taking a free microsoft cert for fun

Microsoft did a promotion this year where you could take a certification exam for free. I took the PL-400: Power Platform Developer exam. My goal was not to pass the exam (and I didn’t). I had three goals

  • Gain a cursory understanding of Power Platform
  • See how Microsoft does certifications
  • Take an exam in an exam center (the last exam I took was an “at home” one so it has been two years since I’ve been in an exam center.). And related: practice taking an exam in an exam setting (the last exam I took was last year; since the next exam I take is likely to be the Java 21 cert, good to practice test taking skills).

I met all of my goals.

How I (didn’t) study

The Microsoft Learn Cloud Skills Challenge had you do a bunch of online modules. I skimmed each one and watched a few of the videos. I did not do any labs. Each module ends with 3-4 multiple choice review questions. I got 0-4 correct on each. I did not take notes. (Remember the goal was a cursory understanding.) I then went on vacation and gave two presentations on completely unrelated topics. So anything that stuck in my head from this was subconscious.

The morning of the exam, I took two 50 question free practice exams from Microsoft….

Free practice tests

I think you can take as many as you want although at some point, you will run out of unique questions. On my second practice test, I was able to identify 20 questions I saw in the first practice test and 28 questions that were new to me. (Yes, I know this doesn’t add up to 50; the other two I don’t remember if I saw.) That’s a pretty good question pool for free.

You can choose whether to check your answer after each question of the practice test. Either way, you get to see all the questions and answers at the end. I choose to check after each one as the purpose of the practice test for me was to load/re-load some info into my head. I did notice that report at the end showing all the questions you answered was not in the same order as I got the questions. (I forgot to check the answers for two and wrote down their numbers to check at the end.)

I got 44% on the first attempt and 54% on the second. (Most, if not all, of my improvement was remembering the answers to the questions both practice exams had in common)

There’s a major caveat with the practice tests. All of them are multiple choice questions. Some are radio buttons and some choose two/three. But none are the “specialized” question types that features heavily on the actual exam.

The exam center

I had been to this exam center before (pre-2020). There’s no drama. You sign some stuff, they take your picture and you putt your stuff in a locker. They hold the key, but let you keep your id/charge card. (I don’t bring my phone with me; so there’s nothing valuable in the locker; just a little cash). I don’t think I’d like this arrangement if I had to bring my phone. But I can walk to the center, so no need for a phone.

Today, I was offered earplugs because there is some construction in the building. I declined; I’m used to noise where I live. The construction was audible, but not loud. They also have headphones which you can use. I didn’t use those either, but they were in arms reach if I changed my mind.

I had to move the monitor closer to me. It started about twice arms length. Too far to read. This was a self service operation.

After the exam, I was handed a printout with my score and other info. In theory, it showed my performance on each section, but that part didn’t print. I was also able to see my score on the computer when I submitted my final answers.

The agreement

You agree to a bunch of the usual stuff about not cheating. You also explicitly agree not to use AI to cheat. I wonder how one would. You already can’t use other windows/devices.

The actual exam

The exam started with 10 survey questions. Six were about your skill level with each of the exam objectives. I wrote novice for all of them. They also asked why you were taking the cert.

Then my real exam began. I was given 100 minutes across all sections. It was divided into three sections. i didn’t know in advance that was going to happen. You can’t switch between sections. Once you submit a section, the answers are locked in.

The first section was a five question case study. There was a lot of reading and switching of tabs for the case study. The idea is you got requirements and constraints and then answered questions in that context. You could switch between the case study text and questions as much as you wanted before submitting the section. While I did not know this format existed on the exam, I enjoyed it.

The second section was a seven question case study. Again a lot of reading. Same idea, different scenario.

The third question was 42 “multiple choice” questions. Of those questions, the last three described a short example and you had to say yes/no for whether each of the three questions gave a solution. For these three questions, you could not mark them as for review/go back and forth. They were single look and done. You could review the other 39 questions as much as you wanted; even after doing the special three.

The practice tests were not representative of the format of the real exam. (The sandbox you can look at is closer so make sure to try that!). Of my 39 “multiple choice” questions, I had

  • 12 single answer/radio button questions
  • 3 multiple answer checkbox questions with two correct answers
  • 2 multiple answer checkbox questions with three correct answers
  • 8 drag and drop questions – you got a few items and had to place them in boxes answering questions; each item could be used zero, one or more time
  • 6 algorithm type questions where you chose the right steps from a list *and* ordered them
  • 8 questions were there were multiple parts to answer – either yes/no or a pull down with three options for each one

Note that not all questions have the same weight! For the checkboxes with 2-3 answers, each correct answer is worth one point; same as the radio buttons.

