Showing posts with label BI. Show all posts
Showing posts with label BI. Show all posts

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!



Thursday, August 16, 2012

SQL Saturday 151 BI Pre-con: Stacia Misner

Hello Dear Reader, SQL Saturday 151 Orlando is picking up steam.  The Pre-Con’s have been named and they are fantastic.  SQL Saturday Orlando is always a big event, the schedule has been posted, and the planning is well underway.  First stop the BI Pre-Con Featuring Stacia Misner(@StaciaMisner|Blog) taking place at the beautiful Lake Mary Hyatt Place hotel.

“So Balls,” you say, “Who is Stacia and why should I attend?”

Great question Dear Reader, I work with a lot of really great people in the BI world, even though that area is not my forte, and everyone agrees Stacia is one of the TOP BI experts in the world.  She is one of the instructors for the Microsoft SSAS Maestro Program.  Stacia has been the author of over 12 different books on the subject of SQL Server.  

Her most recent is Introducing SQL Server 2012, available as a free PDF download click here to get it!  I first met Stacia at SQL Saturday #62 back in Tampa in 2011.  She had also written the book introducing SQL Server 2008 R2 and I had some questions about Master Data Services.  I was trying to figure out if Master Data Services in the 2008 R2 release was right for a project I was working on.  I asked her if I could get her advice and she was polite, candid, and very helpful.  Now it is your chance to get to meet Stacia.

A 360-Degree View of SQL Server 2012 Business Intelligence

One of the greatest things about SQL Saturdays is that the top SQL speakers and consultants will offer their training services for an unbelievable deal.  Stacia has taught BI Immersion Courses, Pre-Cons, and spoken at seminars that cost thousands of dollars to attend. You can attend her SQL Saturday session, and get one on one time with this expert, for just $99.   So now let’s look at the plan for the day.

In this session, we’ll take a holistic look at the BI features in the latest version of SQL Server by reviewing the architecture requirements, exploring the implications for existing BI applications, and introducing new capabilities that support the transformation of data into business insight. We'll start with data integration and management by reviewing the overhaul that Integration Services received in this release, how to formalize the data cleansing process by using the new Data Quality Services, and how master data management is improved with the updates to Master Data Services. Then we'll discuss the improvements to analytical capabilities by exploring updates to Analysis Services, including the new Tabular Model, and enhancements available in PowerPivot. Last, we'll cover the new presentation layer options available in Reporting Services and the new release of Power View. Of course, you’ll see demonstrations of the new features, but the primary purpose of this session is to give you a chance to ask lots of questions and to get a look “under the hood” to better understand what you’ll need to do to get these BI features up and running properly. You’ll also learn how to prepare your data environment to leverage these features and how best to manage the user experience.

If you are in a BI shop, or are looking to expand your career and get more in-depth in the BI field this is a great training opportunity.  Click here to sign up for the pre-con.  Click here to register for SQL Saturday 151 if you haven’t already.  I hope to see you there!  As always Thanks for stopping by!



Wednesday, May 11, 2011

SQL Rally: Pre Con Business Intelligence Workshop BI END to END

Hello and Greetings from SQL Rally in Sunny Orlando FL!  

Today was the day of Pre-Con’s, four different tracks to choose from and I went with the Business Intelligence Track.  All of the other track’s had One presenter, heck every pre-con I’ve ever been to has had One presenter, but not today.

Today was an end to end presentation covering SSIS, SSAS, SSRS, Powerpivot, Sharepoint, and Performance Point.  Something that big requires not One, not Two, no Dear Reader not even Three, but Four Presenters.

Mike Davis (@MikeDavisSQL), SQL MVP Patrick Leblanc (@PatrickDBA), Devin Knight (@Knight_Devin), and the Big Man Himself, The Sultan of SSAS, The Conqueror of Cubes, SQL BI MVP Adam Jorgensen (@Adam_Jorgensen) delivered a presentation that was large in scope and in delivery.  All of the presenters work for Pragmatic Works, all are published authors, and all will be speaking during the main SQL Rally event.

Pragmatic Works is a company that offers Consulting, SQL Products, and Training.  They are very active in the SQL Community.  If you’ve ever been to a SQL Saturday then you have probably had the opportunity to hear one of them Speak.  If you have visited or posted a BI question on BIDN you have probably had one of them assist you in some way.  They are good and gracious people and it has been a pleasure interacting with them in the past, and seeing them again today.

So with my buddy Gareth Swanepoel (@GarethSwan) showing the way to the Coffee, the experts were in place and we were Ready to Roll!


I thought it was very cool and original to have a rotating staff during a full day Pre-con, it kept it very fresh and lively, and as an audience member keep lulls from occurring.    Patrick started out the day by introducing himself and the other members of his team.  They quickly moved into a format where one person would be presenting and another would be up front as a co-presenter as well. 

Devon quickly briefed us on the concepts and terminology that we would be using for the remainder of the work shop.  We needed to know the fundamentals:

 Fact Tables -which will be the center of our BI “Data Model”, but as a rule should contain columns that you can aggregate.

 Dimensions Tables- the support tables that will provide information that we would use to sort or filter data by.  Think of the information in Dimension tables similar to the data you would use in a Where clause in T-SQL.

Surrogate Keys – These are keys without a natural identifier.  Think of using and Integer Identity Column in SQL.  But the usage in BI is important on two fronts, not only will they be used as an identifier but to insulate us, the users, from source data changes in Natural Keys.

Before the day was over we would covered Type 0, Type 1, and Type 2 Dimensions, Attributes, Members, Hierarchies, and Role Playing Dimensions.    We looked at Star Schemas and discussed the what makes a Snow Flake Schema, a BI Server in a VERY COLD room.

