Are you a data Thought Leader? Call for speakers for Thought Leadership podcast series

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Credit: MPI Group

As part of the Business Analytics Portfolio, I am spearheading a series of Thought Leadership podcasts and I am looking for people to be interviewed in a ‘fireside chat’ format.

 

I am bringing together experts from our community to share insights, ideas, and tips on helping data executives lead the way to becoming more data-driven.

The podcasts are intended to speak to senior executive people in the organisation, and they aren’t technically oriented. PASS already had a wealth of opportunities to speak at the Virtual Chapters to share deep technical expertise.

The first episode with Ken Puls is on the PASS website, and please do listen to his session. I am looking for more episodes, and I’d love to interview people in the PASS community.  I will be your friendly interviewer, and the topic is YOU, how you got to this stage in your career, what’s your data story, and what wisdom would you share to a  younger you? What do you think is happening in the industry now, and where is it going? What books do you recommend for people who want a more data-driven organisation?

I am looking for Thought Leaders and Budding Thought Leaders. This is your chance to showcase your expertise. It’s an informal podcast, so there are no slides. It’s just you, me and twenty minutes of your time.

Do you have a data story to share? If so, please email me at jen.stirrup@datarelish.com and let’s try to make it happen!

 

 

Is the MVP Program becoming less technical?

Alt Title: how did you get to be an MVP, Jen Stirrup?

The skinny answer: I think it’s changed to reflect the times. It’s Microsoft’s Award to give or take away at any point. I am going to have some fun here, and I’d like you to join me.

zx81Full fat: Something I’ve heard occasionally, is the following question: Isn’t the MVP Program becoming less technical?  Certainly, the criticism that I’m not technical has been levied at me quite often. I’m not worried: I am going to let karma sort that out, but in the meantime, I’m going to talk about me for a little bit, and stick to the facts. You decide. I’ll comment at the end, and you can comment, too.

Early career

bill_gates_tandy2000I taught myself to program in BASIC when I was eight years old, on a ZX81 computer which my uncle fixed. My uncle Jim fixed stuff from Tandy (Radio Shack) for a living, and the little ZX81 was considered too sickly to be resuscitated.

 

 

frontcvrMy uncle and my dad had another go at giving it some life, and lo and behold, the ZX81 was reborn and I adopted it. I got a cassette player and loaded games carefully. I learned to program. I LOVED it. Forget Malory Towers and all that Enid Blyton stuff, I read the ZX81 manual cover to cover and I talked a lot about sixteen fingered martians at school.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, nobody talked back to me. Let’s put it plainly, I was one weird eight year old girl.

So, I rocked high school, becoming the first girl school Latin prize winner, winning the Business Studies prize. I was happy but pretty lonely. I went on to do an additional Latin class at school; that’s how much fun I was.

9b1453d9467dabd86da830c4bb22279dI went to Glasgow University, my alma mater, and it changed my life for the better. I had friends who loved knowledge as much as I did. They now sing for Belle and Sebastian and they rock, quite literally. Go and listen.

So, life moved on and I rocked Psychology; I became an expert in Psyscope  which I learned to program psychology experiments on a Mac.

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I grew in SPSS expertise, again on a Mac.

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Artificial Intelligence career

I moved to France where I studied Artificial Intelligence in a joint effort between the L’université Pierre et Marie Curie – UPMC and Aberdeen University in Scotland.

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Then I decided to pay back my debt to society and actually do some work.

I started off my career as an Artificial Intelligence Consultant, delivering natural language processing solutions for what is now the Brightware Natural Language Processor that belongs to Oracle. Then, I moved into intelligent call handling as a Cisco engineer focused on the Cisco Intelligent Call Manager, which is now Cisco Unified Intelligent Contact Management, and my focus was on the Enterprise Edition. I learned about networks, racks, data centers and implemented early VoIP. So, if you have listened to an IVR for Vodafone, that may well have been implemented by me. Sorry about that.

Oh, and these were very male dominated. #JustSaying

As a pregnant woman visiting the Cisco offices, the Cisco receptionists ran after me all day, super excited. I don’t think they’d seen a pregnant Cisco engineer very often. There were no queues for the loo. Just as well. My unborn son chose that particular conference to stamp on my bladder all day.

Business Intelligence career

As an artificial intelligence consultant, I was used to pulling around a lot of data, and coding in Artificial Intelligence languages (which require a lot of memory management, BTW). I used Prolog, Art Enterprise which is a proprietary edition which is a lot like LISP. As an aside, Emacs was for softies, and that was about as visual as it got.

I was the Oracle guru in my office, having learned it before it had a GUI that required 32-bit screen drivers. I didn’t have a screen with 32-bit drivers, so I did it it notepad, yass! Tnsnames.ora, people. Eventually I got screens with drivers, and lo and behold, I used the Oracle GUI for the first time.

71mye27mpplCustomers started to use SQL Server so I learned that; version 6.5, people. This edition has a foreword by Professor Jim Gray.

