Is Power Fx really low code? with Rishona Elijah

Is Power Fx really low code? with Rishona Elijah
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Today’s guest is Rishona Elijah, a Microsoft MVP (Business Applications) and Microsoft Certified Trainer who works as a Power Platform Trainer and Evangelist at Barhead Solutions in Sydney, Australia. She spends most of her time running training sessions and delivering events around Power Platform to business users to show them what they can achieve with this technology.

In this episode, Rishona shares how she got started in Business Applications, how she uses her blog to help business users, and the latest innovations with Power Virtual Agents. 

Rishona also talks about whether Power Fx is really part of a low-code platform and new features from Microsoft’s acquisition of Nuance that are being incorporated into Power Platform.

Show Highlights

  • [02:05] Rishona’s work at Barhead Solutions
  • [05:47] What Rishona blogs about
  • [07:38] The latest innovations with Power Virtual Agents
  • [13:25] On whether Power Fx dispels Microsoft’s promise of no-code solutions
  • [16:40] The types of people that attend Rishona’s training sessions
  • [21:32] The latest innovations with Power Automate
  • [25:22] How Rishona got into Business Applications
  • [26:47] Rishona’s advice for people thinking about a career in Business Applications


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[00:00:00] Rishona Elijah: Doing something like App in a Day in the first time, you're not gonna memorize the formulas. But I feel like the more that you do it, actually even the more mistakes you make, you need to go back and figure out what went wrong, the more that it's gonna sort of stick with you.

[00:00:15] Neil Benson: And welcome to episode 134 of the Customery podcast Amazing Applications. My name is Neil Benson and it's great to be talking to you today. If it's your first time, welcome to the show. If it's not your first time, welcome back. I really appreciate you for listening. Our mission is to help Microsoft customers and partners build amazing agile Dynamics 365 and Power Platform applications through our articles, our videos, through this podcast, and through our online courses. My guest today is Rishona Elijah. She is a Microsoft Certified Trainer and Microsoft MVP — pretty newly minted MVP. She's a specialist in all things Power Platform — in particular, Power Apps, Power Automate, and I know her best for her work on Power Virtual Agents. She is a Trainer and Evangelist at Barhead Solutions just down the road from me in Sydney here in Australia. She's a presenter at DynamicsCon — that's on lots of other user group meetings and sessions — and she's particularly well known for her "in a Day" training sessions through Barhead. In today's episode, we're gonna learn how Rishona got started with the Power Platform, how she uses her blog, which I think is a really cool idea. She uses her blog to learn how to do things and then shares those lessons with us through her writing. She's gonna be talking about the latest innovations with Power Virtual Agents. We discuss whether Power Fx is really part of a low-code platform since it's code. We're gonna be talking about some new features from Microsoft's acquisition of Nuance that are being incorporated into the Power Platform. So, listen in as we join Rishona Elijah. Welcome to Amazing Applications, Rishona Elijah. It's great to have you on the show. Thanks so much for joining us.

[00:02:01] Rishona Elijah: Thanks, Neil. Really excited to be here. Thanks for inviting me. Happy to be a part of it. 

[00:02:05] Neil Benson: You're at Barhead Solutions, which are some friends of mine based in Sydney. And I was wondering if you can just introduce yourself, introduce Barhead a little bit, and tell us a bit about your backstory, how you got started in Business Applications.

[00:02:17] Rishona Elijah: Oh, yeah. Sure thing. So, I'm based in Sydney. Work at a Microsoft partner called Barhead Solutions. Interesting that you know a lot of people there, too. So, I work here as a Power Platform Trainer and Evangelist. I mentioned Power Platform though I'm doing a bit of dynamics now as well. And I work here. Mostly, I run things like training and events around the Power Platform and the Microsoft tools. So, if you've ever heard of things like, you know, the "in a Day" courses like App in a Day, PVA in a Day, that's my specialty. I run that stuff for people. We usually do it as like general public things sort of to educate people on this is the cool things you can do with the technology to introduce them to it. So, I run a lot of that training as well as run demos and even just kind of play around with the tools that are there, see what cool things we can do with it. So, that's for my role at Barhead. 

