Category: Books

Facing The Challenge: Designing a BI Infrastructure With SQL 2008 (70-452)

On Monday, Feb 6th, I passed exam 70-452, Designing a Business Intelligence Infrastructure Using Microsoft SQL Server 2008. Hazzah. I am really excited about that, not because I get a shiny new MCITP certification, but because it validates how much I have learned. When I started working with SQL Server about 5 years ago, I started down the DBA track, even earning an MCITP in the SQL Server 2005 DBA track. It was not too long after that when I determined that Business Intelligence was where I really wanted to hang my career hat.

This post isn’t really about that, though. I have a process that I use to learn the material. I then use the exams to measure that learning. The process I have has worked pretty well. Actually, I am 6 for 6 when I commit to this process. Since it seems to work really well for me, I thought I would share it in case it may help someone else as well.

Typically, I like to use the Microsoft Press Self-Paced exam guides. I find them to be a great starting point and cover the key areas of the technology in question. In the case of exam 70-452, as of the time of this writing, there is not a Microsoft Press exam guide for that exam. Therefore, I instead chose Delivering Business Intelligence with Microsoft SQL Server 2008 by Brian Larson. I found it to be a great base for my prep for 70-452. In areas where I felt I needed to go deeper, I turned to Books Online.

My process consists of a few key steps.

1. I go through the text taking notes on the details of each topic. I make sure to make my notes in my own words and avoid taking anything word for word from the text. This helps a lot in that I must process the information more than once as I go.

2. The books I have used have all featured do-it-yourself style exercises during which you put what you learned into practice. I find this really valuable to gain at least some experience, particularly with skills I have never used in real life.

3. I read through the notes several times over, just like studying for test back in school.

It does not seem like much and certainly is not very elaborate. There are no tesla coils involved or anything. But sometimes it is the simple things people overlook.

Since I titled this post “Facing The Challenge,” I figured I should also show some of the faces I used during the process outline above.

 Confusion. Some of the content was confusing at first.










 Determination. I knew I had to commit myself to understanding all the concepts.










 Realization. Ah. NOW I get it.










 Blue Steel.










 Satisfaction. I passed. I dun learned something.










Well, there you have it.

What I’m Reading: Crucial Confrontations

Crucial Confrontations: Tools for talking about broken promises, violated expectations, and bad behavior

I don’t pay much attention to claims from books about how to make your life better in 87 pages or anything like that. Nor do I feel that if I had voted for Pedro, all my wildest dreams would have come true. And I find it highly unlikely that a book titled “How To Make $28,000 Per Second Just By Blinking” could possibly have any value. However, on the back cover of Crucial Confrontations is a claim that I can support:

“Whether it’s a broken promise, violated expectation, or just plain bad behavior, Crucial Confrontations teaches you skills for enhancing accountability, execution, and resolution.”

If you deal with human beings at all, then I highly recommend reading this book. It has been making the rounds at Digineer, the Twin Cities based consulting firm I work for and adore. I am only a little over half-way through this book and I can tell you that I have learned a ton already. I will go through a few of the key points I have picked up on here.

Before we get too far, let’s define what a crucial confrontation is (according to the authors):

“A crucial confrontation consists of a face-to-face accountability discussion – someone has disappointed you and you talk to him or her directly.”

One reason these are called crucial is that how you handle them can have a large impact on your relationship with the person you are confronting.

“Master My Stories”

That is what the authors call the act of making sure your own head and attitude are in a good place “before opening your mouth.” A few years ago at Digineer, an account executive wrote some things in an email to me that I interpreted as an accusation of disloyalty to the company. I was really bothered by it. It would have been easy just to let my first interpretation (my “story” behind his words) rule the day and essentially prosecute him for it silently in all our future dealings. Instead, I am proud to say, I gave him the benefit of the doubt and asked him to join me one on one in a conference room for a moment. I discussed the email with him and how I interpreted what he had written. He apologized and assured me that was not his intent. We had a great discussion and both of us left that conference room with greater respect for each other than when we entered it only a few minutes before.

Too often, when someone disappoints us in some way, it is just easy to come up with a negative “story” to explain their actions. We can then end up clinging to that story as the only possibility. It is only by mastering our own stories behind the words/actions of others that we can overcome the leap to conclusions and not only decide to have the crucial confrontation, but enter into it willing to listen. In this particular case, Crucial Confrontations reinforced the idea I had stumbled upon myself.

“Don’t Use Power”

The authors describe this quagmire well.

“Raw power, painfully applied, may move bodies, may even get people to act in new ways, but it rarely moves hearts and minds. Hearts and minds are changed through expanded understanding and new realizations. The flagrant and abusive use of a authority, in contrast, guarantees little more than short-term bitter compliance.”

This is one that I trip on as a parent. While I try very hard to avoid ever saying “because I said so,” I will sometimes allow myself to use words or actions that convey roughly the same message to my children: you need to do what I say simply because I am in charge. My theory, supported well by this book, is that by teaching them how to relate cause and effect in their own behavior, they will have to tools necessary to find what the authors call the “natural consequences” of their words and actions. Flexing my power over them as their father does not expose those natural consequences; it just links consequences with my presence.

Because I sometimes allow myself to assert my power as their father in an effort to achieve compliance, there have been times when I have all but seen their thought processes evaluating the possible negative consequences of my reaction against what they perceive as the gain in performing a certain action. When they determine that the only negative consequence they see (my being stern with them, a timeout, or what have you) is outweighed by their perceived gain, then they go ahead and do it. If I have not helped them to find the natural consequences, their likelihood to take these actions is greatly increased when I am not around. Out of sight, out of mind, eh? On the other hand, if I have helped them to see the natural consequences, then their choices will be base on those rather than the presence or absence of their father or anyone else.

There is so much more to this book than I can feasibly capture here. The examples the authors use are from their own experience and extensive research and observation at real companies, families, etc. The copy of Crucial Confrontations I am currently reading actually belongs to Digineer. I am going to return it soon and purchase my own copy since I really want to read it through more than once.