The Unplanned Career

If you’ve worked in tech for 25 years, you’ve seen some stuff, and you’ve learned a lesson or two. On October 1st, I presented a new session at Data Saturday Atlanta, sharing the story of my unplanned career, and some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way. This was the first time I presented this very personal session; and I’m incredibly grateful for the full crowd that attended, and for their feedback after the session.

My primary goal for the session is to show that you don’t need a computer science degree to build a successful career in tech – and that our industry needs more people from more non-traditional backgrounds.

My secondary goal for the session is to share some of the sharp edges that are typically hidden when people talk about their careers. Everyone wants to share their highlights, but sharing your own pain and failures is harder. This is important, because too often we’re each comparing our own blooper reel against everyone else’s highlights… and nothing good comes from that.

The Data Saturday event was in-person only[1], but I’d had a bunch of people mention they wanted to attend, but couldn’t make it to Atlanta. So…I packed a camera and microphone and recorded the video on my own.

If you weren’t able to attend, please check out the recording, and please let me know what you think!


[1] Please understand that there is no criticism implied here. Organizing a hybrid event is significantly more difficult than organizing an in-person or online-only event, and focusing on in-person community produced wonderful results.

Coming to the PASS Data Community Summit in November: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Adopting Power BI in Your Organization

At the 2022 PASS Community Data Summit this November, I’m thrilled to be co-presenting a full-day pre-conference session with the one and only Melissa Coates [blog | Twitter | LinkedIn]. We’ll be presenting our all-day session live and in-person in Seattle on Tuesday,  November 15, 2022.

What’s the Session?

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Adopting Power BI in Your Organization

What’s the Session About?

The Power BI Adoption Roadmap is a collection of best practices and suggestions for getting more value from your data and your investment in Power BI. The Power BI Adoption Roadmap is freely available to everyone — but not everyone is really ready to start their journey without a guide. Melissa and I will be your guides…while you’re hitchhiking…on the road…to reach the right destination…using the roadmap. (You get it now, right?!?)

We’ll do an end-to-end tour of the Power BI Adoption Roadmap. During the session we’ll certainly talk about all of the key areas (like data culture, executive sponsorship, content ownership and management, content delivery scope, center of excellence, mentoring and user enablement, community of practice, user support, data governance, and system oversight).

Smart Power BI architecture decisions are important – but there’s so much more to a successful Power BI implementation than just the tools and technology. It’s the non-technical barriers, related to people and processes, that are often the most challenging. Self-service BI also presents constant challenges related to balancing control and oversight with freedom and flexibility. Implementing Power BI is a journey, and it takes time. Our goal is to give you plenty of ideas for how you can get more value from your data by using Power BI in the best ways.

We promise this won’t be a boring day merely regurgitating what you can read online. We’ll share lessons learned from customers, what works, what to watch out for, and why. There will be ample opportunity for Q&A, so you can get your questions answered and hear what challenges that other organizations are facing. This will be a highly informative and enjoyable day for you to attend either in-person or virtually.

Who is the Target Audience?

To get the most from this pre-conference session: You need to be familiar with the Power BI Adoption Roadmap and the Power BI Implementation Planning guidance. You should have professional experience working with Power BI (or other modern self-service BI tools), preferably at a scope larger than a specific team. Although deep technical knowledge about Power BI itself isn’t required, but the more you know about Power BI and its use, the more you’ll walk away with from this session.

We hope to see you there! More details and to register: link to the PASS Data Community web site.

Who wrote this blog post?

It was Melissa.

She wrote it and emailed it to me and I shamelessly[1] stole it, which may be why there haven’t been any footnotes[2]. I even stole the banner image[3].


[1] With her permission, of course.
[2] Until these ones.
[3] Yes, Jeff. Stealing from Melissa is a Principal-level behavior.

Join me in London for SQLBits – March 8 through March 12

In less than two months I’ll be making my first work trip in over two years, flying to London to present, meet with customers, and learn exciting things at the 2022 SQLBits conference. If you can, you should register today and join me.

Here’s what I expect my week to look like:

