Power Platform is not a single piece of a software – it’s an entire suite of different tools that help you to build everything from simple to complex solutions. But how do you get your start with something like Power Platform? We spoke to Marc Trotman about his Power Platform journey, and how he’s giving back to a community that supported him along the way.
Q: Tell us about who you are, and what you’re currently up to!
A: I’m Marc Trotman, and I work for a company called Boss Global Consulting. At the moment I’m actually working with the Centre of Excellence team at HSBC, implementing the CoE toolkit for Power Platform and working on a lot of governance. This has been a big focus of my work in the past year.
Q: It’d be great to hear about your career journey. How did you get to where you are now?
A: From my accent, I’m sure you’ve realized that I’m not from England – I’m actually from Barbados, West Indies. I came to the UK in 1994, starting my computing journey with a degree in Computer Systems Engineering at the University of Manchester. I chose computing because, at that point in time, computing was kind of the go-toward. Actually I didn’t even have any kind of experience with computers during my secondary level education, so it was quite an interesting pathway.
Following my graduation in 1998 I went back home to Barbados and started off in web development, working for an offshore company there that was delivering functionality to a company in the US.
After that I worked in Malaysia for five years, and this would be the start of my CRM journey. It was with SalesLogix rather than Microsoft Dynamics, so I was more of a Sage person at that point. I worked for two companies while I was there; NEC Malaysia, and a start-up company called Profitera, where I gained my first introduction to CRM.
When my visa came to an end, I decided I was going back to the UK. On my way back home to Barbados to visit my family, I sent a CV to some recruiters in the UK got an interview while I was in transit! This led to my first job in the UK, working for Panacea on SalesLogix and, later on, Dynamics. A chap called Chris Bridgeman was running the team there, and I’m grateful he was able to take a chance on me. I also met Rhett Clinton, who was a Microsoft MVP, and I learned a lot of my Dynamics knowledge from him.
Following that I joined a company called Outsourcery. At that point in time it was one of the few companies in the UK that actually hosted Dynamics CRM. I worked in a small team of seven people and it was great because it was the first time I worked with more that one colleague with Caribbean or African links – Tricia Sinclair (creator of the Power Platform school), Wayne Alexander and Ona Ojukwu. Until 2016 I mainly did a lot of upgrades from Dynamics 4. I was also creating functionality and solutions for various other industries.
After leaving Outsourcery, I was lucky enough to catch up with Rhett Clinton who was working at Metro Bank. At that point in time they were the poster child for the Power Platform – one of the first banks to really go all-in on cloud. I was really attracted to working there because I’d be able to work with MVPs, as well as with Power Platform. I joined in a senior developer role, adding functionality to their existing system and on Unified Service Desk. I was also involved in creating a Canvas app, developed with help from Microsoft, that let customers see how long they would have to wait to see someone when entering the bank.
Eventually I was promoted into a more senior team manager role where I had the opportunity to mentor junior developers. I created a training program for them to learn Power Platform, and I would have one-on-one sessions with them and create exercises around certain Power Platform topics. This helped upskill people from Junior Developer up to a CRM Developer.
This leads me to my current role at Boss Global Consulting. We’re a small company of technical, highly-skilled people. The past year has seen more of a focus on governance, though I still get opportunities to get hands-on in terms of extending the functionality around the toolkit and even writing PowerShell scripts to pull in information from the tenant around Power BI.
Q: We’ve seen you speak about Power Platform at events like Dynamics Saturday and Scottish Summit. What is it that makes you so passionate about Power Platform?
A: My interest in it is around the no code, low code ethos and making these types of tools available not only for power developers, but also citizen developers.
I also write a blog – not as often as I should – where I try to put across my knowledge on Power Platform, as well as a Twitter account. There’s a great community out there that I pick up a lot of information from, and it’s great that we get to share knowledge.
