Lunch with someone new

shakeI met up for lunch with a good friend and former coworker today, and among the topics of discussion was how we as professionals often neglect personal relationships when work and life get busy.  I’ve found that to be especially true since I started working from home last year.  I don’t miss a lot about working in an office setting, but I do long for the days of hallway conversations and working lunches with colleagues. When working in isolation, it can be easy to get into cocoon-mode, shutting out the rest of the world – to the detriment of interpersonal skills and relationships.  Through my work as a professional presenter, I get to talk to a lot of people, but more often than not I’m talking to them in a group setting with little one-on-one interaction.  While the former is useful for building a list of contacts, it doesn’t do much to truly build relationships.

Five years ago, in January of 2009, I set a goal for myself to have lunch or drinks with someone new – not necessarily a stranger, but someone with whom I had not spent any one-on-one face time – on a monthly basis.  I exceeded that goal in a big way.  And I don’t think it’s an accident that 2009 and 2010 were two of the biggest growth years of my career. I didn’t land any work directly as a result of those relationships – in fact, several of the people with whom I met weren’t business associates but personal acquaintances. For me, the bigger benefit was to get out of my comfort zone and get to know more people on a personal basis, whether or not I saw a direct career benefit to meeting with them.  I firmly believe that, five years later, I’m still seeing benefits of getting out of that comfort zone.  And just as importantly, I had a lot of fun!

So I’m going to rekindle this goal.  Since it’s not January, I don’t have to call this a New Year’s resolution, but I’m going to commit to share a meal or drinks with someone new at least once a month (including this month) for the remainder of this year.  I’ll hope that I exceed the goal as I did in 2009.

If you’re not regularly spending face time with peers and acquaintances, I would encourage you to give it a try.  Go out for coffee with someone you meet at a professional event.  Have lunch with an acquaintance.  Even if it’s uncomfortable for you – no, especially if it’s uncomfortable for you – it can pay big dividends in the long run.

It’s Election Season

It’s that time of the year again – time to make your voice heard as a PASS member.  The PASS board elections are upon us, and if you’ were a PASS member as of June of this year, you should receive your ballot via email tomorrow.  Remember that this year’s voting window is very narrow – just five days – so be sure to get your votes in before the deadline of noon PDT on September 30th.  I would encourage you to get to know the candidates, if you don’t already.  PASS has an elections page where you can find out about the candidates, ask questions via the forums, and link to Twitter chats with the candidates.

This year, my decision on whom to support for the open board positions was complicated in that I count several of the candidates as friends.  I’ve known most of the candidates for several years, and know them to be hard-working and ethical folks, any of whom would serve the SQL community well as a board member.  In the end, I based my decision on personal experience working with a few of these candidates, through which I was able to get to know not only their work ethic but their passion and drive to serve the community.

For the SQL PASS board election this year, I am happy to support the following candidates:

Amy Lewis

I spent several years working with Amy through our shared involvement in the PASS BI/DW virtual chapter.  Amy was relentless in her efforts to sustain and grow the group, and as a direct result of her efforts the group grew significantly.  She rarely sought recognition for her efforts, but was the driving force behind the success and growth of this group.  I believe her ideas and track record of success will help her continue to serve the community as a PASS board member.

Allen Kinsel

Allen was one of the first people I worked with when I started volunteering with PASS.  I was immediately impressed with Allen’s passion and bias to action.  He is a shoot-straight Texan who is not afraid to speak up even if what he has to say is unpopular.  Further, Allen already has seen success as a prior PASS board member.

Jen Stirrup

I’ve not known Jen as long as the other two candidates I mentioned, but I got the chance to work with her a bit through the BI/DW virtual chapter.  A quiet and very humble person, Jen also has a great deal of passion and sincerity in her efforts in the community.  I believe Jen’s presence on the board will be an asset to the growing PASS presence in the EMEA region.

