This blog post is a follow-on to a three-part series exploring the many 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 local community issues. The cloud advocate featured in this post, Greg Hurlman, shows developers how using Microsoft Power Platform can empower them in new ways. He also works with nondeveloper creators who use Microsoft Power Platform to come up with inventive solutions. To hear the other cloud advocates talk about their experience with Microsoft Power Platform, tune in to this Digital Lifestyle podcast.
When Dona Sarkar, lead for the Microsoft Power Platform Advocacy team, needed a developer advocate for the team, she looked for “one of the best people in the world at what they do.” She wanted someone who could show classic software developers how to do their job more efficiently and how to write and debug less code. She found that person in Greg Hurlman, who is now in customer engagement on the Microsoft Power Apps engineering team.
As Hurlman talked to customers trying to get Power Apps started in their organizations, he heard about Sarkar’s efforts. In fact, he even helped her when she had issues with her own environment as she was doing a demo. Sarkar saw firsthand how knowledgeable and helpful Hurlman was and how friendly and informative he was when he moderated Q&As for different Microsoft Power Platform sessions. So when he asked her if there was anything else he could do to help, she told him she needed a cloud developer advocate. As Hurlman puts it, “If you’re going to volunteer to Dona that you’re going to help her do her work, she will volunteer you to do it.”
A career helping others use technology
As a support engineer and consultant, Hurlman has always helped customers solve their problems. As he puts it, “I’ve been keeping people from having to call IT for the past 20 years.” His consulting work allowed him to develop empathy for customers. Hurlman explains, “I met with a lot of end users of the folks that were going to use the applications that IT was having us build. I helped them figure out their requirements and how they were going to actually use it. I’ve done a lot of community work when I was in the SharePoint space. That gives me a more rounded outlook on how software gets built because I’ve actually talked to customers that build things.”
Reaching out to traditional developers
The message that Hurlman brings to the traditional developer community is simple—using Power Apps saves time and development effort. He points out, “At this point in my career, I’ve been coding forever but I will create an app with Power Apps first before I try to create anything with custom code—just because it’s so much faster and does so much of what you’re trying to do.”
Hurlman has a lot of tips and tricks to show traditional developers how to create apps faster using Power Apps. He observes that there are two types of traditional developers—those who like building the user interface (UI) for the web (the front end) and those who like building the middle layer APIs that talk to databases (the back end). Typically, these developers can code for both the front end and the back end, but they have a preference. He uses an example, “If you’re a developer who only wants to work on the back end but you still need to work on the UI, you can use Power Apps to create that front end for you. You create your API, and you write a connector to it. Now the data through your API can get into that app super easily. The amount of time you can spend on the front end goes from weeks and months to days and weeks.”
He tells the story of a mobile developer who was introduced to Power Apps. “In the span of an hour, he was able to build an app that was actually useful, that you could run on your phone. It made him question why he would go through the rigamarole of doing things to create mobile apps the way you do as a professional developer when you’re getting 90 percent of everything you could get either out of the box or with just a little bit of tweaking with Power Apps.”
Greg notes that Microsoft Certification can be a great career boost for developers who become Power Apps power users. To learn more about these developer certifications, check out the “Skill up with Microsoft Power Platform certification” section later in this post.
Reaching out to app creators
Then there’s Lauren Taylor, an elementary school principal in Tacoma, Washington, who uses Power Apps to help her run the school better. Her customers are her faculty. She created apps to help track student reading data, to have the teachers coordinate lesson plans, and more. Hurlman was struck by the fact that Taylor says that “she’s not an application developer—she’s an app creator.”
To acknowledge these new skills, Hurlman points out that the cloud advocates are working on a fusion developer team learning path that walks through creating Microsoft Power Platform apps using both the traditional dev sensibility and the app maker approach. Hurlman marvels at the creativity of the app makers. “They will take one thing and use it the way you planned,” he states, “and then use it 10 more ways that you didn’t plan.”
A future full of opportunity
Sometimes these app creators attend Hurlman’s talks for developers on custom connectors or the Power App platform at (pre-COVID-19) in-person events. He explains, “Every single time there would be somebody who has never written traditional code who maybe created a few Power Apps or maker apps or used Power Apps with Power Automate, and so on. These folks didn’t understand the developer content, but they would come up to me after and say that they’re interested in learning more so they can take the next step in their career journey. They just need to pick up the development 101 stuff.” They’re eager to use Power Apps to enrich or advance their careers.
Hurlman observes that there’s going to be a surge in the number of apps that need to be created in the next decade. He explains, “The amount of traditional developers we have to create those apps does not line up. We’re only going to be able to create a third of what we need. The other two-thirds are going to have to come from this maker space.” This means that there’s more than enough work for traditional developers and app makers who understand their organizations’ needs and who want to quickly create and iterate on apps.
Skill up with Microsoft Power Platform certifications
Depending on your skill set, Hurlman recommends that you check out the certifications for Microsoft Power Platform developers. A Microsoft Certification signals that you have the skills that organizations are looking for when they hire and advance employees. And it can help open career doors for you.
Hurlman is passionate about helping a wide variety of developers. He likes to surprise the traditional developers by showing them new ways they can save time and effort by incorporating Power Apps into their traditional tool set. Certifications can help them grow their careers. Plus, the inventive app creators have a special place for him because they, too, will be important to tomorrow’s workplace. It doesn’t matter what their backgrounds are—they can come to Power Apps and quickly build tools that make a difference for themselves and their organizations. Power Apps is a confidence builder, and Hurlman wants to spread the news that there are Power Apps development career paths available for people who love to create apps.