[00:03:09] Neil Benson: Cool. I didn't know there was a Power Virtual Agents in a Day sessions as well. 

[00:03:14] Rishona Elijah: There is, yeah. Really good one to check out, too. 

[00:03:17] Neil Benson: Yeah. Cool. How long have you worked with Barhead? 

[00:03:19] Rishona Elijah: It's probably been almost three years now. So, before that actually, I was working with another Microsoft partner. I started off sort of doing Power BI training, so that's kind of how I got into the whole Microsoft area. So, it started off with Power BI. And then when I joined Barhead about three years ago, that's when I sort of discovered the whole thing around Power Platform 'cause I actually didn't really know much of it from existing beforehand. So, I had a look at it. I started playing around with Power Apps and I was thinking like, this is really cool. I thought it was exciting to see how I could like, you know, play around, design my app screens how I wanted. And then I got into Power Virtual Agents. That one's probably my favorite one now. And yeah, that's how I got into it and into the Power Platform stuff.

[00:04:04] Neil Benson: Very cool. And you're working with our friend Lisa Crosbie down there. 

[00:04:07] Rishona Elijah: Oh, yeah. 

[00:04:07] Neil Benson: Lisa's in Melbourne, right? So, I guess you're not working side by side every day, but virtually, probably pretty close together. 

[00:04:13] Rishona Elijah: She pretty much got me into all of this stuff. So yeah, I work closely with Lisa Crosbie. We kind of do the same stuff at Barhead. But she got me into the whole community side of this 'cause I actually didn't know it existed. But then I started to see what she was doing. Then I was thinking, oh yeah, this is really cool. I'm gonna start a blog, too. Start writing some stuff, talking at conferences. And that's how it all began really.

[00:04:37] Neil Benson: And that's led to an MVP award as well. Congratulations on that. 

[00:04:40] Rishona Elijah: Oh, thanks. Appreciate that. Yeah, I got that earlier this year in April it was, so a few months ago now. So, really excited to be a part of that program and to be recognized within that space. 

[00:04:51] Neil Benson: We're all eagerly waiting for an announcement from Microsoft about MVP Summit next year. The rumors are it's probably not going to be in person in Redmond like it has been in the past. I don't know. Maybe 2024 we'll be back in person. 

[00:05:04] Rishona Elijah: Yeah. I don't know what to say there. I have a feeling it won't be, unfortunately, as much as I would like to be a part of it. Neil, have you? I'm sure you've been to one of the in-person ones. You've been an MVP for quite a while, right? 

[00:05:15] Neil Benson: I have been to probably 10 of them. 

[00:05:18] Rishona Elijah: Oh, 10. 

[00:05:19] Neil Benson: Yeah. 

[00:05:20] Rishona Elijah: Haven't even got one down yet.

[00:05:22] Neil Benson: No, yeah. I'm a bit old in the tooth. I've been around for a long time. So, 2009 or 2010, I got my first award and 2011 would've been my first in-person summit. So, I've been every year since then, some year — one year there was two because they switched it from February to November. So, we had an MVP Summit in —

[00:05:39] Rishona Elijah: They had two MVP in-person Summits. 

[00:05:41] Neil Benson: Summits, yeah. One in February and one in November.

[00:05:45] Rishona Elijah: Now, we don't have any unfortunately.

[00:05:47] Neil Benson: Yeah, that's right. Now we don't have any at all. Oh, yeah. So, tell me what your blog is about as well. Do you focus on Power Apps and Power Automate and Power Virtual Agents there as well? Or do you blog about different topics as well? 

[00:05:57] Rishona Elijah: A few different things. So, majority of it is gonna be Power Platform stuff 'cause that's really what my interests are and what I do. Mostly Power Virtual Agents and Power Automate I'd say. Power Apps, not so much, so like I do use it and things like that, but I find my interests are mostly in the other areas. So, I find that the blog is a good way because I spend a lot of my free time, you know, just playing around with it as sad as that might sound. But I do this for fun. So, I try and build things with the tools. And also, as I work and I get questions from people, people ask me, you know, can I do this with Power Automate and things like that. So, it kind of inspires me to go and figure it out. And then on my blog, I will do a post about it. So, it's kind of there to show these people and also for anyone who might just be googling it as well, trying to figure out how to do something, it's there for them, too. 

