Microsoft crowns DMU students as winners in 2022 UK University Cloud Challenge

Students from the School of Computer Science and Informatics at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) have been named the winners of a nationwide challenge hosted by Microsoft. 

More than 1,400 students from 19 participating universities and further education institutes signed up for the 2022 UK University Cloud Challenge, which offered an exciting opportunity to train in Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform. 

Microsoft University Cloud Challenge winners with Dr Anthony Williams
Dr Anthony Williams (centre right) with the winning students 

By registering to take part, 154 DMU students were given free access to online training and practice exams before being invited to sit a real exam that resulted in a professional certification from Microsoft. 

Over the course of three months, from November 2021 to January 2022, points were awarded to universities based on their students’ participation and performance and in the end, it was DMU that topped the leaderboard, resulting in 24 successful certifications. 

Leading on DMU’s involvement was Dr Anthony Williams, Senior Lecturer in Information Systems. He said: “This is the first time our students have participated in a challenge like this, so to be crowned the winners is quite an achievement, especially as some of the other universities had more students enrolled in the competition.   

“When you consider what has happened over the last two years as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, changing work patterns have affected people all around the globe. Remote working has become routine and the critical adoption of cloud technologies such as Azure have helped keep the world economies ticking over. It’s easy to see how training from a multinational corporation like Microsoft can be extremely valuable. 

“By taking part in this challenge, our students have boosted their employability by gaining professional certificate from Microsoft to enhance their CV. The competition has increased students’ awareness of the benefits of supplementing their academic qualifications with a professional certification which is widely recognised by industry.” 

Within Microsoft’s online training platform, the students were offered the chance to attain certification in three key areas regarding the software: Azure Fundamentals, Azure Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Azure Data Fundamentals – each of which offer different skills to use within the Azure platform. 

MS Azure

Clare Riley, Education Skills Lead at Microsoft UK, said: “In today’s highly competitive jobs market, higher education institutions are doing all they can to help close the digital skills gap and ensure students are equipped with the digital capabilities and certifications needed to thrive in their future careers.  

“We’re delighted that DMU has been selected as this year’s winner of Microsoft’s UK University Cloud Challenge, having demonstrated strong knowledge and commitment to cloud computing.  

“We also know that LinkedIn members with Microsoft Professional Certifications on their profile are 2.4 times more likely to be hired, so we’re thrilled to be able to give participating DMU students further support as they enter the world of work.” 

As the winners of the 2022 UK University Cloud Challenge, DMU has been awarded an exciting bundle of prizes – some that money can’t buy – for the top-performing students, including: 

  • Three places on a fast-track interview process for Microsoft’s employment internship programme 

  • Two of Microsoft’s state-of-the-art augmented reality equipment kits; the HoloLens 2  

  • A behind-the-scenes discovery day for 30 students at Microsoft’s ‘Hololounge’ in London  

  • One-to-one meetings with Microsoft’s leading mentors and coaches. 

International student Oluwaseun Komolafe, who came to DMU from Nigeria last year to study for an MSc in Data Analytics, was one of the top performing students in the challenge, achieving two certifications in Azure AI and Azure Data Fundamentals. 

“Gaining new insights about the Microsoft Azure Data and AI environment during the challenge gave me a better perspective of the data ecosystem. This has greatly improved my career prospects and broadened my horizons,” she said. 

“I can now say to potential employers that I am familiar with Azure and understand the fundamental principles in the field of artificial intelligence and data” 

As one of the top three winners, Oluwaseun has secured one of the fast-track interviews for the internship programme with Microsoft. 

“I am so excited to be given this opportunity,” she continued. “I am actually a fully qualified helicopter pilot, so my dream is to bring together my passion for flying and my passion for data modelling, to help develop aviation software solutions for helicopters.” 

Another of the winners is third-year Computer Science undergraduate Michal Swiatczak from Poland, who successfully completed the Azure AI certification. 

He said: “When I signed up to do the challenge, I was just focused on getting the certification. I never expected there to be such great prizes on offer - I still can’t believe it! 

“Microsoft is one of the biggest companies in the world so this achievement will be widely recognised in the industry.” 

Dr Williams added: “This challenge has undoubtedly opened new doors for our students. It’s going to be life-changing for them to have access to such a visionary technology company like Microsoft.” 

Posted on Thursday 10 February 2022

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