Tag Archives: Professional Development

Using Power BI To Track My Activities

As a MS MVP one of the things you have to do is keep track of all the “things” you do for community, whether it be volunteering, organizing, speaking, etc.  It can be a bit daunting trying to keep track of all of it.  But hey, I’m a Data Platform MVP, how hard can it be to keep track of data?!  Queue music from one of my favorite Blake Edwards movie .. Pink Panther.

At first I was just keeping track of everything in a text file via Notepad.  That got very unmanageable very quickly with all the different kinds of things I was doing.  I migrated all my data to a spreadsheet, because we all know that Excel is the most popular database in the world, right?

I knew that I had been busy in 2018, but I had no idea until I used Power BI to look at my data.  Yes, I was significantly busier in 2018 than I ever had been and 2019 is shaping up to be just the same if not busier.

Take a look at what I created.  It was a fun project to work on and allowed me to explore some things in Power BI that I don’t work with on a regular basis.  Let me know what you think.

Speaking at SQL Saturday Atlanta (#652)

I am so excited and honored to have been selected to speak at SQL Saturday Atlanta (#652) this year.  This is huge event where I’ve been a volunteer and attendee in the past, but this will be my first time as a speaker.

I will be presenting my session What is Power BI?  I’ve presented this session a couple of times in the past but will be updating it to contain information regarding the changes that go into effect June 1, 2017.

If you are close to Atlanta on July 15, 2017, please stop by and say “Hello”, I’d love to see you.

#SQLSatATL

SQL Saturday Charlotte is Coming!

That’s right, SQL Saturday Charlotte is coming September 17, 2016.  Next to the annual PASS Summit, this is my favorite SQL Event!  This is the fifth year that the Charlotte BI Group (CBIG) has put on this great event.  They’ve expanded the event this year to include two Pre-Cons on Friday, September 16, 2016, one from BI and data analytics queen Jen Underwood and the other from performance guru Adam Machanic.  While the Pre-Cons aren’t free like the event on Saturday, they certainly are a bargain for an entire day of training with well known experts in their respective fields.

If you haven’t already registered, I’d suggest you do it now before they go to a wait list.  This event is always jam packed full of great sessions from great speakers, both local and national.

Oh yeah, I will be there.  I’m helping out again this year with registration, so be sure to say hello if you see me.  I am always happy to see my #SQLFamily.

The Whirlwind That Is October – Part 3

October has been such a whirlwind of PASS activity for me. Two SQL Saturdays and the PASS Summit. This post is about the PASS Summit in Seattle, October 27 through 30. You can read about my SQL Saturdays here and here. Settle in, get a cup of <insert caffeinated beverage of choice>, this is going to be a long one.

I arrived in Seattle on Saturday, October 24th. Since I spent a lot of my formative years in the Pacific Northwest, I usually go early and have family and/or friends meet up with me for the weekend, but this year life just got in the way so I spent Saturday afternoon and Sunday wandering around Seattle alone doing touristy things and stocking up on souvenirs for those left at home.

Monday morning came bright and early and I headed over to RedGate‘s SQL in the City event. This is the fourth year that I’ve attended this event. It mostly showcases how to use RedGate products, but there are some other useful sessions as well. One that I particularly liked was the workshop that called on SSDT users. They broke us up into two groups and had a RedGater leading the conversation. I got to meet some new folks like Phil Helmer (B | T) and know that I wasn’t alone with some of my frustrations when using TFS in SSDT. Of course Bill Fellows (B | T) was there providing valuable insight as well. And yes Bill, I will blog about my build and deploy process sometime in the near future. I also got to meet Andrea Allred (B | T) in person. We had connected over Twitter via our musical interests and really hit it off in person. Andrea I can’t thank you enough for encouraging us to drive 4 hours to see The Struts (B | T), it truly was an experience I will never forget. I also got to officially meet Sheila Acker (T). She has been a familiar face for the last five years, but we officially met this year. So nice to finally meet you Sheila.

I ended my Monday by catching up with my dear South African friend Martin Phelps (B | T) at Rock Bottom Brewery. He has a lot of work ahead of him, he and his teammates are trying to make it to the World Championships of sky diving in April 2016. Good luck Martin!