[00:06:47] Neil Benson: Yeah. 

[00:06:47] Rishona Elijah: So, that's really the type of content that I post, like updates, new features, things you can try out. That's the majority of it. Oh, also — I haven't done it for a while but I also used to like write some like hands-on lab training and put it on my blog, too. That reminds me I should get back into that, too, 'cause people a lot of people like sort of that training and steps that you can follow along as well.

[00:07:07] Neil Benson: That's exactly how I got started. You know, I'd solve a problem at work. I didn't know if it was possible it could be done or maybe I was answering a forum question. I think, oh, let me go and try that. Well, that works. I've managed to figure out a solution. 

[00:07:18] Rishona Elijah: Yeah, it feels really good once you're able to figure it out and get it working. 

[00:07:21] Neil Benson: Yeah. 

[00:07:22] Rishona Elijah: So, I like to keep track of it and I document it on my blog.

[00:07:25] Neil Benson: Yeah. Awesome. So, how long have you been blogging for? Just the last couple of years then as you get into —

[00:07:29] Rishona Elijah: When I started, I think I started it last maybe last year in June.

[00:07:36] Neil Benson: Cool. 

[00:07:36] Rishona Elijah: Yeah, it's been just over a year now.

[00:07:38] Neil Benson: Very good. So, what's the latest that's happening with Power Virtual Agents? What's coming up that you're excited about? 

[00:07:43] Rishona Elijah: Oh, lots of news there actually. So, a few months ago they announced that they were pretty much giving it a whole makeover with Power Virtual Agents. Before with Power Virtual Agents, it was pretty much you use it, you can build simple conversations with it, and if you did wanna do anything advanced, you had to use the Bot Framework Composer tool. You familiar with that, Neil? 

[00:08:08] Neil Benson: So, that's the Azure — I always think of it as Logic Gaps and Power Automate and then you got the Azure Bot Framework and Power Virtual Agents, you know? The complimentary technologies. 

[00:08:18] Rishona Elijah: Yeah, pretty much. Well said. So, yeah, the Azure Bot Framework is yes, you can build your bot with it but you kind of need to know a bit of code to be able to use it. So, it's not really suitable for people from a nontechnical background to pick up and start using. So, even myself I don't come from a coding or a developer background, so it's difficult for someone like me to learn how to use. So, with the Power Virtual Agents features that are coming up is that this one is kind of merging the low-code part of Power Virtual Agents as it is with some of that advanced functionality that you get with what framework composer. Would you like me to go through what it is? 

[00:09:00] Neil Benson: Yeah, yeah. Tell me all about it. 

[00:09:02] Rishona Elijah: Yeah, so there are a few things you can check out. So, by the way, it is in preview at the moment, so you probably don't wanna be using these new features to create any bots yet on production. But you can go in though if you wanna check it out and have a play around. Maybe see what you can do with it so far before it gets into production for everyone to start using.

[00:09:22] Neil Benson: You don't think any of your Barhead colleagues have ever put a preview application into production for a customer?

[00:09:28] Rishona Elijah: Who knows? 

[00:09:31] Neil Benson: Yeah. Don't ask. Don't tell.

[00:09:33] Rishona Elijah: If you wanna go and check it out the new experience, if you're just in Power Virtual Agents, you'll be able to go and create a new bot. And when you create your new bot, you'll see an option to create one using the new it's called the unified canvas, by the way, creating that. So, that's where you can go and build it. So, some of the stuff that I'm quite excited about with this is the ability to easily add in things like images or gifs, videos in your bot conversation as well. Before, we were able to do this, but you had to use Power Automate and you had to kind of build an entire flow just to insert a picture in your bot conversation. So, it was a bit of a challenge there but they've made it a lot easier now. So, just within, as you're building out your conversation, you can say, oh, yeah, I wanna put in a picture here. I'll grab the link. Insert that. And you can even add in like multiple ones in at the same, which is really cool. 