  • Wednesday March 9, 09:00 to 17:00: I’ll be back on stage for The Day After Dashboard in a Day pre-conference learning day, co-presenting with Patrick LeBlanc, Alex Powers, and Lars Andersen.
  • Thursday March 10, 14:10 to 15:00: I’ll be joining SQLBits organizer and MVP Simon Sabin for the Maximising everyone’s super powers panel discussion on mental health.
  • Thursday March 10, 18:15 to 19:05: Prathy K from the London Power BI User Group has organized an evening “ask me anything” open Q&A session with a bunch of folks from the Power BI CAT team, which sounds like a perfect way to end the day. You can register for this evening meetup here.
  • Friday March 11, 13:40 to 14:00: I finally get to present on Roche’s Maxim of Data Transformation for a live, in-person audience, and I get 20 minutes to do it!
  • Friday March 11, 14:10 to 15:00: The BI Power Hour returns after a two-year pandemic hiatus, guaranteeing laughs and excitement[1] in a demo- and joke-filled exploration of how not to use Microsoft data technologies in the workplace. I’ll be joined by an international star-studded cast from the Power BI CAT team and the Microsoft data community, and I expect this session to be the can’t miss event of the decade.[2]
  • Saturday March 12, 08:00 to 08:50: I kick off the final day of the conference with Unleashing your personal superpower, an honest and sometimes-painful look at how to succeed in tech, despite your brain’s best efforts to stop you. I’m very excited to have this important session scheduled on the free-to-the-public day of the conference.

When I’m not on stage, I’m hoping to spend as much time as possible at the Microsoft product booth and the community zone. Conferences like SQLBits are an opportunity to have interesting conversations that can be an awkward fit for virtual channels, and I plan to get the most from my week as possible.

Update February 10: I’m planning to be in the community zone on Thursday afternoon immediately following the mental health panel discussion so we can keep that conversation going. I’m also planning to be back on Friday morning at 10:10 to talk about non-traditional career paths. If either of these conversations sounds interesting to you, you should plan on joining me.

Update February 12: My Saturday session has been moved from the end of the day to the beginning of the day. With this change, I can now have more time to hang out in the community zone on Saturday to continue the discussion.

If you’re in the London area – or if you can get there – and if attending an in-person event matches your personal risk profile, I hope you’ll register today and come say hi during the event. I’ll be the purple-haired guy with the mask on.

If you can’t come to London, I hope you’ll still register and attend. Most sessions are hybrid with virtual attendees welcome and included.


[1] Not guaranteeing that you will laugh or be excited. I’m just thinking about me here.

[2] Thinking back on the decade in question, this isn’t as high a bar as it might otherwise seem.

Webcast: Unleashing Your Personal Superpower

Last week I delivered a presentation for the Data Platform Women In Tech‘s Mental Health and Wellness Day event.

The recording for my “Unleashing Your Personal Superpower” session is now online:

I hope you’ll watch the recording[1], but here’s a summary just in case:

  • Growth often results from challenge
  • Mental health issues like anxiety and depression present real challenges that can produce “superpowers” – skills that most people don’t have, and which can grow from the day-to-day experience of living with constant challenge
  • Recognizing and using these “superpowers” isn’t always easy – you need to be honest with yourself and the people around you, which in turn depends on being in a place of trust and safety to do so

In the presentation I mainly use an X-Men metaphor, and suggest that my personal superpowers are:

  1. Fear: Most social interactions[2] are deeply stressful for me, so to compensate I over-prepare and take effective notes for things I need to remember or actions I need to take
  2. Confusion: I don’t really understand how other people’s brains work, or the relationship between my actions and their reactions – to compensate I have developed techniques for effective written and verbal communication to eliminate ambiguity and drive clarity
  3. Chaos: My mind is made of chaos[3], which causes all sorts of challenges – to compensate I have developed a “process reflex” to understand complex problems and implement processes to address or mitigate them

I wrap up the session with a quick mention of the little-known years before Superman joined the Justice League, which he spent as a Kryptonite delivery guy, and absolutely hated his life. Once he found a team where he could use his strengths and not need to always fight to overcome his weaknesses, he was much happier and effective.

In related news, if I could only get these Swedes to return my calls, I’m thinking of forming a new superhero team…


[1] And the rest of the session recordings, because it was a great event.

[2] Think “work meetings” for starters and “work social events” for an absolute horror show.

[3] I have a draft blog post from two years ago that tries to express this, but I doubt I will ever actually finish and publish it…

T-Minus One Week Until MBAS 2021!

The 2021 Microsoft Business Applications Summit (MBAS) starts next week on Tuesday May 4th.[1] This year MBAS is a free online event, so if you’re not already registered please register right now – this blog post can wait.

Ok, now that you’re registered, let me tell you why I’m so excited about MBAS this year. The main reason for my excitement is these featured sessions:

Power BI (Peek into the future Part 1): Vision & Roadmap

Power BI (Peek into the future Part 2): Analytics for everyone

Power BI Announcement

The first two “peek into the future” sessions are all about the Power BI roadmap – how Power BI has grown, and how it will continue to grow in the months ahead.

The final “announcement” session… we’re not talking about yet. The session page says “We have a new feature launching that we can’t wait to tell you about” but we are going to have to wait until we get approval to publicly discuss this important new capability. I shouldn’t say any more, but this feels like A Big Deal™.

