Monthly Archives: November 2015

Where is the line?

So you have a user that has something they absolutely need.  ABSOLUTELY need.  You, as the IT professional, know for a fact that what they are asking for, and what the actually need are two ends of the spectrum.

You have another user that has explained what they need, and you have explained what you have to have to accomplish that, and  yet when you get the end product, it’s not what you agreed that you needed.

Where do you draw the line between making your point, and just getting it done?

We’ve all been there in those situations.  You know what they’re really asking for and it’ll take you like 15 minutes to spin off a query and an extra 20 to drop a new SSRS report on the server.  The issue is that they didn’t ask for that, or they were rude, or they just didn’t get the point  you were trying to make and blew you off, or just stared at you blank faced.

Personally, I think it really depends on the individual.  When working with someone for the first time, it’s important to establish boundaries and expectations so that you can go forward with the relationship with that particular end user whether it be a co-worker or a client.  The degree of push back I deploy really depends on who is across the table from me.  If it’s someone swamped who is drowning, I tend to get them what they need quickly and save everything I’ve done because 10 times out of 10, they’ll be back asking for you to do it again, or a tweak or two.

If it’s the VP of the dept and they want it now….do it now 🙂

How do you handle it?

Being Thankful

So what are you thankful for?

  • I have a job
  • I’m in decent health
  • My wife still thinks I’m worth keeping around after 20 yrs
  • My children actually think I’m cool most of the time

There are so may times that I don’t appreciate what I have and it’s not just because it’s thanksgiving time that I’m feeling this way.  I feel truly blessed by the company I have been keep lately.  There are too many to list individually, but I wanted to especially thank the SQLFamily I have found and become part of in the last several months.

From good advice, to new follows and sources of incredible information, to a laugh when I really needed one, I am so thankful for all of you and I’m really happy that you have all come into my life.  You have inspired me to run a 5k, study for a certification exam, and even make an attempt at becoming a thought leader.  I’m taking positive steps in so many different avenues I feel like I am making the progress I’ve been attempting for so long.

I think that a support group is necessary and essential for growth, and I really feel like I have found it.  So thank you, and I hope that in some way, I can give back what I have been so graciously given.

Certifiable….?

So why get certified?   Get a new job, enhance my skillset, make me feel productive?

All of that.  I’ve been inspired by SQLFamily, ‘listening’ to what they do and experience on Twitter with all of the events and new technologies that they are into, and it’s made me want more.   Made me think that in order to be marketable, I have to have the skills, especially ones that are up to date.  I’ve had a few interviews, but the issue is that my skillset, specifically BI, is a bit stale.

So, I’m setting the date for my exam at March 1, 2016.  I know that seems like a long time, but with everything I have going on at work and the amount of overtime I’ll be doing, I’d like to stay sane…and married 🙂

First steps:

  • Talk to smart people.  CHECK!  I pinged the SQLFamily and got advice on getting started.  Most of which was websites I am going to put on another page as I go along.
  • Get the training kit, specifically in this case, the one that goes along with the exam I’m taking 70-463.
  • Look at how others approached it.  I was tweeting with Cathrine yesterday and she sent me the link to her page – http://www.cathrinewilhelmsen.net/2015/04/30/preparing-for-and-taking-exam-70-463-implementing-a-data-warehouse-with-microsoft-sql-server-2012/ which was helpful.
  • Start reading, and start practicing.
  • Stop watching NCIS 24-7.  (What a great show)
  • Remember why you’re doing it.

Okay, so I’m going to go do some reading while I save a few pennies to buy the training kit.

What to do with Zero Budget

In most of the companies I have worked for, there is a surprising lack of budget for tools that would make it easier to do business.  Getting the crowbar out to upgrade to a higher version of Visual Studio, or getting an automation tool that will allow you to test more efficiently is sometimes a huge challenge.  I’ve worked with people who have been on board with upgrades, some who didn’t see the need for it and yet expected you to milk 5 more years out of VSS or something similar.

So how do you get people to set aside budget when there isn’t any?

I’ve had some luck in prior jobs, but it’s mostly been with taking some time outside of work hours to either set up a prototype on my own, or build a proof of concept.  Curious to see what  you have found.