[00:10:29] Neil Benson: So, really good for help desk scenarios or somebody who wants a video of filling in an application or repairing something or — yeah, that would be really useful. 

[00:10:38] Rishona Elijah: Yeah, exactly. That's where it becomes really useful, too. Or even just wanna, if you just wanna make the bot look a bit more exciting with pictures and so on, rather than just the boring old text that's there. Some other things that are there as well is — let's see. So, Adaptive Cards as well, if you wanted to use those, you would have to use Bot Framework Composer. So now, they've made the ability to add it in just within that PVA interface as well. So, you can easily just go into the code editor for that, put in your adaptive card, and be able to use it there. And then probably one of the other exciting things is that there's also the ability to — let's say someone clicks on a button in your bot conversation. They click on that button and then you can even prompt it to do things as well, such as maybe if you wanna link it up to a webpage, you might have a new conversation, click here for more details. They can click on that and then it will actually open up a webpage for them and navigate to them, do that in the conversation. So now, from what I've heard from my customers and working with people is that this is something that people really wanted — the ability to have people click on something and then it takes action for them as well.

[00:11:49] Neil Benson: Yeah. It seems like a pretty obvious one that I'm surprised wasn't there before. Maybe it was if you had to crack out the code and insert some custom HTML or something. 

[00:11:57] Rishona Elijah: It's always improving. I mean, PVA, I think it only came out about two and a half, maybe three years, probably three years ago now. So, it's quite new compared to all the other Power Platform tools. So, nice to see that it's getting a nice makeover with this. And something else as well is we all heard about Power Fx now — the formula language that they're trying to bring across all of the different Power Platform tools. So, by the way, this is the one that we have in our canvas apps. As we are creating our apps out, we could use that. We also are now able to use that in Power Virtual Agents as well. 

[00:12:31] Neil Benson: Oh, very cool. 

[00:12:33] Rishona Elijah: So, what makes this great is that it makes certain things easier to do. So, let's say if within the conversation you wanted to do some type of calculation. So, someone might give you a value, you want to count it up, divide it, multiply it. You can do things based on let's say someone sends through a date and maybe you want to give them a special offer based on the time period that they've selected. So, there's some simple stuff that you can type out using the Power Fx formula language to be able to sort of add in that logic. So, it allows you really to make your bots handle these more complex scenarios a lot easier than what it would've been if you were to use Bot Framework Composer to be able to do that. So, definitely what I like about this is the accessibility of it because you don't need to be sort of all pro-code and into the Bot Framework Composer to be able to build this stuff anymore. 

[00:13:25] Neil Benson: What's the reaction like from your students taking Power Apps in a Day courses or PVA in a Day courses to Power Fx? Is it a step too far? Does it dispel the promise of no-code solutions? Or is it just a little bit of code that people can get their heads around? Because it's, well, it's not even a code, right? It's an expression language, like you said. It's —

[00:13:47] Rishona Elijah: You know what? I think that's a controversial question because as much as we, I say this is no-code, you do have to remember formulas and even I don't like formulas. I have a trouble understanding it. From my experience, people who are familiar with Excel and they kind of already have that in their heads, oh, yeah, this is a formula. I can remember this, then they're good at it. But if you're someone who is bad with formulas — like me I actually struggle to really remember things like that — then it takes a bit of time. So, I know doing something like App in a Day in the first time, you're not gonna memorize the formulas.

[00:14:20] Neil Benson: No. 

[00:14:20] Rishona Elijah: But I feel like the more that you do it, actually even the more mistakes you make, you need to go back and figure out what went wrong, the more that it's gonna sort of stick with you. So, I find in terms of ease, I gotta say canvas apps is probably the hardest thing from my opinion.

[00:14:37] Neil Benson: Right. 

[00:14:38] Rishona Elijah: Power Virtual Agents though I find that easy just because of the fact that it was that or it is sort of that more less formula-reliant type of thing. What about you, Neil? How do you feel about the formulas?

