Passing the AI-100 Exam

I recently passed the AI-100 Certification Test from Microsoft and wanted to take the opportunity to discuss my experience studying for the test, passing the test, and finally how I plan to apply what I’ve learned to my larger career journey of helping organizations build better systems.

First, I actually had no intention of taking the AI-100 this soon. I had planned to take it, but I was thinking more along the lines of next year when I had more time to work with more AI projects than I had. My experience was pretty much limited to building out a proof of concept Form Recognizer solution for a client. The opportunity to take the test came up last month when it appeared we needed this particular certification to help unlock a benefit around Microsoft Teams.

Basically, one of our team leads reached out to a handful of us with a request to take it and to take it soon. I committed to a month, hoping that would be enough time to get experience with the material in order to pass.

First, I can’t recommend Linux Academy enough. I took the course on that platform by Dan Sasse for the AI-100 and it gave me a great overview of everything I needed to study. The practice test for this course was also excellent for preparing me for the certification.

In addition to Dan’s course, I also worked through a handful of Microsoft’s Learning paths related to Azure Machine Learning Services and Studio. I initially didn’t like ML Studio, but after working with it I began to see the real benefits. These specialized studios are something that have become a trend with Microsoft products. Working with AI you will get used to the various interfaces developed for LUIS, QnA Maker, and so on.

Taking the actual test is always the most nerve wrecking for me. I’ve been developing for years – I’m an old guy in this field – but I still get sweaty palms when faced with these types of tests. So I had to precondition myself before diving in and taking the test. If you are taking the test, I would suggest you do what I did. Take your time.

So here’s my process for taking the test:

  1. Take your time. Take a few deep breaths before each question.
  2. Read the questions slowly and carefully to make sure you understand exactly what the objective is. Microsoft no longer creates “trick,” questions, but it does sometimes give more detail than needed to discover the answer.
  3. If it’s a multiple choice question, begin with the process of elimination. Be sure you are sure about what answers it is not. That will usually leave you with 2 answers.
  4. If you have any doubts about the answers you’ve selected for the question, mark it for review later. There were at least 2 questions I had marked for review that I was able to change because the answer seemed obvious to me when I reviewed them.

Lastly, go into the test with the attitude that everything is going to be fine no matter what. If you pass the test, well that’s great! That was the goal. It means you studied enough to know the subject material and were lucky enough to get the right combination of questions to match your knowledge – yes, I do believe luck has a hand in passing the tests. You can help luck by studying and knowing the materials, but sometimes the questions just don’t align well with your knowledge. Which leads me to the second point; don’t beat yourself up if you fail. Failure is an opportunity to learn. Be sure to look over your results and focus on the areas you did poorly in.

I did great on all my service knowledge, but even though I passed the test I know I have a weakness in deploying AI services. I need to brush up on certain technologies around that part of the discipline.

I count this as a fun certification. You get to work with a lot of cool technology and dive a little into the world of Data Science and Machine Learning. I would encourage anyone who is interested in working with AI to attempt this certification. Even if you don’t plan to be a data scientist, you will likely one day need to work with the output of the data science pipeline—an AI. And Microsoft has given the AI Engineer a lot of great tools to work with.

How do I plan to use this new certification? Well, by developing AI solutions of course. Right now I have a prototype QnA bot created that I’m building out. I only have a web connection created for it now, but the plan is to build it out to other channels like Facebook Messenger, Twilio SMS, and even email. I have also found many uses for the Form Recognizer and the possibilities for LUIS are endless.

Yesterday I even spent the afternoon building out a residential property assessment AI in Tensorflow – yes, and I’m not even a data scientist, so it’s not that hard if you have some development experience and you aren’t too scared of math.

AI will be embedded in everything soon. Edge Computing is on the rise. As a developer, you can’t afford to ignore this sector of the development world. And I think the AI-100 is the perfect way to jump in and start learning more about Artificial Intelligence.

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