Empowering—Joe Camp’s path from no-code to Microsoft Power Platform advocate
Published Dec 07 2020 08:00 AM 4,183 Views

This is the second of a three-part series on the ways that Microsoft Power Platform empowers people with no coding experience to upskill and quickly learn how to create apps to solve business problems or problems they’ve identified in their local communities. The first post, based on an interview with Gomolemo Mohapi, focused on the young South African student’s path to becoming an IT teacher, app maker, and Microsoft Student Ambassador and cloud advocate experienced in Microsoft Power Platform. The third post, based on a conversation with Dona Sarkar, Advocate Lead - Microsoft Power Platform, tells the story of Sarkar’s meeting Mohapi and inviting him to become a member of her team. Today’s post is based on an interview with Joe Camp, Microsoft Power Platform Advocacy team member and one of Mohapi’s current colleagues. To hear Mohapi, Sarkar, and Camp talk about their experience with Microsoft Power Platform, listen to this Digital Lifestyle podcast.


In July 2020, when Joe Camp joined the Microsoft Power Platform/Power Apps Advocacy team led by Dona Sarkar, he and Gomolemo Mohapi became colleagues. Camp is the lead advocate for career switches to Microsoft Power Platform, and Mohapi is the lead advocate for students and emerging markets. They first met just over a year earlier, at the Microsoft Build Conference in Seattle in 2019, when Camp was still on the Windows Insider team and Mohapi hadn’t yet been hired by Microsoft. Mohapi had been invited to speak at Build and to help launch the project he had worked on with Sarkar, #InsiderUp. Although Sarkar was the one who invited Mohapi and guided him through the conference, it was Camp who helped arrange all his travel from South Africa to Seattle, including visas, lodging, meals, and transportation in Seattle, and who was on call to help him with any logistical issues that arose during the conference. “Now, just a year later,” Camp says with a smile, “we’re colleagues.”


It was Sarkar who was the catalyst for their meeting and becoming colleagues. She had met Mohapi during Microsoft Ignite The Tour in Johannesburg in 2019, when she was head of the Windows Insider Program. She’d been “blown away” by Mohapi, especially by that fact that he had taught himself Microsoft Azure and Microsoft Power Platform using the resources on Microsoft Learn and had created content to help his student peers learn this tech, too. So she invited the young South African and a few others she had met at conferences to the 2019 Build conference in Seattle to help her launch a new program and meet other Microsoft executives. “This shows,” Camp emphasizes, “why it’s so important to get out and meet people.” By staying inside a tech or corporate or even location bubble, and not engaging with people in different contexts, many opportunities are missed. In Empowering—Gomolemo Mohapi’s journey from student to Microsoft Power Platform advocate, the first post in this series, you can read the story of how Mohapi made the journey from attending Microsoft Ignite The Tour in Johannesburg to speaking at Build in Seattle to being hired on the Microsoft Power Platform Advocacy team and becoming Camp’s colleague.  


Cloud advocates who continue their learning by learning from each other

As colleagues, Camp and Mohapi are frequently in contact. They have regular contact in team meetings, of course, but their work relationship extends far beyond that. “We’re a generation apart,” Camp says, “but we’re peers. He’s one of the most mature people I’ve ever met—at any age. When I first met him at Build and heard that he had developed learning guides to help his fellow college students grasp difficult material, I was blown away. I certainly wasn’t that focused at that age or in college.” Add to that, Camp says, Mohapi is humble. “He always gives credit to other people first, instead of calling attention to himself.”


Working with Mohapi on the Microsoft Power Platform Advocacy team these past months, Camp has also had the opportunity to observe his teaching close up. “He’s one of the best presenters I’ve ever seen—though I know speaking in public hasn’t always been easy for him. He’s always thoroughly prepared, he’s concise, and he’s engaging. Most important, his content is always easily digestible. It flows naturally.” Recently they both gave presentations at Start. Dev. Change., a virtual event for beginners looking to learn new development skills. Camp led a “First Power Apps” session (1:38:25) and Mohapi a “Power Apps from Scratch” session (2:08:38). Afterward, they had a sync to talk through their presentations and see what they could learn from one another about how to present the material better.  


“He teaches me stuff all the stinking time,” Camp says. “He helps me to think technically. As someone without a technical background, I especially appreciate his teaching me this mindset: think through things structurally, in terms of a system, and thinking out of the box, and then marrying the two. For example, with the Power Apps tool, you think things through as a developer and also in terms of the user experience, a kind of right brain/left brain experience.” Camp and Mohapi are currently working together, with other team members, on an “Intro to Power Apps” course for Udacity, the online learning website with a focus on career switching.


