Welcome to a brand-new year of possibilities. Are you in between jobs and looking for inspiration to reenergize your career? If you check LinkedIn, you’ll see thousands of job postings for Microsoft Dynamics 365 in the United States alone. So why not make a resolution to start in a fresh direction? That’s what Sheryl Netley did. A few winters ago, Sheryl, a single mother of four in Hereford, England, found herself laid off from work, stressed out, and needing to do something to avoid getting into a bad place—financially and mentally.
She took stock of her situation. Although she didn’t have a college degree, she did have experience as an IT service manager. Unfortunately, pathways for advancement were limited. She reasoned, “Let’s think here. I have the layoff money. I can survive for a while. This could give me the opportunity to do something else. But what? I’m smart. I love helping people. And I like working where I can see that what I’ve created makes a difference in people’s lives.” She had come across Dynamics 365 in her last job, and it really impressed her. Maybe this was her chance to give it a shot.
Sheryl resolved to learn Dynamics 365. She planned to set aside a month, apply herself, and concentrate on preparing to take exams for Microsoft Certification in Dynamics 365.
After spending a few days relaxing with her family over the holidays before diving into her month of learning, Sheryl committed to a laser focus on preparing for a career change. She recalls, “I literally worked all day—eight to eight, sometimes later—every day because I knew I had limited time to make this big change.” She looked for all the resources that were available, starting with combing through the Dynamics Learning Portal, which was around before Microsoft Learn. She found the course codes for all the certifications she wanted and then explored training videos on YouTube. She worked through them all.
Even though Sheryl had set a deadline for herself, she remembers, “I didn’t expect to do as much as I did. I expected to make a start and see where it got me. But once I got into the habit, it became a habit. If you try this, I suggest that you form good habits and do as much as you can. Don’t beat yourself up. I did it quite quickly because of the situation I was in and the urgent needs I had.”
To keep her eyes on the prize, she researched LinkedIn to understand the specifics of what Dynamics 365 jobs entailed. She paid close attention to the skills that prospective employers wanted and found that organizations were looking for people with skills in customizing and configuring Dynamics 365.
Sheryl stayed positive and resolved not to “boil the ocean.” After she figured out what hiring managers were looking for and what skills she needed, she decided to methodically complete her tasks. She realized that many employers were looking for a specific set of Microsoft Certifications, so that sharpened her focus. “I put together a great big spreadsheet. I didn’t look at the end of the spreadsheet. I broke the certification requirements into rows on the spreadsheet and then ticked them off one by one.” Over time, she built on what she needed to know. That’s when she started to get confident about her learning and could say, “Hang on, wait a minute, I know this bit!”
At the end of her month of learning, she realized, “I think I could sit for these exams now.” However, she had a dilemma—she couldn’t afford them. She thought, “What do I do now? Am I buying food, or am I paying for exams?”
As part of her month of learning, Sheryl had joined a study group to deepen her knowledge. She connected with a study group in the United Kingdom run by Julian Sharp. It turns out that Julian teaches Dynamics 365, Microsoft Power Platform, and Azure. His study groups are open to learners at all levels, so Sheryl was able to make a lot of contacts. People were friendly and open to sharing what they knew, but it was daunting to break the ice. “It was quite nerve-wracking to begin with because I didn’t know anybody. You come in new and see that people seem to know each other. People who know Dynamics have met each other before. It wasn’t until I got into the study group that I saw how welcoming and supportive people were.” Sheryl ended up learning a lot, exchanging information, and developing professional relationships. She observes, “Knowing a few people gave me confidence.” These contacts introduced her to other contacts, and she ended up going to Scottish Summit—a Microsoft Power Platform event in Scotland—and making even more contacts.
Just when she needed it, one of her contacts in the user group told her about an opportunity at a Microsoft Partner. In her interview, she asked whether the company would pay for her to take the Microsoft Certification exams. The company ended up hiring her on the condition that she pass the exams within the first three months of her employment. She was thrilled to start the job, bearing in mind that just a few weeks earlier she didn’t know how she was going to pay the mortgage.
In her new job, Sheryl continued studying for certification exams, which she passed. In fact, Sheryl loves the process so much that, to date, she figures she has passed at least 19 of them. She considers Microsoft Certification a key to her success.
Even though her first role was focused on Dynamics 365, Sheryl notes, “It was the transferable skills from other employment that kept me going the first few months.” In addition, she picked up some development skills on the job to create what came to be known as custom model-driven apps. She was, at that point, effectively a citizen developer who used various elements of the platform. When Microsoft Power Platform became available, she used it to make apps. Remembering those days, she says, “I couldn’t get over the speed with which we created apps. Talk about time to value. I was building an app in less than a week. In four days’ time, I’d have an app up and running. Where else can you do that?”
She really appreciates the speed with which Microsoft Power Platform can move a project from concept to product. She recalls a particularly satisfying project, “After the first requirements session, the customer wasn’t clear on the concept, so I decided just to build it. I built a proof of concept, put it in front of them, and they clapped and cheered. The customers whooped with joy in the meeting because they were expecting the project to take months.”
Sheryl loves working with Microsoft Power Platform because the apps she creates have such a positive impact on peoples’ lives. “An app that saves thirty minutes of someone’s time every day, you multiply that by a thousand, or ten thousand, or two hundred thousand—that is massive impact. I’d never been in a position where I could harness the power of tech to do something good. It’s a cheesy thing that people say, but if you go into work every day and you literally are making the world a better place, it just makes you so happy.”
For others who want to get started, Sheryl suggests beginning with the fundamentals exams, which give you a good overview of the platform’s many parts and features. She always recommends the Microsoft Certified: Power Platform Fundamentals certification, which can give you a solid foundation for anything that comes up. No experience is necessary to train for it—just basic familiarity with computer technology, data analytics, cloud computing, and the internet. You earn it by passing Exam PL-900: Microsoft Power Platform Fundamentals.
For Dynamics 365, she recommends earning one of two fundamentals certifications, depending on your interests. If you’re familiar with customer relationship management (CRM) and are IT savvy—either generally or through work experience—the Microsoft Certified: Dynamics 365 Fundamentals (CRM) certification can highlight those skills. You earn it by passing Exam MB-910: Microsoft Dynamics 365 Fundamentals (CRM). If you have broad exposure to the enterprise resource planning (ERP) capabilities of Dynamics 365 and understand the basics of how finance and operations apps fit within the overall Microsoft ecosystem, you should look into earning Microsoft Certified: Dynamics 365 Fundamentals (ERP) certification. You need to pass Exam MB-920: Microsoft Dynamics 365 Fundamentals (ERP).
If you want to earn an associate certification, Sheryl suggests starting with a Microsoft Certified: Power Platform Functional Consultant Associate certification. You must pass Exam PL-200: Microsoft Power Platform Functional Consultant. This certification is a requirement for many other Dynamics 365 certifications, so it’s a good place to begin. Browse Microsoft Certifications to see which other certifications could be right for you.
If you’re ready to make a commitment to study for certification—or even to create a month of learning, like Sheryl did—here are her top recommendations. Use them to work at your own pace toward your goals:
If you’re looking to start fresh in a new career, take on this challenge as an opportunity, like Sheryl did. Remember that certification—when paired with your drive and abilities—can help you to take the next steps toward a fulfilling career. Sheryl concludes, “I’m happy with what I do now. It’s not just a job anymore. It’s a passion for me. Now it’s something I advocate for and evangelize about because it has the potential to do so much good.”
Microsoft Power Platform and Dynamics 365 resources
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