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Afterthoughts: IT Pro Camp Orlando 2012

This past Saturday January 21, 2012 I had the opportunity to speak at my first IT Pro Camp in Orlando, FL. This event was put together by Blain Barton ( Blog | LinkedIn | Twitter ), Microsoft Senior IT Pro Evangelist and Chad Miller ( Blog | LinkedIn | Twitter ), Microsfot MVP and Senior Manager of Database Administration at Raymond James Financial.

Event

The event went very smooth and had a good turnaout. Food was amazing. They reallly outdid themselves with good old southern BBQ.

Presentation

I presented a session titled Introduction to Microsoft Business Intelligence (Slides), focusing on the basic concepts of BI and Datawarehousing, the Microsoft toolset and my Top 5 Rules of Wisdom for succesful BI. I had a great turnaout, about 25 attendees. All of the attendees were very engaged and asked excellent questions. I enjoyed presenting to the Orlando crowd.

Picture credits: Russel Faustino. See more pictures of the event here.

Other IT Pro Camps are being added. Check the IT Pro Camp website here to keep up to date.

Click on the picture below to download my Intorduction to Business Intelligence powerpoint presentation.

 

 

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Afterthoughts: SQL Saturday #79 South Florida 2011

This past Saturday August 13th I presented two sessions at SQL Saturday #79 hosted by the South Florida SQL Server User Group (SFSSUG) (Webpage | LinkedIn| Twitter). The first presentation was at 11:00am titled “So, What is BI Semantic Model and why should you care?” and the second one was at 3:00pm titled “Designing  and Optimizing Analysis Services Hierarchies.” I had an amazing time chatting with some old friends that made it to South Florida all the way from Charlotte, NC, Atlanta, GA and  several other Florida cities like Jacksonville, Pensacola, Orlando, and Tampa.

The Driving Adventure

It was an adventure to get there as I decided to make the 4-hour drive from Tampa, FL (about 500 miles round-trip) early in the morning. My original plan was to start my drive around 4:30am but due to being jet lagged from my midnight flight the day before, I woke up until I snoozed the alarm for the 3rd time around 6:30am. That gave me a 30 minute window to get there on time for my 11am session.

The Event

The event was well put together by it’s organizers and volunteers. The food was great and included a mix of Mexican goodies. The Nova Southeastern University Carl DeSantis Building was a great venue. I really liked the central atrium where everybody converged in between sessions and was more than ideal for having lunch and event wrap-up. Great choice of venue & food!

The Attendees

One Mountain Dew + a 5-hour energy bottle and a speeding ticket later, I managed to get there with 20 minutes to spare. My first session titled What is BI Semantic Model and why should you care? started on time and was packed. It was literally standing room only. I had a great time with the audience. They were very engaged and asked both technical and philosophical questions. A couple speakers and friends attended such as my “tweep” (tweeter peep) Phillip Rosen (LinkedIn | Twitter) whom I got to know him in person for the first time. Also, the amazing Data Mining expert and newly minted Microsoft MVP Mark Tabladillo, Ph.D. (Blog | LinkedIn | Twitter) with whom I exchanged a couple of good jokes and funny moments during the presentation. The most memorable being the conception of the term “Bingle” which is the abbreviation of Bing and Google.

Sanjay Soni, Microsoft TSP

One of the attendees was Sanjay Soni (LinkedIn), Microsoft’s new Data and BI Platform Technology Solution Professional (TSP) for the Greater Southeast District (Florida). Sanjay introduced himself after the presentation and was very kind to provide very positive feedback for my BISM presentation. We  spent some time chatting about opportunities to co-present and network some more. I’m very excited to assist Sanjay  as much as I can in his new role in Florida. I encourage for you to network with Sanjay as he is a very friendly and approachable guy. You will see him very soon at a user group or event near you!

At the end of my session several other attendees came up to introduce themselves personally. There were so many I almost ran out of business cards. I appreciate when attendees take a moment to chat with me after my sessions and get the opportunity to listen to their feedback and kind words. I feel truly honored to have been able to present to such a great crowd.

So, What is BI Semantic Model and why should you care?

