Tag: PASSProfDev

A Milestone: Presenting at PASS Summit

I have been presenting for several years. I can’t properly explain how much I love it. Since before I even attended my first PASS Summit, it has been a career goal that I would one day present at the premier SQL Server focused training event on the planet. When I got the email a while back that my DANGER: The Art and Science of Presenting session had been chosen as an Alternate for the 2013 Summit, I was pretty happy. It was my best result yet.

It is with tremendous joy that I now report that I am no longer an Alternate. Due to a cancellation, PASS had an opening in the Professional Development track and asked me to fill it. Not only do I get to fulfill a career goal of presenting at the Summit, but I get to do so with an exciting new session. I honestly feel this session will not only help new presenters get started on the right foot, but will also help re-invigorate more experienced folk.

You can read the abstract for it here: DANGER: The Art and Science of Presenting


SQL Saturday #239 East Iowa Recap

I just returned home from a fantastic SQL Saturday in Iowa City. Ed Leighton-Dick (Blog|Twitter) and his team did an excellent job. Many thanks to them and to all of the folks that worked so hard to make this event what it was. FamAtFieldOfDreams

I had the joy of presenting twice. In first time-slot of the day, I co-presented Hailing Frequencies: Analysis Services Terms and Concepts with my friend, Doug Lane (Blog|Twitter). In the final time-slot, I gave my MDX Trek: First Contact presentation. Both went well and I want to thank those who attended these sessions when there were other great topics to choose from. I LOVE presenting and the chance to do it twice at a single event was outstanding.

In addition to presenting, I went to great sessions as well. Ed Leighton-Dick gave an excellent introduction to Service Broker, a topic near and dear to him. It was very clear and concise and provided troubleshooting tips and lessons learned. I also went to a great session by Time Mitchell (Blog|Twitter) on SSIS Incremental Load Design Patterns. In addition to quality content, there was meaningful discussion. I went to Doug Lane’s session, From Minutes to Milliseconds: High-Performance SSRS Tuning. Doug gave great tips on memory/IO as well overall architecture choices. I learned valuable new things in every one of these sessions.

In addition to seeing #sqlfamily down in Iowa, I brought my wife and kids along this time. We stopped at the Field of Dreams baseball field in Dyersville, Iowa on the drive down from Minneapolis. That was really cool. My wife, a far bigger baseball fan than I am, absolutely loved it. Actually, she is watching that movie with my ten-year-old as I type this. 🙂 It was great to turn a SQL Saturday into a mini-vacation for my family as well. If you have a chance to do that some time, I highly recommend it.

SQL Saturday is such an important part of PASS and the overall #sqlfamily. It makes me so happy to see how SQL Saturday has grown so mightily over the years and spread across the world. That wouldn’t happen without people like Ed Leighton-Dick and his team who put in so much work to make these events happen. The people that give so much of themselves to put on these events deserve our Thanks and appreciation. 🙂

Upcoming Presentations–April 2013

I have the great joy of presenting at a handful of events in April. I absolution love presenting, so having 3 opportunities to present within the same month is pretty great.

PASS Business Analytics Conference – April 10-12, Chicago IL

Hailing Frequencies: Analysis Services Terms and Concepts

SQL Saturday #211 Chicago – April 13, Chicago IL

Hailing Frequencies: Analysis Services Terms and Concepts

SQL Saturday #175 Fargo – April 27, Fargo ND

MDX Trek: First Contact

If you happen to be attending any of these events, please stop by.

Business Analytics and PASS: Yes Please!

Over the past few years, I have been truly amazed at the power of Business Analytics. I know that part of that is due to my increased exposure to it through client projects. But it seems clear to me that the understanding of what analytics brings to the table has grown as well. One example of the rising prominence of analytics is the fact that IBM is paying out Marketing dollars on prime time commercials about it. From my perspective, that is neither insignificant nor a coincidence.

More and more companies are realizing their data isn’t some static asset that they should just stick onto disks like people used to hide money under their mattresses. It has value far beyond just keeping accounts up to date or being able to how many customers bought Jiffy Pop last week. That is information. And that is certainly important. But analytics takes us to another level entirely.

A client recently told me that his company has gotten really good at measuring operational metrics. Data can help you do that. But analytics can help you determine if you are measuring the rights ones in the first place. Suppose your company can tell the efficiency of Process XYZ with amazing precision and managers all over the company spend a lot of time, both in and out of the office, worrying about how it will fluctuate. Quality business analytics could help you show them how much of an impact Process XYZ actually has on company success. You may end up lowering the company’s overall healthcare costs by preventing a few ulcers.