Key Change

piano I love music.  In fact, I like to think that I’m a student of music – although anyone who has heard me sing karaoke would agree that I’m far from having mastered it.  I’ve got a taste in music that is as diverse as anyone I know.  I enjoy tunes from multiple genres spanning decades of time, and I often blend seemingly incongruent styles together in a single listening session.  But equaling my enjoyment of the music itself is the appreciation for the technical components involved – the cadence, the symmetry, the melding together of disparate sounds in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  Music is made up of both art and science, and certainly has the ability to inspire emotion in people.

One of my favorite technical elements of music is the key change.  The dramatic shift that comes along with a key change in the middle of the song can give the listener the feeling that things have just taken off, that the song has stepped up to a new level.  Indulge me if you will and take a ride back to the 1980s, where we’ll listen to one of the most recognizable artists from that decade: Genesis.  Jump over to YouTube and listen to Invisible Touch.  Take 4 minutes and listen to the whole thing, or if you’re in a rush, jump forward to about the 2:45 mark.  (Go ahead, I’ll wait.)

Welcome back.  Did you hear what happened at about the 3:07 mark?  A sudden change of key in the song took it up by one full note.  The words didn’t change.  The rhythm or song speed didn’t change.  The song was great before the key change, and was great after the key change, but that relatively small change in key really added something, didn’t it?  Although not every melody would be appropriate for a dramatic key change such as this, it fit very well with the flow of this song.

So what does this have to do with data?  Nothing really, but it does have a lot to do with me.  Today, I’m announcing that I’m making a key change in my career.

It’s so hard to say goodbye

Before I share with you the details of my key change, I’ve got to say a few words about the family I’ve been a part of for the last 3+ years.  I came to Artis Consulting in February of 2010, after having a chance encounter with a friend of a friend at the SQL PASS Summit in 2009 (here’s my blog post about that networking success story).  At the time, I thought I was simply taking a new job – a great job to be sure, but just a job nonetheless.  Very quickly, I realized that this was more than just a job.  The first thing that wowed me was the level of technical excellence, professionalism, and collaboration that existed through the small company.  I had worked with sharp people in the past, but never before had I encountered such a concentration of exceptional individuals like I found at Artis.  Everyone watched out for everyone else.  Everyone shared his/her knowledge – there was no hoarding of information.  Everyone truly cared about the company and its clients, and expressed this not just in word but in deed.

But the culture of technical excellence and professionalism was not what made this more than just a job.  It was the people – the human beings that made up this small company.  Everyone knew each other, and we knew most of the families of our colleagues as well.  We enjoyed spending time with each other outside of work.  We laughed together during the fun times, consoled and encouraged each other during the trying times, and in general everyone took an interest in the lives of their colleagues.  Just like a real family.  I’ve come to know the people of Artis, and have built many friendships that I firmly believe will carry far beyond my time here.

Without a doubt, I am leaving the best job I’ve ever had – quite possibly the best full time job I’ll ever have.  It was the most difficult career decision I’ve ever had to make, and was incredibly emotional for me during and after the decision to move on.  But nothing lasts forever, and despite the fact that I’m leaving a part of my family behind, I am confident that this key change is the right move for me.

The final countdown

I hinted earlier this week that I had a big announcement to make.  Technically, I have two big announcements, although they are closely related.

Here I go again on my own

My first big announcement:  As of today, I am departing the ranks of full time employee, embarking on a career as an independent business intelligence consultant and trainer.  This has been a dream of mine for years, one that I managed to continually put off for various reasons.  After spending a great deal of time evaluating my long term goals, analyzing the current business intelligence market, and talking to other professionals who have made the move out of full time work, I decided that there’s no better time than now to make this move.

tyleris copy I’m incredibly excited about the possibilities that come along with the freedom of being independent.  I’m still in business intelligence, but now I’m focusing mostly on the data pipeline: integration, ETL, data quality, and reporting.  Just as exciting is the fact that I’m going to offer training as well, which is something that I am very passionate about but until now has been something I did only in my spare time.  My new independent consulting firm, Tyleris Data Solutions, officially launches today, and I’ll start with my first engagement on Monday.