Camp’s journey from no-code to citizen developer

Camp and Mohapi may be a generation apart and come from very different backgrounds, but before their journeys overlapped, they had both found their way to Microsoft Power Platform from very different experiences with coding experiences. And just as Mohapi’s journey from being an Azure developer to creating apps with Microsoft Power Platform and helping teach others to do that is an asset, so is Camp’s journey from non-coder to Microsoft Power Platform app maker. Camp’s journey shows that anyone can learn how to build apps with low-code techniques to simplify, automate, and transform business tasks and processes. You can start your upskilling journey by exploring the Microsoft Power Platform app maker training and certification on Microsoft Learn.


Though reluctant to focus on himself, Camp has a story of becoming a cloud advocate that’s also inspiring. He spent years in the financial services industry, where his work consisted primarily of “playing with Excel spreadsheets.” When his position at a Washington-based bank was eliminated, and the banking industry was consolidating, so there was less of a need for his type of expertise, he saw it as an opportunity to look for a different kind of work in the Seattle area. He landed as a vendor working in the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) program, an outreach program to identify non-Microsoft employees who provide support, advocacy, and feedback from the community back into Microsoft programs. Eventually, he was hired full time in that program, due to his strong passion for building and nurturing communities. His role at the time was to help identify community influencers (potential MVPs) who were providing support for all the Office apps, SharePoint, and Exchange and were nurturing internal- and external-facing relationships.


Pivoting to such a different role wasn’t easy. To go from working with spreadsheets to nurturing internal- and customer-facing relationships, he had to develop an entirely new skill set. Two important skills, he says, helped him make this transition. First, being willing to learn new software he hadn’t even been aware of before. And second, accepting the challenge to build out customer relations skills, so-called soft skills, so he could nurture effective working relationships—both internally and externally—to help everyone “play nice in the sandbox,” as he says, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. One challenge, for example, was building trust in relationships, so product teams would be willing to share information with the MVP community influencers talking together.


After he met Jeremiah Marble, who was running the Windows Insider Program with Sarkar at that time, Camp was hired on the Windows Insider team to build a Windows Insider–focused community program, which is where he was when he met Mohapi. Camp’s role on that team was to build out the Windows Insider MVP Program. He was responsible for setting up that program and running it, managing all internal-facing and more than 160 external-facing relationships.


Another prominent part of his new role was being the point person for the Windows Insider Program’s participation in Microsoft first-party events, such as Build, Inspire, Ignite, and Ignite The Tour. It was at those conferences that he got to know Sarkar, who was then the engineering lead for the Windows Insider Program and the public face of the program. He and Sarkar ran a few small customer engagement events in New York City and Boston, together with a couple of other team members. “That’s when I really got to know Dona,” he says, “and we developed a working relationship. During this time, I mentioned that I was interested in learning to code someday.” After Sarkar became the lead of the advocacy team, she hired him on that team to do this and to help others learn to do so, too.


A citizen developer empowering others to make a change

Camp’s role now on the advocacy team is to focus on people like himself who have made or are making a career switch. By sharing his experience—his learning path—he can encourage and empower others. “I still don’t consider myself a technical person,” he says, “but thanks to learning Microsoft Power Platform, I’ve built three or four apps in the last couple of months. Here’s the story I want to put out there: if you’re scared to make a change, or afraid you can’t learn a new technology, don’t be. You can learn these skills—learn how to use these tools and create apps. I fight the imposter syndrome every day, and I’m creating apps. There’s this great tool called Microsoft Power Platform that enables you to leverage the skills you’ve developed using Office apps—Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint—to build functioning apps that automate your workspace.” If you want to learn to create your own Power Apps, a good place to start is this collection of learning paths on Microsoft Learn.  


As his comments indicate, Camp takes his role as cloud advocate seriously. He reaches out on Twitter and LinkedIn to his MVP contacts, Sarkar’s many followers, and hiring managers to share with them what he’s doing, which they can then share with their broader audience and their companies. He publishes articles about his developer journey, the first app he created (an inventory management app), how to build your first app, how to set up your own test environment, and reasons to inspire others to upskill as a citizen developer, however he can, to let people know how empowering this is and to inspire them to make a change they might think they’re not ready for or capable of. The opportunities and rewards are great, he says. PricewaterhouseCoopers recently posted 160 jobs focused on Microsoft Power Platform. Right now, the Jobs board on LinkedIn lists over 11,000 jobs around the world that include Microsoft Power Platform in the job description—and that number is getting bigger.


Camp is proof that creating apps is not just for technically trained developers. It’s in reach, even for people who have no experience coding and who may not consider themselves “technical people.” With a desire to learn, the courage to change, and a tool like Microsoft Power Platform, the opportunity to become a citizen developer, as Camp calls himself, or a community developer, as Mohapi calls himself, is  there. All you have to do to start your journey, from wherever you are, is take the first step. Check out the Microsoft Power Platform app maker training and certification on Microsoft Learn and explore the possibilities for you.  And check out the new Microsoft Power Platform course at aka.ms/UdacityPower.

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