Andy Leonard is CSO of Linchpin People
, an SSIS Trainer, Consultant
, and developer; a Business Intelligence Markup Language (Biml)
developer; SQL Server database and data warehouse developer, community mentor, engineer, and farmer. He is a co-author of SQL Server 2012 Integration Services Design Patterns
. His background includes web application architecture and development, VB, and ASP. Andy loves the SQL Server Community!Note: Comments are moderated. Spam shall not pass! </GandalfVoice>
I had a great time at the PASS Summit 2013 this past week in Charlotte! I spoke to several people who told me they were pleasantly surprised by the venue and the event. Charlotte rocks! As a NASCAR fan, I particularly enjoyed the Community Event held at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
It is always an honor to present and I was honored to deliver Designing an SSIS Framework and to participate in a cool panel discussion titled How to Avoid Living at Work: Lessons from Working at Home. Panel discussions are always fun, and my co-panelists made some really cool and interesting points about working remotely and working from home. Kudos to them and to Thomas LaRock for organizing the panel!
I had a great time delivering the Designing an SSIS Framework presentation, but I fear I may have offended an attendee who had a question about using the SSIS 2012 Catalog for logging. I’ll digress a bit to explain that I was spinning up a metadata-driven parent SSIS package right there on stage, live. (I type during demos. On purpose.) One attendee asked about logging in that package, and they asked the question right before I moved to that topic. As an experienced presenter, I can tell you it is awesome when the audience is asking questions about the very next topic. It means you’ve done a good job ordering the material and that the attendees are engaged and paying attention.
The first version of a framework I demonstrated was based on SSIS packages stored in the file system. This framework was written to support SSIS 2005, but it works well in 2008 and 2008 R2. You can download a version here. It will also work in SSIS 2012 if you do not wish to use the new Project Deployment Model (use the Package Deployment Model instead). SSIS 2012 is almost completely backwards-compatible and that. is. awesome!
The next question was asked as I wrapped up the discussion about the “old” (pre-SSIS 2012) framework. I will have to listen to the recording to see if I can catch the actual question, but it was something like, “Can you use the SSIS 2012 Catalog logging now?” Again, I will have to listen to the recording to quote my exact answer, but it was along the lines of: “Yall are right on top of this today – you should be up here leading this presentation.” What I meant was that the folks were asking great questions in a timely manner. What I fear is that some folks interpreted my response to mean something different from that. I know at least one person interpreted my response differently because they told someone who told me.
I was wrong to respond that way. It was a poor choice of words and I am an experienced presenter. I know better, and I probably offended the gentleman who asked the question. I don’t know who that person was, but I want to publicly apologize for my words. I promise I didn’t intend to offend you. It was a great question and I did not take offense at you asking it or asking it when you did. As the words were coming out of my mouth my brain was shouting at me, “PUT DOWN THE SHOVEL AND CLIMB OUT OF THE HOLE!!!” To you, sir – the gentleman who asked the question – to the other attendees of an otherwise cool presentation, and to the Professional Association for SQL Server, I apologize.
I look forward to SQL Saturday #237 tomorrow. I will be there. I’m the fat guy with a longish beard. If you are there and read this blog, please introduce yourself!
Every once in a while someone asks me, “How does one go from being just-a-developer to presenting at conferences?” When I hear this question, a little voice inside my head asks, “Why are they asking you?” And then another voice says, “You idiot, it’s because you made that trip from just-a-developer to conference speaker.” So now we have an admission that I hear voices in my head. (Is anyone surprised? I thought not. Moving on…)
A disclaimer: what worked for me may not work for you. I can hear you thinking, “Why not, Andy?” Well, because you are not me. Before you get in a huff about that, let me assure this is a good thing. Trust me. And it will likely work more in your favor than you realize.
How I Did It, by Andy Leonard
This may sound strange. The first thing I did was decide I wanted to do more with my career. This didn’t come naturally to me. My beautiful bride, Christy, encouraged me.
Next, I asked people who were already speaking at conferences how they did it. Most ignored me. But a few responded and told me I needed to increase my credibility in the technical field of my choosing. Awesome. “How do I do that?” I asked. A good way to start is by helping others. Awesome. “How do I do that?” I asked again. By posting answers on forums and by blogging.
