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Cover image for Visual Azure: Studying for Certification, one Sketchnote at a time!
Nitya Narasimhan, Ph.D for Microsoft Azure

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Visual Azure: Studying for Certification, one Sketchnote at a time!

🎯 Goal: Visual Study Guide for Azure (a sketchnote at a time)
🔖 Blog: Visual Azure Website
👩🏽‍💻 Join: Visual Azure Community

This is a labor of love that combines two things that I am particularly passionate about this year - visual storytelling and technology skilling. Join me in my 2021 resolution to learn in public (one sketchnote at a time) and earn core Azure Certifications by year's end.

Let's Talk Azure Certifications!

As a relatively new Cloud Advocate in Microsoft Developer Relations, I wanted to get a comprehensive understanding of the massive Azure ecosystem of services, tools and solutions. And I wanted to do it in a way that would help me validate my understanding, and help others making the same learning journey.

Focusing on certification provides clear goals and value.

First, every certification comes with recommended learning paths that structure your learning for self-paced study - for example, you can use these free, online Microsoft Learn courses to prep for AZ-900.

Second, certifications provide a recognizable professional credential. Demand for Microsoft cloud and productivity solutions is growing post-COVID - and having a certification sends a clear signal that you have the knowledge, and the interest, in pursuing related careers.

Let's Talk Study Plans!

Let's focus on AZ-900 first. These are the skills measured by the exam and here are the recommended learning paths.

I find visualizing things helps me learn, and see the big picture better. Here's a visualization of the 20+ modules and topics you need to cover for AZ-900 - everything from core concepts to Azure services, solutions, security, identity, governance, and cost management. Hopefully it gives you a sense of how much time you might need to plan for each path, and a quick way to prioritize topics for review.

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Let's Talk Study Challenges!

There are two main challenges with self-paced study.

First is accountability - it's easy to start modules and then abandon them. Having a habit tracker can help you stay on track. Even things like #100DaysOfCode - you just don't want to break the streak!

Second is comprehension - it's easy to read or watch the content, but much harder to understand everything, or recall it later. Two things can help us do better - study guides, and community conversations.

But I wanted to try something different! What if there was a study guide for more visual learners?

Let's Talk Sketchnotes!

I'm a huge advocate of visual storytelling - using visual vocabularies (images, fonts, colors, composition) to explain complex concepts or workflows. Research shows that humans pay more attention to visuals, and can retain or recall visualized information more easily. Our brains are wired to look for patterns and can make connections faster (with visual cues) than with a wall of text.

When it comes to studying, writing things down helps me clarify and retain ideas. So I regularly make visual notes - aka sketchnotes. Here's an example from the All Around Azure: IOT event keynote to give you a sense of what I mean.

P.S: If you're pursuing certifications, don't forget to check out their ongoing #30DaysToLearnIt learning challenge for a chance to earn discounts!

Hello, #VisualAzure

So that's what I decided to do in my new project - #VisualAzure. Learn more about it here. My goal is to build a visual study guide - initially for AZ-900 - by sketchnoting one relevant skill, learning unit or module, every day.

I'll share these as posts on the Visual Azure Site and in regular recaps on Just follow me or the #VisualAzure tag right here, to be notified of new posts. Or bookmark the series and check back regularly.


If you have study notes (or sketchnotes) of your own, or you have written articles around your Azure Fundamentals learning journey - tweet me @nitya (or use #VisualAzure) and let me know. I'd love to amplify and learn more.

Join the Discussion

I wanted to make it easier for folks to interact with me, and with other learners, around our shared study goals, Azure concepts, or visual storytelling ideas.

I'm experimenting with the recent GitHub Discussions feature to see if that might help. Head over to the Community section on my site to learn more - and I hope you'll join in.

Top comments (3)

johnmichael profile image

Great. This is really helpful. But I'd also recommend to try some practice questions and practice tests that helped me a lot in identifying the mistakes while preparing for the AZ-900 exam.

shaijut profile image
Shaiju T • Edited

Nice 😄 idea. I have planned to do certifications. Need to execute the plan with accountability.