As I mentioned, I delayed the decision to go independent for a while, due in no small part to my concern about being a lone soldier.  At Artis, if I got stuck on a problem or needed a second opinion on a design pattern, I had a network of people who were more than willing to lend a hand, ear, or other appendage.  But as an independent consultant, you’re out there on your own, a solitary rainmaker with no reinforcements.  This as much as anything was a factor in my hesitation to take the leap.  However, my #SQLFamily came through on this one to help allay my concerns about leaving behind my peer network.  For the last 6 months or so, I’ve been chatting off and on with my friends Andy Leonard and Brian Moran, both of whom I met through my activities in the community (and have I mentioned recently how important networking is to your career?).  After talking with both of these guys, they convinced me that I could have the best of both worlds: the freedom of being an independent consultant as well as a network of peers to provide mutual support.

The boys of summer

Linchpin After much deliberation and lots of talks with Brian and Andy, I’ve decided to lock arms with these very smart and professional individuals.  I’m happy to announce that I’m now a Linchpin People Teammate!  I’m joining the Linchpin team to add to their already strong data integration practice, and will immediately get to work on a complex ETL project with a couple of other team members.  Although I’ll still maintain my status as an independent consultant, I’ll get to work on some pretty cool stuff with these guys.  I believe this association with Linchpin People should strengthen all of us.

I’ve known the guys from Linchpin for a while.  Andy and I go back several years, having written a book and done several precon training events together.  I’ve not known Brian as long, but he and I became fast friends when we met at a PASS Summit a couple of years ago; in fact, I remember telling him just after we met that we’d eventually be doing something together.  Mike Walsh and I have known each other for several years, both virtually and in real life.  Several of the other Linchpin team members are friends of mine, and I have nothing but respect for the entire crew.  I am excited and proud to be associated with this fine group of folks.

Don’t worry, be happy

This change was an emotional one for me.  I went through the whole range – excitement, fear, sadness, optimism…  Change is rarely easy, but I’m confident that I’ve made a good decision.  Much like a key change in a song, I loved what I was doing before, and I expect that I’ll continue to love it after this change – I’m just taking it up a few notes.

Business Intelligence Projects now supported in Visual Studio 2012

Since the release of Visual Studio 2012, business intelligence developers have been limited in how much they could use this tool due to the fact that it did not support BI project types (SSIS, SSAS, and SSRS).  Today, that limitation is now gone with the release by Microsoft of SQL Server Data Tools – Business Intelligence for Visual Studio 2012.  With this release, BI professionals may now fully move onto Visual Studio 2012 for SQL Server 2012 project initiatives.

You can read more about this release on the SSRS team blog and SSAS team blog, or download the code from the Microsoft website.

Erin Welker joins Artis Consulting

Earlier this week, my employer, Artis Consulting, welcomed a new addition to our team.  Technical expert Erin Welker (b|t), a very well known and experienced business intelligence professional, has joined the BI practice here at Artis.  Erin brings a great deal to the table – she has been a SQL Server BI consultant for a number of years, has served the community in various capacities (including serving on the PASS board of directors), is a board member for the North Texas SQL Server User Group, and is a past recipient of the SQL Server MVP award.

The BI practice here at Artis has been the strongest team I’ve ever worked with, and I’m very excited to have my friend Erin joining us here.  If you know Erin, be sure to give her a shout of congratulations.

SQL PASS Summit 2012 in Review

I’m back home after a long week attending and presenting at the SQL PASS Summit in Seattle.  This was the best event yet, in my opinion, and for me it was certainly the busiest.  For the second year in a row, our SSIS Design Patterns team was invited to deliver a full-day preconference seminar before the Summit.  Unlike last year, though, this year we have all five members of the author team!  I also delivered two regular sessions: one on using DQS in the enterprise, and the other on how to handle errors and data anomalies in SSIS.

Saturday

Saturday started off for me in Portland, Oregon, where I spoke at SQL Saturday #172.  I left that event just after the closing remarks and raffle (where I won a Kindle Fire HD – thanks Confio!) with Russ Loski and Karla Landrum to make the 3-hour drive from Portland to Seattle.  We rolled in late, maybe 10:30pm or so, and Twitter didn’t find much going on so I popped into Elephant and Castle for a snack while I reviewed my slide deck for Monday’s precon.