[00:14:50] Neil Benson: Yeah, I agree with everything you just said, Rishona. I think I've dabbled with Excel formulas. I'm pretty handy with VLOOKUP and I don't mind looking up Excel help to figure out how to use other formulas and that's good enough for me. I think some of the challenges will be that if we're building applications that become pretty critical in our organizations, that they don't come with maybe intelli help or automated testing frameworks or the supportability and extensibility that a professional developer might look for. And so, it's gonna be quite hard for Microsoft Partners and internal IT organizations to support these applications because they might not have the expertise with Power Fx and supporting Power Fx expressions might be actually harder to do than C# 'cause of all the tooling that we've got around, you know, proper languages. So, it's gonna be interesting to see how it plays out.

[00:15:42] Rishona Elijah: I suppose. Never thought about it that way yeah actually.

[00:15:45] Neil Benson: Yeah. I often get asked by customers to make sure we're building a low-code environment but that can often take developers longer and actually make support harder. And unless they have got some good citizen developers who are gonna be trained up in supporting these tools. But if it's gonna be handed off to a Microsoft partner or handed off to a professional IT support team, this low-code thing is it's a pretty tough sell I think. We'll see. 

[00:16:07] Rishona Elijah: I mean, it definitely has its place. So, I mean, if I just wanna go in quickly and spin something up, that's fine. I find though for more of the nontech people or citizen developers, it's more I find the templates are a good help as well. So, you can kind of just build base like that without needing to try and figure out your formulas and everything to just get stuck into it. So, I mean, that's an alternative as well if we're not that good at the remembering our formulas, right? 

[00:16:33] Neil Benson: Yeah. You just pick a template that looks quite like the app you wanna build and off you go.

[00:16:37] Rishona Elijah: Yeah, that's pretty much how I get by with it.

[00:16:40] Neil Benson: Good stuff. So, what type of people do you see getting into Power Virtual Agents at your workshops? Is it people from large organizations, smaller organizations? Are there different industries that are particularly attracted? Is it consumer-facing organizations or business to business? What kind of customers are looking at Power Virtual Agents these days?

[00:16:57] Rishona Elijah: It's really quite a mix actually. So, every time that I run the Power Virtual Agents in a Day training, we have people from large organizations, a lot of people from councils coming along as well. Who else? Yeah, business to business, people who wanna set it up for their like customer service support, things like that. So yeah, it's quite a mix. And as with all the other like "in a Days" that we run, it's also a mix of people who have a bit of technical experience straight to just our business users who have never even built anything before and that's probably the best people to work with I think because they actually pick it up quite easily and then they're really excited with what they were able to build by the end of it. So, it's always nice to see those people who never thought they'd be able to build anything and here they are, building chatbots and building apps off their own. So, that's always great to see. 

[00:17:48] Neil Benson: Well, I guess if they're not professional developers, they've got no bad habits. They've got nothing to compare it to. They're not stuck in a certain old mindset.

[00:17:56] Rishona Elijah: Yes. There are always developers who will compare it to something that they've built pro-code and about that. Nothing wrong without it also. 

[00:18:06] Neil Benson: Do you have a sense of how Power Virtual Agents compares to other low-code chatbot frameworks? Maybe some of the competitors have? Have you looked at anything else or you —?

[00:18:15] Rishona Elijah: Honestly, no. I haven't actually played around or looked at any of the competitors, so yeah, sorry. Couldn't say much to that one though. 

[00:18:22] Neil Benson: And there's plenty of interest in Microsoft stuff to keep you busy. 

[00:18:25] Rishona Elijah: Yeah, sorry. I only really look at the Microsoft tools. I'm a bit biased. 

[00:18:31] Neil Benson: Tell me about the types of customers putting these things into production. I'm not a big fan of chatbots. I just find them — they run out of answers very quickly. Like occasionally, you'll get one that is quite helpful. It'll direct you to a knowledge-based article. But when I reach the chatbots' limits and then I want to speak to somebody and they have no idea about the discussion I've just had with the chatbot, thankfully sometimes 'cause I've been swearing at it. What's the transition like for Microsoft customers when Power Virtual Agents doesn't have the answer and a customer wants to get, you know, a real support agent on a call? Is it quite a good transition or is it still quite bumpy?

