My experience – Certified Architecting MS Azure Solutions

What a journey! Finally, passed the Microsoft Azure Solutions Architect certification. I had to drop pretty much everything for last 2 months…almost 150 hours of study time – I logged my study time🙂. Here is the summary of my experience.

AzureSolutionArchitectIn December last year, with 3 other colleagues, we went down to Redmond, WA to attend 4 days MS Azure Architect Workshop. There was a prerequisite to start with (mostly watching VirtualAcademy videos, 10 hours) and 4 days of fully packed back to back (literally 8am – 6pm with 45 min lunch break) sessions. After the first day, I was exhausted. I haven’t set one spot for so long time in recent years (may be getting old???)🙂. So much information was fed and we had to digest without gulping.

After 2015 holidays, I started to study for the exam. There are many reasons why I wanted to get certified. One of the reasons were to demonstrate commitment and dedication to my own children. “Daddy always tells us to do something good, but haven’t really proved himself”, so I talked about the exam and my goal with my kids. They told me many good advice🙂 “Skip if you don’t know and come back later in your exam. Just keep thinking that you can do this!”. These are very good advice matter of fact!

I started with the exam Reference book (official guide book). The book was well written, but certain topics are not explained clearly for a guy coming from Java background.

Finally, I wrote the exam on March 24, a day before Good Friday. The exam wasn’t that difficult, but there are several questions that I really had to guess. Because of number of questions (41 questions with 70% passing line), I was little bit nervous. Over 12 questions wrong, you are out! Most of the case studies are the same from either the practice exam or mock exam samples, but related exam questions were different. I found the practice exam from measureup.com was quite useful. The practice exam questions covered all the details and the answers were presented with very good explanation, so I didn’t have to search for the book or internet. However, I made a big mistake not looking at the practice exam until one day before the exam. I thought it will be a short mock exam with 50 questions, but I could select maximum 150 questions in the practice exam.  After I realized the benefits of practice exam and I can take up to 150 questions, I studied like a college student cramming for exams. It was a terrible experience – feeling exhausted, rushed, and worried.

Finally, I passed the exam and enjoyed a good long weekend.  From this journey, I’ve learned few things:

  • Find a study buddy. Fortunately, one of my colleague wrote the same exam on the same day. We’ve discussed various topics from time to time and encouraged each other to stay focused.
  • Start with the basics. I skipped the fundamental book and jumped on the exam reference book directly. I could’ve saved my time if I started with the fundamental book by solidifying my mental model. Always start with the basic and complete your mental model before jumping into harder one. I knew this already, but didn’t apply in this case. Because the exam voucher expires at the end of March 2016, I must felt time pressure.
  • Good feeling after the challenge. Personally, it wasn’t an easy challenge – I am from non-MS background. When I saw “Congratulations!” in the computer screen, I was so happy, thrilled, excited, and relieved, which I haven’t felt in many many years.

I had to write this for me to look back and remember how wonderful it is to be able to challenge and accomplish something in my life and being a good example for my kids.

 

Putting it together – Yeoman, AngularJS, Bootstrap, Grunt, Jasmine, Karma

After going through Front-End JavaScript Framework course at Coursera.org, I decide to present something in our Lunch & Learn next week. In order to re-enforce my knowledge, I’ve built two small proof of concept web applications using technologies listed above – AngularJS application using task runners. With Yeoman, I was able to build/deploy really quickly without thinking too much about the dependencies.

Front end technology has been evolved so much and it is a mind boggling to select which JavaScript framework I want to use for my web application. Even keeping it up is very challenge. Of course, there is good old Java template engine (JSP), but it is not the technology that you’d create a Sing Page Application with.

Here is the presentation done by Prezi and two projects in the Github (PoC2, PoC3). PoC3 README.md contains step by step guidance along with the source code. I am planning to enhance these projects into Cloud base applications such as IoT management dashboard in the near future.

 

 

Article: The New Cloud You: Adapting Skill Set and Mindset for Success in the Cloud

Very good article from Oracle. This article explains how cloud solution impacts skill sets and paradigm shift in terms of providing a solution in the cloud as a Solution Architect

Few points from the article.

  • Infrastructure-related skills are no longer needed, and performance tuning, beyond the code level, is also irrelevant.
  • With SaaS, the biggest challenge has been meeting clients’ expectations of reduced implementation costs and shorter timelines. For PaaS, architecting solutions requires a completely different mindset. You need to factor in service compatibility, availability, and security.
  • PaaS – code development, testing, and quality assurance are relevant. Deployment and management concepts have carried over as well while the tooling has changed. For example, more online code repositories such as Git are gaining popularity.
  • Detailed infrastructure design and planning, deployment, and procurement skills are no longer needed as much, built-in templates and the ability of applications to auto-scale change the game significantly.
  • The rapid deployment cycles expected from the cloud have raised expectations for rapid development lifecycles. Agile development is the new norm, and the usual past behavior of a drawn-out implementation with lots of bodies and complex infrastructure provisioning has become history. The entire focus is on getting a solution up and running. In the cloud, principles of solution architecture and platform architecture are different.

