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This blog post is a follow-on to a three-part series exploring the many ways that Microsoft Power Platform empowers people with no coding experience to upskill and quickly learn how to create apps to solve business problems or local community issues. The cloud advocate featured in this post, April Dunnam, is a developer and app creator who uses social media, including YouTube, Twitter, and blogs, along with virtual conference sessions, to show devs and other makers how using Microsoft Power Platform can empower them in new ways. To hear the other cloud advocates talk about their experience with Microsoft Power Platform, tune in to this Digital Lifestyle podcast.
If you follow Microsoft Power Platform on Twitter or other social media, you’ll know that April Dunnam is a familiar and popular presence. You might have seen her YouTube channel where she introduces Microsoft Power Platform—and the certification process—to thousands of new users. Before joining Microsoft, Dunnam was a Power Apps and Power Automate Most Valuable Professional (MVP) who shared development tips and tricks at many events and on her community blog. She’s part of an elite group of makers who love to share their knowledge and to inspire others. You might be wondering about the path that brought her to Microsoft Power Platform. We recently met with Dunnam for a conversation and got all the interesting details.
Before Microsoft, Dunnam had a successful career in IT, running her own consulting business for eight years. Back in her college days, she started in the Microsoft SharePoint space and quickly found an affinity for development. During a college internship, she was introduced to C# and .NET development on top of SharePoint, as she helped the organization’s IT team with an internet rollout.
Over time, she did some on-premises work as a SharePoint developer and then transitioned (along with the rest of the world) to SharePoint cloud development. Back in the day, as a SharePoint dev, she did a lot of business process workflow work using full-stack code or InfoPath and SharePoint Designer. When Microsoft Power Platform came along, it was a natural transition for her. She was an early adopter of Power Apps. She points out, “I started looking at it and figuring out ways I could use it instead of InfoPath and SharePoint Designer for things I was building for my clients. It was a smooth transition to the Power Platform.”
Sharing the excitement of Microsoft Power Platform
Dunnam saw the potential of Microsoft Power Platform because it was so customizable and so much was already in the product. As she explains, “I loved not having to worry about coding in authentication to the various services I might need to connect to, like SQL databases. That was already baked in, and I could tell that using it would save me a lot of development time over using custom code. That’s what really got me excited about it.”
To spread the word and help make it easier for others to build applications, Dunnam started a “Template Tuesdays” series on her YouTube channel. In addition to those available in Power Apps, she created her own templates and explained how to use them. She remembers a timesheet template that she created, which saved a lot of time. She made it available to download for free. She notes, “It really took off.” Her generous attitude toward other makers, that template, and those downloads all caught the eye of Dona Sarkar, lead for the Microsoft Power Platform Advocacy team. The two stayed in touch.
Harnessing the power of certification
In addition to showing developers and makers the ins and outs of Microsoft Power Platform, Dunnam is passionate about bringing the message of certification to them. She’s a believer in the power of certification to help discover your career path. “I have all the Microsoft Power Platform certifications,” she enthuses. She wants to help users decide which certifications are right for them. “I put a video together to explain the key differences between the certifications because I definitely see the value.” She started accumulating certifications early in her career. “I really believe that they help you on your career path by validating your skills. They are something that organizations look for. They definitely see merit in them.”
Dunnam remembers how challenging it was to graduate from college during the economic collapse of 2008–2009. It was hard to find a development job right away, so she took a data entry role at a telecom company. She kept up her development work on the side and started studying for her first SharePoint certification. She attributes her success at moving into a role as a SharePoint developer to proving her skills and to the Microsoft Certification that validated them. “Certification,” she explains, gave her “personal validation and proved that I actually knew what I was talking about. ”
So, when Dunnam started to add Microsoft Power Platform development skills to her portfolio, she continued to study for additional certifications. She first took Exam PL-900: Microsoft Power Platform Fundamentals. “It seemed like a good starting point because it’s about the basics.” She knows that certification can be a great career boost for developers like her who become Power Apps power users. To learn more about Microsoft Power Platform certifications, check out the Discover your career path: Microsoft Power Platform certifications section later in this post.
An award-winning Power Apps solution
Dunnam joined Microsoft in 2019 as a Partner Technical Architect in the One Commercial Partner (OCP) organization. She helped partners in the Microsoft ecosystem build Microsoft Power Platform practices. Along the way, she also developed a Power Apps application for her team so they could have a virtual internal conference, with an experience that would be like Ignite, where people could go in, browse virtual sessions, and register. The app that she created for the internal conference won a Technology Solutions Award within her team.