I am actually just finishing an SSAS 2012 Tabular Model for the Client above in the next couple weeks. It is the first Business Analytics project in his company. It is just a Proof of Concept, and it is not yet complete, but he keeps telling me how valuable it has already been. It is allowing him to correlate data points he never could before. While it is a short project, and the team is just me and a part time PM, I am trying to keep it in the Agile vein and releasing new versions to him every few days or so with new fields, new measures, etc. Within about five minutes after I made the very first release, he told me that he had been able to prove a theory about what was causing a particular business pain, a pain that went up to the highest levels of his company. My point with this is that analytics can often help us see things from different angles or perspectives that are otherwise impossible.

I just can’t wait to get this into that hands of more people in this company. THEN we will really see what, I think, is the greatest benefit that Business Analytics provides: Questions. You read that right. Not Answers. Questions. Answers are great and analytics can provide those. But Questions are the gems. Truly successful business analytics will lead you to the questions you didn’t know to ask. 

I am certainly not the only one who has noticed the rise of Business Analytics. The Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS), which holds a SQL Server Summit every year, announced the first ever PASS Business Analytics Conference taking place in Chicago this April.

PASS BA Conference(b|t)

I have a passion for presenting and my excitement for analytics comes through. I have presented at many SQL Saturdays and various user groups both in person and remotely. When this conference was announced, I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that I would submit a session or two. I also knew that this was going to be a very long shot for me. The competition would be VERY stiff and, being the first event of this kind for PASS, there would be a lot of people vying for spots to present. I couldn’t believe it when I got the email that one of those sessions I submitted was accepted. It will be the crowning achievement of my Presenting career to date. I will be co-presenting with a friend of mine, Doug Lane (b|t), who I met at a SQL Saturday event in Chicago a few years ago.

Our session, Hailing Frequencies: Analysis Services Terms and Concepts, is a Star Trek themed introduction to the terminology and ideas that are an important foundation for Business Analytics projects using Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services as the technology of choice. We will be focusing on SQL Server Analysis Services 2012 and covering both the traditional Multidimensional Model (Cubes) as well as the new Tabular Model. The increased demand for analytics will lead to more and more analytics projects. Yes, I put that together all by myself. As such, it is important for people to have an understanding of what they are getting into and start off on the right foot.

There are so many amazing sessions at this conference. In addition to having the privilege of speaking, I am really excited to be counted as an attendee. Here are just a few of the many sessions that I am particularly excited about.

Dave DuVarney (b|t) of SolidQ is giving a session: Delivering Agile BI Solutions. I firmly believe that analytics projects are iterative and work best when users and stakeholders get their hands dirty early and often. This will provide awesome insight into how to handle this well.

Cindy Gross (b|t) of Microsoft and Eduardo Gamez of Intel are presenting: How Intel Integrates Self-Service BI with IT for Better Business Results. One of my first projects in my SQL Server career was designing/implementing a SQL Server Reporting Services Report Model for enable power-users at a client to create their own reports. Ever since then, I have been a proponent of empowering end users as part of an overall reporting solution. This session looks to be a magnificent look into how a highly respective organization like Intel was able to create a holistic solution with great success.

Marco Russo (b|t) will be delivering a session on: Modern Data Warehouse Strategy. In his abstract for this session, Marco points out that new technologies around Self-Serve BI and Big Data Analytics are not doing away with the concept of a Data Warehouse, “but we do need to update our strategy for data warehouse implementation to fit the requirements of this new era.” I am still relatively new to Data Warehousing in general so I expect to get a massive benefit from this session. Marco’s blog and book, Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Analysis Services: The BISM Tabular Model, have been of enormous help to me on my current Tabular Model project.

There are 60 sessions in all. Sixty. I am just ecstatic that PASS saw the value in holding an event like this focusing on Business Analytics. I feel so honored that I get to be a part of it.

If you work in a company that has data, then you work in a company that is likely to benefit from Business Analytics. We, as a global community are producing and consuming ever increasing volumes of data and at increasing speeds. Analytics is no flash in the pan; it is here to stay and the appetite for it will only get larger. The sooner you start learning about it, the better. The PASS Business Analytics Conference is an excellent place to start. You can register here. Your career is worth the investment. Who knows? Maybe you could end up leading your company (and yourself) into an era of better insight and success than ever before.