[00:19:10] Rishona Elijah: Nope. So, it's quite good. It really brings together the best of both worlds for people talking to the bot to it being handed over to a support agent. So typically, what you would do is people might start off talking to the bot but then it's an easy escalation point for that. So, you can connect it up to any like customer service tool you're using. If you're using Omnichannel for Dynamics and that's sort of already there, so if that's the case, people can be talking to the bot. Let's say they want to talk to an agent. They say that to the bot. Then it really just carries over the conversation to that live agent to take over. So, it won't happen what you've had, Neil, but the person will be able to see the history of it. So, they don't need to go back and ask through all of those questions again. So, it's sort of like that seamless handoff between the two, too. There's also another thing that's here as well is — you heard about Microsoft's partnership with Nuance, the AI voice so. 

[00:20:04] Neil Benson: Yeah, it's an acquisition. Yeah, that's right. Yeah. 

[00:20:06] Rishona Elijah: Yes. Acquisition, that's the word. So, they've bought through some really cool features from that into the whole like customer service experience as well.

[00:20:16] Neil Benson: I wasn't expecting anything from Nuance to be in the Power Platform for another six to 12 months. This is cool. 

[00:20:22] Rishona Elijah: So, let's say if your, like in your organization, maybe have a number that people call to talk to you. They can start the conversation with the bot and then the bot can then pick up and then route it to the best person based on that. So, they can pass it onto the live agent. So, using the AI to identify, you know, this is what the person is talking about, send them off from there. So, there's some cool stuff coming or in that space currently in terms of customer service with the AI voice functionalities.

[00:20:52] Neil Benson: I keep forgetting that there's a whole voice component with Power Virtual Agents as well, so the bot can read to you and understand spoken inputs as well. How does it deal with languages, do you think? Messed up Northern Irish accents like mine. You've got a perfectly understandable Sydney accent. But I'm not sure bots can deal with my kind of accent.

[00:21:10] Rishona Elijah: True. I haven't tested it out but it should work with any kind of accent I believe. So, it's hard for me to say because I have tested that with voice. I've tested that with my voice. So, I suppose I can only speak to that one. You'll probably need to try it out, Neil, to tell us the news. But it should understand all types of accents.

[00:21:29] Neil Benson: Yeah. I thought you were gonna tell me I probably need a translator. 

[00:21:31] Rishona Elijah: Or that.

[00:21:32] Neil Benson: My wife would agree with you. Cool. And your other specialty I think is Power Automate. What's happening with Power Automate these days? Anything cool that I can get my hands on there as well?

[00:21:42] Rishona Elijah: Yeah, definitely. So, when was the last conference? Probably a few months ago now, right? 

[00:21:47] Neil Benson: Yep. 

[00:21:47] Rishona Elijah: They had some pretty interesting things announced for Power Automates to make our lives a lot easier there. So, my favorite one is that they have this new feature for when — so now you know you've created your flow in Power Automates. Typically, if you wanna use an expression kind of like how we were talking about with Power Fx, you need to remember that expression formula. So, to save you from doing that, now as you build your flow out, there's this new feature called Format data by examples. You click on that. I have a post on my blog if anyone wants to check it out. You use that and then simply you can just say this is what my data currently looks like. This is what I want it to look like now. So, rather than you figuring out that expression, you just give it a few examples like that and then it can automatically get that expression figured out for you. So, I've already started using it and I've cut down on so much time and trying to do a bit of a search on how to write these expressions, so that one's been really amazing.

[00:22:44] Neil Benson: So, is that like for capitalization of text phrases or date formats for date and time? 

[00:22:49] Rishona Elijah: Yeah, date formats is a good example, capitalization. So, you know, usually, we're in Australia so we suffer because we've got the date opposite to the Americans, which is what it's built in with Power Automate. So yeah, if we've got that, we can use that new feature now to say this is what the date code looks like. I want it in this Australian format. It can then give us that result. Also yeah, things like, you know, if you wanna pull out a certain string of text from something, concatenate some text, so you know it can do that sort of thing.