When I asked these questions, most forums were hosted on usenet (Remember usenet?). I didn’t fare well in the forums; I am not sure why. I quickly found blogging to be awesome, though. I cannot locate that first blog site – I can’t even remember where I started it. Shortly afterwards, I set up VSTeamSystemCentral.com and started blogging there. Here’s a link to my first blog post there.
Around the same time, I asked if I could present at the Jacksonville Florida (where I lived at the time) SQL Server Users Group. I learned of a Code Camp in Jacksonville and submitted a presentation. It was accepted! And, I was fortunate enough to work for an established icon in the SQL Server field: Brian Knight. Brian was writing a book on SQL Server 2005 Integration Services and was looking for co-authors. It was very good timing: I had recently been published in Visual Studio magazine and at SQL Server Central.com.
Of all the opportunities, being an author of the Wrox book Professional SQL Server 2005 Integration Services made the biggest difference in my career.
After that first book was published, things picked up considerably. But I didn’t stop there. Frank La Vigne and I restarted the Richmond SQL Server Users Group. I participated in organizing the first Richmond Code Camp. I was asked to help write two other books. I became a consultant. Each step built on the previous work, and I was awarded SQL Server MVP.
Was I Just Lucky?
I have had this discussion with friends. My answer to “just lucky” is, “No.” Was I lucky? Absolutely; I was more than merely “just lucky.” Allow me to explain.
I found myself working for Brian Knight, an established author and expert in our field. He asked me to help author one of the first books published about SSIS (I had
offered begged to help earlier but there were no openings on the author team until later…). Most first-time authors receive several rejections before being published, and I was asked. That was fortunate.
But I had already started publishing: a blog and a couple articles. This is why I say I was more than merely lucky. I was writing. I caught a lucky break on the SSIS book and then I worked my butt off to bring that writing in. My chapter on Team Foundation Services was one of the first published on TFS. It may have been the first, I’m not sure. You may not recall this, but TFS 2005 and SQL Server 2005 and Visual Studio 2005 were all slated to be released together in November 2005. We started writing under that assumption, and then in September 2005 Microsoft announced TFS would not ship until sometime in 2006. That put a wrinkle in the plans for the book because we wanted it on the market before TFS was scheduled to be released. I won’t bore you with the details. Suffice it to say that chapter was nearly cut from the book and that I saved it by rewriting it (and reworking the demos) in a marathon 40-hours-straight writing session immediately after Microsoft released a TFS CTP in October 2005. So “lucky?” Yes. “Merely lucky.” I don’t think so.
Can I Do This?
If you are asking yourself, “Can I do what you did?” The answer is not only, “Yes;” it’s “Heck YES!” You can probably do it better and in less time. I can hear you thinking, “Are you just being falsely modest?” No, I am not. I say this because there are a bunch more resources out there nowadays than there was eight years ago. There’s lots more software out there, and more people using the software who have great questions about how to use it. Am I being modest? Maybe, but it’s not false – I promise. I’m a chicken-farmer with an Associate’s Degree, folks. C’mon. If I can do this I know you can.
Great question! Go to the free blogging site of your choosing (there are several out there, WordPress.com is one of the larger choices). Start a blog today.
“What Do I Write About?”
My goodness, you are on a roll with the excellent questions! Write about what you know. Pick a problem you hit recently and write about how you solved it. If you haven’t encountered a problem recently, set up your blog and wait – you’re due for a problem any minute.
“But I Solved the Problem Using a Post By Someone Else”
So what? Did the post you found help with every single aspect of the solution? Some do, others don’t. Regardless, reference that helpful post in your post. If that helpful post walked you through every little part of the solution, write that. If there were things you didn’t understand and had to figure out from other helpful posts, write that (and link to the other helpful posts).
What To Expect
Will your email box fill up with requests to present at international conferences and write books? No. Not at first. You have to pay your dues and earn your chops (like everyone else). Is it easy? No. Writing is harder than it looks. Writing well is harder still. I find I am a much better editor than writer. So I wrote this blog post during lunch, saved it away in my drafts folder (I love LiveWriter!), and opened it later in the day to edit it.
