Hello again

For years I blogged a lot.  It’s how many of you got to know me.  Then it became a chore and I let it slide lower and lower on my priority list until it no longer had a place on my to-do.  My last post was nearly 4 years ago, my last tech post, even longer.

I tried to revive my writing at the beginning of the pandemic, but my heart just wasn’t in it.  So, I decided to give myself a break and not feel like I had to exceed at everything all of the time.

With the pandemic I went from travelling more than 100,000 miles per year to nearly no miles per year.  We would go months without putting gas in the car.  Photography has always been a hobby, but without new adventures that slowed down so much that I wasn’t even keeping the batteries charged for my camera.  We couldn’t see our kids.  We couldn’t see our parents. I was in quite a funk like most all of us. 

I love to eat, so I’ve always loved to cook.  But now we were cooking all of our meals. I started documenting more of what we made.  I learned how to make my own wine, I named it Tipsy Traveler.

My random pandemic accomplishment was design school.  I attended, and graduated from, a self-paced online interior design program.  I’ve been putting that to use in designing our new house.

So, here I am trying this writing thing again. 

I split my blog, one for tech, one for the other stuff.

From a tech perspective my role has evolved to more training and curriculum and less hands on keys making things for clients.  I joined the board of directors for a non-profit that helps excite high schoolers in technology. I still share my voice to decision-makers in DC trying to help small tech and app makers.

For the other stuff, I started to document and share some of my cooking and design work.  And it makes me happy to relive the stories behind the photos, so I’ll be including that here.  And who knows, maybe there will be some new travels and new photos, too.

The techy stuff will be here, the non-techy stuff here.  And there will certainly be crossover between the two because that is who I am.

Oh, and I got a puppy.  His name is Lio. 

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Mid-year update on our Ukrainian cohorts

Since I last wrote about our Ukrainian cohorts the team has continued to be hard at work to support our efforts.  And we’ve expanded a bit.

Our July group started this week with 222 students.  Our March and May groups each had over 200 as well.

Several of our students want to improve their English skills, so we updated our cloud flows and now track their input language and respond in the same language.  Previously we were hard coded to respond in Ukrainian.  (This also means we can support cohorts in additional languages.)

We’ve added more community experts to help with feedback on weekly assignments.  Let me know if you’d like to help.

We’re getting more support from the community in general.  For example, BizApps legend Lisa Crosbie is adding Ukrainian subtitles to her videos for us. You can see her playlist here, and her whole channel here.  Lisa is my go-to when I need to catch up on all things Dynamics and Power Platform.  If you are a content creator and want to do something for our students, let me know.

We’ve spec’d out the next phase of the program.  We need to build it out a little more, but it will be focused on making functional consultants who are Power Platform generalists.  Let me know if you have jobs or apprenticeships for our grads.

The entire program has been run by volunteers, with a budget of $0.  We might be seeking sponsorship of some variety soon to help with the cost of getting licenses for training environments for our students for their continued efforts.

Learn more about the groups, the impact to students and more in their own words here

Interested in joining the next cohort?  Apply here.


Expanding our Biz Apps Skilling cohorts

As I hope you know, we have been running training cohorts for displaced and vulnerable Ukrainians.  We have been very successful.  We built the program around having a core set of day-to-day volunteers who are Ukrainian speakers, but the support team is currently all English speakers.  We’ve used the technology to make it mostly seamless (specifically Microsoft Forms, Power Automate, Dataverse, and Power Apps.).

We are almost done making updates to be able to bring on additional language groups. We now need committed people to lead the day-to-day operation of the new groups.

Designer (84)



Don’t worry.  We have a curriculum and proven track record of success for you to follow. 

What would you be committing to?