Summing Up PASS Summit 2012

I attended my second PASS Summit this year. And my experience, once again, was awesome. This year was definitely a different kind of awesome, though. Last year, I was a First Timer and was awesomely overwhelmed at pretty much everything. This year, I was a First Timer Mentor, helping a group of First Timers learn the ropes and get their feet wet in the most excellent SQL Training event there is. This year was my first Summit as a PASS Regional Mentor. So, I had some official stuff I needed to do like attending the Regional Mentors meeting and the Chapter Leaders meeting and spending some time helping out in the Community Zone (a new feature this year). I also had the change to sit down with Chris Shaw (b|t), the other Regional Mentor for Canada, and several of our Canadian Chapter Leaders for an in-person meeting to talk about the challenges they face and how we, as Regional Mentors, can help them out. That was fantastic. Particularly since Canada is so vast, and Chris and I both live in the US, it was an amazing opportunity.

I also volunteered as an Ambassador, helping answer questions and direct people to where they need to be. It was my involvement this year that made such a difference for me. Putting together an event like the PASS Summit is a massive undertaking. Even though my part was miniscule, I felt honored and proud to help out a community that means so much to me. I also got to meet the AWESOME people of PASS HQ and do what I could to make their time a bit easier.

The sessions I attended were really cool and I cannot wait to start watching the session recordings. I met a lot of new people, including Buck Woody (b|t) and Denny Lee(b|t) and so many others for the very first time. I got to spend time with so many people who I rarely see. There are too many to name that fall into this category. SQL Karaoke was EPIC and frequent. That was just awesome to do karaoke to a live band. Just. Awesome.

I was asked recently what my biggest takeaway from Summit 2012 was. It only took about 1 second to come up with the answer, “Community.” This year, for me, was more about the Community than anything else.

I have to send out a hekaton of thanks to PASS HQ, the sponsors, speakers, volunteers, vendors, Microsoft, and everyone else who made the 2012 PASS Summit just friggin awesome.

Oh, and it took all week, but on Friday, I finally managed to juggle three of the full-sized beanbag chairs in the Community Zone.

PASS Regional Mentor–Canada

I had mentioned in my most recent PD post, Professional Development Plans: Turning Your Job Into a Career, Part 2, that I wanted to jump back into SQL Community involvement and let PASS know of my desire to become a PASS Regional Mentor (RM). I was on the Executive Board for the Minnesota chapter of PASS, PASSMN, for three years and had a great time. After taking a few years off, I am ready and anxious to get back into the game. The RM program is a huge asset to both PASS local chapters and the PASS community as a whole. The roles of an RM are, as PASS Community Evangelist Karl Landrum (b|t) noted in her post on the PASS Blog, the following:


I heard from PASS Director Allen Kinsel (b|t) that PASS would like to have me on board as a Regional Mentor. Hazzah!!!! It is now official.

I will be helping Chris Shaw (b|t) with the mighty Canada region. I am really excited to get this opportunity to work with Chris and serve this community I care so much about.

To my Canadian friends:

1. Having grown up in New Hampshire before moving to Minnesota, I have never lived in a US State that did not border Canada.

2. Canada happens to be the only country outside the US to which I have traveled.

3. When I was growing up, my Dad would often watch Les Habitants on the French language channel.

4. I think Mike Myers is hysterical.

5. I studied French in school for 12 years. It was mostly written, though, so my conversational French is pretty poor. But I can tell you all about pencils, pens, dogs, cats, cows, pigs, coats, boys, girls, and colors. Oh, and skirts. I don’t wear them, myself, but I remember how to say it in French. Boats, too.

6. I remember watching the Winter Olympic Games in Calgary, thinking it looked pretty cool. I was only thirteen at the time.

7. My wife and I watched a whole big lot of the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver and it was just amazing. When I told her that being a Regional Mentor for Canada was a possibility, she immediately told me, “If you end up going to Vancouver, I AM COMING. Period.” 🙂

8. Like The Kids in the Hall, I was in a TheatreSports improvised comedy troupe for three years.

Words can’t really explain how excited I am for this new role. I am constantly telling people about the vibrant, fantastic SQL Community. It’s going to be great to be an ambassador for PASS in a more formal capacity.

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.

PASSMN July Meeting: Ask The Experts Panel

The annual Ask The Experts panel has arrived for the Minnesota chapter of PASS. I am especially excited for this one since I will have the honor of serving on the panel for the first time. This is really a great milestone for me and fits so well with my goals to have an impact in the community.

Thanks to Superior Consulting for sponsoring this month’s meeting.


