This is the third in a series of posts based on interviews with experienced Dynamics 365 Microsoft Certified Trainers (MCTs). The premier technical and instructional experts in Microsoft technologies, MCTs offer live virtual instructor-led training (VILT) that provides in-depth, hands-on experience tailored to learners’ needs. We talked with three MCTs about their approach to teaching Dynamics 365 skills and preparing partners and customers for Microsoft Certification: Julian Sharp on Microsoft Power Platform, Beth Burrell on customer engagement, and Brandon Ahmad on finance and operations. Whether you’re a business owner in search of training for your company or someone who wants to build your skills and get certified in Dynamics 365—or if your goal is to become an MCT yourself—you’ll find their take on Dynamics 365 training as inspiring as it is valuable.
Teaching Microsoft Official Courses (MOCs) online is not new to Ahmad. He has 12 years of experience working with customers operating in different industries and has worked on over 60 different implementations around the world. Just as important, for many years now he’s been offering MOC instruction online through an online learning platform that he designed himself. Offering all his training online, he explains, means he can go across timelines, no matter where learners are, to deliver all his instruction, from video conferencing deep dives into course materials to his custom labs. And it enables him to can check in on people all along way, to see how they’re coming along.
Ahmad’s blended virtual live approach—a combination of video conferencing, mentoring, labs, and quizzes—enables him to deliver personalized teaching and to help people become successful by learning the technical aspects of finance and operations in Dynamics 365. A blended approach to learning is what learners are asking for these days, Ahmad says, much more so than a decade ago, and it’s also what he believes is the most effective way to train today and why he designs all his classes this way.
The Dynamics 365 environment also has to be taken into consideration when designing a course, he adds. That environment is one of rapid cycling, with updates coming fast and furious, bringing new functionality, new features, and new specializations all the time. With so much changing so regularly, it’s not just the students who need to keep up to date but also the instructors and the instruction. “Instructors have to accept that rapid updates are now a part of successful course delivery,” he says. Ahmad has taken his own advice to heart. He’s always increasing his knowledge of finance and operations functionalities and possibilities in Dynamics 365, and he’s always looking for ways to improve his instruction and have it keep pace with the technology.
Ahmad’s custom-designed Dynamics 365 training covers all the content of the Microsoft curriculum with engaging delivery of video instruction, the use of virtual machines, and the addition of enhanced course content that he creates, such as quizzes and real-world, hands-on labs, and even supplemental reading. “The official course content is excellent,” he notes. “It’s comprehensive. It gives learners a solid foundation. I build on that foundation.”
So what does that look like, in action? Ahmad’s courses are presented with a unique method of delivering videos, he says, and by exposing students to technologies like Lifecycle Services and Power BI “using our remarkable Dynamics 365 virtual machines and services.” Along the way, he invites questions and gives custom quizzes. As he covers the course modules, he tells learners what he likes about the features and capabilities, and he often shows them how they can use a different approach than the official one. Personalizing instruction is key for him. He’ll teach students how to troubleshoot an issue, for example, or help them learn a faster way to do something that hasn’t been documented yet. “This is a value add,” he says. This is not a one-size-fits-all course. “No one ever can go through everything in a course, so it’s like having an experienced guide telling you to focus here, do this, save that for later.”
The value add of his courses that he’s most excited about, however, is the labs. His courses include a unique lab interface custom-designed by an experienced instructor for enhanced learning. “These labs give you lots of real-world, hands-on learning experience.” You need to learn by building apps, for example, as well as by understanding how they work. And as learners work through the labs—such as a lab on custom load testing or Dynamics 365 reporting—they have access to help from him or another instructor on his team. Wherever they are in the world, as they work through a lab, a student can connect with an instructor to ask for help or for mentoring or coaching. Within 10 hours, they get a response to get their learning back on track.
Ahmad carefully enhances each lab himself, giving an exhaustive explanation of each part of the process—with copious annotations—offering his own insights into the process, and covering material that’s not in the official courses. He just finished writing a 23-page lab, he says. That’s “labor-intensive, but worth it for the real-world experience it gives learners.” He’s constantly updating the labs, too, to reflect the changes in Dynamics 365.
The biggest challenge of the rapid-release cycle of Dynamics 365—every four to six months—that he experiences is keeping the labs up to date. Changes happen so fast, it’s a job to keep the labs up with the newest terminology or expanded functionality. He and his team are constantly adding to and updating the labs to reflect these changes. If a learner has a problem with a lab, he tells them, “Give me 72 hours to fix it.” And he does. Next to the quality instruction he offers—active, engaged instruction with lots of discussion—it’s the quality of those labs that excites him the most.
“Dynamics 365 gives me a way to be excited, be creative,” he says. “I’m not just teaching people how to use the finance and operations tools of Dynamics 365 so they can be more productive. I’m teaching people how to be app makers, how to build apps with no code or low code, so they can create their own solutions to their own business problems.” That’s another reason he enjoys teaching these and other Dynamics 365 courses—they’re as rewarding for him as they are for students.
Ahmad is clearly an energetic and creative instructor dedicated to providing the highest quality in Dynamics 365 instruction online, including much-needed skills in finance and operations. Asked to sum up his teaching, he offered one word: passion. Sign up for a course led by Ahmad or another MCT, and experience how exciting and rewarding learning new skills can be.
Explore certifications in finance and operations in Dynamics 365.