Monthly Archives: August 2015

Lets start at the beginning – Exam 70-461

In order to do anything well, the foundations must be sound.  I teach a martial arts class and the first thing we teach is not kicking or punching, but how to stand.  How do you not only present a target, but what do you launch your attach from?  A shoddy front stance will ALWAYS make your forms look like garbage.

I thought the start of my journey would be to jump right back into things from where I was before I went into management.  One of the things I’ve noticed is that bad back end coding leads to crap visualizations or at least make you jump through hoop upon hoop to get it to the way you want it, and then once  you get that change in, you stand back slowly from it and hope it doesn’t explode.

I can write SQL.  I can write stored procs and triggers when I have to.  I’m good, but I’m not solid.  So after talking with a few smart people, I’ve decided to put some effort into studying and preparing for the SQL 461 exam.  I’d like to eventually move to the BI exam, but that’s too much to bite off right now and that kind of move usually spirals me back into World of Warcraft marathons.

I’m going to look for practice tests and other things online, but are there any things that you wish you’d done before hand or during your studying or right before the exam that I can take into this?

ADD – a post about things that I find……squirrel!

My brain has always been a bit of the bouncy type.  I look at new stuff for a while, then bounce to the next thing, then the next, never quite managing to finish anything.  I have always wanted to write a story, but I have never managed to get past the initial idea stage and complete one good story.  Same thing goes with work.  I have a tendency to really not focus as well as I should, and now that I have a team reporting to me, it’s even harder.

I started seeing a therapist recently and started describing some of my frustration and problems, and we quickly narrowed it down to the possibility of having undiagnosed ADD.  Not that I want to label everything, but it’s nice to see that a lot of my self-esteem issues, problems with taking constructive criticism, never finishing things are all symptoms that can be addressed.

No, I don’t think I’ll become the next millionaire now that I know what’s causing some of the problems or that I’m going to automatically going to take something for it, but it’s definitely nice to see that it isn’t just motivation or things along those lines.  Take this account for instance.

I’ve been trying to break back into BI for a while.  I got a new job a few years ago that took me into a senior analyst position, and now I manage a development team, but every 9-12 months like clockwork, I’ll log into my twitter account and start asking everyone how I can be successful, and try to get advice on everything.

Knowing is half the battle – self knowledge is priceless.  Just knowing that there is an obstacle I have to deal with is helping me keep the momentum on what I want – I want to work with data.  How and what and why can happen later, but I have been putting together plans and small pieces have already begun to fall back int place.  I built a small SSIS job that doesn’t do much, but it’s dusting off my skills.  I’ve started playing with PowerBI because it’s taking me down the Self Service BI road I’ve wanted to go.  I’m going to be looking at it more as well as alternatives in the near future and posting things about how my Red Sox data set works with different front ends.

Anyway, so the point of my post is really to write about what I’m doing and what I’m thinking.  I’ll be putting together a more strict schedule for things because I read and have heard that it’s essential for people who can’t organize.  This helped me just write about it, I hope it can help someone else who might be in a similar situation.

Who is this guy?

While trying to move back from mgmt to dev, I don’t want all of my posts to be about SQL stuff.  I’m also a sushi enthusiast.  Yeah, all of the japanese stuff on my twitter feed wasn’t a giveaway, right?

A few years ago my wife and daughter gave me a starter sushi set so my (then) 10 yr old and I could make sushi.  After experimenting and lots of failing, I’ve gotten to the point where I can make about 10-15 rolls in about an hour and a half.

Few suggestions if you get started:

  • be patient and learn from mistakes
  • don’t be afraid of mistakes
  • have a really sharp knife
  • be careful with said knife – 3 trips to the emergency room and 10 stitches in total
  • get diagnosed with ADD beFORE you start playing with said sharp knife
  • have fun!

Pics from my latest venture…

IMG_20150822_201528668IMG_20150822_201542697IMG_20150822_203514999 IMG_20150822_203522961

So where to start? Dashboards, graphs, and charts OH MY!

I’m trying to break back into development, so I’m going to blog about how and what I’m doing to make it happen.  I’ve been mulling around what will be my first step and I kept coming back to familiar territory – how to display data for large and small data sets.  One of the things I was always looking for was how to do it for as little investment as possible.  $ and Time that is.   I usually had trouble convincing my superiors to make the investment, so I never had much budget.  I did get lucky with one open minded company who was willing to see the vision, and from what I’ve heard, it’s still doing well for them to this day.

