Microsoft Business Applications MVP
FULL SHOW NOTES
Microsoft MVP YouTube Series - How to Become a Microsoft MVP
90-Day Mentoring Challenge - https://ako.nz365guy.com/
Sessionize - https://sessionize.com/iona-varga
GitHub - https://github.com/Ionavoss
AgileXRm - The integrated BPM for Microsoft Power Platform
If you want to get in touch with me, you can message me here on Linkedin.
Thanks for listening 🚀 - Mark Smith
[mark_smith]: Today's guest is from the Netherlands. She works at Avernard as a business application solution architect. She has first awarded her MVP in 2022. She's an evangelist focusing on low code applications and enterprise for the enterprise with integration to high code practice. Exciting stuff. She's experienced developer in the field of Power Apps and application lifecycle management. You can find links to a bio, social media, et cetera, in the show notes for this episode. Welcome to the show Iona
[iona]: Thank you very much and thank you for having me, really excited.
[mark_smith]: I'm pleased to have you on the show and you're obviously relatively new to the MVP land. How was it when you found out you were becoming an MVP?
[iona]: It was actually quite a surprise because I was nominated once before and it was like straight immediately one week at now It's not going to be something like that So it's like oh no what a bummer and then yeah, we're basically doing the yeah thing over and over again Till eventually second nomination and then it hit the spot doing a lot of talk a lot of presenting a lot of blogging Took quite some effort, but it was a really nice journey
[mark_smith]: it's so good. It's so good to have you in the program. I always love, you know, when my guests come on and getting to what I call getting to know you, you know. So tell me a bit about, you know, where you live, what's the best food in your area to eat, bit about your family and what you do for fun when you're not doing power platform stuff.
[iona]: Yeah, so basically I'm from the Netherlands and most people sort of think they know what Dutch food is, but like the most typical Dutch thing that you can get is like a truck out of the wall. We have literally like vending machines where you can get fast food out of. That's one of the most Dutch things that you can actually get. That's sort of it. But yeah, next to power platform stuff. Normally I like to do a lot, but at the moment I'm trying to sort of rebuild my house. So every spare time that I have either goes into talking or into trying to get my house up and running again.
[mark_smith]: wow wow I mean I know that's so cool and epic coz I've done that so that's keeping you busy.
[iona]: Yeah, it's really like a second day to day Job.
[mark_smith]: Yeah, yeah. I know what you mean about croquettes. I never visit Amsterdam without getting a good feed of croquettes. There's a little shop off the Rembrandt Square that is just amazing, amazing croquettes. And my wife and I go there every time. Tell me, how did you get into tech? What was that journey for you?
[iona]: For me as a kid, I always was, I wanted to understand how things work. And I didn't know if it was either going to be IT or something else. But basically, I sucked in everything during my elementary school, etc. So at one point, I was like, okay, what's something that I can actually do? And one of the courses that I really liked was physics. So I was like, okay, I want to understand how things work. So natural course was to go into physics. So I studied, how do you call it? and really got the keen for medical field. So studied medical physics, eventually in experimental physics, really into the die-hard stuff, lots of mathematics, you name it. That's where I started, doing a lot of research in the medical field, and eventually went into pharmacy where I did more like data science. And when COVID hit, that was sort of the major area for me to switch because we had the problem that we needed to create a lot of applications. and for the models to host and to do some cool stuff with it. It was like, okay, normally with a web app, it's like two or three months to actually build something really cool and useful, but we didn't have the time. So it was like, okay, what can we use to create applications that are useful, but also relatively quick to build, and that was like the major bump start to get into Power Platform. So it was more like a necessity than actually a passion at that point.
[mark_smith]: That is so cool, like what an interesting path. How did you discover PowerApps?
[iona]: Actually, my mother used to work for a company that does a lot for the public sector, like governments, et cetera, and they use Dynamics. And I did a little programming, et cetera, showed one bunch was like, can you help me with something because nobody knows here what's happening? And maybe you know something. And it was the first time I did something with Power Platform, basically Dynamics then. But currently, it's Power Platform. It's the same thing, sort of. It's a different discussion. So that was my first experience. And I was like, well, that was cool. And it was pretty easy to do. So maybe take a deep dive into that. That's sort of how things started to actually take a look into Power Platform for more serious business.
[mark_smith]: Interesting, interesting. So in those first apps, were they specifically dynamics or were you building with what I call a clean chroma, there was no power platform,dataverse type thing?
[iona]: I think when we started, it was like with most developers, when they started, there were no licenses. So it was basically all built around SharePoint lists. So yeah, the typical SharePoint is not a database, but still we abuse it and try to get everything without a license. So yeah, it wasn't with dynamics at first, but basically like your SharePoint list and another SharePoint list and create something between it. And instead of using references, just give it an index and copy and paste it everywhere. And it was really a mess, I could tell you.
[mark_smith]: Yeah. So you obviously didn't stay with that company. And so how did your career transition once you start building those apps?