I got to sleep in a bit on Tuesday before I hit my favorite hole in the wall eatery, Blue Water Taco Grill (BWTG). Let me just say that I LOVE BWTG. I live in High Point, NC, where they think that a good breakfast burrito is what you get at Chik-Fil-A during their breakfast hours – NOT! I miss my breakfast burritos from Pete’s Kitchen in Denver and while the one that I get at BWTG is not smothered in green chile, it does have chorizo in it – food fit for a king (or queen as it were). But I digress, on with the adventures of Tuesday.

Tuesday was a day for meetings, the SQL Saturday Organizer and Chapter Leader meetings. These were fabulous, got some great ideas for ways to advertise SQL Saturday and my local chapter. After my meetings I hung out with Andrea and her husband Ryan Allred (T) for a while talking music. We exchanged some of our favorite band names, which I am still going through. Then it was off to be a PASS Ambassador for the Welcome Reception. For those that don’t know me, this is my “Most favorite-est” (as my youngest niece would say) thing to do at Summit. I can’t stand up in front of a room of thirty people and present a session without almost hyperventilating, but I have absolutely no problem standing in a crowd of people and greeting them with smiles and assistance when needed.

If you couldn’t tell, I am a big music fan, so it was no contest when I found out that Florence + the Machine (B | T) was playing in Seattle on Tuesday night. After my PASS Ambassadorship ended, I skipped the volunteer party and headed straight to Key Arena. Florence did not disappoint, she performed barefoot (as usual) and was very “twirly”. After a very long day of nonstop action, I headed back to the hotel to get some much needed sleep.

Wednesday started off very early with being a PASS Ambassador once again. Did I mention that this is my favorite volunteer job at Summit? I was at the top of the escalators at 6:45 a.m. greeting attendees, speakers and sponsors. One thing that was new this year was the Ask Me! hand sign. I still haven’t found out whose brain child that was, but when I do, look out, you will be getting a serious #SQLHug from me. Most IT folks are such introverts that they seldom make eye contact with people, so the fact that I had a sign giving them permission to ask a question was AMAZING. I even had one attendee ask if he could have his picture taken with me and my sign (and if this was you, please share that pic, I didn’t get your name and would love to see how it turned out).

Since I was manning the top of the escalators until the start of the Keynote, I missed breakfast completely, so I headed over to BWTG for my morning burrito. I sat there eating my burrito and watching the Keynote – streaming live – Thank you PASS TV! After that I was able to attend the Microsoft Foundation Session on Business Intelligence. Man oh man, I can’t wait for SQL 2016, the enhancements to SSRS alone are enough to make me want to skip over Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.

Lunch time came around and it was time to say fair well to outgoing Director Amy Lewis (B | T). Amy has been the Director with the Program Portfolio for the last two years and prior to that she was heavily involved in the Program Committee, so I have worked with Amy directly or indirectly for five years. I was sad to see her not run for the Board again, but I understand that life just gets in the way. We have a new fearless leader in Ryan Adams (B | T) and I can’t wait to work with him. I was able to make it to two more sessions in the afternoon, then it was on to the Exhibitor Reception. It was nice to get a chance to chat with some of the vendors and see their products. I also ran into more #SQLFamily than I can name here. I was also “coerced” into giving an interview for PASS TV. If you were unfortunate enough to see that take place, you now understand why I am not a speaker. If you did not witness it, be thankful and leave it at that.

The night ended with SQL Karaoke hosted by Pragmatic Works at Hard Rock Cafe. This is always a good time and this year was no exception. I only wish I could have stayed longer. I retired early as I was to be a PASS Ambassador once again at 6:45 a.m. on Thursday.

The highlight of Summit came when Lance Harra (T) was presented with the PASSion award during Thursday’s keynote. This was long overdue, Lance has been on the Program Committee in some shape or form for eleven years, being a Program Manager for the last three or four. As a member of the Program Committee for the last five years and now a Program Manager, I see how hard Lance works. Next time you see Lance, be sure to congratulate him. We are very proud of him.