There is some fantastic advice out there about how to write well and better. Search for it. You will find it. And you need to learn how to find things for yourself, so consider this a homework exercise.
Where To Start?
At the beginning. For me, the beginning was writing.
Just write. That’s one way to get started.
PS – Some friends recently took this advice and started blogs. Check them out:
It’s election time again for the Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS). We have a week to discover what we can about the candidates and vote. I do not believe one week is enough time for this. That’s one reason why I’m sharing who I will be voting for and why. I encourage everyone to do as much research as you can and vote for the candidates you believe will represent the things you believe will help PASS move forward and best serve the SQL Server Community.
Allen has served on the Board. Before that, he led the PASS Summit Selection Committee for some years. Allen has a good sense of the inner workings of the PASS Board. He brings extensive experience with the SQL Server Community, as well. I think both are important, and that’s why I’m voting for Allen.
I’ve known Tim for a while and he’s good people. Tim cares about the SQL Server Community and demonstrates his caring by volunteering many hours to community events.
Both Allen and Tim have experienced disappointments in and with PASS and the SQL Server Community. Allen was on the Board and was not re-elected. Tim ran previously for the Board and, if memory serves, was eliminated by the Nomination Committee.
Returning to the fray after experiencing disappointment says something (to me) about character and gumption.
The other US candidates – Amy Lewis and Ami Levin – bring strong talents to the candidate pool. I had to pick some folks which meant not picking others.
The Other Seat
There are three seats available and I’ve only mentioned two candidates. One seat is going to someone from the US, another to someone from EMEA, the third seat is up for grabs for anyone. I’ve decided who I will vote for in the US and up-for-grabs seats. I haven’t yet made up my mind about the EMEA candidate, but I see strength in all: Neil Hambly, Jen Stirrup, and Richard Douglas.
Recently, Microsoft decided to retire some expert-level certifications. Among them, the highest SQL Server certification: the Microsoft Certified Master (MCM).
There are several good posts on the topic, most notably:
Most indications point to economic drivers for the decision. The number of people who had achieved this level of certification was lower than anticipated.
I don’t think Microsoft counted the total cost of this decision (if economics was the true driver for the decision). In fact, I think they got the economics wrong. Why? Having a difficult-to-achieve certification increases the value of the certification by simple supply and demand. The existence of MCM’s was therefore valuable – if only as a goal to achieve. Scarcity was part of the value.
What value do MCM’s bring to Microsoft? They bring assurance to the customer base that there are skilled folks in the marketplace – professionals that can solve the problems they may encounter as their data scales and their needs evolve. More than certified individuals. Certified Masters. Does one have to be an MCM to solve customer issues? No. But there was that extra measure of assurance informed by the fact that some had achieved success on that lab portion of the exam; that they had successfully worked out enough tricky SQL Server issues – in a controlled test environment – that they could be awarded the title MCM.
If Microsoft was expecting to make money off of administering exams or training or anything (other than selling software or software services) then this goal was misplaced, in my opinion.
Certification is not a profit center. Certification is insurance.
One doesn’t purchase insurance to earn money; the primary driver for purchasing insurance is “in case something bad happens.” For a large sector of technology purchasers, I believe no new MCMs means less insurance. Microsoft claims they are going to replace the MCM with something “better” – does this mean something that more adequately meets their economic goals? What about the goals of the customers?
Finally, killing the MCM program has created justified fear in the SQL Server Community. If Microsoft will kill the flagship certification, are any certifications safe from future elimination?
I am honored to present a day-long preconference before SQL Saturday 255 (Dallas) entitled A Day of SSIS 2012.
Please register here. I’m excited to visit the Dallas area! Here’s some information about the precon – I hope to see you there!
A Day of SSIS was developed by Andy Leonard to train technology professionals in the fine art of using SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) to build data integration and Extract-Transform-Load (ETL) solutions.
The training is focused around lectures and emphasizes a practical approach.
The target audience for this training is database professionals, application developers, and business intelligence practitioners interested in acquiring or expanding their existing SSIS skill set.
No experience with SQL Server or SQL Server Integration Services is required before attending this training.
It is helpful (but not required) that students possess some knowledge of and experience with relational databases. SQL Server knowledge / experience will be more helpful than experience and knowledge with other technologies.