8155960043_217ee3e173_zSunday

My first #sqlfamily sighting in Seattle was none other than my good friend Andy Leonard, and shortly thereafter I met up with Michelle Ufford at breakfast.  After breakfast, Andy, Michelle, Matt Masson, Jessica Moss and I met up at the convention center to rehearse our material for the precon the following day.  Had a great day of prep work, minor revisions, and a good deal of laughter.

Later, I stopped by the registration area and officially checked in, and greeted a lot of familiar faces.  About 20 of us got together for dinner at Cheesecake Factory, followed by a brief visit to the Tap House.  Since the next day would involve an early wake-up call, I retired by 9:30 to give my material one last glance.

Monday

I met up with Andy for a quick breakfast before getting wired up for our precon presentation.  We kicked off at 0830 with a crowd of about 110 or so.  It was fun to see a couple of folks in the audience who were also at our precon last year (shout out to Bill Fellows and Aaron Lowe).  We quickly found a good cadence of trading off between the five of us presenting, each person leading the discussion for about 75 minutes.  I shared design patterns around error handling, scripting, and data warehousing.  It was fun to interact with the audience (along with others not in attendance) via Twitter throughout the entire day, through which we were able to share links to supplemental information about the current topic as the day went along.  And on the topic of Twitter, my friend Andy offered me a valuable lesson about leaving my computer unlocked (and I shall have my revenge when you least expect it, good sir).

Tuesday

On Tuesday, I got to spend the day hanging out with a bunch of my favorite folks talking about SQL Server.  What could be better?  Later, I went by the PASS volunteer appreciation event to shake a few hands, followed by an after-hours trip to that karaoke favorite, Bush Garden.

Wednesday

I stopped by the keynote for a bit to listen to Bill Graziano’s opening remarks.  I stepped out to meet my friend Steve Jones for coffee, and ended up meeting up with about a dozen other folks as we chatted.  I caught up with a couple of my Artis Consulting colleagues, and was off to take part in a book signing at the PASS bookstore.  We got to chat with a few dozen folks (and managed to sell out all of the copies of our book at the bookstore!) in the hour or so we were there.

I sat in on the session by Matthew Roche and Matt Masson on enterprise information management (EIM).  I was particularly interested in the DQS portion of the presentation, and I was glad to learn a couple of new things about the product.  Later, I stopped by the SQL Clinic to say hello to some of the folks from Microsoft.  The vendor reception followed next door, where I did a little more networking and perhaps even some recruiting.

Wednesday was also #sqlkaraoke day, with not one but two sponsored karaoke events:  First up was the Pragmatic Works/Microsoft/HP event at the Hard Rock. These sponsors rented out the Hard Rock for some live band karaoke.  Yep – a real band, not just canned tracks!  This event was a ton of fun.  I didn’t count, but there must have been at least 600 people there.  I even got to belt out some Garth Brooks.  Later I went out to the second sponsored karaoke event, at our favorite little hole in the wall Bush Gardens.  It was a much lighter crowd there, maybe 75 people or so – enough to make it fun to socialize but still giving everyone who wanted to sing the opportunity to do so.

Thursday

Since I was presenting on Thursday, I spent the morning going through my presentation materials again.  I delivered my DQS session after lunch, to a crowd of about 40-50 people.  Good discussion around the different moving parts of the product, though I was surprised that of the entire room, only one person was actually using DQS.  There were a couple of folks from the product team in my session, which I appreciated because I misspoke on the technical behavior of one of the elements of DQS, and they were able to set the record straight so I didn’t send folks off with the wrong message.

For the final session of the day, I sat in on the BI Power Hour.  This was easily the most entertaining session I attended.  Presented by a host of Microsoft rockstars, this 90 minute session offered a fun look at some uses of the Microsoft BI stack, PowerPivot, and related tools.  They had a standing-room-only crowd, and although their presentations were intended to be a little silly, I think they did a good job of showing some unconventional uses of those tools.