[00:23:19] Neil Benson: Cool. You mentioned going to conferences there. I know that Lisa got to go to Florida for the Power Platform conference. Are you getting to attend any of the upcoming conferences maybe next year? Any plans to travel overseas again?

[00:23:31] Rishona Elijah: I am thinking about it. Got nothing booked in yet but I am hoping to go over to the US next year, probably not for the Microsoft MVP conference but maybe for something else if it comes up. So, I am. Yeah, I think I'm doing that though I would like to also get involved with things in Australia locally. But I don't know of any in-person conferences we've got going on here. So, that's why I think we need to travel to the US to get involved with that stuff.

[00:23:59] Neil Benson: Yeah. I looked at traveling and the costs are just crazy. They're still — airlines are not back at capacity yet, so flight’s still very expensive. 

[00:24:07] Rishona Elijah: It is. 

[00:24:07] Neil Benson: And somebody — I was reading the other day, it's, you know, it's business class tickets but an economy class seat, so it doesn't sound great just yet.

[00:24:17] Rishona Elijah: Oh, man. 

[00:24:17] Neil Benson: We'll get there. We'll get there.

[00:24:19] Rishona Elijah: Yeah. Looking at the prices, I was thinking, oh, man. This is ridiculous. If I'm gonna go, I feel like maybe I should line up a few conferences so I can kind of put it like do it all in one go rather than making multiple trips. But I'm looking forward to more in-person stuff flown locally in Australia, too, if it happens. 

[00:24:34] Neil Benson: And in the meantime, tell us where we can find your blog and do you have a YouTube channel to go along with that as well?

[00:24:40] Rishona Elijah: I don't have a YouTube channel. So, my blog is You can find me on LinkedIn. So, on there, that's probably where I'm most active. I have Twitter as well. I think my username is @RishonaElijah though I don't really use it that much though. And I did start TikTok. There's so much going on there but I'm trying. I'm trying. So, I've been put slowly uploading some videos there. I'm hoping maybe I might be getting into that more to supplement what I put on my blog, too. So, what's my username there? I think it's rishona_powerplatform. 

[00:25:15] Neil Benson: Okay. 

[00:25:15] Rishona Elijah: Should be able to find me by with my name.

[00:25:17] Neil Benson: We'll get some of your social media links and include those in the show notes as well. 

[00:25:21] Rishona Elijah: Oh, yeah. Thanks. Appreciate it. 

[00:25:22] Neil Benson: I'd love to find out how you got into Business Applications. What was your — did you study IT? Well, you said you weren't a professional developer when you got your break in Business Applications. Tell me about your path into Business Apps. 

[00:25:34] Rishona Elijah: So, I don't really have like a technical, I mean, I've already, I've always sort of been good at computers but I'm not like a developer or anything like that. In uni, I did a commerce degree but my major was in information systems, which is more like, yeah, the Business Applications not actually creating it or anything like that, more, but more about like, you know, using the data and things like that. So, that's kind of how I found myself in this. So yeah, I wanted to do something with tech. And when I started out, I was working with another Microsoft partner as a recruiter in that space but I always knew I wanted to go into the actual tech side of it. And that's when I started doing Power BI training within that organization. And then from there, it kind of grew and that's how I got into the Business Apps space.

[00:26:18] Neil Benson: That's something we both had in common. I started out my career as a recruiter as well. 

[00:26:22] Rishona Elijah: Oh, really? 

[00:26:23] Neil Benson: Yeah. 

[00:26:23] Rishona Elijah: Oh, that's interesting. Actually, my very first job was as a librarian though in high school. 

[00:26:30] Neil Benson: But my high school jobs were much less glamorous than that. But I started out, my first job really was as a IT recruiter and I really enjoyed meeting some of the people and wanted to do more of what they could do so.

[00:26:43] Rishona Elijah: Yeah, so it's a good starting point, isn't it? Yeah 'cause you meet all the people in the industry as well.