At the conclusion of the training, attendees will have been exposed to:
- Using SSIS to develop data integration solutions.
- Using SSIS to load a database table.
- Troubleshooting real-world SSIS Data Flow Task errors.
- Deploying SSIS Solutions.
- Managing, monitoring, and administering SSIS in the enterprise.
Lesson 0: Introduction
- Training overview, expectations, and introductions.
Lesson 1: Creating Your First SSIS 2012 package
- Introduction to SQL Server Data Tools. Visual Studio tips and tricks, menu contents and locations.
Lesson 2: Introduction to the Data Flow Task
- Introduction to the Data Flow Task. Connection Manager and Data Flow Task basics - source and destination adapters.
Lesson 3: The Control Flow
- Containers, Precedence, and Work flow.
- Transactions, restart-ability, and blocking.
Lesson 4: Loop Containers
- Using Sequence, For Loop, and Foreach Loop Containers.
Lesson 5: Event Handlers, Logging, and Configurations
- The OnError and OnInformation event handlers.
- Using SSIS 2012’s built-in Catalog logging facility to capture package execution details and statistics.
- Using built-in package configurations to externalize variable values.
- Using SSIS 2012 Parameters and Environments.
Lesson 6: Security, Deployment, and Execution
- SSIS 2012 Package deployment options and security implications.
- SSIS Catalog Execution options.
Lesson 7: Hacking the SSIS 2012 Catalog
- Understand the SSIS 2012 Catalog design.
- Extending the SSIS 212 Catalog.
Lesson 8: Enterprise Execution Patterns
- Leveraging the SSIS 2012 Catalog and the Parent-Child design pattern to build a metadata-driven SSIS execution engine.
- Extending SSIS with Custom Tasks
- Data integration dashboards: One approach to data integration management.
James Carville coined the phrase, “It’s the economy, stupid,” as part of Bill Clinton’s 1992 US Presidential campaign. I’m not fond of the “stupid” part. But I have also never successfully advised a governor to become President of the United States by unseating an incumbent President who enjoyed a 90% approval rating earlier in his presidency.
I am fond of delivering value. In fact, that’s a major tenet of Linchpin People’s culture: Deliver Value.
It’s Raining Value
There’s value in the cloud. How Microsoft helped this bar figure out that vodka was costing it a fortune is an interesting article for many reasons. It’s a good case study highlighting some interesting technology, and that’s reason enough for you to take a few minutes and read the article.
For technology professionals, though, there’s an important lesson here: Do not describe your career in terms of an application (or even a technology), describe your career in terms of your value proposition to the organization. My friend Buck Woody (blog | @buckwoody) has written extensively on this topic. Buck’s series on how the cloud changes different jobs in our industry (How Does the Cloud Change a ______ Job?) is a must-read for data and IT professionals, in my opinion. In other articles, Buck recommends changing how we describe ourselves, calling ourselves “data professionals” instead of “database professionals.” It’s more than just semantics, it’s really about describing our value to others – particularly the others who impact our salaries.
Watering vs. Flooding
It is not good enough to simply identify value, one must apply identified value.
And, it is not enough to simply apply identified value, one must apply the identified value with a proper and profitable response.
The value raining from the cloud can wash away organizational gains as easily as it can foster and improve them. An example is found in the How Microsoft helped this bar figure out that vodka was costing it a fortune article:
To give the bar staff an incentive to be more accurate, the owner set up a private server to monitor their activities in secret; the bartenders who consistently poured 1.5 ounces every time would get to keep their jobs, the others would be fired.
No! that’s not what the article says at all! It really says:
To give the bar staff an incentive to be more accurate, the owner set up a competition; the bartender who got the closest to consistently pouring 1.5 ounces every time would win a trip to Hawaii. Everyone had access to Power BI -- in the browser or using a Windows 8 tablet app -- so they could see how they were doing, and how the competition was stacking up.
“Wait, what? Win a trip to Hawaii?!” Yep. I can hear you thinking, “Why would the owner spring for a trip to Hawaii as the reward?” The answer is found a few sentences later. The competition worked and “the bar is getting closer to clawing back $2,500 a month in revenue.” I checked and a trip to Hawaii for two can cost about $5,000 for hotel and airfare. Throw in expenses for a few outings and it can easily reach $7,500 or more. Let’s say the bar owner covers that amount – $7,500. That’s three months of the improved bottom line (at $2,500 per month). After the three months, the owner pockets the additional profit. That’s pretty good business – everyone wins.