In this presentation, I did an overview of the new Business Intelligence Semantic Model (BISM) and the new “flavor” of the Analysis Services Engine that Microsoft will release with SQL Server Codename Denali. I explained about the new focus on “Personal BI” with the PowerPivot add-in for Excel, “Workgroup BI” with PowerPivot for SharePoint and “Enterprise BI” with Analysis Services UDM and Tabular mode. I showcased the free PowerPivot add-in for Excel 2010 and later demonstrated how easily a PowerPivot workbook can now be turned into an enterprise grade Tabular database using the new Business Intelligence Development Studio in SQL Server Codename Denali and how simple it is to deploy them.

You can download the slides here or by clicking on the picture above.

Designing  and Optimizing Analysis Services Hierarchies

 

On my second presentation Designing and Optimizing Analysis Services Hierarchies I also had a great time interacting with the attendees. The session was designed as an intermediate session but changed it a little bit to more beginner level from the results of my skillset level audience survey. I had great questions and participation from the attendees.

You can download the slides here or by clicking the picture above.

Thanks to everyone who attended my sessions and to the organizers and volunteers that made SQL Saturday #79 a success!

Afterthoughts: SharePoint Saturday Tampa 2011

This past Saturday June 11th, 2011 I had the opportunity to co-present at SharePoint Saturday Tampa thanks to a special invitation by its main organizer Michael Hinckley (Twitter|Blog|LinkedIn). It was a great experience and a very well-organized event. I met several SharePoint professionals I follow on Twitter for the first time and learned more about them and others in the industry that are in a few words, Rockstars!

Speaker Dinner & Event Networking
As a speaker, I was invited to attend the speaker dinner at Donatello Restaurant (website) on Friday evening June 10th.  The place was a great choice as we had the lounge & bar area mostly for ourselves. Food was excellent. At the dinner party I had the opportunity to connect with several friends from the area, some which I had not seen personally for a while such as

Michael Antonovich  (Blog|Twitter|LinekdIn),
Assistant Director of Web Services at Orange County Public Schools

Landon Bass (Blog|LinkedIn),
Systems Engineer III – SharePoint Engineer at Raymond James

Chad Miller (Blog|Twitter|LinkedIn),
Sr Manager Database Administration at Raymond James

I also met some other cool guys like

Chris Schwab’s (Blog|Twitter|LinkedIn),
Sharepoint & PowerShell guru

David McNamee (Blog|Twitter|LinkedIn),
SharePoint Technology Specialist at Microsoft

Michael Oryszak (Blog|Twitter|LinkedIn)
Practice Manager at Intellinet, SharePoint Server MVP, MCITP

Marc D. Anderson (Blog|Twitter|LinkedIn),
Co-Founder and President at Sympraxis Consulting LLC

The Presentation
Michael Hinckley and I co-presented “Extending Business Intelligence Solutions with SharePoint 2010,” in which we did an overview of what SharePoint 2010 has to offer for Business Intelligence. Michael did a great job doing an overview of SharePoint 2010 covering deployment considerations, licensing and edition comparisons. I then proceeded to do quick overview of Business Intelligence, what it is and what it is not. The audience was very engaged and we spent at least 10 minutes discussing the BI self-delivery model and the governance necessary around it to ensure the “single version of the truth.”

Click here or on image above to download the presenation

David McNamee from Microsoft attended the presentation and contributed to the discussion regarding governance and the self-delivery model. He made a statement that resonated a lot with me as an IT professional regarding these politics and battles between IT and the business:

..if IT and the Business don’t talk and collaborate and the business does not consider IT as a strategic partner, then I’m in the wrong organization.

This is very true and agree 100% with David. As a matter of fact, a big reason why I left a past employer was because of these unhealthy politics.

At the end  of the presentation I showcased Excel Services, Performance Point Services and one of the coolest features in SharePoint 2010 Decomposition Trees. We got great feedback and hopefully Michael and I have an opportunity to co-present again at other events. I felt Michael and I had a good synergy co-presenting (even with no rehearsal).

This may be a taste of things to come between the synergy the Tampa Bay Business Intelligence User Group and the Tampa Bay SharePoint User Group.

 The Sessions I attended
I attended just a couple of sessions as I spent most of my time networking with attendees, speakers and sponsors and promoting our own upcoming SQL Saturday #86 BI Edition on November 5th.

While I am not a SharePoint Developer (yet), I really enjoyed Marc D. Anderson’s presentation “Developing in SharePoint’s Middle Tier.” I learned about his awesome SPServices jQuery library publicly available at Codeplex (http://spservices.codeplex.com/) and also about his SharePoint XSL templates also available at Codeplex (http://spxslt.codeplex.com). Through his jQuery library and XSL templates you can easily customize the user experience of SharePoint forms like cascading dropdown menus, selectable textbox word hints, real-time data validation and much more. Really cool stuff.