  • No one ever pays to join any of our cohorts.
  • This is run by volunteers. The first one will take a little more commitment, but after that, you should likely be able to take a team of two or three and spend fewer than 10 hours a week each.
  • You would offer help grading weekly assignments. This happens in English in a simple gradebook Power App that you would be given access to use.  You would be grading assignments from all cohorts, not just your own.
  • It’s a six-week cohort. But we are built around being flexible to allow you to succeed, even with all of life’s obligations.  So, often there’s a few people in each cohort who need some extra time.
  • The lessons are primarily located on Microsoft Learn. There are a few out-of-the-box translations available. However, beyond the top 5(ish) you would need to help students learn how to navigate and use browser-based translations.
  • The expected student commitment is about ten hours per week. Most of this is independent learning with touchpoints.  This means students can learn after their regular job, before dropping the kids off at football practice, etc.  You would need to set up and facilitate a communication channel.  Teams works well if students can easily get to Teams.  Telegram has proven effective for our Ukrainian cohorts.  I could see it working in Slack also.
  • There are weekly videos for students. We have them in English to offer you.  You can have students watch them in English, you can create your own subtitles/translations, write a summary in your chosen language, etc. Most of these videos are short (less than 30 mins) and focus on relevant topics that work with the assigned Learn lessons.
  • We recommend at least one open mic-style office hours meeting per week. Make it at a reasonable time based on your students’ availability.  This usually lasts about an hour.
  • You would interact and get to know your students. We have found that the biggest predictor of success is simple, someone cares about the success of each student.  Get to know their names.  If someone misses an assignment, reach out, see if they need help, offer an extension, etc.

The program is focused on core tech adjacent skills and business applications.  You do not need to be an expert in the entire platform, but working knowledge of the platform is necessary, with expertise in one or two core parts.  If you find yourself with a student super interested in something that you don’t know much about, we’ve got you covered.  We will help facilitate bringing an expert to your groups as needed.

This training is designed for career switchers.  Non-tech people who need that core set of skills that we often take for granted.  “Graduates” of our groups are not job ready.  But they are ready to join already in place training that is widely available.

So, what now?  Let me know if you’re interested.  We’ll sort through the details and help you get started.


The continued cost of the war in Ukraine and those it leaves behind

I'm traumatized.

My grandson is now an orphan and I want to give him a good future.

When the war in Ukraine broke out, I had to leave for Germany with my son because it was very dangerous to stay there.

I was working in a nuclear company in Kyiv.

I am a Ukrainian refugee, and I am looking for any kind of professional education in IT.

I am 54 years old, Ukrainian refugee.

Due to the circumstances in our country, I cannot work in my specialty. For more than 10 years, I have been teaching applied mathematics at the University.

I am a professional athlete.

These are quotes from our applicants for our continuing cohorts for displaced and vulnerable Ukrainians.  Our simple application has standard input fields for names and contact details.  It also has two additional questions:

  1. Why do you want to join our training cohort?
  2. Is there any additional relevant information you'd like to share with us or to clarify any of your above answers?

The answers have gone through some automatic translations, but I think the sentiment is still very clear.  People need help to start over.  They are eager to move forward and do whatever it takes for a new chance.

OIP (2)

Refresher on what we do and how we do it.

The Microsoft collection for Business Applications Professional skilling has been translated to Ukrainian (AI-assisted automated translation with manual review for minor edits).  This program gives a great introduction to the tech-adjacent knowledge and skills you need to start a career in tech.  It’s good in English, it’s good in Ukrainian.

The free cohorts take place in Telegram groups.  We tried Microsoft Teams but that proved to be a challenge on many levels because of many restrictions and issues with access to reliable connections and devices.  But the students are already in Telegram, so we go to where they are.

Each week students have an assignment from this translated content.  They also watch relevant (and subtitled in Ukrainian) videos.  And there are two questions per week (via a simple Microsoft Form) that they respond to.  These questions are great for relating the weekly topics into real-world actionable knowledge.  The questions are available in both English and Ukrainian.  I built a Power App with some swanky translation capabilities so students can respond in either language.  And then the swanky translation capabilities translate our feedback we’ve entered in the Power App from English to Ukrainian and send the student an email with feedback from an industry expert in their language.

The 6-week program exposes students to the world of Microsoft Business Applications, capabilities of the Dynamics 365 family of products, and career options. We hope to spark an interest to help them decide what is a good next move for them.  Many love the CRM side.  Many love the ERP side.  Even a few are interested in BC.

The next cohort is our biggest yet with a few hundred students enrolled.  We’re very fortunate in being able to recruit qualified volunteers to lend a hand to help us keep up. 

Everyone who applies is accepted.

Six-weeks is the plan, but anyone who needs more time gets all the time they need.

We’ve automated as much as we can and still provide personal touches and interactions.  We are all volunteers with full-time jobs but together we are making a small difference.  Thanks go out to Vlad, Dima, Kat, Olena, Andrew, and Britta for all they do to help keep this going.  Neither Britta nor I know Ukrainian language, but technology makes it feel seamless to participate.