Some suggestions (that I am taking myself):

  • PowerBI for a dashboard replacement.  It’s free, it’s fairly easy to set up, and you can pull from multiple sources and use the PowerQuery interface to tie everything up neatly so you can show pretty cool stuff.
  • Build  your own DW.  I’m in the process of building a fairly simple Datawarehouse using SQLExpress and some data I’ve put together in excel spreadsheets.  The SQL Server Data Tools interface is a free shell of Visual Studio that allows you to use SSIS, SSRS, and SSAS.
  • Get fancy/creative with excel.  Have queries that people repeatedly ask for but no developer resource to build it for you?  Use the SQL access in excel to set stuff up.
  • Download demo versions of tools and apply them IN A TEST ENVIRONMENT.  This may sound silly, but the best place to test the capability of something is not in prod.  If you can pull it all local and have it just on your machine, even better.
  • Talk to others about how they have solved problems/inefficiencies.

I will put a warning out there for you.  Be careful of what you create and share.  I’ve had a few situations where something I’ve slapped together to show someone a problem or an efficiency gets sent to a client because the account people are excited that it becomes a solution that no one has vetted before sending.

One of the things I try to do is keep it local until someone asks for a copy, which I follow up with “What’s the plan for it” so you can talk about testing of the solution or the audience, etc.

What was your path to SQLFamily?

So how did you find your way to where you are?  Are you an accidental DBA who now loves it?  Are you the IT Director who dabbles a little, but you started as a help desk person?  Or are you a BI Developer now and were writing copy for a magazine 5 years ago?

I’m always curious as to how people get into BI and database related development.  A friend of mine was a double Major at Rice University in French and Philosophy and is now a Venture Capitalist specializing in building BI solutions.  Me?  I got my degree in accounting and decided after doing bank reconciliations for 6 months, that I would either get a new profession or move to Madagascar and open a dive shop.  (Yes, I still want to open the shop, but maybe when I retire).

I was fixing the computers in the accounting department – defragging, installing new software, showing people how to do excel macros, when I got called into the IT director’s office.  He was pissed and started firing questions at me in what I didn’t realize was actually an interview for a 2nd level tech support position in IT.  Jumped at the chance, did regular help desk, 3rd level support for a Lotus Notes networking company (I know), moved into java and vb development, dove into SQL for an analysis position, got a dev job with C# and SQL, then onto BI when I saw what SSIS and SSRS could do, until Voila, I am an IT manager.

And I’m ready to get pulled into another Directors office and told that I HAVE to go into BI 🙂  Well, not going to wait for it – i’m building a small DW with some reports that will hopefully branch out into PowerBI and other parts that could lead me back into BI Dev full time.

How did you do it, and how would you suggest to someone if they’re trying to get into SQL Dev/DBA work?

Null values in SSIS Lookup #sqlhelp

So I’m dusting off the cobwebs in an attempt to either change my position here, or sharpen up my skills to move somewhere else.  The best way to do that is by just doing it.  I thought I would put my efforts to use and possibly benefit my company so I’m putting together a small DW to build a proof of concept at work.  Still trying to do more BI than mgmt, but ‘they just keep pulling me back in’!

So I have a situation I’m faced with and I think I know how to handle, but I’m curious to see what the SQLFamily has to say.

If you use the practice of soft delete and just mark fields deleted instead of actually getting rid of them, you have rows with values in this column, and rows that don’t.  Common practice(i think) in a dw is to do a lookup to convert date values to int values against a Date Dimension.  So if you do a straight lookup at that column, it fails because it can’t compare Null to an int.

First question – Why not?  Is it because technically Null is not a value or is it because Null doesn’t exist in my DimDate?  Pretty sure it’s the latter, but I want to know for sure.

So an alternative is to change the error handling in the lookup to ignore it.  The issue there is, it ignores the record, so in this case, I’d only get all of the records that have a value present for that column.  I need them all, regardless of null or date value.

Second question – if I don’t want to fail, but I still want the record, I don’t want to redirect them do I?  I was thinking I might just redirect it to the next step along with the ones that pass, but that seemed a bit weird.

The other thing I can do is to modify the null values to either have some way off future date – 20990101, or use the Unknown value in the DimDate table and set them all to 0, either in a derived column or in the query isNull(deleteDate, 0).

Is saving a null to a datawarehouse something that should always be avoided?  I’m attempting to flesh out my total BI knowledge instead of just sticking to the presentation and cube stuff.  I’ve done a bunch of SSIS before, but it’s been a while.

If you have a resource that you can direct people to for SSIS Best Practices, or BI Stuff every moron should know, i’d appreciate it 🙂