Please take this all as the musings of a beginner, so if I’m wrong, please forgive me:)  This is also my experience of about 5-7 years ago.  I want to find ways to

One of the things I noticed on my first venture into this space was that there are a lot of ways to display your data.  SSRS is a good cheap start, can connect to transactional and warehouse systems, learning curve isn’t too bad and is easily transferable to other systems.  Data set up doesn’t have to be there since you can write SQL to point right at your database so the initial set up is small.

Performance Point was a good alternative, but it took a lot of server setup and if you can’t afford Sharepoint, forget it.  One of the things I noticed though, was that the visuals weren’t great.  Grid’s looked fabulous, but the gauges – which was what everyone we were setting up the dashboard for was looking for.

Dundas came along at a good time for us because we already had the SSIS and SSAS setup done, so all we really needed to do was point at the cube, and play around with the dashboards to configure them correctly.  Very pretty, but had some difficulty because (at the time) Dundas was really more geared towards importing data rather than looking at a cube.

As I start getting back into things, I’m going to relook at all of these again, plus I’m going to check out PowerBI for my first post since I was playing around with it the other day.  I liked it, but it seems to have the same notion in common, you have to know how to set up the data or at least have some notion of WHAT data you need so you can slice and dice things the way you want.

Goal: to understand how things work under the cover, how to get data ‘ready’, and to figure out a way for companies to deliver the most with the least $ investment.

techie must haves

There are certain things  you can get for free, and certain things you can pay for.  One of the things I would like to pay for at some point, is Akismet, but in my fledgling state, the fact I have a kid starting college in 6 days (how is that possible), and I can barely afford other things, right now this isn’t something I can contribute to, though I really want to.

I’ve done several other things over the years when I could – I am a screenshot junkie, so when I found a tool I really liked – GreenShot – I dropped them 20$ or so.

So what do you have that you use on a regular basis that you would not be able to live without?  So far, I’m digging Tweetdeck, and Irfanview, and though I am using Trillian, I’m not super married to that as a group chat (suggestions?)

I have SQL Management Studio and Visual Studio (SSDT), and I do use TeamViewer to not only log into my home computer to do stuff, but also to help out parents, inlaws, friends and other relations without having to resort to “What do you see on your screen”.

What do you have that you couldn’t live without?

BI Shiny stuff

So in my quest to take over the world, I thought I’d start looking at the stuff I had fun with a few years ago – dashboards.  We built something from scratch that had Performance Point dashboards on top, but the lack of flash wasn’t received well.

So I started looking at tools like Tableau, Qlikview, and Dundas.  Playing around with all of that stuff was a lot of fun and something I would like to start taking a look at.  In fact, it’s what i’m going to focus my efforts on – how to get something started that is flashy enough to impress, solid enough to give ROI, and yet doesn’t have a huge price point attached.

Think of it.  How many of us can say we have budget to invest in stuff like this?  For the most part, companies don’t want to invest much into dev, at least most of the companies I have worked for.  I got a lucky opportunity at my previous job to start from the ground up and like all BI projects, had serious ups and downs.  Those are the things that taught me the most actually, but I was nervous about the deliverable.

So here’s my question – how can you put together a decent solution that will add value to your operations but not have a huge initial investment?  I’m going to look at various technologies and approaches and see if I can come up with the ultimate low cost, high benefit solution that won’t involve me spending the money I save on classes or training to get it done.

New Home

Thought about it for a few days, realized I was actually posting and have a plan for getting started in place and I’m still interested, I registered for the domain and moved the site to my site here where I can host it and generate stats and get traffic here.

Why not.  If I’m serious, it’s worth it 🙂

Planning instead of running into brick walls

Yeah, I’m not good at it.  Maybe that’s why I’m a manager…:)

I go through these periods of schpilkas (Ants in the pants), where I have to do something new.  My wife is convinced that it happens in May of every other year, so this is my 3rd episode of minor midlife crisis, boredom, whatever you want to call it.  I get antsy, I try out some stuff, play with other things, and eventually wind down by Aug/Sep to a general sense of defeat followed by several months of hard core Warcraft  until ski season starts and I’m distracted by that.  (anyone live near Mont Tremblant btw?)

