Thursday, September 27, 2012

SQL Saturday 151 Interview: Stacia Misner

Hello Dear Reader SQL Saturday 151 is just around the corner.  If you haven't registerd there is still time to sign up now, click here!

Tomorrow kicks off with our Full Day Pre-Con's at the with Kevin Kline(@kekline | Blog) of Quest Software and Stacia Misner (@StaciaMisner | Blog) of Data Inspirations.  Click Here to read more about our DBA Pre-Con  and Click Here to read more about our BI Pre-Con.  There are still a few seats remaining so if you haven't signed up do so today!

Stacia was kind enough to sit down and have an interview with me running a wide gambit of topics.

We talked about Teaching being involved in the SQL Community and of course the up coming Pre-Con.

I hope you enjoy!

1.       What got you into IT and then into SQL Server as a Career?  Was the move to work with SQL Server straight to BI or where you ever a DBA?

My first official job in IT was as a installer/trainer for a software company that developed applications for tractor dealerships (which eventually customized for car dealerships as well). My mom had been one of the original employees there as a developer and thought it would be a good opportunity for me.

 She wasn't working there when I started working there, but in later years she did rejoin the company although we worked in completely different departments. My job was to travel out to tractor dealerships and get their IBM System 36 installed and configured and then to teach the personnel how to run their business using the computer.
Most of them had been on manual systems. I did some custom reporting development for them because, of course, canned reports in the software never answered the questions that management really had.

When we started moving our applications to PC-based systems, we had a database backend and that's where I started to learn how to write SQL queries but I didn't know anything about database management. Fast forward many years and I was in another software company as a project manager for custom development in the legal industry. I stumbled on Business Intelligence while I was looking for information on the Internet to use to train up a new employee on project management skills.

I read about cubes and thought this had to be valuable to the types of reporting and analysis that we were trying to incorporate into our software, and that's when my career veered off into BI. At the time, I managed a team of Lotus Notes and Java developers, and we extracted data from our Lotus Notes databases into Oracle databases so that we could do more sophisticated reporting than we could in Lotus Notes. I went straight from that in to BI - I've always been involved in one way or another in getting data out of computers into a format that people need for analysis. 

2.       You just moved to Alaska, why Alaska and what do you love about it?

I moved to Alaska because my husband told me when were dating (many, many years ago) that he would be happier living with me in a shack in Alaska than he would in a mansion in (somewhere I forget now).

So I wanted him to prove it to me! But more seriously, he's a country boy and was never very happy in our city homes. To rectify that, we were looking for property out in the country somewhere in the Western states a couple of years ago and a long-lost childhood friend of my husband's called during that time and described where he was living in Alaska. It had everything we were looking for, except it wasn't as close to an airport as I required. So I said I would put up with the travel inconvenience as long as I could get a decent Internet connection, which we made happen, and so here we are!

 Travel inconvenience is putting it mildly. It's quite an ordeal to get in and out of here - but it's an amazing place to be while I'm home. We're still getting set up and stocked up, but I love the access to fresh foods from the sea and from nature - we have all the salmon and halibut and other types of fish that we could ever want, plus wild mushrooms (chanterelles and morels) and a variety of edible seaweeds. We'll be building a greenhouse for year-round veggies. I go for a walk almost every morning when I'm home - rain or shine - and walk about 3 miles with a neighbor and see more deer (and sometimes bear and bald eagles) each day than I see people in a week. It's a beautiful view and environment, and I'm really glad to be here!

3.       You’ve had the opportunity to travel to many different places and teach to many different people and audiences.  What has your favorite experience been as a teacher?  What was your favorite location to travel to?
I have lots of favorite experiences as a teacher.  I really like to experience a place through its foods and I had a list of foods to try during the week I was there. It was my personal food scavenger hunt!

Each day at lunch I would ask my students to help me identify what was on our lunch menu to determine what I could cross off my list. On Thursday, I was asked if I would join some of the students for dinner to get some of the other items on my list. I assumed we would be going out to a restaurant, but I was invited to a flat that one company had rented for the students they had sent to my class and they cooked dinner for me.

Meanwhile there was an incredible storm outside - hurricane force winds in Warsaw! But we had such a wonderful time enjoying homemade food and they were telling me Polish folk tales as we waited out the storm. And to cap it off, one of the students told me she had used one of my books in a college course (which she had neglected to tell me all week until that night!). That evening was truly a memorable experience!

