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!



Monday, August 20, 2012

Please VOTE for Me: PASS Summit 2012 Lightening Talks
Hello Dear Reader the PASS Summit is approaching and with that the program committee sent out a request for Lightening Talk Submissions.  Last year I was able to give a lightening talk, 24 a 5 minute Horror Story, about one of my worst on call shifts ever that unfolded during a 24 straight hours.  It involved the wrong RAID Drive being pulled, having to rebuild transaction logs, Master going nuclear and having to rebuild the system tables and restore from backup, and finishing off with a little DBA Prayer called “Please God let DBCC CHECKDB run clean so I can get to sleep….”.  It was fun and I tried to do it with as much humor as I could given the situation.

This year the Lightening Talks have been extended to 10 minutes, and I’ve submitted another that is now up for community vote. 

“So Balls,” you say, “What are you presenting on?”

A very important topic Dear Reader and it is all about how to be a better DBA.  We all will go to the Summit and spend hundreds and in most cases thousands of dollars to attend.  What about the time in between?  

Once a year we have the largest get together in the World of SQL Server professionals.  After you go home how do you keep up with it?  Knowing where to look is the first step.  There are many many organizations that work tirelessly to keep the spirit of the Summit alive until we meet again, and you can get it without breaking the budget.  My topic is Get Top Notch Training for Free or Next to Nothing.


Top Notch, You've said it all.

  The greatest thing about Microsoft SQL Server is the SQL Server Community.  I would use it as a major selling point if I were a Microsoft Rep.  

Save thousands of dollars, yep.  Get features included with Enterprise Edition that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars with other vendors, check.  Has a community of millions of users who bust their butt’s regularly to give free training, documentation, assistance, and put on over 100 free training clinics in 2012 alone, Check.   

I admit I am biased here.  Most technologies have a gathering and professionals that go out of their way to help others.  You would be hard pressed to find one as grand in scale and scope as the SQL Server Community.  Without further ado here’s my Abstract:

The greatest thing about SQL Server is its Community. This is always spotlighted at the Summit, but throughout the year there is Free Training offered by Top SQL Minds, MVP's, and MCM's alike. Learn about Webinars, User Group Meetings, and SQL Saturdays and how to keep your SQL Learning going all year long.

There’s a lot to be gained by going to the big conferences, but if you’re in a shop where the budget isn’t there you don’t have to miss out.  My company Pragmatic Works has free training on the T’s (Tuesday and Thursday’s), SQL Skills has their Insider video’s, The Brent Ozar PLF has weekly webinars, Idera has the Ace program, and you name it (and sorry to anyone I left out) we've got it!

Not to mention the PASS Virtual ChaptersDBA, DBA Fundamentals, Performance, PowerShell, Big Data, Business Intelligence, and more!  Want a preview of the great content you will get at the PASS Summit 2012 look no further than the 24 Hours of PASS, once again completely free.

Want to be able to reach people in person and network?  Maybe you should attend a SQL Saturday, check out SQL Saturday 151coming up in Orlando Saturday September 29th, where the same people and many of the same presentations given around the globe are brought to the local community.  

Want community more than once or twice a year?  Check out your Local SQL Server User Group to the uninitiated), where you meet the DBA’s that make up your local community, once again absolutely free.

Many conferences will give you a chance to get training that may not make it out to any of these channels (the Microsoft PSS team the CAT team and other Microsoft guru's), and I would argue that they are still very important and valuable reasons to attend.

However, knowing where to look when those conferences are gone and just a memory and notes on a page is priceless.  So this will be my presentation.  It will be chock full of links to resources, how to find information, what sites to go through (I still haven't mentioned forums!).  Better yet being a lightening talk we'll have some people in the room that may be able to contribute more as well!



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!