Presentation Technique Workshop

Have you ever seen your own presentation in a video? Unless you are a professional presenter, probably you haven’t seen your own presentation video. Yesterday, I had a presentation technique workshop and witnessed two of my presentations. First session was done in the morning without any feedback. After a feedback, another session in the afternoon.

What a difference! In the morning session, I ran out of my time almost toward end. I’ve noticed few things in my presentation.

  • Too many “and”. It is okay for most of times, but several occasions, it was too much.
  • Hand gestures. Some occasions, it was okay because of context, but some situation, I looked like a fly. Especially, in the beginning, I know I have a habit of rubbing my hands, but it was little too much.
  • Eye contact. It was generally okay, but I noticed that about 3 seconds in one direction looks better.

Overall, second presentation looks much better without having too much above. It was a great experience to watch my own 10 minutes presentations.

Book logging technique – BTMS

It has been almost half a year since I post something meaningful. My interest has been expanded to many different topics: robotics, arduino project, K12 STEM education since my trip to Peru & Bolivia. In my near future posting, I will write what I have been thinking and doing so far.

I love reading books. After reading a book, I usually put it back to the shelf. Sometimes, I make my mental note by folding a corner of a page that has a key concept (mostly I read during my commute). However, I just don’t put enough effort into making a book log after complete the book. Last year, I read a book about reading technique. The author of that book quits his job and read 3000 books in 3 years every single day (9-5) at the library. He expanded his knowledge into various subjects. From a normal business man to consultant, writer, and speaker, the author changed his life by reading books! From the book, he shares his book logging technique and I’d like to share the technique in this posting.

I have used the technique right after I read. Initially I wrote it on a paper journal, but I found it hard to reference back because it is not in a digital format. One benefit I recognized was that I remember the message from the book clearly after a year. The theory is simple. When people read a book, people usually don’t spend enough time to think and write about the book that they have read. Of course, I don’t see point of writing a book log for a fiction and a novel. Probably, technical books will not gain too much value from book logging. I think MMOST technique will be more useful for technical books because the objective is to understand and apply exact knowledge right away with your own requirements.

Here is the book log template. It consists of 4 sections: Book, Think, Mind, Summary (BTMS)

First, “Book”

  • Describe my thought on the book or subject before reading.
  • Describe core concept, sentences, messages that I captured from the book after reading.

Second, “Think”

  • My opinion about the author before reading.
  • New things I have learned or realized after reading.

Third, “Mind”

  • Describe state of consciousness and reflect against my current situation or life.
  • Describe change and expansion of consciousness in my life.

Fourth, “Summary”

  • Write one sentence summary about the book.
  • Describe any action that you’d do to reflect your thoughts & changes from the book.
  • Describe how to do?

I tend to put off book logging because of procrastination. Bad… However, as I wrote more book logs thesedays, I begin to realize how important it is to write a book log. It is better to be done within a week of finish. Hope this technique helps.

 

 

On Strategy : What Managers Can Learn from Philosophy part 2 – Coursera course experience

Again, with a great charm and wit, Professor Luc de Brabandere offered part 2 of the course. I was looking forward to having the part 2 because I enjoyed the part 1 of the course so much. Not like other MOOC video, his lecture is very unique and intellectually stimulating – I had several moments during the course that I had to pause the video and think about the topic. In this part 2, the lecture was focused on how to think in the fast moving world. Here are my learning points.

Learning pointsSS-20150216223214

Traditionally people tend to focus more on Matter (e.g. tangible material) rather than Information. A story about a bottle water company. Professor asked them what they are selling – Matter (water) or Information (brand & marketing)? When the matter is more focused, below 4 questions can help to determine what’s going on. However, information does not fit into these questions….this means we need a new way of thinking.

  • Where are things?  – Matter is easy to answer, but information is not easy to answer to this question.
  • When do things happen? – Time used to measure lots of things.
  • What is true? What is false? Café in Casablanca built after the movie. Which one is the real? We need critical thinking.
  • Why do things happen? Most important. Not easy to answer. When there are more than 5 answers, answering ‘why’ doesn’t have any value. Especially, it is difficult to find ‘why’ in Information because the world is changing.

SS-20150224214518

With the Big Data technology, three outter areas can be defined (conicidence, correlation, conjunction). However, Big data can help in a certain level of degree in all areas, but it is up to us to define the final cause & effect. This means the technology can find the missing links and help us to get close to the reason, but not the actual cause & effect. We are the one who need to draw the relationship between cause & effect with a new mind set.

SS-20150306231046Finally, techniques to survive in the fast moving world.