So, armed with some self knowledge of past disappointments, and lots of energy, I started trying to progress again.  I dusted off my twitter account, took an old server and upgraded it with tools and memory, and started running a million miles an hour in as many directions expecting someone to just pay me a million dollars for being such a great person.

Took stock after a week, and started setting goals.  Create a blog, get an idea for a small project to work on to get back into SSIS, start reading and blogging again, even if it was just to write.  In the span of a week, I’ve been interacting more on Twitter, given advice by some really smart people, and have a better feeling of how to get ‘there’ wherever there is.

First break through was a concept I found on SQL Hammer‘s site about an Epic Life Quest he had seen on the site of Brent Ozar who had gotten it from Nerd Fitness.  Seems like a really cool place to start, and has the added benefit of tracking cool stuff and big milestones and allows me to see some progress.

The next big pivot was conversing back and forth with Brent Ozar, a guy I am more in awe of with each post I read.  He recommended a post he put together as a starting point for me.  I’m a mid 40s manager with a wife two kids (one starting college next week) and a mortgage, so my free time is limited, I was stuck trying to figure out what to look at first or what to dive into tech wise.  I had mentioned my pie in the sky ultimate job would be to speak and teach, we boiled it down to a simple question: since I want to eventually speak at conferences and seminars, what would I say to get people into the room and interested in my session?

I took some time and eliminated things I know I wouldn’t be interested in – hardware, networking, backups, etc, and focused on the stuff I enjoyed when I was doing BI dev fulltime – the display part of BI – working with Dundas and PerfPoint Dashboards, and getting the things ready for that part.

So I have a focus for my blog, and it looks like the beginning of a path, and the notes to begin my seminar.  We’ll see how it goes.

Getting started – Step 1

Here’s my take on getting started in the SQL community.  Start posting, start tweeting, start reading…. JUST START DOING SOMETHING.

I looked back at the  history on my twitter feed, and my wife is right.  Sometime around May of the last 3-4 years since I’ve moved into management, I get an itch to do dev.  It’s my midlife crisis back again – I’m not feeling creative, I’m not doing what I love doing.  Problem is, i’ve really got no idea what I love to do, except I do know I love helping people.  I start doing some reading, kicked open an old CPU I had at home, threw in some memory and got it moving with SQL and Visual Studio.

I just came across a process at work that can easily and more cleanly be done using SSIS – found my first project.  I think the difference this time is I have a bit more of a plan.  I found, thanks to SQLHammer, that planning my master plan can be like a game – see my Epic Plan link, but it really made me realize that past failures were really mostly due to poor planning, not enough work and a bit too little patience.

I’ve also come to realize, and yes I know it’s early yet, that I really love writing and interacting with people.  There are some really funny people in the SQL community, and hopefully I am not coming off too much as the new kid trying to shoulder his way into the cool crowd 🙂

So if you’re reading this, and you’ve been thinking about making a change, nothing is stopping you but you.  There are free or trial versions of just about everything.  Hopefully sometime soon, I will be able to be blogging about all of this from some conference that paid for me to fly in and speak.  And if that just happens to be in Hawaii, I can scratch two things off my list.

To certify, or not to certify, that is my question

Welcome to the beginning of my journey.  I’m going to be blogging about how a manager can successfully get back into development without selling his house and doing consulting on a street corner 🙂

To that end, I’m working on my Epic Plan for Success, which has many parts.  The SQL part is what i’m focusing on right now, and I’m trying to figure out where to start.  I’ve been right here many times in the past, and am coming to realize that I always try to run before I know which way I should be going to help me get to my goal.

Goal – to be a SQL architect, travelling around speaking at seminars and helping people to make their systems not only run faster, but smarter.

I have a long road to get there, but I want to start simple.  I have a small SSIS project I’m working on to scrape off the dust in my brain on stuff I have done in the past, but I was thinking that going the certification route would be good – well rounded, regimented, and marketable.

I have done SSIS and SSRS for about 5-10 years, not much in the last 2 since I was promoted to manager.  I scratched the surface of SSAS and really enjoyed working with cubes and Dundas dashboards, but I think that’s too much of a leap.  I’m pretty good about RTM and Googling things myself, but I’m looking for some advice on direction for the certification part, if that’s even a good idea.

Should I start with a general MTA certification or just right to the MCSE for SQL 2012 instead?  i’m thinking the latter, but I honestly don’t know.

Any advice would be appreciated.