After an introduction we moved to SSIS and spent the next several hours there.  We reviewed the many ways we could use SSIS, and in some cases SSIS & T-SQL, for Extract, Transform, and Load.  Configuring SSIS packages for migration through environments, storage of packages MSDB vs. File System, and deployment of packages took almost the remainder of the morning.


When you start talking about loading millions or billions of rows of data into a data warehouse every night, as a DBA I get nervous.  We all know the overhead that BCPing Data out of and into systems can have.  The overhead of disabling and rebuilding indexes, the ETL involved, Latches, Locks, and Blocks OH MY!  Part of you wants to say there has to be a better way, how do we find the data that has changed and migrate only that?
Change Data Capture was the way home.  Patrick had code and demo’s that I’m really looking forward to diving through and testing out.  This was a concept that really clicked, and it was one that I had not considered before.  Using the Log Sequencing Number, and tracking the columns that we need to capture (AND ONLY THOSE COLUMNS), we can minimize the overhead required to load data into a data warehouse.


Lunch was a great bag lunch with gourmet sandwiches, chips, water, apple, and a very delicious chocolate chip cookie.  Tasty and delicious, but the best part was the company I walked around and had great conversations with Jack Corbett (@unclebigguns), Kendal Van Dyke (@SQLDBA), Andy Warren (@SQLAndy), met Grant Fritchey (@Gfrichey), and finally sat down and enjoyed the warm Florida sunshine with my cohort Dan Taylor (@DBABulldog) and Stacia Misner (@StaciaMisner).  The SQL Community is a tight one, and every time I get together with people it seems like we pick up the conversation right where it left off.


Adam was up next to discuss SSAS.  He tied together concepts to show us how the regular SQL Engine & the SSAS Engine were similar and different all at the same time.  How integers are more efficient in queries, which is why in a Date Dimension the SK should be an INT instead of a date time value, regardless of the fact that small date time and INT are both 4 bytes;  How XMLA is to DDL as MDX is to DML, and the drawbacks of calculated measures vs. Transparent Aggregation were all on the table.

He blew the audience away with the Usage Based Optimization wizard, which literally is a wizard that based off of Internal Usage Statistics can be used to tune SSAS at a granular user level.  He briefly touched on partitioning strategies, MOLAP, HOLAP, ROLAP, and when you would and should see each.


Mike did a great job of taking us through Sharepoint, demonstrating many of the configuration options, SSRS, Performance Point Reporting, and looking at the dynamic built in nature of SSRS 2008 R2 when it has the power of a data cube behind it.


Needless to say these guys are some of the top professionals in the world when it comes to BI, and it was fun to watch them work.   

The crowd was very responsive and if you can’t tell I enjoyed it immensely.

This was 7 hours of training, 1 hour of lunch, and 7 pages of notes.  Let me say that one more time 7 PAGES OF NOTES!  No matter what I’ve written I couldn’t do justice to the information provided!

I’ve only touched on the highlights of the topics Dear Reader, if you’re interested in more I’d encourage you to go to the Pragmatic Works website and watch some of the free video’s they have up for training.  They offer free webinars monthly on a variety of topics, and head over to the SQL Lunch website as well of which Patrick is the founder.

Now I’m off to bed, so I can be up and ready for tomorrow, SQL Rally Day 1!



Monday, May 9, 2011

SQL Rally: Business Intelligence Workshop

Just TWO DAYS until the start of SQL Rally!  I’m going to the Business Intelligence Workshop Pre-Con as my first stop.  I’m as excited as a kid on the 1st day of school!

“Balls”, you say, “Why BI?  Aren’t you a DBA?”

Excellent question Dear Reader.

I’m working on my MCITP: 2008 DBA Certifications and after that I’ll begin work on the DBA developer Certifications.  My goal, for the end of this year, is to have all the pre-qualifications to go for the MCM sometime next year.  So where does BI fit in?


Yep I’m a DBA, and it used to be we weren’t so compartmentalized.  It used to be if you were a DBA you were the Developer, the Administrator, and the BI person (and I would bet in some smaller shops that dichotomy probably still exists).  A database, was a database, was a database and that’s all there was to it.  But as the technology has advanced so has the set of skills required to do each job.

I’d like to say I couldn’t Cube my way out of a paper bag.  But this won’t be my first go round with SSAS.  Back in 2008 I had started studying to get my BI certifications for 2005, but life has a way of guiding you and BI was not a place I was supposed to dedicate my focus back then.  I understand the concepts at a 5,000 foot level, but as for applying them I need some work.

So Why BI?  Because our data can tell us a lot of things, and while storing it, maintaining it, and protecting it is important understanding what it can tell us is important as well.  Our data can help us understand trends, patterns, and answers to questions that we might not know existed.  You probably use metrics from your servers to analyze your performance (tracking and trending) .  Well this is doing it with your business data.


The guys over at Pragmatic Works are the top dogs when it comes to Business Intelligence, and the Pre-Con for SQL Rally get’s you training from not One, not Two, not Three, but FOUR of the top guys in the field today.

Go over to Kendal Van Dyke’s blog  Meet the SQL Rally Pre-Con Presenter’s and read about them, l .  Patrick LeBlanc, Devin Knight, Adam Jorgensen, and Mike Davis are all at the top of this game. 

This is an area where I really want to expand my knowledge and I can’t wait to attend.  I’ll blog about this more in depth on Wednesday night as part of my SQL Rally Day by Day Series. 

I can’t wait get started!  Bring on Wednesday!