After the last session, I went to the Friends of Red Gate dinner at Fare Start restaurant.  This was the second year in a row that Red Gate has held the dinner at this location, which is a nonprofit training and placement organization aimed at homeless or otherwise disadvantaged individuals.  The food was outstanding and the company even better.  Later I stopped by the EMP Museum for the community appreciation event.  Since karaoke has been the theme of evening events, there was another live band karaoke for this fiesta as well.  I stayed for just a bit since I wanted to retire early and rehearse my demos again for Friday’s morning presentation.  Back in the room by 11pm or so, I rehearsed until about 1am until I completely ran out of fuel.

Friday

It’s time to talk about SSIS!  I’ve been working on my error handling presentation for quite a while, so I’ve really been looking forward to this.  I was a little concerned since it was a Friday morning after an apparently late night (at least according to the Twitter stream), and my presentation was scheduled for the same time as one given by the wildly popular Dr. David Dewitt.  However, I was pleasantly surprised by a roomful of folks ready to hear about SSIS error handling: the room monitor counted 177 people in attendance.  Lots of great questions and discussion both during and after the presentation – in fact, I was there for over 30 minutes after the presentation just chatting and answering questions.

8176663000_e35115555bAt lunchtime, I wandered down to the market to take a few pictures and watch them throw the fish around.  In the afternoon I took in a couple of sessions, one on DQS and another on slowly changing dimensions.  I skipped the last session of the day to stop into the PASS Community Zone, a very cool concept that just wasn’t very well publicized.

I had a craving for some fresh seafood, so I invited folks down to the Crab Pot for some crustaceans.  We had maybe 20 people altogether, though we did get split up since there was an early group and a late group.  After dinner, several of us went on the Seattle underground tour, a 75-minute walking tour of some of the basements and underground walkways beneath Seattle’s city streets.  Thanks to my friend Dave Stein for hooking us up with this!  It was a lot of fun and a good way to wind down.

8176709260_12cc735de2After the tour, a few of us headed over for one last trip to Bush Garden, where 30 or so SQL folks were already gathered.  I stayed for an hour or so, but fatigue got the best of me so I cabbed it back over (thanks to Randy Knight for taking care of our ride) and called it a night before midnight.

Saturday

Travel day for me.  I headed over to the rail station early, only to be greeted by a locked door with a message that the train didn’t start running until 0830 on Saturdays.  As it turned out, I was at the monorail station when I should have instead gone across the street to the Link light rail station.  Inattention cost me about 30 minutes of standing in the cold, but on the upside, I met up with Ryan Adams and Michael Swart and got to chat with them on the 40 minute ride back to the airport.  Ryan, Adam Saxton, and I ended up on the same flight back home, so we got to chat while we waited for our bird.

One final parting gift was that my checked bag didn’t arrive on my flight.  The man at the AA lost luggage counter was very helpful, tracking my back to a later flight and arranging delivery to my home for later that evening (it arrived about 11pm).  Oddly enough, for as much as I’ve traveled, this was my first experience with a lost bag.  I suppose it was as good as any time to have one, since the bag had mostly dirty clothes and I didn’t immediately need anything in there.

Summary

It was an incredible week.  As expected, I (along with many others) operated on far too little sleep and way too much coffee for the entire time.  However, it was well worth the time, travel, and exhaustion to spend time with some of the smartest people on the planet.  I look forward all year to this trip, and this year’s SQL PASS summit did not disappoint.

Update: I have published the photos I took during the week on my Flickr stream.  You can find them here.

“It’s Alive” – SSIS Design Patterns

ssisdpI’m happy to announce that the book I’ve been working on for the past two years is complete and has been released for sale as of today.  I got the unique privilege to work alongside SSIS rock stars Andy Leonard, Jessica Moss, Matt Masson, and Michelle Ufford to scribe what will hopefully be a must-have book for anyone working in the SQL Server Integration Services space.

