This past spring, my colleague Robert Hutchison and I were invited to be a part of a pilot program for the Microsoft Professional Program (MPP) in Data Science. Along with a few hundred other people from Microsoft and its partner organizations, we went through an internal track to provide initial feedback prior to the upcoming public launch of the program. You can register now for future tracks.
What’s the MPP, and what’s the benefit?
The MPP is a program designed to help provide core skills in data science and advanced analytics. After completing the program, you have a professional credential showcasing that you have competency in data science concepts and how to apply them.
Whether you are just starting in data science, come from a business intelligence background and have been working your way into more “advanced analytics” (like me), or are in a different field entirely; I feel like you could progress through the courses and benefit at every level. Microsoft educators are not building you into their next Danielle Dean or Brandon Rohrer. They’re providing the core growth necessary to get you started or enhance existing skills.
There is a wide body of work that different data scientists perform. It’s not all machine learning and advanced statistics. Throughout the program, you are exposed to a variety of concepts in statistics, data wrangling and cleansing, exploratory analysis and data visualization, statistical modelling, machine learning, etc. For almost every course, this training takes place within the context of Microsoft or open source technologies with which you might already be familiar as well. That’s not to say that you’ll be forever tied to the Microsoft platform (although I don’t think Microsoft would mind), but you get enough exposure to a combination of Microsoft and open source like R or Python to get you progressing through the field quickly. As with any field though, you need to continue to apply your knowledge and practice it daily in order to get better at it.
What’s the structure?
The program starts with fundamentals, progresses into core work, and then allows you to apply what you’ve learned in realms such as Azure Machine Learning, HDInsight, and other technologies. The MPP in Data Science is currently broken up into nine online courses plus a final capstone project, and the content is all available on edX. In a future blog post, I will reflect upon my own path on a per-course level, which you can view below in red. The program allows for some variety as well: at different junctures, you can choose R or Python, HDInsight or “Intelligent Applications”(Stream Analytics, Bot Framework, Cognitive Services), Excel or Power BI, etc.
What does it cost?
To go through the program and receive a final certificate at the end, you will need to purchase an edX Verified Certificate for each course. Compared to paying for credit hours even at a community college level, the cost to benefit ratio is reasonable. If cost is a concern, it is definitely worth asking your employer about it, provide them a link to the content on edX (which they can also audit in detail for free), and show them all of the potential benefit they’ll receive if they cover your ~$525 (US) fees.
How can you get started?
Go to the MPP site, read through the program in more depth, and register using the Sign Up link.