Properly applying insights from business intelligence is at least as important as identifying insights in the first place. That’s one way to deliver value.
There was a bit of a hubbub at Tech Ed 2013 North America. It began with generalized disorganization, escalated when site security escorted Greg Young’s (blog | @gregyoung) wife from the building, and ended with him cancelling his presentations at both the North American and European conferences.
Greg’s post has generated some responses, but – according to him – nothing from Microsoft. That’s disappointing. Greg and his wife deserve an apology.
The best conferences I’ve attended (I’m looking at you, SQLBits and DevLink) don’t have a problem with family members attending. And other awesome events like SQLConnections encourage spouses to attend peripheral events – at no extra charge. Somehow, with their lower budgets and tighter fire marshal requirements in smaller spaces, they manage to allow spouses and/or children to attend; while conferences with literally million-plus-dollar budgets (I’m looking at you Tech Ed and PASS) do not.
Are the event organizers worried the spouses are going to ruin the event for the other geeks? Are the seven-plus-figure budgets of the organizers not sufficient to cover a handful of family-member attendees? Are the planners unable to plan for an extra handful of people on the premises? Are the event organizers worried people are going to get married in order to cheat the organizers out of a couple thousand dollars? I mean, exactly what is the problem with a few other people attending?
People are attending the event. The last time I purchased event insurance for Richmond Code Camp the insurance cost a couple hundred dollars and insured all the people on the premises at the time. The family members are people. They’re covered. So it’s not insurance.
Event organizers can plan for this. Add a checkbox to the online registration form, just in case the organizers are worried about the event being overrun by significant others (I hope the excuse isn’t this lame).
Speakers have families (is this news?). Some speakers travel a lot, doing interesting work, which is kind of why the conference selected them to speak in the first place. If the conference doesn’t pay the speaker to present, and many do not, why in the world will they not allow a spouse to step into a room to take a few pictures? Or watch someone they care about do what they love? Or experience the honor of presenting at a major conference with their partner?
This is solvable. Let them in. For free. Limit their access to their family member’s presentation if you must. But let them in. This isn’t hard.
What is Biml? - Level 1 is live at SQL Server Central! I’m really excited about this series of articles because I believe Business Intelligence Markup Language (Biml) is the future of business intelligence.
Linchpin People has been using Biml to deliver value to our data integration customers and we are eager to share ways you can leverage Biml to change the way you deliver SSIS solutions.
If you want to seriously accelerate your Biml skills, join Varigence and Linchpin People for the day-long 2013 BimlScript Workshop in Charlotte North Carolina on Tuesday, 15 Oct 2013! We’re going to have great food, awesome fun, and show you how to use Biml’s game-changing technology to deliver value to your enterprise. Register today and take advantage of the early-bird special rate!
I hope to see you there!
Join Andy Warren and me for an hour-long presentation on PCI Security Wednesday, 17 Jul at noon!.
I have mixed emotions about codes of conduct. I respect the right of any organization – public or private, for-profit or not – to create, maintain, and enforce codes of conduct. At the same time, I find the need for such standards depressing… especially in professional organizations.
I am and have been a member of professional organizations that have a code of conduct. I was a Microsoft MVP for five years and I am currently a member of the Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS). Both have codes of conduct (Microsoft, PASS). Both codes of conduct include an “Or Else” section. At the time of this writing, Microsoft’s section reads:
Microsoft reserves the right to remove any participant from the MVP Award Program for violating this Code of Conduct. In the event of a violation, the MVP Global Program Manager and MVP Lead aligned with the individual will review the situation. The final determination on whether to remove a person from the Program is made on a case-by-case basis. When an MVP is removed from the program, we retire the remaining benefits and his/her access to Microsoft resources.
A the time of this writing, PASS’s section reads:
If a participant violates this Anti-Harassment Policy, the conference organizers may take any action they deem appropriate, including warning the offender or expelling the offender from the conference. No refunds will be granted to attendees expelled from the Summit due to violations of this policy.