Unfortunately this is the point during Summit when I come down with a nasty virus and miss Thursday afternoon and all of Friday. I ended up sleeping in my hotel room for the rest of the conference, missing out on some cool sessions and most importantly #SQLFamily time. I so wanted to catch up with Sebastian Meine (B | T) in the Community Zone to talk about tSQLt. I was also looking forward to hanging out with AZ (T) and so many others during the Community Appreciation party. But in true #SQLFamily fashion, AZ checked in on me every day until I made it home. Thank you AZ!

I ended up at Urgent Care on Sunday morning after I got home.  Needless to say my poor excuse for a respiratory system was in dire need of medical attention.  Four prescriptions and one shot in the butt later, I was sent home to rest and recuperate.

While my experience at Summit ended way too early, I still had a great time. If you’ve never attended a Summit, what are you waiting for? If you’ve attended before, I am so glad you came back and I hope to see you next year.

One last reminder – you can still submit session evals online until November 6, 2015 via the Guidebook app. So do it now! The speakers and the Program Committee need your feedback so we can continue to make Summit a success.

Earning my MCSE: Business Intelligence Certification

I earned my MCSE: Business Intelligence Certification on May 27, 2015. It was a long road, but I did it. Back in May of 2013, I wrote about being Certifiable and wasn’t really interested in pursuing any certifications. What made me change my mind you ask? The short answer is, being a speaker.

Last summer I was invited to speak for the Triad SQL BI User Group in Winston-Salem. I did a very introductory class on Integration Services. I was asked a question that seemed simple, but I didn’t know the answer. That got me thinking, if I don’t know the answer to that, what else don’t I know?

I started doing some research on the question and decided, if I am going to do this research, why not get something other than just an answer, there had to be other things that I didn’t know. I looked at the MCSA certification path again. I looked through the topics that the three exams covered and got really excited. There were so many pieces of the technology that I had never used or hadn’t used in years. This was a real learning opportunity. I decided I needed to get my SQL learnin’ on.

I did a little bit more research on the exams and what study guides were available and discovered the Microsoft Training Kit. It consists of three books, each dedicated to an exam and each book has its own practice exams. It seemed like the best candidate so I ordered it from Amazon and had it delivered in two short days (Thank you Amazon Prime!).

The MCSA certification consists of three exams, 40-461, 70-462 & 40-463. The first exam, 70-461, is all about querying SQL Server. I’ve been querying SQL Server for almost 20 years, so it didn’t take much effort for me to pass this exam. I read through the questions at the end of every lesson in each chapter and the case studies. For the questions I got wrong, I went back and read the lesson, re-answered the questions correctly and that’s it. I passed exam 70-461 on December 24, 2014.

Exam 70-462 was a bit more involved for me. It is focused on Administering SQL Server. I had never used Always On and it has been years since I worked with replication so I figured the best place to start was by taking a practice exam to see where I needed to focus. I failed that first practice exam, but it provided me with a road map of what I actually needed to focus on. On January 30, 2015, I passed exam 70-462.

Exam 70-463 is about implementing a data warehouse. I followed the same approach for 70-463 as I did for exam 70-462. That approach paid off and on February 20, 2015, I passed the exam and earned my MCSA for SQL Server 2012.

I was going to stop at the MCSA, but after I completed that with relative ease, I decided I needed a bit more of a challenge. The question came down to MCSE: Database Professional or MSCE: Business Intelligence, since most of the work that I do now is BI related, I decided on the later. I looked at the topics that were covered in the exams and realized there were going to be some huge gaps. I don’t use Reporting Services in SharePoint integrated mode nor do I do any work with the Tabular model for Analysis Services. I’ve only been using Analysis Services on a regular basis for about 2 1/2 years now, so I am certainly no expert, so definitely needed some work there as well.

There are two exams needed to earn your MCSE: Business Intelligence after your MCSA, they are 70-466 and 70-467. Since there are no Training Kits for the last two exams, I decided to take Microsoft up on its Second Shot offer. For a limited time, it allowed a person a second chance to take a qualifying exam for free if you fail it the first time. I figured, what do I have to lose? At best I’ll pass first time around. At worst, I’ll fail the exam, but will gain valuable experience in how the exam is structured, what it covers and learn where I need to focus my studies. Then I could retake the exam for free. I failed exam 70-466 the first time I took it, as I expected I would. But I did much better than I thought I would, so I knew there was hope of earning my MCSE.