During lunch time I attended a session / discussion by Kathy Malone (Meetup) and Blain Barton (Blog|LinkedIn) titled “Building Social Media Communities; How SharePoint Fits In.” This was an interesting discussion as it involved one of my favorite topics: Social Media. We discussed Twitter and how it can help startups and technical communities. I added my two cents ($0.02) and explained how great the #sqlhelp hashtag helps a lot of SQL Professionals with immediate answers from experts around the world. We discussed that for SharePoint there is #sphelp available. I was able to walk away with a signed copy of “Office and SharePoint 2010 User’s Guide” authored by my good friend Michael Antonovich. You can buy his book here.

Another great session I attended was presented by Ryan Morgan (Blog|Twitter|LinkedIn) titled “Silverlight Dashboards in SharePoint 2010.” I have not developed anything at all with Silverlight but was interested to learn how complex or easy it was to create custom dashboards in SharePoint 2010 with Silverlight. It turned out it was very simple, or at list Ryan was very effective at simplifying things that even a Silverlight newb like me understood it. I also learned how easy it is to query SharePoint lists using the API’s available using jQuery and LINQ. Very cool stuff.

I look forward to speaking and attending another SharePoint Saturday. There is so much to learn from the experts that speak at this event that I can apply on my line of work which is Business Intelligence. As Michael Hinckley and I have discussed, there is so much overlap between SharePoint 2010, SQL Server and Business Intelligence and the fact that Microsoft is focusing its efforts to make SharePoint the preferred enterprise information management platform, that SQL/BI and SharePoint folks need to engage more and more.

Tampa SQL Saturday 62 Afterthoughts

Tampa SQL Saturday #62 was overall a success. We had an amazing turnout of speakers and attendees. The final attendance numbers are still being reviewed by Pam Shaw (Blog | Twitter). I would safely say that we had at least 340 attendees. This is an estimated 21% increase in attendance from last year’s SQL Saturday attendance which was around 280.

Speed Pass
A big differentiator this year was Pam’s brilliant idea of doing the “SpeedPass”.  Registration this year was a breeze. I watched the registration process and took about 15 secs avg per person to hand in their “SpeedPass” ticket and receive their swag bag.  I think this was a great idea and hope that other SQL Saturdays start adopting it. If there is enough interest we could ask PASS to host these reports for us. There are several enhancements to the process as was pointed out to me by Andy Warren (Blog | Twitter). All feedback has been welcomed and we hope other SQL Saturdays implement them.

Food
Tampa SQL Saturday 62 has raised the bar again in terms of food. We had a delicious catered Cuban/Spanish plate. Everybody loved it.  We also had Krispy Kremes and coffee for breakfast and breaks between sessions. Can’t go wrong with Krispy Kremes!

Volunteers
We had several volunteers who had signed up, but only about 10 that confirmed their time and availability and only a handful that really stepped up to the plate. We are very thankful for their time and effort. Without volunteers this event could have not been possible. Special thanks to the volunteers that helped with bagging, setup, registration,  manning food and coffee break area and clean-up. I would like to mention their names in recognition of their efforts:

David Liebman
Andrew Brittain
Lena Pavlyuk
Thomas Heflin
Howard Chao
Brook Ranne
Lynn M. Fruit
Leigh Freijo

Sessions and Speakers
Key to our success were all the speakers. We had over 47 speakers submit a wide variety of sessions but could only accommodate 42. Additional to regular speaker sessions, we also hosted sponsor sessions over lunch. Pragmatic Works did an Iron Chef session and Aaron Nelson (Blog | Twitter) and Mike Davis (Blog | Twitter) did a SQL Smackdown: SSIS vs. PowerShell. Both of these spotlight sessions were very well attended!

                                                      

  

 Thank you all who attended, sponsored, spoke and volunteered !
~)  

Afterthoughts: SQL Saturday #48 Columbia, SC

More than 1,000 miles later and almost 20 hours behind the wheel, I can only express how much I enjoyed each and every moment at SQL  Saturday #48 hosted in West Columbia, S.C. Let me get started by saying that it was a succesfull and well planned event. It had good attendance rate and had a great speaker line-up.