[iona]: For me, at that point, I really was like missing the connection with people. So it was really a technical job at that point. And I was missing the, um, the interaction with people that I had when I was still running around at hospitals. So I was like, okay, I want to do something new and then maybe something more with power platform, because I sort of have the feeling that I actually know what I'm doing there. So it was a logical step to do something with that and see, yeah, find something that's more towards people oriented. And then I was like, okay, maybe that's interesting and that's how I actually turned up at consultancy.
[mark_smith]: Right, right. So, so did you transition straight into consulting? Is it was at your first gig after working in the medical side of things?
[iona]: Yeah, it's just straight into consulting, so it was quite a shock actually.
[mark_smith]: Yeah. Tell me what was the shock and what's your thoughts on being a consultant as opposed to being working directly for the organisation that you're building solutions for?
[iona]: I think the biggest shock for me at that point, when I was working at the medical field, everything was supposed to be cheap because it was publicly funded mostly, and everything needs to be optimized, but still if something could be cheaper, that was like the winning gig. And then my first gig as a consultant, it was basically like a finance, very big assessment, very big job. And the first thing that they said is we want the maximum performance and we don't care about budget. And for me, it was like, but do you know how expensive it is? And they were like, well, do you know how much we make a year that that's like peanuts to us? And I was like, but, but, but you can save money if. Okay, sure, buddy. Really confusing.
[mark_smith]: So quite different, quite different, eh, when there's different constraints and different ideas of what is needed. If you looked at the suite that you have in the Power Platform, is there any particular part of the Power Platform that's your sweet spot that you love this area that that's, that's if you're like what your, your top level of skilling is in of any of the tools that are available?
[iona]: There's not really one specific spot that I would say is my sweet spot. For me, it's really fusion depth, so I use it as an extension for the Azure backbone that I use. So I typically do a lot of stuff with Azure, and then I try to take the front end from Power Platform and put in some nice logic there as well, but most of it comes from Azure. So I would say that my sweet spot is mostly in trying to be creative with both sweets the least effort in both platforms. That's for me what I tend to do best.
[mark_smith]: So tell me what does fusion dev development mean to you? Because everyone has a different lens on it. What does it mean to you?
[iona]: Yeah, it's indeed everyone has a different opinion on it. For me, I quite do a lot of stuff that's sort of impossible in Power Platform. For example, I built an application for nurses that is fully voice enabled. So they can just interact through the entire application with their voice and get the fire model, et cetera, the way of storing data in a medical setting. So everything is voice controlled and they can do that. But yeah, you need something to annotate the data text and that's something Power Platform doesn't support. Then you get into using Azure cognitive services, etc. But then again, do you want to use full Azure for that, or do you also want to use something from Power Platform? For me, Fusion development is really taking the minimum effort in Azure and also the minimum effort that you can take from Power Platform to get the maximum effort out of it. It's really about optimizing the amount of time that you spend in both suites. It's complex and sometimes you much time in one area. That's really about playing the game right on finding that sweet spot between the two.
[mark_smith]: Have you come across any scenarios where you didn't feel the power platform was a fit?
[iona]: Oh, yes, I have to say a fair amount of time that I walk into a situation where I think Power Platform, it's hardly a fit. But I also think it depends on if you know the requirements are from. So being a consultant, you get a lot of customers. And a lot of customers have a lot of different requirements and needs and opinions. And it really helps to know the language. So with example, with financial services, they start with a project and a problem, and you start building something. And it grows and it grows. it draws. And what I noticed that a lot of the projects is if you knew upfront what actually the question was the customer had asked, then Power Platform would be a fit. But mostly it draws and it draws till you reach something where you cannot make it adjustable anymore and you sort of collapse and go straight into a Procode solution. So I wouldn't particularly blame it on Power Platform, but yeah, I run into the situations.
[mark_smith]: In your bio there there was reference to ALM and how do you see ALM working in a power platform context? What do you see works well? What are things to be aware of? What have you learnt on your journey?
[iona]: I think ALM is something that for a lot of people can trigger a discussion. In my opinion, ALM is really about the practice of getting your application running,but also maintained. So the ALM suite, it's more like using your typical DevOps. So there's some development or some operations. You need to find a sweet spot in there. And what a lot of people tend to forget is that you can actually use Power Platform to manage your platform itself. So you can build some neat little apps management, you can do something to track your changes or change requests, etc. And the whole process that's, I think, in my opinion, sometimes underestimated by people, they tend to forget it. It's like, okay, now we have to manage pipelines and everyone's really hyped about it. But then if you want to customize something, who's going to do that, right? So really put in some attention and effort, that's what's sometimes lacking in your strategy. And that's, yeah, where I get interested.