[00:26:47] Neil Benson: Yeah. Very good. And what would be your recommendation for anybody wanting to make a break into Business Applications? I met with a couple of school kids today. So, one of my current clients is a Queensland State Government Department. They've got two I think Year 10 and 11, so these kids are 15, 16. Thinking about a career in IT. What kind of advice would you give to either school kids or people at university thinking about a career in Business Applications? What's a good way to get started? 

[00:27:14] Rishona Elijah: It's always good to just go and get some experience. So, also the way that I started out because if you are just at that age, you really don't have much of job experience to show them, oh, you know, I can do this job well. But it helps, you know, just calling around, seeing, checking out what companies are out there that do things that are, that interest you, and then just asking them, you know, can I come along or can I maybe do an internship here. It's a good way to sort of get involved and to see what the organization does without them sort of hiring you because if they hire you first up, you know, they're expecting you to be able to do your job properly and do it well and have that experience. So, just checking what's out there. Scouring on LinkedIn is a good way as well. Maybe connecting and sending a message to people who you might follow in the industry who perhaps have a job that you would like to have down the track. And maybe you never know if there's an opportunity unless you ask because majority of opportunities aren't gonna be advertised and they might create something on the spot if they like you and if there's something of interest there. So, I find that, you know, just getting in, getting some sort of experience is a good way to get started that way.

[00:28:23] Neil Benson: Yeah. Cool. I think some of the best professionals I've worked with have got a background as a user. You know, they might have worked in the contact center, they might have had a sales job, they might have had some kind of industry experience, even just as an intern. 

[00:28:34] Rishona Elijah: Yeah, even that as well. Yeah. So, if you're using the tools, it doesn't really matter where you're working, but if you're a user of it, then you kind of already got that experience, like you've said. So, that's some good starting points, too. 

[00:28:44] Neil Benson: I'm gonna ask you one final question, Rishona, and that's if you were working at Microsoft or Microsoft called you and said, Hey, Rishona, we're gonna prioritize whatever you ask for, what would you want them to build in the applications next? Are there big missing features or frustrations that you have for the current set of apps that you'd love Microsoft to come along and fix? What would you wave your magic wand at?

[00:29:06] Rishona Elijah: You know what? Because I feel like I'm not involved in projects in my work, otherwise I would have a big bucket list for that, but because I kind of take what's given to me, so if there's a new feature, I'm like, oh, yeah. This is cool. And I don't really ask for anything.

[00:29:22] Neil Benson: Oh. Awesome. So, it sounds like you have no frustrations at all.

[00:29:27] Rishona Elijah: So, I'm happy with what's there but always excited to hear a few things coming yeah. 

[00:29:31] Neil Benson: Amazing. Oh, that's really cool. Well, listen. Thanks so much for joining us on Amazing Applications. We're gonna include links to your LinkedIn profile, to your blog, and even to your TikTok channel so we can all watch you dancing along to Power Apps.

[00:29:43] Rishona Elijah: Oh, yeah. Thanks. Please give me some followers. 

[00:29:47] Neil Benson: Thanks so much for joining us on the show.

[00:29:49] Rishona Elijah: Thanks, Neil. Appreciate it.

[00:29:51] Neil Benson: Thanks to Rishona Elijah from Barhead Solutions for joining me in today's episode. And if you enjoyed it, I'd really appreciate it if you could let Rishona know. Visit the Customery page on LinkedIn. That's the word "customer" with a Y on the end. This episode's gonna be posted up there. You can leave her a comment or share this episode with your LinkedIn friends. That would be really appreciated. And finally, my new online course Estimating Business Applications is just about to be declared done. The first three sections are free. They're published and they're ready to go. You can join the course to access those today. You'll learn why we need to estimate and how my teams have quickly, accurately, and confidently estimated their Business Applications. The advanced content will be finalized this month I promise, which is January 2023. It includes how to estimate entire projects and applications and answers the top 20 questions I get asked about estimating Enterprise Dynamics 365 and Power Platform applications. You can join today at or follow the link in the show notes. Thanks so much for joining me in this episode. I hope you enjoy next time. We've got some great content coming up. Until then, keep sprinting. Bye for now.