Why I did better than I expected

I think there were three causes

  • Testing taking strategy – I suspect some strategy on the “more than one point” questions raised my score.
  • Some questions you could answer (or at least narrow the pool of correct answers) from knowledge of other systems. For example, I know when to use a queue, webhook, etc
  • It’s not a percentage. It’s a scaled score based on factors unknown :).

Even with all of that, i’m surprised how close I got to 700.

My thoughts

I like how Microsoft did the exam. it was a fun format and the questions didn’t feel theoretical. I think they did a good job testing knowledge of the topic.

UberConf 2023 Table of Contents

This is my first time attending UberConf. It’s a nice conference. Sessions are longer so have time to go deeper. I like that all the rooms have tables/power. And the outside networking space.


  • Venkat did an after dinner keynote called “Decision Dials”. It was great; need for balance. I didn’t blog it, but I enjoyed it.




[2023 kcdc] what your product manager actually does & why it matters

Speaker: Annie Cochran

For more, see theĀ table of contents.

Like the speaker, I”m using PM in this post to mean product manager


  • Amount of power varies amongst PMs
  • Product Manager vs Product Owner vs Project Manager – these are different roles. Some companies use these terms interchangeably or merge the roles
  • PMs role is to protect developer’s time, unblock things, have conversations/meetings, etc

Day in the life

  • Lots of meetings and prep for a lot of meetings.
  • Common to be double/triple booked
  • 10 meetings/day
  • Juggling between meetings/inbox/to do list
  • Review notes/action items/next day’s schedule

Potential opportunity meeting

  • Frst hear about opportunities to strengthen product.
  • Talk to devs only if agree good opportunity.
  • Say no diplomatically if not.
  • Sometimes not bad but not enough time now.
  • “No and…” – need manager to stand by decisions when need reinforcement
  • Represent team/product at meetings
  • Protect goals of product and team

Brag about the team meeting

  • Celebrate publicly to senior leadership and executives what devs did.


  • Series of meetings and activities
  • Trying to discover user needs/goals/pain points
  • Tries to choose best method for the problem at hand
  • Vet work and decide if take back to team
  • Another meeting where protect devs time
  • Use Mural

Other types of meetings

  • One on one – ex: engineering manager
  • Surprise meetings
  • PO meeting
  • Team ceremonies – ex: standup refinement/grooming


  • PM fills in where can.
  • Then team fills in. Pre-refinement. Does twice a week for a specific set of stories. A developer must be present because talking about technical details. Investment of time.
  • Actual refinement is after tech lead involved

Shouldn’t do

  • Don’t make technical choices
  • Don’t need to know all tech solutions
  • Not CEO of the product. Don’t want to make decisions in a top down way. Make choices with the team vs hierarchically.
  • Don’t need to control every moment of pre-refinement
  • Tech adjacent, but not technical
  • Not a data analyst. Interpreting data, not collecting it.
  • Not a project manager. Project manager focused on timeline/deadlines (when). Product manager focused on whether should do it at all (why)

How can devs help the PM

  • Participate in meetings.
  • Pay full attention in meetings; don’t do side work
  • Listen so know when can contribute.
  • Give input when asked. Gives confidence for others to share.
  • Prepare in advance when asked
  • Communicate problems as soon as blocked. Give info so can deal fight dragons.
  • Constructive criticism when needed

Product Owner and Product Manager

  • Common for it to be the same person
  • Similar role
  • Internet says PM is more strategic and PO is more tactical
  • Someone in audience said PO supposed to have more authority. Others disagree.
  • Another person said transferred PO to PM
  • Another person said PO helps prioritize backlog as exists, clean it out. BAs groom stories. PMs oversee activities but focus on why.
  • Another person said PMs looking at longer term and POs focus on day to day (ex: standups/impediments)
  • There’s a PO Analyst course role between PO and PM
  • Conclusion – varies a lot by organization and even within an organization

Tech debt

  • Annie is a former dev (for 8 months)
  • Explain why important, robustness, maintainable
  • Make it less abstract
  • Technical education from team so can explain to business. ex: can’t deliver X until fix Y.
  • Don’t ask permission to do job right. Just right tests

My take

This was a fun start to the day. It was nice seeing the POV of a product manager. Annie is a former developer who has been in the role for 13 months. This is a good amount of time for the topic. I like that she crafted a message specifically for developers. I enjoyed both the talk part and question/discussion part. There was a lot of activity.