Microsoft Professional Program – Data Science

Last year, from oktober 2016 up to january 2017, I participated in Microsoft’s Professional Program, specifically the Data Science track.
It was only the 1st public iteration of the program but back then it already felt like a mature course.
This probably had to do with the fact that there had already been a private run of the course in the months before.
David Eldersveld (twitter | blog) was one of the participants in that original run and he gives you a high level overview on his blog.

In this post I’ll be going into a bit more detail and explain how I experienced the program.
In short, there was joy and there were tears.

Read on for the full story!


The program comprises 9 courses, each one teaching you a certain skill a data scientist should have.
As with a lot of online courses, they all lead up to a final project. The final  which is meant to allow you to verify your skills on your own predictive experiment.

As you notice there are several times where it’s possible to pick 1 or more courses to acquire a certain skill.

  • Excel or Power BI
  • Introduction to R or Python
  • Programming in R or Python
  • Applying ML skills, Using Spark or Developing Intelligent Apps

The path marked in red, is the path I took towards gaining a familiarity with data science.

R vs Python

This is the main question you need to ask yourself when you start on your Data Science journey.
It’s possible to know both, but in my opinion it’s a bit unrealistic when you’re just starting out.
Also, when you’re new to both languages, completing both the R and Python course is something you might not be able to do in the 3 months you’re given to complete the full program.
If you’re anything like me then you’re following these courses and at the same time doing the exercises all in the evening, outside of regular working hours. This means you also know time isn’t on your side, so you have to pick either R or Python to get you started.

While both R and Python are valuable languages to know, my preference went to R for 1 major reason.

R currently is the only language embedded into SQL Server, Power BI and the Cortana Intelligence suite.
And to add to that, outside of Microsoft’s ecosystem it has an incredible life of it’s own as well!

My guess is that Python support is coming to SQL Server and Power BI in the future. Microsoft just can’t fall too far behind on that front. And while Python support has been (unofficially, in the comments) confirmed for SQL Server, there are no actual plans laid out yet.
So until then, i’ll stick with R because of the added value it offers in the Microsoft BI stack.

UPDATE: Python support is now included in SQL Server 2017 CTP 2.0

Let me know on twitter or in the comments which language you’re picking and why you made that choice.

Overall experience

While I can’t talk about the exact contents of the course or give details about the final project, I will share my experience taking the course. So hopefully you know what you can expect. If you have any other questions, post them in the comments or on twitter.

You can expect each course to be a balanced mixture of theory and exercises that help you understand the theory. I’ve always been more into trying things out for myself instead of just hearing people talk about them so I really enjoyed these courses. And while the exercises are excellent, the extra explanations you get from the experts through the videos and from your fellow students on the forum are what makes this course one you must take.

So to conclude, between the great support from Microsoft and the other students on the forums and the incredible content of the courses, my experience can be described as simply amazing. I left these courses knowing a lot more about data science, the processes and possible issues you can encounter. I did not leave as a data scientist and that would be unrealistic in my opinion.
There were some technical hindrances with the platform, but these were resolved quickly and the deadline for the assignments was extended by the duration of the technical hindrances. Which was very nice as the hindrances weren’t of the nature that everything was down.

If you have any sliver of interest in data science, then you these courses are something you’ll certainly enjoy.

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