’ve advised readers of this blog and those who follow me on social media to continually educate themselves. I’ve equally warned folks: If you don’t like lifelong learning, technology is not for you and you should go into another field.

I like learning!

I’ve invested some time and money in more formal training via Microsoft Virtual Academy and edX (although you can take all the courses I’ve taken for free… you have to pay only if you want a certificate).

Learning a New Language

Frank and I chat often. In a recent chat I shared my excitement at discovering patterns and frameworks in Apache Storm and Spark – frameworks and patterns that are remarkably similar to frameworks and patterns I’ve developed for SSIS. Why was I excited? It’s validating to me when smart people – people smart enough to build open source technology platforms like Spark and Storm – include the same functionality I’ve built for SSIS in their platforms and solutions. I’ve debated smart SSIS developers on occasion who believe frameworks in general, or specific frameworks, are not necessary. I’m not good at these debates because I can rarely remember the reason why something is a good or bad idea; I only remember that the idea is good or bad. I think the reason my brain works this way is because I’m an engineer and more interested in solving problems for customers than winning an argument… but I digress.

Frank shared an anecdote from his days of learning Deutsche. Paraphrasing:

I had a hard time remembering when to use ‘who’ and when to use ‘whom’ in English grammar until I learned German. Now I get it.

I have developed patterns and utilities (such as DILM Suite) to address architectural concepts I identified as unclear or less-clear or even missing from SSIS. While it’s validating (to me) to find this same functionality built into open source platforms, the biggest thrill remains learning new stuff. As Frank and I discuss in an upcoming Data Driven show, I bring a bunch of context when learning about open source data integration solutions – and Frank brings a bunch of context when learning about the software architecture that underlies Data Science.

Context Matters

Why is context so important? Context is what we mean most of the time when we use the word “experience.”

Like Frank’s German lessons helped him with English grammar, my open source data integration training is helping me articulate arguments for frameworks and patterns – in SSIS, even. I’ve gained additional depth in my career as a result of cross-training in other data integration platforms. I’m better at SSIS because I’ve learned Spark and Storm. Bonus: I’m getting lots of experience in the Azure Data Engineering platforms.

But – please trust me – I’m nowhere near leaving SSIS! In fact, I have a more lucid understanding of where SSIS excels when compared to other data integration platforms.

You’re still stuck with me writing about SSIS. I hope that’s ok.

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I Need Some Updates

As I type, 2017 is drawing to a close. For many, this time of year is a time of reflection on the past year and planning for the coming year. I recently saw this Windows message in the corner of my screen and realized, “You’re right, Windows. I do need some updates.”

I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions for a number of reasons:

  • I’d rather set goals.
  • I’m not a fan of the timing.

Are Goals Better?

Yes. Much is written about Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound goals with good reason.

The Timing?

My friend, brother, and co-host of the Data Driven podcast, Frank La Vigne (blog | @Tableteer) follows a family tradition and sets goals for 1 Nov.

I set goals almost weekly. I don’t wait until the beginning of a calendar year. But I don’t exclude this week from my normal goal-setting. I mark another trip around Sol like many but in goal-setting terms, it’s just another week.

Current Goals

I have a stack of goals that I categorize as near-term, mid-term, and far-term.

Near-term goals include business endeavors for DILM Suite and Enterprise Data & Analytics and Biml Academy.

Mid-term goals include blog series and book projects that I am writing and planning.

Far-term goals include things like relocating to Costa Rica.

If you peruse these goals, you’ll notice that they move farther from work and towards personal. That’s intentional. You may also notice there’s very little here about personal goals. Do I have personal goals? Yep, I have personal goals. They’re, well, personal.

You may wonder how I time-slice activities – especially when it comes to work on the far-term stuff. Many nearer-term goals actually feed my long-term goals. In this way, near- and mid-term stuff are milestones towards achieving far-term stuff.

How so?

Consider DILM Suite which consists of mostly free and some open source products. The free stuff – like Catalog Browser – is helpful and cool, but it also leads to sales of  SSIS Catalog Compare. The for-pay products – SSIS Frameworks Commercial and Enterprise Editions and SSIS Catalog Compare – are gaining momentum. We’re selling more licenses and implementations. Either – or both – could be acquired by a larger entity in coming years. An acquisition could play nicely into my plans to relocate to Costa Rica.

In Practice

The topic of your goals isn’t nearly as important as their existence. You should have goals. If you don’t, please consider starting with a single goal.

Here are some tips and tricks I find useful (this is not an exhaustive list!):

Write it down somewhere where you can see it regularly – like a sticky note on the bathroom mirror or a legal pad in your work area. Reading it – even causally perusing it – helps remind you of your goal(s).

Re-prioritize regularly. Things change. Having goals will actually drive changes – that’s a normal and healthy part of the cycle. Life happens. You do not exist to serve your goals; your goals exist to serve you.

Check it off when you complete a goal. It’s a good feeling to get something done, to ship, to throw the switch in Production, to hold that book or read your name in the by-line of an article or blog post. Consider the words of the redneck sage, Larry the Cable Guy: “Get-r-done!”

In Conclusion

As 2017 draws to a close, don’t spend too much time looking back. Spend the vast majority of your time looking forward to 2018. That’s what I do. You can’t do a durn thing about 2017 once it’s in the past. Am I advising you forget about 2017? Goodness, no! Learn from 2017. Build on 2017. That’s what I’m saying.

Happy New Year, everyone!

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Achievement Unlocked: Completed Processing Big Data in Hadoop with Azure HDInsight

I love learning! As Buck Woody (@BuckWoodyMSFT) mentioned in his post titled Don’t learn to be a Data Scientist, one should continuously learn – especially in this field.

I’m happy to announce I just earned a certificate for DAT202.1x: Processing Big Data with Hadoop in Azure HDInsight!

I’m slowly working my way through the Data Science Certification offered by Microsoft Virtual Academy along with edX. Although this course is not part of the official curriculum, it looked interesting – and was interesting. So I took it.

Many of the courses at Microsoft Virtual Academy are free or have free options (like auditing the class). Check it out!

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