As a Microsoft MVP you get opportunities to participate in events like Microsoft Ignite the Tour. I decided to put myself forward for the staffing opportunity, working at the Expert Connect Ask Me Anything and Demo Stations. When I got the notification to say I was accepted, the panic set in! How do I prepare? What will people ask? What if I can’t help? This blog is about my experience.
Lesson 1: Phone a friend
The first question I was asked was a hard one and wasn’t in my general sphere of knowledge. It was about Azure Scale rules for virtual machines failing to scale when a default was changed. To double down on the pressure, the gentleman pulled his laptop out and logged into the Azure Portal to show me the problem. Failing on the first question isn’t great for your confidence, so I decided to phone a friend. Fortunately, I’d met another MVP with an Azure focus a few minutes earlier and he was standing nearby.
Lesson 2: Introduce yourself
I spent many hours on the Power Platform demo stand with questions coming thick and fast! Many with a Dynamics 365 angle. While I dabble a bit with Dynamics 365 I am definitely not an expert so once again I tried directing those questions to someone with the right expertise. I realised quickly that letting people know a little about my background help to give them context for the sorts of questions I could answer. Giving a 30 second intro explaining that I approached Power Platform from a SharePoint point of view rather than Dynamics really helped. I was asked a ton of questions about form customisation, mobile PowerApps vs Custom SharePoint forms, process automation and roadmap questions.
Lesson 3: Rants
I met many great people at Ignite Tour, but as with any large group of people you occasionally hit someone a couple of standard deviations from the mean! While answering some basic questions for a group, a person decided to join in and started describing a bad experience they had with getting help. Initially I tried to be polite and ask if I could finish the discussion with the initial group and then discuss their issue in a few minutes. The hint wasn’t taken, so I had to put them straight that the issue was a limitation in the platform that is documented. Don’t let negativity take over, it’s energy sapping!
Lesson 4: Learning
I had many people wanting to know where to start with learning PowerApps and Power Automate. As a self-taught maker of things, I was able to demo how to build a basic solution and then how to go about expanding your knowledge. I’ve posted a few videos on this topic on YouTube along with many other MVP’s. The best advice I can give you is to try it out! You don’t need to be a pro-developer to build something and it’s fun!
Lesson 5: Licencing
The most frequent questions were licensing related. Power Platform licensing is a complex beast with a wide range of scenarios. Map out your solutions and pay close attention to your data sources and user types to determine which licensing requirements apply. Office 365 includes PowerApps and Power Automate in most plans but there are additional costs for third-party, premium data sources and portals.
Lesson 6: Security
Simple lesson here, make sure you consider security as part of everything you do. There is a trade off between usability and security. If you need convincing, jump over to Troy Hunt’s website and enter your bosses email address…
Lesson 7: Counting Sheep
I was joined in the Expert Connect area by fellow Christchurch based MVP Bryn Lewis. Bryn has a box full of IoT gadgetry that attracted a steady flow of people. Bryn is the master at combining his knowledge of all things tech with humour to engage with people. He has a truly impressive collection of devices and if you had any doubt of his level of commitment look check out Bryn’s blog. You’ll find everything you need to count sheep on your small farm in the Blue Mountains.
Lesson 8: A few minutes of your time
Technology problems are often more about people than they are about tech itself. Giving someone a few minutes of your undivided attention can help jump start their knowledge, avoid an unseen cliff, or get them over a hurdle. Countless people have done this for me in my time orbiting the sun and so it is very rewarding to pass it on to others.
To all the people who I met at Microsoft Ignite the Tour Sydney, thank you. I learnt a lot by talking to you and hearing the challenges you have. Please reach out if you want to continue to conversation or share things you’ve learnt.