The next reason I’m so excited is because of the 12 or so “Real-world stories with Power BI” sessions you’ll find in the full Power BI session list. These sessions are led by my amazing teammate Lauren, who is working with Power BI customer organizations around the world to help showcase their successes, and the awesome work their teams have done using Power BI, Azure, and Microsoft 365.

Even though the “big news from Microsoft” sessions get most of the excitement at Microsoft conferences, these “what real customers are doing in the real world” sessions are the hidden gems of MBAS.

These sessions are an amazing opportunity to look behind the scenes of other organizations to see how they’re solving problems – what tools they use, how they use them, how they structure their teams, how they scope and deliver and evolve their solutions. This type of “strategic story” can be incredibly valuable for decision makers, architects, and other senior technical stakeholders, and represent the type of insights that are often difficult to obtain unless you have personal connections with peers inside those other organizations.

No matter what excites you the most, please register for MBAS today, and please spread the word!


[1] Please pause for a moment to appreciate the effort I’ve taken to keep this post free of Star Wars references. You’re welcome.

Upcoming webcast: Unleashing your personal superpower

This damned pandemic[1] has been getting the best of me, but Talking About Mental Health is Important, and it’s more important now than ever. So when I learned that the Data Platform Women in Tech user group was hosting a free day-long online event focused on mental health and wellness, I knew I wanted to participate.

Today I am excited to announce that I will be presenting on “Unleashing your personal superpower” on Friday May 7th:

Building a successful career in tech is hard. Every day is a battle, and sometimes the barriers placed in your way seem insurmountable. Wouldn’t it all be easier if you had a superpower?

Maybe you do.

Greta Thunberg famously described her Asperger’s syndrome diagnosis as being a superpower: “I’m sometimes a bit different from the norm. And – given the right circumstances- being different is a superpower.” We can all learn something from Greta.

In this informal session, Microsoft program manager Matthew Roche will share his personal story – including the hard, painful parts he doesn’t usually talk about. Matthew will share his struggles with mental health, how he found his own superpower, how he tries to use it to make the world a better place… and how you might be able to do the same.

Please join the session, and join the conversation, because talking about mental health is important, and because the first step to finding your superpower is knowing where to look.

You can learn more about the event here, and you can sign up here.

I hope you’ll join me!


[1] Of course it’s more than just the damned pandemic, but when I first typed “this year” I realized this year has been going on for decades now, and I figured I would just roll with it because finding the perfect phrase wasn’t really important to the webcast announcement and anyway I expect things will probably suck indefinitely and isn’t this what run-on sentences in footnotes are for, anyway?

Data Culture Presentation Resources

On Thursday, December 10th I joined the Glasgow Data User Group for their December festivities. Please don’t tell anyone[1] but I’ll be bringing the gift of data culture!

The session recording is now available on YouTube:

If you’re interested, you can also download my session slides here: Glasgow Data UG – Building a Data Culture with Power BI.


[1] I want it to be a surprise! Also this footnote makes even less sense now that the session is in the past…

“Why dataflows?” webcast recording now online

A lot of the questions I get about dataflows in Power BI boil down to the simplest[1] question: “Why dataflows?”

On Saturday November 7 I joined MVP Reid Havens for a YouTube live stream where we looked at this question and a bunch of other awesome dataflow questions from the 60+ folks who joined us.

The stream recording is now available for on-demand viewing. You should check it out!


[1] And therefore most difficult to answer concisely. That’s just how it goes.

Session resources: Patterns for adopting dataflows in Power BI

This morning I presented a new webinar for the Istanbul Power BI user group, covering one of my favorite subjects: common patterns for successfully using and adopting dataflows in Power BI.

This session represents an intersection of my data culture series in that it presents lessons learned from successful enterprise customers, and my dataflows series in that… in that it’s about dataflows. I probably didn’t need to point out that part.

The session slides can be downloaded here: 2020-09-23 – Power BI Istanbul – Patterns for adopting dataflows in Power BI

The session recording is available for on-demand viewing. The presentation is around 50 minutes, with about 30 minutes of dataflows-centric Q&A at the end. Please check it out, and share it with your friends!

 

Webcast: Patterns for adopting dataflows in Power BI

I haven’t been posting a lot about dataflows in recent months, but that doesn’t mean I love them any less. On Wednesday September 23rd, I’ll be sharing some of that love via a free webcast hosted by the Istanbul Power BI user group[1]. You can sign up here.

In this webcast I’ll be presenting practices for successfully incorporating dataflows into Power BI applications, based on my experience working with enterprise Power BI customers. If you’re interested in common patterns for success, common challenges to avoid, and answers to the most frequently asked dataflows questions, please sign up today.

This webcast won’t cover dataflows basics, so if you’re new to dataflows in Power BI or just need a refresher, please watch this tutorial before joining!


[1] In case it needs to be said, yes, the session will be delivered in English.