That light-bulb moment: Training the next-generation workforce

Veronica Sopher - Microsoft

 Guest post by Zeshan Sattar, Microsoft Certified Trainer

It’s Monday morning. This is the first and only chance for me, as a Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT), to win over my students. Sure, I’ve said hello to the early comers, told them where they can relax and grab a quick coffee before the rest of the group arrives, but there is still a sense of uncertainty in the air.

There are more than 19,000 MCTs worldwide, and this first-day scenario is typical of every class, everywhere. But my students are special. They’re not IT Professionals, nor have they been working in the industry for any time. They are actually aged between 16 and 18. Most of them have just come out of school and are taking the first steps into an IT career as Apprentices. My goal isn’t just to train them but also to ignite that passion and fire that will make them come back again and again.

With all the students in place, it’s time for introductions. Some of them already know each other. Most are strangers, but what unites them is that they have that underlying adrenaline building up inside, which comes with the desire to learn something new and exciting.

As introductions come round to me, I showcase my eye-chart of Microsoft Certifications—and the mouths drop. When I follow up by saying that this is how their resumes should look by the end of the year, the mouths drop even further.

The expectations have been set high, and now it’s up to me to follow through. It’s true to say that today’s young people are the search and video generation. Both are absolutely fine, but, in my classroom, I need to be more entertaining than a streaming video site. I have to be the fountain of knowledge that is provided by a search engine.

The training experience for these young people has to be of the same quality and standard as I would deliver to Fortune 500 company employees. Of course, it has to be adapted for the age group. The war stories I tell are often from the early days of my career and focus on my mistakes, which the students find funny and will remember as to “what not to do.”

A personalised training experience tailored to the students’ needs and aspirations could be eclipsed by the sheer abundance of knowledge available online. Young people often feel drowned by the amount of information out there, and they get confused with all of the conflicting material. As an MCT, it’s my job to help the students to piece together all these disparate bits of knowledge and to overcome any fallacies.

One of the most rewarding elements of the Microsoft training is getting every student to experience that “light-bulb moment”—the point when all my instruction, stories, demonstrations, and jumping around the room like a nutty professor (which happens constantly) comes to fruition. The student “gets it”—they’re not regurgitating facts or just going through the motions of the week. They actually have learnt something—and want more of it!

As the week draws to a close, there is only one thing left to do: get the students inspired for the Microsoft Certification exam. We begin the students on the Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) certifications. This helps to consolidate skills and understanding but is also a perfect vehicle for getting over the nerves of taking certification exams.

With the hard work of assimilating huge amounts of knowledge behind them, it’s now a case of applying it to an unfamiliar situation. Success is almost guaranteed, as students walk out of the exam room with big smiles and a desire to take more exams. For the ones that didn’t quite make the cut, their desire to pass the certification exam grows exponentially.

As farewells take over, the students look forward to their next course. They know that high quality Microsoft training will help them to increase their knowledge and expand their Microsoft certifications portfolio.

As for me, I lock myself away to study for my next Microsoft certification. After all, you learn something new every day! You’re never too old for a light-bulb moment!

  • Angella
    | |

    Thank you for this post Zeshan.  I am retooling my skill set and I too, have taken on the challenge to certification (180 day) with a focus on the database track, SQL Server and I'm quite excited about it.  You touched on many points whether a beginner to IT or re-tooling/updating current skills and the potential of being overwhelmed by too much information and staying focused on getting certified.  Once certified, I too would like to help guide students on a path to their chosen knowledge track & subsequent certifications.   I've got that "light bulb moment" going on and I'm hungry for certifications too.  I'm glad that you're there for your students, here's wishing you all the best.

  • Zeshan Sattar  (Regional Lead – UK)

    Hi Angella!

    Thanks for your comment! By taking part in the Certification Challenge, you're on the right track to realising your goal of being certified in SQL Server. If you're self studying, please make sure that you check out Microsoft Virtual Academy ( and the Database Certification Study Group (

    When you're certified, please consider joining the Microsoft Certified Trainer programme ( - we would love you to be part of our family!

    Good luck with your studies!

    Kind regards,


  • Angella
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    Thank you Zeshan for the tips below, yes, I'm looking into both of those links provided.  Also, thanks for the information on being an MCT.  Seems appropriate for me in the education industry and looks like a great programme.