  1. Choose select define words
  2. Criteria
  3. Beware of questions
    1. Agenda should be put on as a question.
    2. Question should be open, visible. To run a discussion, brain storm, keep it under the image line rather than abstract word.
  4. Use creative technique
    1. Use analogy. e.g. Imagine you are…
  5. Think visual
    1. Left brain for text and right brain for diagram which makes it very powerful.
  6. Don’t stop thinking. Never stop thinking.
  7. Use humor
    1. Humor and Irony is different. Irony is a weapon. Don’t use it.

Avoid hypothesis in the future

Q: When there is a crossroad, what to do to prevent a collision?

A: Two options.

1. Light signal – this needs to predict future traffic and need to add hypothesis in the future.

2. Roundabout – no need to have hypothesis for the future.

Conclusion: remove traffic lights and add more roundabouts in the fast moving world.

Summary

In recent months, I haven’t had an opportunity to think deep about the subject. In my daily life, I made so many decisions. Sometimes difficult decisions, sometimes easy decisions. I really feel great philosophy can help me in many ways, especially making decisions. In order to make a decision, it needs to be based my value and the value comes from direct/indirect experience. In my opinion, philosophy helps me to enhance my indirect experience and gives me an ability to perform Meta-thinking. I really enjoyed this course and hope to get something out of it for my daily life at work and life. Thanks to Professor Luc de Brabandere and Coursera!

Technical Book Reviewer Experience

In May, I had a contact from Packt Publishing. They told me they found me from Github and proposed a technical book reviewer role in the new WildFly book(WildFly Configuration, Deployment and Administration). In return, they will send me a free copy and add my name in the reviewer (acknowledgement) section. Without thinking about it twice, I accepted the offer. One of the reasons was the topic was directly related to one of my current project – migrating Weblogic to JBoss (EAP). The reviewing requirement was below.

  • Have to follow their schedule – 1 chapter in every 4 days.
  • Fill out the chapter questionnaire – about 10 questions related to improvement, expect to see materials, missing materials, recommendations, etc.

When I reviewed each chapter, I had to check the flow WildFly Configuration, Deployment and Administrationand technical accuracy. It was much different than reading to understand the concept. Some questions to consider during the review:

  • What do you want to see more of in the chapter?
  • Have the author left out any important topics?
  • Is the flow of the content logical?
  • Are the code examples correct?
  • What could the author do to make the book more interesting?
  • Have the author explained the concepts clearly enough?
  • Does the chapter provide necessary reference information?

On average, I spent 2-7 hours reviewing total 11 chapters from June – September. In total, about 45 hours. In November, the book was finally published and I received a hard copy!

20141216_17504420141216_175119

Packt Publishing used to have a link to allow you to register as a potential reviewer, but currently link is not available after their site has been upgraded.

Below is the links to other publishing company’s reviewer program. Even though you don’t get paid, it is a valuable experience.

Model Thinking – Decision Tree problem

I took Model Thinking from Coursera and I’d like to share interesting problem solving technique using a decision tree model.

Concept

Basic is very simple. You use tree like model to support your decision. See more info here. Without knowing the tool/model, we use this technique often in our real life. Really interesting thing about decision tree is you can quantify your decision with numbers.

Example problem

Here is one of the questions from the week 2 quiz.

You want to go to a concert in Detroit, but you have only $80. The cost of driving will be $30. When you get to the concert, there’s a 40% chance you’ll be able to get a ticket for $50, and a 60% chance that tickets will cost more than $50. If it’s worth $130 to you to go to the concert, should you drive to Detroit to attend this concert? To solve, use a decision tree.

Solution

DecisionTree-20140615215602

 

Answer to the question is “Yes” because “Go” decision will give me $2 gain.

In the decision tree, there is no point of exploring “No Go” option because I don’t gain anything from not going. Let’s look at “Go” decision. When I decided to go, I have two possibilities: 40% of getting a ticket at $50, 60% of not getting a ticket. I need to exam each possibilities.

With 60% chance that tickets will be over $50, I can’t buy a ticket due to lack of money. I only have $80, so I ended up loosing the cost of driving which is $30. With 40% chance that ticket will be $50, it requires little bit of calculation. One important statement is that I have to see if it is worth spending $130 for the whole thing. This means my net gain calculation should be based on $130. Starting from $130, subtract driving cost $30 and concert ticket $50, so I have $50 of net gain.

From “Go” decision, I need to calculate overall net gain, so my total net gain from “Go” decision is $2 (see above picture). This means it is worth for me to “Go”.

Conclusion

I found this technique is fascinating. It allows you to think rationally with numbers and possibilities, also allows you to see your reasoning clearly. One of the challenges are understanding the problem from the model thinking. It seems easy when you look at the solution, but actually it is hard to apply the concept to the scenario. Just like every problem solving technique, you will get better as you spend more and think more about the problem.