But mostly, for me, it’s all about what these tools can do. I did a presentation in 2020 around how the Power Platform could be used in small island states like Barbados, because obviously when the pandemic hit, it was not easy for people to go out and shop, schools weren’t in person and had to go online, etc. Barbados and a number of Caribbean Islands are just not as digital focused, and this could become a turning point.
There are obviously the use cases where people could be ordering groceries online, but there are also things like tracking who leaves and enters the country, and the different licenses people need to apply for. All of these things are done manually using paper forms, and what I presented showed how Power Platform could be used to do it more efficiently.
A model-driven app could be used to track arrivals and departures. For example, if someone entered the country and they were born in Barbados, it would create a contact record to say OK, that’s a citizen. If not, it would create a record showing that they were a visitor, and you’d have a central repository that government organisations could hook into to access personal information about visitors. You could then visualise important Covid-related information and add virtual agents to help answer questions people might have, all through Power Platform.
There was an introduction to Power Platform given at the University of the West Indies in Barbados last year by Dona Sarkar, who spent three months living and working in the country. She also worked with the university to create an introduction to Power Platform for their students. I joined a hackathon they held in a technical advisor position to help students in building solutions.
So yes, I do it for my day job, but I’m also always thinking about how I could actually transfer some of this knowledge and technology back into the Caribbean because we have a quite a skilled working force. Most people are educated up to university level and the opportunities that Power Platform could offer are huge.
Q: Did you have any role models during your journey? If so, who were they?
A: When I first came to the UK and started at Panacea, I was green. I hadn’t worked in that type of environment before. There I met Martin Draper and Steven Robertson who gave me a lot of information around my role and helped me to develop my skills.
I don’t have role models that made me follow a particular path per se, but the people I’ve met and worked with on my journey have all contributed to where I am at this point in time.
Q: What are your thoughts on the current level of diversity within the tech industry, and do you think it’s improving with time?
A: Outsourcery was the first company that I worked with where there was more than one person with a black background in my team, but it’s been getting better. Plus in teams like at Metro, they were more diversified because they have a team made up of people from all over the world.
As a black person in technology, I’ve enjoyed working in my other teams. I’ve never felt prejudice against me and everyone I’ve worked with has been supportive and very helpful. I’ve been very lucky.
The lack of black developers has been evident, though. Hopefully with initiatives like the Power Platform school this will start to change, and I’ll be using my own experiences as a mentor to help other people navigate the waters around CRM-related careers.
I met David Fowler, a Partner Software Architect at Microsoft, virtually during the Power Platform hack in Barbados. It turned out he’s also from Barbados, and he’s involved in developing a lot of new .NET technologies. There’s not a lot of visibility of black professionals in these positions, and it’d be great for people starting their CRM journeys to hear more of this type of story. I think it would help to attract people into the industry and into these tech jobs.
Q: What advice would you give to other people who are looking to get into a role similar to yours?
A: Everyone coming into tech now has access to so many resources that I think it’s really about what you want to specialise in. Whether it’s game development, web development or the Power Platform route, the resources are out there – Microsoft Learn, community groups and YouTube videos are a great place to start.
That said, I think being able to get exposure to different technologies and different industries is very important. It’ll give you direction on areas you want to focus on going forward, as well as give you an appreciation for the bigger picture.
If you’re aiming for a Power Platform role specifically, you’ll definitely want to get yourself involved in the community. It’s very welcoming, and there are many people who will be willing to help and even mentor you. Groups like Power Addicts and The Power Platform School are great places to start.
I think that’s it. Find a good mentor, join a very welcoming community and give back where you can.
Marc Trotman is an experienced Power Platform Solution Architect who has worked in a number of sectors such as banking, education and non-profit.
He loves introducing organisations and individuals to the potential of the Power Platform, to transform their businesses using best practices and effective governance principles.
Marc lives in Nottingham but was born and raised in Barbados. He loves keeping fit, travelling and is working hard to improve his guitar playing.