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How do you keep your 10-year-old twins entertained during a lockdown? If you’re Microsoft Technical Specialist and dad Adeel Khan, you send them to the internet. However, the results surprised the family when Zara and Zenubia Khan became the youngest twins to earn the Microsoft Power Platform certification. They join the ranks of talented young ladies that started with Arfa Karim Randhawa, the computer prodigy who in 2004 became the youngest Microsoft Certified Professional.
Those of us who work at Microsoft Learn were beyond excited to hear about the twins’ success. We talked to Adeel about how it happened.
The Khan family spent the first part of the COVID-19 lockdown stuck in a hotel away from home, where the girls could overhear their father’s work conversations. “They would come to me and say, ‘You keep on talking about this Microsoft Power Platform,’” recounts Adeel, who helps Microsoft customers implement Microsoft Power Platform, a low-code (or no-code) way to build apps that analyze data and automate processes. “They’re always asking me questions about how things work, so I introduced them to Microsoft Learn.”
While Adeel worked from home, Zara and Zenubia studied videos, online documentation, sample applications, and other Microsoft Learn resources. A few days later, the girls demoed their very first Microsoft Power Platform app—an expense tracker that reads data from an Excel spreadsheet and helps users create a budget.
The twins hoped that their father would use their app, but Adeel saw something more. “I saw how self-learning got them started, so I introduced them to more apps and resources to see how far they could go.”
Lockdown leads to more learning
The journey to the twins’ first app happened during a three-month period when the Khans were sheltering in place away from home and school was on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Adeel introduced Zara and Zenubia to Power Platform Labs and Challenges, a set of learning resources that help professionals—and, apparently, 10-year-olds—learn more about Microsoft Power Platform and its solutions for building apps, designing workflows, connecting data, and displaying the results.
He also pointed the twins to App in a Day events and hands-on App in an Hour Labs to find out how to create more custom apps without writing code. “I had used these resources myself when I was learning Power Platform for my job,” he points out. “I knew from experience how helpful it is to take the courses and learn about product areas that my job might not otherwise expose me to.”
Life for the Khans began to look a bit more normal when the family was finally able to return home and the twins went back to school. Adeel thought that the twins would be too busy to resume their study of Microsoft Power Platform, until he heard them talking to their cousins one day.
Much to his surprise, the twins were conducting a bootcamp session from home and explaining to their cousins what Microsoft Power Platform could do. Seeing the twins’ commitment, Adeel volunteered to help them go deeper.
“I didn’t want to pressure them in any way. Besides, you can’t force a 10-year-old!” Adeel laughs. Instead, he began sharing new product features that he was learning about, and he and the twins set aside regular time after homework to talk about how to use them.
One day, Adeel’s wife asked the twins whether they were interested in studying for the certification exam as they’d watched their father do in the past, and they were. Adeel holds several Microsoft Certifications. His most recent addition is the Microsoft Certified: Power Platform Solution Architect Expert certification.
During the holiday break in December 2020, Adeel, Zara, and Zenubia studied together. They redid the labs, reviewed the Microsoft Learn modules, and took the sample exams to test their knowledge.
“The twins passed the test on their first attempt,” says the proud father. They earned the Microsoft Certified: Power Platform Fundamentals certification.
Zara reports that she told her school friends about the certification, but they hadn’t heard of it. “I told them to search it up on Google, and then they said that I’m famous.” Now she hopes she can help them learn Microsoft Power Platform so they can have more fun together at school.
The heady whirl of success
Since receiving the distinction of being the first twins (and among the youngest learners) to earn Microsoft Power Platform certification, Zara and Zenubia have been on an unexpected press tour of sorts. Several social media outlets and news channels have interviewed the girls about their achievement, and they’ve been asked to speak at events, including Women in Technology, Power Apps 4 Kids, and Power Platform Boot camp – Pakistan.
Adeel reports that the girls never expected to be the focus of so much attention. “We were not expecting this type of response from the social media outlets and from friends and the community,” he notes. “They were just focused on what they were doing.”
The twins never thought of their pursuit as too much work, as some social media critics wondered. “Honestly, we were getting bored a lot, especially during lockdown,” Zara explains. “Thanks to Power Platform, we had exciting challenges to work on.”
Zenubia notes that their parents kept a close eye on their activities and made sure they took breaks. “We have a good balance between learning and playing,” she says.
Recently, Zara and Zenubia taught a Microsoft Power Platform session for other young people. Afterward, a girl told them, “I want to be like you! I want to get a certification.”
“The moment they realized that a lot of people are getting inspired by their story, they felt so proud,” Adeel reports. Both girls want to spread the word so more kids can see how easy it is to use Microsoft Power Platform make their own apps.
One way to get started, Zara advises, is to get involved with science, technology, engineering, and math, also known as STEM. “It’s really fun! If there’s anything else you want to learn in the world, you can learn it—but learn it by doing it.”
What’s next for the Khan family coders
Zara and Zenubia have continued to write apps—both for their own learning and for others. Currently, they’re creating a mobile app to make it easier for teachers to take attendance at their school and to distribute homework. The app uses the automated notification and reminder features of Microsoft Power Platform.
“It was all their idea,” Adeel notes.
They also developed a quiz app that helps them study for tests. Even their six-year-old sister uses the app in her playtime. “The best thing that I learned about is how fast we can build apps that can work on mobile, use the camera, and even build games,” Zara explains. “l love Power Automate.”
When asked whether the certification process was too much work for 10-year-olds, they said it was no such thing. “I don’t think that it was too much,” Zenubia insists. “And our parents never let us get burdened with our studies.”
Zara agrees. “I would have never imagined that I could build applications for my own learning with such speed.” Besides creating apps during the lockdown, the twins also learned to ride bikes. “So, yeah, we had fun learning and playing!” she adds.
They may have started out by following their father’s example, but it was their own curiosity and drive that kept them working toward the goal of certification. “We definitely want to get all the certifications like our father,” Zenubia points out, “and I am sure that you’ll see us with more cool Microsoft badges soon!”
As for Adeel, he cherishes his certifications. “The certification process exposes you to the capabilities of a platform, a system, or a technology beyond your immediate needs and gives you a chance to excel or expand into those new areas. There is also a massive respect for Microsoft Certifications in the industry. The moment you have those credentials on your résumé, the question is not about your capabilities on the platform but how you can leverage them.”
Who knows where the twins’ curiosity and drive will take them next? As Zenubia says, “Even if you have slight failures in beginning, don‘t worry. You’ll improve as you move on. Never give up!”
At Microsoft Learn, we add our congratulations and best wishes for the future.
If you’re interested in following in the twins’ footsteps, consider charting a path as they did on Microsoft Learn.
Brought to you by Dr. Ware, Microsoft Office 365 Silver Partner, Charleston SC.