I went out to Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA) and found the training video for 70-466. I also found the video for Tabular Model training. In addition to MVA, I also used PluralSight and various other books. I studied up on the stuff that I had never seen or worked with before. Then I went through a few refresher videos on the stuff I already knew (but had forgotten) and retook the exam, passing the second time around with flying colors on May 6, 2015.

The last exam was the most nerve racking, 70-467. You basically have to take all your knowledge from the previous four exams and apply that knowledge to what seems like an endless barrage of case studies. If you were no good at story problems in school, then this exam is definitely going to challenge you. I passed the exam on my first try, but I really wish I hadn’t waited three weeks between taking it and 70-466. Since I do not use the Tabular data model or Reporting Services in SharePoint integrated mode, I forgot a lot of the material in the three weeks between the two exams. You are given 150 minutes to take the exam and I finished with only three minutes to spare because I had to rack my brain for those nuggets of information that I hadn’t had the opportunity to use out in the wild. I think that if I had taken the exam within a week of 70-466, I would have done much better and had more time remaining.

Overall it was a good experience. I plan on taking some of the things I learned (and “relearned”) and implementing them at work to provide a better experience for our users. I know they will be grateful and I will know that I’ve done the best possible job that I could for them.

The certification isn’t why I started this journey. I started this journey because there was something that I didn’t know. Don’t let certification be the only reason you take this journey, make it one of the many rewards when you reach the end.

TSQL2sday #66 – Monitoring

A big thank you to Cathrine Wilhelmsen (blog | twitter) for hosting this month’s TSQL2sday party. Monitoring is this month’s topic and it’s a very important one. It could mean the difference between having a job and looking for a job.

TSQL2sDay150x150When I started working with SQL Server (a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away) there were no commercial monitoring tools available and quite often I would get called or paged (yes, it was a long time ago) in the middle of the night by a very angry boss because there was something “wrong” with the database. Or worse yet, I would get no call at all and show up at work the next morning with a line of angry people waiting for me when I got off the elevator. It only took a couple of these encounters for me to realize that I needed to be much more proactive or change my line of work (I had heard that underwater basket weaving was an easy gig).

I started looking at the reasons I was being called and discovered most of them were things that could easily have been avoided if I had known about them earlier. Things like database and transaction log files filling up, running out of disk space, processes/queries that were taking increasingly longer and longer. Since there were no commercial monitoring tools out there I decided I needed to essentially roll my own.

I had to start looking under the covers to find what I was looking for. This gave me an even greater exposure into how SQL Server worked. Did I mention that this was before Google? I couldn’t just search for easy answers, I had to really dig in the system databases to find what I wanted. This was in fact, one of the best things that could have happened to me so early in my career as a DBA. I was forced to learn how SQL Server worked on my own.

To this day, I still “carry” around my home grown monitoring solution in my toolbox. I have updated it and expanded it through the years to accommodate newer versions and functionality and made it more efficient based on both of those things. Not all shops have the budget for monitoring tools and even if they do, a lot of the time they are only willing to spend that money on production servers, not development or test (don’t get me started, that’s an entirely different blog post).

My little monitoring solution has come in handy over the years because it has afforded me the opportunity to discover what’s under the covers of the newest version/features of SQL Server and provide a no cost basic monitoring solution to my employers when the budget is tight or non-existent. If you don’t have your own monitoring solution I would highly recommend you create one, if for nothing more than the reasons I stated above.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the commercial monitoring tools that I have access to now, but knowing the how and why of SQL Server will only make you a better DBA and could possibly mean the difference between having a job and looking for a job.

Achievement Unlocked: 24 Hours of Pass Session Submitted

I have finally submitted a session for a speaking engagement. Those who know me know that this is a very BIG deal. I have a horrible fear of public speaking, but I am slowly starting to embrace that fear. Last year I presented at the Triad SQL BI User Group and I didn’t hyperventilate, no one was more surprised than me.

I submitted the same session that I did at the Triad SQL BI User Group, Introduction to Integration Services (SSIS), to the upcoming 24 Hours of PASS: Growing Our Community.

I wanted to be a teacher when I was in college until I discovered my fear of public speaking. Now, more than 20 years later, maybe I can finally reach that goal.

Fingers crossed that my session is accepted.