After the 6 weeks, students stay in the Telegram groups and help the next group.  It is an amazing community that I am lucky to participate in from the sidelines.

What is your call to action?

  1. Send your Ukrainian friends and colleagues to us. They can join and learn.  Or they can join and help. https://365l.ink/UkraineSignUp
  2. Say yes if when I reach out to you with a specific ask. As the groups increase in size, we may need more help with weekly feedback to students.
  3. Find room in your organization for one of our grads as a new hire or apprentice. 

Part of our automation sends students an email to invite them to the Telegram group upon enrollment.  One student replied and I keep it pinned at the top of my inbox.

“Thanks you very much for your answer. It did me so much happy.”

It did me so much happy too.  It really did.


Introducing the Biz Apps Classroom podcast

Yes, it’s true.  Literally everyone now has a podcast, including me.

Biz apps classroom

Jason Gumpert and I go way back.  We’ve always been supportive of each other’s efforts, but never had a chance to work together.  But a random hallway conversation at an event in Charlotte changed that.  One of us suggested we do a podcast.  I really don’t know who it was, maybe he remembers.  So we launched the Biz Apps Classroom, our take on all things learning and training in our Biz Apps space. 

Hopefully it’s interesting 😊

We are three and a half episodes in, and so far so good.

Episode 1:  Introduces the podcast and Julie and Jason

Episode 2: Why Microsoft certifications matter

Episode 3: Goals

Episode 4: (in progress talking about role-based training).

Ideas for future episodes are always welcome.  We hope to talk about training cohorts, our efforts for displaced and vulnerable Ukrainians, value of hands-on training activities, strategy for in-person or virtual training, and more.  We’ve got some guests lined up to help keep it a little more interesting.

We hope to post episodes about every other week, with a fair bit of grace until we hit our stride.

Share your feedback and your ideas, it’s how we get better.


Ignite 2023 Copilot links

If you were in our hands-on lab sessions, we promised links.  Here you go:

Get Started With Copilot in Cloud Flows (Microsoft Documentation)

 
Create Power Platform Solutions with AI and Copilot (Microsoft Learn exercises)
 
Create and manage automated processes by using Power Automate (Microsoft Learn Applied Skills)
 
Power Automate: HTML Formatting Made Easy (April Dunnam, Microsoft)
 
Formatting HTML Tables in Flow (April Dunnam, Microsoft)

My digest updates

So much great feedback!  Keep it coming.  Use the Ideas page on the 365.Training site or reach out to me directly.

So, in case you haven’t heard, my digest at 365.Training is a place to stay up to date on all things Power Platform and Dynamics 365.  We’ve got over 150 sources for you, all in one place.  My original blog post on it is here.

My digest fills your head with knowledge

So, some updates for you.

Email digest from my feed. You can set the frequency of your digest email from none to daily, weekly, monthly or after 10 days of inactivity on the site.  Your default is set to none, so if you want to get an email digest, navigate to the settings page via the gears icon on the ribbon.

My digest email

Mydigest email

 

You can now listen to our AI-generated TL:DR summaries.
Play the TL;DR

Suggest a new source.  On that top ribbon, click the plus+ and let us know a great source we may have missed. You can also keep track of your suggestions, and the outcome on the My suggestions tab.

Suggest a new source

Time to consume.  Once you’re drilled into the summary of an item from your feed, we’ve got an estimate of how long it will take you to consume the item from the source.

Time to consume

You can listen to a podcast directly from our site.  Not every podcast provider supports this at this time, but most of the ones we share will have that option for you.

Listen to podcast


Once you’ve set your filter preferences, and are viewing your feed, you can also now choose what type of content you’d like to see right now.  Use it just like you use our just-in-time my view filter.

Content type filter

Load more items to your feed. When you first get to your digest, we give you 50 items on your feed.  If you make it to the end and want to load the next 50, use the mark all read at the bottom of the feed. That will effectively dismiss all items on your feed and reload with the next 50 items.

Load more items

Still haven't tried my digest?  Go give it a try now https://mydigest.365.training 

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introducing my digest by 365.Training

A few weeks ago, Dave came into my office and starts scribbling on the whiteboard.  Has a great idea.  And we all agreed.  And so, we jumped into the deep end and a few weeks later, we launched my digest by 365.Training.