Many paths to Microsoft Power Platform
In her work, Dunnam has noticed that there are many paths to Microsoft Power Platform. She thinks the smoothest path is to come from a Dynamics 365 background, but she has seen a lot of people in the community come from a SharePoint background, as she did. She observes, “With SharePoint, it’s easy to set up your data, and a lot of people are used to this. People who use SharePoint are used to working with collaborative suites of products. It’s a great introductory data source when you’re building Power Apps. For people like me, who used InfoPath to customize forms, it seemed like a natural migration to just use Power Apps and to switch to Power Automate if you’re already using tools like SharePoint Designer to create workflows.”
Dunnam also sees a path to Microsoft Power Platform for people who don’t have a Dynamics or SharePoint background. “Most people use Microsoft Excel. You’d like it better if you had an interface to get data into Excel and have an actual application you can pull up on your phone easily. That’s a natural integration, and it’s pretty simple. Using Power Apps this way is like taking a hybrid of Microsoft PowerPoint and Excel because the interface to build the app is very similar to PowerPoint, and endless people are familiar with PowerPoint and Excel. If you use these products, you’re already halfway to knowing how to use Power Apps.”
Working with the Microsoft Power Platform Advocacy team
As a developer and maker, Dunnam was excited to join Dona Sarkar’s Microsoft Power Platform Advocacy team. Sarkar had noticed and shared Dunnam’s social content. Dunnam reports, “When the position on Dona’s team opened, I thought it would be a really great fit for the things I’m passionate about. I wanted to scale out and help developers and makers be successful with Microsoft Power Platform.” On the team, Dunnam deploys social media to reach makers and code developers and to dive into Power Apps and Power Automate—whether it’s helping those who are just getting started or sharing tips and tricks about integrations and customizations with pro devs.
Dunnam blogs regularly about Microsoft Power Platform, SharePoint, and other technologies. A recent post, Power Automate Desktop for Windows 10 Intro, explores Microsoft Power Automate Desktop, which is now free for Windows 10 users. She also keeps a busy conference schedule, having recently presented at Microsoft Power Platform week at a virtual SharePoint conference in Europe. You can check out her conference schedule on her blog.
On Dunnam’s popular YouTube channel, she continues to post educational videos on Microsoft Power Platform. In the past few months, her content has had more than 500,000 views. A particularly popular video is her Microsoft Power Platform Certification Guide. You can join more than 6,000 April Dunnam followers on Twitter to read her #PowerAddict comments. She’s also planning a Microsoft Learn TV Channel 9 show for developers, The Powerful Dev Show, with another member of the Cloud Advocate team, Greg Hurlman, whom we recently featured in Create inventive solutions with Microsoft Power Platform. They plan to highlight stories about using Microsoft Power Platform in code first innovations.
Discover your career path: Microsoft Power Platform certifications
Depending on your skill set and where you are on your career path, Dunnam recommends that you check out the certifications for Microsoft Power Platform developers. A Microsoft Certification signals that you have the skills that organizations are looking for when they hire and advance employees. And, as Dunnam’s career path shows, certification—when paired with your drive and abilities—can help open career doors for you.
As mentioned earlier in this post, Dunnam started with Exam PL-900 to validate her overall understanding to earn the Microsoft Certified: Power Platform Fundamentals certification.
If you’re a maker and an app creator without a formal background in development, see whether your skills map to the requirements for passing Exam PL-100 for the Microsoft Power Platform App Maker Associate certification. Dunnam found this certification extremely useful.
Those who have a passion for designing, developing, securing, and extending Microsoft Power Platform solutions should consider the new Microsoft Certified: Power Platform Developer Associate certification (pass Exam PL-400). To learn more, read our blog post, New certification: Microsoft Power Platform Developer Associate.
And if you’re a functional consultant, data analyst, developer, or solution architect looking to showcase your consulting and configuration skills, explore the Microsoft Certified: Power Platform Functional Consultant Associate certification (pass Exam PL-200).
Seasoned pros who have a lot of experience with Microsoft Power Platform should consider the
Microsoft Certified: Power Platform Solution Architect Expert certification (complete a prerequisite and pass Exam PL-600). It’s a great way to signal that you’re ready to take the next steps in your career.
Helping developers build their careers
Dunnam is always enthusiastic about giving practical technical guidance to Microsoft Power Platform developers and makers. And she’s equally enthusiastic about helping people nurture and grow their careers through certification. She and the other experts on the Cloud Advocates team are eager to help you along the way. Watch for Dunnam’s latest content on her YouTube channel, her current thoughts on Twitter, and her most recent tips, advice, instruction, and encouragement for Microsoft Power Platform users at upcoming virtual conferences. As Dunnam says, “I’m really passionate about helping people get certified and celebrate their certification wins.”
Brought to you by Dr. Ware, Microsoft Office 365 Silver Partner, Charleston SC.