I have to recognize my wife for doing most of the driving. She volunteered behind the wheel while I sat back and and helped out keeping the girls entertained and busy munching on some veggie sticks.

The Highlights
I can not possibly start without pointing out that I walked away with the most valuable treasure of all: friendships. I was blessed to meet Brian Kelley (Blog Linkedin | Twitter) and his family and be able to interact with their kids. Our two daughters Fae and Sofia had a great time together in the after party. It was very fulfilling to me to be able not just to meet a talented and well-respected guy such as Brian Kelley in a professional setting but also in a more personal way. I really hope this is the start of a long-lasting friendship.

I want to recognize Brian’s wife for manning the book  and prizes table while pregnant. Not many pregnant women would volunteer to be standing up and doing physical work for a whole Saturday. It really shows the type of committment Brian and his wife have to the SQL community.

More Networking
I also had the opportunity to meet and establish friendships with some amazing professionals, in particular funny guy Bobby Dimmick (Linkedin | Twitter). Some of the new connections and personal interactions for the firs time include:

I also got to see some of my friends and tweeps such as:

 I would like to give thanks to  the organizers and sponsors for such a great event. I also want to give a big thanks to the attendees to both my sessions, Get Cert! Get Cred! and Business Intelligence: Decaffeinated Please! I got great feedback and participation from them. I want to recognize some of my attendees for doing some constructive observations about my presentation style and visuals.  I value all comments that help me become a better speaker and presenter.

What I learned
In my third SQL Saturday I learned several things as an attendee and as a speaker.

First of all, SQL Saturday is a great opportunity to spend quality time with your family and to plan a mini-vacation, especially if traveling to a city or area you have not visited before. Also, if you are fortunate like I was, you may end up getting to know other professionals and their families. Next SQL Saturday bring your family along, especially to our Tampa SQL Saturday to be scheduled between January and February, 2011. I would love to meet you and your families.

Second as a SQL Server and Business Intelligence professional you get no better chance to meet your rockstars and be able to have an opportunity to interact. You also meet great professionals in the area with which you establish not only professional connections but also friendships. Friends with which if you can go out to lunch with if you are in their hometown or get good recommendations where to stay or what to do. Also, they can serve as a lifeline.

Third, I learned that you have to balance your presentation between what I consider the two main presentation styles: those who base their presentation on the slides content and those who base their presentation on the slide visuals primarily. The reason you have to balance these two main styles is because of your audience. Some audience members expect for you to follow your slide deck and stick to the text and content on them as much as possible (slide followers). Other audience members don’t like it when you repeat what is on your slide and want to hear what you have to say (content cravers). In this SQL Saturday I had the opportunity to experiment with both these styles. In Get Cert! Get Cred! I played with Guy Kawasaki’s style, while in Business Intelligence: Decaffeinated Please! I was a little more conservative. I got great feedback on both presentations ranging from As Expected and Better than Expected ratings with an overall average of 4.5 out of 5 rating. If you attended any of my sessions, I want to say thank you once more and keep commenting on ways to improve as a speaker.

Fourth, as SQL PASS Chapter leader it is a great opportunity to learn from the organization and management perspective of a SQL Saturday event. I learned what works and got some great pointers for our upcoming SQLSaturday in Tampa, FL early 2011. Also, I was able to connect with potential speakers for our user group and SQL Saturday event.

Fifth but not least, I had the opportunity to attend great sessions such as:

  • William Pearson’s “Attribute Discretization in Analysis Service”
    Learned a native way of grouping dimension attributes into buckets.
  • Mark Tabladillo’s “Data Mining with PowerPivot 2010” 
    Learned the reason behind the need for so many data mining models and more insight on PowerPivot.
  • Andy Warren’s “Building a Professional Development Plan”
    Learned that you have to consider yourself as a “business of one” and make a plan for your goals as such.
    Also, learned that when you blog do it for yourself primarily even if you repeat what others have already blogged. Unless you are blogging as a business, don’t wory about duplication of content, keeping in mind not to plagiarize.
  • Julie Smith’s “Cool Tricks to Pull from your SSIS Hat”
    Learned how to skip an SSIS container without using precedence constraints.

I hope I didn’t leave anyone or anything out. It is not my intention to exclude anyone. These are just some of  my afterthoughts. Please comment on anything or anyone I left out.

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