Looking forward...

Karl Cooke (@Karl_ITNerd) · December 30, 2020

Updated - March 2021

If you follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn, you will know that I deviated slightly from the list below to work towards on the DevOps Engineer Expert qualification. I’ve now shifted my focus back to the AZ-303. I intend this article to be dynamic and for it to evolve as I progress through 2021. I have also shortened the list below so that it doesn’t feel overwhelming when I come back to review my progress.


Originally, I wasn’t going to write a “Year In Review” article. Mainly because I had only started blogging towards the end of 2020 and felt that, with COVID and permanent “work from home”, there wasn’t much to write about. In the end, I decided to combine a quick look back at 2020 with a look ahead to 2021 and beyond.

2020… What a Year!

We weren’t really expecting 2020, were we? It sort of crept up on us and turned our lives upside down. It was like the plot from a really bad sci-fi movie!

For my family and I, 2020 started much like any year. It was full of hopes and wishes for the year ahead. Full of things we wanted to accomplish both individually and as a family. Speaking for myself, I had grand certification plans for 2020.

At the beginning of March, I started a new role with Action Point Technology Group as an Implementation Specialist in the Projects and Implementations Team. I spent the first week of March in Action Point HQ in Limerick, getting to know my new team. As that week drew to a close, the news from around the world was starting to get concerning. Little did we know that the UK and Ireland were about to enter a lengthy lockdown to try and protect the most vulnerable in our society.

As we approach the end of this year, we are just happy to have survived. While it may seem like an overreaction to some, when COVID 19 hit, we were scared for what the future held. My wife has a weak immune system as a result of chronic Lyme Disease. This meant that we were a “high risk” family and we had to quickly come to terms with what that meant for our way of life.

I’m pleased to report that we have managed to stay COVID free to date. That said, my heart breaks for everyone impacted by this horrible disease.

In terms of certifications this year, anyone that has been following my blog posts will know that I sat and passed both the AZ-104 and AZ-500 exams. Check out what I thought of these exams here and here.

Looking forward… 2021 and beyond!

As we all continue to deal with COVID and it’s impacts, there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel with several vaccines having been approved. My family and I are looking forward to a time when we can start to get back to normality.

In terms of professional goals for the coming year, there are many things that I would like to achieve. In fact, these goals might be best thought of as multi-year goals as there is too much to achieve in a single year while avoiding burnout, and ensuring that my wife and children still get to spend time with me.

I will continue to validate my experience with Microsoft Azure and M365 technologies. I will also be making a concerted effort, over the course of the next two years, to increase my security/cybersecurity skills. The end goal here is to be able to design, deploy, secure and defend Azure and M365 infrastructures.

Over the last few weeks I have given a lot of thought to the above and also to what exams/courses will best help me achieve these goals.

The exams and courses that I came up with are as follows:

  • Microsoft Certified: DevOps Engineer Expert:
    • AZ-400: Designing and Implementing Microsoft DevOps Solutions
  • Microsoft Certified: Azure Solutions Architect Expert:
    • AZ-303: Microsoft Azure Architect Technologies
    • AZ-304: Microsoft Azure Architect Design
  • MS-500: Microsoft 365 Certified: Security Administrator Associate
  • Cloud Security Alliance: CCSK (Certificate of Cloud Security Knowledge)
  • (ISC)² CCSP (Certified Cloud Security Professional)
  • TCM Security Academy: Practical Ethical Hacking Course (Find out more here.)

The above should validate my Azure skills as well as allowing me to up my security game. I’ve made sure to add in some offensive security learning, as I believe it is important to understand the security problem from both defensive and offensive perspectives. The only addition I would make to the above in terms of certifications, would be to potentially add a Linux qualification. Perhaps the CompTIA Linux+ would help improve my Linux system administration skills.

Aside from the above, there are a few things that I would like to improve upon in 2021 and beyond. These are supplemental learnings that will support the certification journey. These are as follows:

  • Continue to improve my automation and scripting skills with Azure Bicep.
  • Improve my KQL (Kusto Query Language) knowledge. A solid understanding of KQL will really underpin any work with Azure Sentinel and Azure Log Analytics.
  • Get to grips with Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) and Kubernetes in general. Who knows, I may go for the CKA or CKS at some point.
  • Complete Microsoft Ninja training in Azure Security Centre, Azure Sentinel, and Microsoft Cloud App Security.

I’ll be the first to admit that the above is a lot of ground to cover. I am not trying to cram this into one or even two years. With the above and any qualifications my employer may require from me, it is possible that these goals could take me into 2022 or further. Also, I should point out that these aren’t set in stone and may change as I progress through the list.

There’s more?!?

As I’m writing this section, it strikes me that I may have enough to be getting on with. In spite of this, I’d like to continue contributing to this community. Who knows, I may even build up the courage to give a user group talk or two.

I appreciate you taking the time to read this lengthy article. Study starts again on January 4th! As always, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Thanks for reading! Stay safe and keep on learning.