MyDigest Only

What is my digest?  It’s your one-stop place for news, updates, blogs, events, podcasts, videos; all things current about Power Platform.  You build your interests in your saved filters and the feed only gives you things you are interested in. You can save items with notes, organized in your own folders.  You can snooze and item to read later.  You can do ad hoc views to narrow the scope of what you’re viewing right now, without changing your saved filters.

We’ve curated over 100 sources and add more pretty much every day. 

We just launched this crazy idea last week.  So, we’re in our beta phase while we work through any minor bugs and improvements.  During this beta, every logged in user has access at no cost.  We’ll sort out how we monetize it later.

Let me know if you have sources we should add or other ideas to make it better.

Go to my digest

I made a quick tutorial of how to get the most of my digest. 


Events and on the road in October

This is starting to feel like the good old days 😊

Power Platform Conference Las Vegas NV October 3-5.  I’m not attending or presenting, but plan to be in town for a short time that week.  Feel free to grab some time to catch up.  https://365l.ink/MeetMeInVegas

365CommunityDays Knoxville TN- October 13th.  I’m giving two talks at this free community event.  Come join us! https://www.communitydays.org/event/2023-10-13/knoxville-m365-community-day#schedule

Community Summit- October 15-20 Charlotte NC- I’m on a few panels and helping deliver a session for CRM/D365 Sales users.  Details here https://connect.summitna.com/8_0/sessions/speaker-details.cfm?speakerid=724

Denver Dev Day October 27 Denver CO- Not currently planning to deliver a session, but that might change.  It’s free, join us anyway.  https://denverdevday.github.io/oct-2023/


We’re adding training cohorts at 365.Training

Some people learn best on their own.  But many prefer to learn with a group.  We’re launching training cohorts to give our subscribers access to a training community to help them on their professional journey.

You will be assigned learning each week to help you complete the courses in an order we’ve determined is logical to gain the skills of the particular cohort.  You’ll be free to take any of our courses at the same time, or before, or after. You can join additional cohorts also. 

You will be part of a community.  Each cohort has a private Teams available with dedicated channels for each course in the cohort.  Our instructors will be available for questions and discussions throughout the cohort. We’ll also have office hours for interactive conversations along the way.

Our goal is for quarterly cohorts, but will schedule more often if we need to.

First up is our cohort for beginners in October, then one for developers in January.

Keep an eye on this page for other cohorts as they get scheduled.

What does it cost?

Joining a cohort is free to our paid subscribers.

How big are the cohorts?

To be honest we’re not exactly sure.  We need enough students to encourage great conversations, but not so many that you’ll get lost.  We’ll keep an eye on enrollment and do our best to keep the numbers right.

Interested in subscribing?  Have a look here.

Got a group?  Want a private cohort?  Have a look here.

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Biz App professional skilling cohorts-Ukrainian edition/Когорта навчання "Професіонал з біснес-додатків". Версія для українців.

Когорта навчання "Професіонал з біснес-додатків". Версія для українців.

Після вдалого старту нашого пілотного проекту, ми із задоволенням розширюємо реєстрацію. Якщо ви чи хтось з вашого оточення шукає підтримку при зміні професії, приєднуйтеся. Наші фахівці працюють з передовими технологіями та знанням мов, щоб ваше навчання було максимально комфортним. Цей курс є адаптованим варіантом англомовних груп і містить матеріали на двох мовах: англійській та українській. Навчання самостійне з контрольними етапами. І, до речі, це абсолютно безкоштовно. Якщо ви бажаєте вчитися, але не готові зобов'язатися на 6 тижнів відразу, немає проблем. Матеріали основані на ресурсах Microsoft Learn, https://aka.ms/BAPskilling. Можете розпочати з цього сайту, а потім приєднатися до нас. 

Щоб дізнатися більше про курс, перейдіть за цим посиланням.

Для реєстрації в групі, клікніть сюди.

Biz App professional skilling cohorts-Ukrainian edition

After our successful pilot we are happy to open registration more broadly.  If you or someone you know is looking for help transitioning to a new career, join us.  Our team of professionals includes native speakers and some good technology to make this experience as smooth as possible.

This cohort is a modified version of the English-language cohorts.  Content is presented in both English and Ukrainian.  Learning is self-directed with checkpoints.  It is free.

If you’d like to learn but can’t commit to a 6-week cohort at this time, not to worry.  The program is based on the official collection from Microsoft Learn, https://aka.ms/BAPskilling . You can start there, and join a cohort later.

For more information about the training, visit here

To apply for a cohort, visit here