 As for my favorite location, that's more difficult question to answer because there have been so many places and so many wonderful people that I can't single out just one!

4.       How has the SQL Server Community, and/or being involved with it, affected your life?

Being involved in the SQL Server Community has given me the opportunity to meet people from all around the world. On a personal level, my husband is on a mission to acquire a certain breed of dog which is not commonly found in the US, so he found breeders in other countries and suggested I go to these places and I thought - I KNOW people in those countries who I could ask for help with the language, etc. How nice is that?

On a professional level, it's extremely helpful because I have a network of like-minded people that I can connect with regularly which is so important as an independent consultant who doesn't have an office full of co-workers. I've been able to participate in many projects as a result of having met people through community and I've been able to connect people that I know with clients that need their sort of expertise.

Having this network as a result of the SQL Server Community also helps me keep aware of important happenings and trends in the industry, provides a sounding board when I'm dealing with challenges, and keeps me motivated to keep learning more and to see the same old things in new ways. 

5.       Last year you attended SQL Saturday 62 in Tampa and later you were at SQL Rally in Orlando, this year it is back to Orlando for SQL Saturday 151.  What keeps you coming back to visit the SQL Server Community in Florida?
I have a lot of friends I like to see in the SQL Server Community in Florida and it's a nice place to visit most times of the year!

6.       Your Pre-Con looks fantastic, if I was speaking to someone at an HR/Training department who should I tell them they should send to attend?

The Pre-Con is going to cover a lot of ground, although it is specific to the BI features in SQL Server 2012. The people who will benefit the most will be those who have some familiarity with earlier versions of SQL Server BI because I will talk about the things you need to know to make the transition more easily and I'll point out what's most important in the new features. If you're completely new to BI, you won't have the right context.

Anyone responsible for BI architecture, solution development, or BI support would benefit from this Pre-Con if a SQL Server 2012 upgrade is on the horizon, or if you're wondering why (or if) you should bother with an upgrade. 

7.       Why is BI so important to the business world?  Do you have any stories about how BI investments help change or shape a company that you worked with (that you can tell without breaking any confidentiality agreements)?

BI is so important because there are so many questions and there is so much data, but it's not so easy for a business person to find the answer to their questions. The structure of the data that is necessary for capturing transactions just doesn't lend itself well to summarization and comparative style queries. I don't think any of my clients would say that BI revolutionized their business.

 Instead, they would say that having BI has freed up their time so that they can spend more time thinking about what to do in response to what they learn from BI rather than spending all their time trying to gather the data and piece it together to make sense of it somehow. 

8.       I’m a DBA, why would I want to learn about BI?
I know enough about DBAs to know that there are different types of DBAs, so I would say it depends... I think you need to understand enough about BI to determine which tool is right for which job and then shift the work where it will get the best performance with the hardware and BI developer resources available.

You might even be an accidental BI developer, if not now, maybe soon. There is no escape from BI! The bottom line is that the business wants data for analysis, yesterday. The easier you make that process and the faster you can deliver, the more of a hero you can be.

9.       Your presenting Data Visualization in Reporting Services during the SQL Saturday 151 event, how does this tie into the pre-con?

They're actually unrelated. My Pre-Con focuses on SQL Server 2012 whereas my Data Visualization presentation talks about what you can and should do in Reporting Services to tell the right story, and that's applicable regardless of what version of Reporting Services you're using.

That said, I will also delve a bit into spatial data visualization which is SQL Server 2008 R2 feature along with some other items that were introduced in that version, but the main theme of the session is about design techniques - good and bad.

10.   If you could give one bit of advice to someone starting out in the IT field what would it be?

Find your passion and run with it, as long as you can see how it solves a business problem. Everybody likes different aspects of technology, which is good thing else we'd all be in each other's way.

When you find what you're passionate about, you don't mind spending extra hours learning about it, whether you're getting up early or staying up late. You want to eat, breathe, and live it while everyone around you thinks you're nuts! But that passion pays off when you can use it to help others solve their problems.

The more problems you can help people solve, the more valuable you are, and the more you want to learn so that you can expand the range of problems you can solve. It's a vicious cycle!

As Always Dear Reader Thanks for stopping by and I hope to see you Tomorrow and this Saturday!



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