I’m immensely grateful for the opportunity to have participated in this project.  Thanks first and foremost to my four fine coauthors – I’m humbled to even be mentioned in the same context as you folks.  Thanks also to the good people at APress – Jonathan Gennick, Mark Powers, and many others who kept us on track and helped to point out our dangling modifiers and run-on sentences.  Thanks also to the folks at Artis Consulting (my employer) who were gracious in their support and encouragement during this effort.

Along with the book release, the five of us are putting together a full day seminar to be delivered at the SQL PASS summit this fall.  We’ll expand on the topics covered in the book, with more examples, more design patterns, and lively discussion among the authors.  Registration for this event is still open.  Hope to see you there!

SQL Saturday 125 OKC

This weekend I traveled three hours north to Oklahoma City to participate in SQL Saturday 125, the second annual event hosted by the OKCSQL group. Ryan Adams, Russ Loski, John Sterrett and I hit the road midafternoon to give ourselves time to make it in time for the speaker dinner on Friday evening.  I’ve made several trips before with Ryan and Russ, and was my first such trip with John, a recent Texas transplant from West Virginia (and still a Pittsburg Pirates fan, though I try not to hold that against him).  This was my second trip to OKC in about a year, having taken part in their inaugural SQL Saturday event last summer as well.

The event was again held at the Moore-Norman Technology Center, which worked out to be an excellent venue for the event.  The facility functions by day as a technical training center, so naturally it was well equipped for a SQL Saturday.  Breakfast and lunch were both provided, and coffee and bottled water were both available for much of the day.  Other than a flaky projector in one of the rooms, I didn’t see any significant logistical issues.

I was invited to deliver an introductory-level session entitled “Top 10(ish) New Features in SSIS in SQL 2012”.  I had a smallish crowd, maybe 30-35 people or so, perhaps due to the fact that it was the last session of the day and I was in the same time slot as the popular Joe Celko.  The session turned out to be more conversational than I’m used to, which worked out fine – a couple of attendees brought up specific questions from their environments, and one even pointed out something I didn’t know about SSIS script debugging (more on that in a future post).  I got back 15 evaluation forms, with all marking a score of 5 (on a scale of 1-5).  For those who attended and would like to download the presentation materials, I’ve posted my slide deck and code here.

Great job again to the organizers of this event!  Thanks and congrats for a successful event to Kristin Ferrier, Matt Brimer, Allen Smith, Rob Sullivan, and a host of other volunteers.

Join me at the PASS Summit

button_event_summit2012It seems just yesterday that we were all in Seattle together, getting a crash course in what’s new and exciting in SQL Server.  It couldn’t possible have been 8 months since we were attending after-party events together, stopping by the Tap House for a beer, or closing down Bush Gardens with some spectacular SQL Karaoke.  Yet here were are, getting in the swing of conference season and preparing for this year’s SQL PASS Summit to be held again in Seattle, Washington.

I’m presenting

I’m happy to announce that I’ll be delivering three presentations at this year’s November summit: I was selected for two regular sessions and one preconference seminar.

My two regular sessions are Data Quality Services in the Enterprise and When ETL Goes Bad: Handling Errors and Data Anomalies in SSIS.  I’ve delivered some content on DQS before, and I’m looking forward to expanding this presentation for a larger crowd and longer timeframe.  I’ve been mentally putting together the error/anomaly presentation for some time, and I’m excited about sharing my experience in this area.

The precon I’m delivering is actually a platoon effort among my fellow authors on the SSIS Design Patterns book (which will be released next month).  This full day precon will be in the same vein as the book; we will be sharing from our own experiences some best practices, tips and tricks, and horror stories. 

Andy Leonard, Matt Masson, and I did a version of this precon last year.  This year’s version will not only be updated for SQL 2012, but will also feature Jessica Moss and Michelle Ufford to round out the entire author team.

“We are family….”

The annual PASS Summit is the one event I look forward to more than any other.  I look forward to the deep and broad content on SQL Server, but just as importantly, I enjoy getting the opportunity to network with the SQL Community.  If you’ve never been to a PASS event, or if you’ve attended before but didn’t get engaged in the community, I’d encourage you to come back and get to know us.