If you are being harassed, witness harassment, or have any other concerns, please contact a member of conference staff immediately. Conference staff can be identified by their “Headquarters” shirts and are trained to respond appropriately.
An Anti-Harassment Review Committee (AHRC) made up of the Executive Manager and three members of the Board of Directors designated by the President will be authorized to take action in response to an incident or behavior that violates the Anti-Harassment Policy.
For more information about incident reporting and review, please see the Anti-Harrassment Policy Process [sic]. If you have any questions about the PASS Anti-Harassment Policy, please contact PASS Governance.
If you follow the Anti-Harrassment Policy Process link at the time of this writing, the document contains the following section:
After being notified of a reported violation the AHRC [Anti-Harassment Review Committee] will make a reasonable effort to convene as soon as possible. The AHRC will make reasonable efforts to speak with all principals. No action will be taken until the AHRC has made a reasonable effort to speak with the person accused of violating the anit-harassment policy. The accused person will be offered the opportunity to review the allegations and respond to the AHRC
I want to be clear about something: I have little tolerance for harassment. I support a person’s right to express themselves. I put on a uniform and swore to protect those rights for citizens of the US in my younger years. The uniform no longer fits, but I still rally to support the right of an individual to express themselves (even when I personally disagree with what they are expressing… but I digress…). That said, I believe my – and everyone’s – rights end when they encroach on the rights of another.
Both policies do a fair job responding to the concerns of the offended. I like that PASS’s policy involves communicating with the accused alleged offender. A major tenet of the US justice system is the right of the accused to face their accuser. That right has been modified in edge cases – sometimes understandably so, sometimes not – but the idea that the accused has an opportunity to respond to the charges against them is fundamental. It makes sense, too. If you were accused of something you would want someone in authority to hear your side of the story before rendering a decision, wouldn’t you? I would.
And herein lies my concern: I see something akin to due process for the allegedly offending individual accused in the PASS code of conduct, but I do not see it in the Microsoft MVP code of conduct.
So my question is this: If a Microsoft MVP is accused of violating the code of conduct and the accusation is of a subjective nature (“no disrespectful behavior”, for example – not something objective like “no NDA violations”), is the allegedly offending MVP asked for their side of the story? I see that the MVP Global Program Manager and the allegedly offending MVP’s Microsoft MVP Lead review the situation. I also see the decision on whether to remove an MVP is made on a case-by-case basis. I don’t see any provision for input from the allegedly offending individual MVP. So… does it happen? Are they asked for their side of the story?
This isn’t my only concern.
I worry about statutes of limitations. I happen to know both of these codes of conduct were reactionary; they were written to prevent future behavior based on past incidents. How far back do they apply? They don’t say. So if it comes to light that a member of one of these groups committed an atrocious breach some years ago, what recourse – if any – does the offended have?
Conversely, I worry about ex post facto, as well. The MVP Code currently states:
7. Stay abreast of the Codes of Conduct. Microsoft reserves the right to amend or change the Code of Conduct at any time without notice. You agree to periodically review this document (http://mvp.support.microsoft.com) to ensure you are doing your part.
My concern is in regards to the timing of such changes and their application. Can Microsoft take offense at something (a blog post asking questions about their code of conduct, hypothetically), update the code of conduct, and then apply enforcement retroactively?
I worry about uniform application of codes of conduct. For example, if one person behaves in a way that gets them removed from a PASS Summit or kicked out of the MVP program and another person – who happens to be better connected to leadership in PASS or Microsoft – behaves in precisely the same way, and one is removed and the other is not; that’s a concern.
I can list more concerns but this post is long enough. My concerns are not with the existence of codes of conduct in professional organizations; they lie with upholding, applying, and enforcing said codes of conduct.
Not surprisingly, I think part of the solution is more transparency. Microsoft, PASS, and other professional organizations can take a cue from the way media reports about crimes: the names of those involved and many details of the accusation can be kept confidential. Informing the public is optional. Informing the membership is vital, I believe. Transparency works against back-room deals and shadiness due to an individual’s “connectedness” to leadership. It helps ensure uniform application of the rules to everyone. And knowing there is something akin to due process makes everyone feel better about the existence of a code of conduct.