[mark_smith]: In apps, when you build solutions for clients, customers, end users, a lot of people, what I see in the Power Platform, they build it because it's low code and, to a lot of users, it's low code, carrying through the spectrum. But what we see is that there's often rigor that you would see in normal software development. It can sometimes be left off. And what I mean by this is documentation. after like you might not own this app forever, someone else might take it over, you know, what do they need it like, why did you do something you did? Like, you know, even if it's down to, you know, commenting why this feature, why you did it this way, or, you know, underlying documentation. And then probably the next here is supportability of that app, right? As once that app goes into production, someone, you know, depending on the, what it's used for, is gonna need to support that app. So when people run into, issues, whether it be a bug or a training issue or something else. How do you think of all that part of the after app story, if you like?
[iona]: In my opinion, it should sort of be adopted into your DevOps processes and into your ALM as well. So one of the things that I like to do is, for example, with the Pax CLI command tools right now, you can do, for example, an extract and unpack your solution and then look into how is my Canvas application looking and go through all the screens. And one of the things that I built for a customer was actually something that took a look at the code and determined, OK, how many lines of code did you actually do? comments that you actually placed there, so the ratio of lines of comments per code. It's doing automatic determination over time. Let's say you do a deploy, did you actually increase code? Yes, did you also increase your comments? If no, then we cannot release it, since we know you're not documenting it.
[mark_smith]: That is so good.
[iona]: In my opinion, it could be something that's in your automated process, but it's all about creativity and sky's the limit.
[mark_smith]: I love it. I love it. What's the most, what app are you most, or solution are you most proud of as an, or, or not just most proud of, but you enjoyed the most, you like the outcomes of it, you like the experience of developing it, what stands out in your mind and don't reference the customer or anything, just the example of what it was the use case.
[iona]: Let me think of that one. It's a good question. One of the applications that we did for a client, it's a very big client with like 50,000 licenses in their tenant. It's massive. And they wanted sort of an automated strategy, but not only for solutions,but for entire environments, et cetera. And it was still at the department that the managed pipelines didn't exist. And you couldn't even use connection settings A&M DevOps pipelines, so you really had to hack your own stuff in there. Also, they wanted to do something like with dynamic application insight keys with instrumentation keys, and it's all that's not supported. Eventually, we created something where customers could request an environment, and then Azure AD application registration would be created for the application user, and then the privileges would be assigned, and the teams would be created, and there was a whole strategy embedded in there, It was basically from one Canvas application, their whole tenant for every environment, for every solution got created, where even there were templates built for DevOps pipelines and people could build solutions and deploy them without knowing that they were actually using Azure DevOps.
[iona]: It was something that was running very smoothly, surprisingly.
[mark_smith]: Wow, that's such a good example and such an enabler for, you know, for wherever it was implemented. How, becoming an MVP, has it impacted you in any way? Did it change anything for you? What's your experience of the MVP and be part of the MVP program?
[iona]: Um, did it change me? I wouldn't say no. It's opening up some new doors for speaking engagements, etc. That's for sure. But as in, did it change something for me? I wouldn't say no. It's, it's, it's, I'm still the same person and I'm like not really mentioning it to people, etc. So a lot of times when I'm at a client, my company's like, did you know she's an MVP and they're like, really? I was like, yeah, I didn't talk to them. So no, it's, it's, I like it. of it but it's not something that I like actively talk about.
[mark_smith]: When somebody asks, you know, I want to do what I own it does. I want to do what you do. Like, how do I get a career doing what you do? What's your advice to them?
[iona]: My best advice would be then just to do whatever you like. Just find something you're passionate about and start there. And then it doesn't really matter what you do, whether it be speaking, blogging, creating tutorials, videos, you name it, but just do something you like. Because if you really do something that you like and that you think you can actually make value, it doesn't feel like you're putting an effort. It's just something that gives you energy instead of taking energy. That's my opinion on it.
[mark_smith]: I like it. What about if someone came to you from a career perspective and said, I want to get into the power platform? What what would your advice like what are the you need to do this for a month? You need to do that. You need to do that. What are those steps that would get somebody from zero having no experience of the power platform to be able to make stuff?
[iona]: I think it's maybe the worst advice you can give to someone. Just start building. I mean, it's designed as sort of a citizen dev tool nowadays. And the best thing to learn sometimes is by actually doing it. Just get a dev tenant and start experimenting with it, like with the free Microsoft 365 plan. You can get the dev tenant and you can start building yourself. And it's basically like, do you know some Excel? If not, then start with Excel and go to Power Platform and you can already get something up So my opinion, just do it. It sounds like unlike a commercial, but just do it.
[mark_smith]: like it. I like it. I like it so good. Well, Iona, thank you so much for coming on the show. I really appreciate it talking to you. Time is flowing so quickly. I look forward to perhaps seeing you at one of these events in the future that you're speaking at.
Having gained extensive experience in programming medical imaging and hardware, Iona Varga transitioned to low-code development and decided to offer my expertise to others. Through active participation and contribution in the areas of Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) and Fusion Development, she was recognized as a Microsoft MVP for Business Applications. Currently, you can find her mostly hacking together Power Platform and Azure to combine the best of both worlds.