8300 Norman Center Drive, 9th Floor, Bloomington, MN  55437


July 19th, 2011


3:00 – 5:00


Please click here for meeting details and to RSVP

Ask the Experts

After the popularity of the past "Ask the Experts" discussions, we decided to bring back the forum for a third straight year. PASS members will have the opportunity to pose any burning questions they might have about SQL Server to our expert panel. We will round things out with a couple tips or tricks about SQL Server from each of our panel experts.  This year’s discussion will be moderated by Jason Strate.

The Panel:

  • Lara Rubbelke, Microsoft
  • Dan English, Superior Consulting Services
  • Mark Vaillancourt, Digineer
  • Bill Preachuk, Emergent Networks
  • Zach Mattson, Patterson Companies

August PASSMN Meeting: Ask The Experts Panel

Ask the Experts Panel Discussion

Start Date/Time:
Tuesday, August 17, 2010 3:00 PM

End Date/Time:
Tuesday, August 17, 2010 5:00 PM


Meeting sponsor:

Red Gate Software makes ingeniously simple tools for over 500,000 Microsoft technology professionals working with SQL Server, .NET, and Exchange.  The company’s product line includes tools for comparing, synchronizing, backing up and recovering SQL Server databases; understanding and fixing .NET code problems; and email archiving for Exchange.

Location: 8300 Norman Center Drive, 9th Floor, Bloomington, MN  55437

Please click here for meeting details and to RSVP

Live Meeting

·         URL: https://www.livemeeting.com/cc/usergroups/join?id=HCC36W&role=present&pw=W%3E%2Bx%3C9%2B%21B

·         Meeting ID: HCC36W

·         Entry Code: mwD{j|\4B


·         Lara Rubbelke, Microsoft

·         Jason Strate, Digineer

·         Eric Strom, RBA Consulting

·         Tim Plas, Virteva


3:00 –3:15 : Announcements
3:15 –3:25 : Sponsor
3:25 –5:00 : Ask The Experts Panel

After the popularity of last years "Ask the Experts", we decided to bring back the forum this year. PASS members will have the opportunity to pose any burning questions they might have about SQL Server to our expert panel. We will round things out with a couple tips or tricks about SQL Server from each of our panel experts.

The Panel:

Lara Rubbelke brings her passion for architecting, implementing and improving SQL Server solutions to the community as a Data Platform Technology Specialist for Microsoft. This is a role that is a pre-sales role for SQL Server. Her expertise involves both OLTP and OLAP systems, data management, performance tuning, encryption, ETL, and the Business Intelligence lifecycle. Compliance and configuration management are near and dear to her heart. She is an active board member and advocate of the Minnesota chapter of PASS (Professional Association for SQL Server) and regularly delivers technical presentations at local, regional and national conferences, user groups and webcasts. Notably, Lara has presented at Tech Ed, the PASS Summit, the Minneapolis SQL Server Launch, and delivered numerous webcasts on MSDN and TechNet. Lara authored a number of the Microsoft whitepapers and was a contributing author of "Expert SQL Server 2005 Development" (lead author Adam Machanic).

Jason Strate, Digineer Inc, is a database architect and administrator with over twelve years of experience. He is Microsoft MVP (Most Valuable Professional) for SQL Server. His experience includes design and implementation of both OLTP and OLAP solutions as well as assessment and implementation of SQL Server environments for best practices, performance, and high availability solutions. Jason is a SQL Server MCITP and participated in the development of Microsoft Certification exams for SQL Server 2008. Jason enjoys helping others in the SQL Server community and does this by presenting at technical conferences and user group meetings. Most recently, Jason has presented at the SSWUG Virtual Conferences, TechFuse, SQL Saturdays, and at PASSMN user group meetings. Jason is an active blogger with a focus on SQL Server and related technologies.

Eric Strom is a Database Consultant at RBA Consulting and is a member of the Minnesota PASS Board. He has been a SQL Server DBA since 2001 and specializes in performance tuning. Eric studied database theory at the University of Minnesota to earn a B.S. in Computer Science. He loves exchanging ideas with peers and is always looking for a good discussion.

Tim Plas is a Principal Consultant at Virteva, in Mpls MN. His current focus areas are operational-DBA services, storage, server virtualization, cloud computing, & providing level-3 escalation support for IT managed services. His SQL emphasis is on monitoring, management, and high availability.  Previous specialties in his 25+ years in the IT field have included Citrix/TS (app hosting), LAN’s / WAN’s / network security, DB architecture, systems architecture & design, app development, systems-level programming, & various IT mgmt roles. Tim has held a variety of MS certifications since 1994.