So, I learned SQL, MDX, then DAX.

Excel. Tableau. PerformancePoint. SharePoint. Sybase. Azure.

And I just kept going. I started talking about tech. I was already used to explaining difficult AI concepts to business users, and decision makers, so I decided to go on the speaking circuit. And I spoke everywhere; so far, I have presented in four of the seven continents.

And now life is full circle. Artificial Intelligence is cool again, and I have lived through an entire IT lifecycle. It has so much potential, as it did then, but now we have shiny stuff too. I was introduced to IoT. I have used my existing skill sets to morph into new things: so, my knowledge of SQL helped me to pick up Azure Streaming Analytics. Then, I had to learn about coding again to understand why some Event Hub stuff, a smell I’d inherited, was not working as expected, and learn about it to help get it to meet the requirements and it was fixed. Some things never change; badly commented code with spelling mistakes isn’t confidence inspiring now, as it wasn’t when I started my early career, nearly twenty years ago. Truth is, I can do all sorts of things where I have to do it, and I’ve got ownership of the problem. And I share my expertise here, online or in person, and at events. I also organise events; PASS Business Analytics, and SQLSaturday Edinburgh, London Power BI Days and I am a co-organiser of the London Power BI User Group.

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What is an MVP, anyway?

What is an MVP? According to Microsoft, a Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals, or MVPs, are technology experts who passionately share their knowledge with the community. They are always on the “bleeding edge” and have an unstoppable urge to get their hands on new, exciting technologies. They have very deep knowledge of Microsoft products and services, while also being able to bring together diverse platforms, products and solutions, to solve real world problems. MVPs are driven by their passion, community spirit and their quest for knowledge. Above all and in addition to their amazing technical abilities, MVPs are always willing to help others – that’s what sets them apart.

So, back the original point:

  • Is the MVP Program becoming less technical?
  • Alt Title: how did you get to be an MVP, Jen Stirrup?

Is the MVP Program becoming less technical?

netscape9logoI think that the MVP program, nearly quarter of a century old now, is changing to reflect the industry. We no longer use Emacs or vi. LISP was originally specified in 1958, and it is the second-oldest high-level programming language in widespread use today. Only Fortran is older, by one year.  Netscape Navigator is still around, but you’d be crazy to stick with it.

 

How did you get to be an MVP, Jen Stirrup?

You are reading the blog of a woman who has failed many times to get any success at all.

The ability for someone to pull you down with the comment ‘Well, you’re not technical’ or however it is wrapped up in a ‘posy’, it sideswipes all of these achievements. I have heard this many times before, and I did have many failures to get there. I think what the underlying statement really means is the following statement: ‘I am technical because I stated that you are not. I decide.

Now, I’ve been an MVP for six years. I still hear this coming up, and it doesn’t matter how many postgraduate degrees I get in Artificial Intelligence which I did in French, people; or related disciplines such Cognitive Science at Birmingham University under the tutelage of Professor Aaron Sloman (yes, him! It was my absolute privilege to do my postgraduate work with him) and so on, or the fact that I’ve been delivering technical projects worldwide since 1998.

When I look at my career trajectory, I can see that I do some of these things stated on the MVP award, and I emphasise different things at different points.So, over the rest of the year, I am speaking at SatRDay Budapest, Microsoft Ignite, Creativity+Science, PASS Summit, Live 360 (get your discount here!). Over the course of 2016, I have travelled to India twice to hold Azure Architecture courses, and I spoke at SQL Server Geeks (fantastic conference!), PASS Business Analytics (which I spearheaded as part of the PASS Board, holding the Business Analytics Portfolio), Future Decoded and SQLBits .

I do bring together diverse platforms; one of my projects is up on the BBC website. Super proud! I’m also spearheading Thought Leadership podcasts for PASS because I believe that there is a nexus between IT and the business, and PASS can bridge that need. It’s a manifestation of what I’m doing for my day job at Data Relish Ltd, much of which is NDA but I can express my knowledge through spearheading this initiative. So I do help people via my blog, online content, speaking, webinars, and being on the PASS Board.

I think that the beauty of the MVP program is its variety. It has room for the nerdy coder as well as me, and it gives the nerdy coder the opportunity to contribute, as well as me, too. Nowadays, I work with others to produce Digital Transformation programs which look at everything from a future vision to generating business cases, costings, and working with infrastructure people to see how the technology will hang together at a very detailed level. I can go up to the birds eye level, or swoop down to the detail. This can include Big Data one day, or writing MDX the next. I love the challenge and the variety, and it suits me incredibly well.

Yes, but is it less technical than it used to be?

It depends (sorry! MVP Answer alert!) on what you mean by technical.  I think it’s easy for people to say that because I don’t regularly write code, that I am not technical, and to be dismissive of my achievements. I can write code, and I do. I just choose not to do it on a daily basis. I like the challenge of taking a whole estate, and seeing the transformation throughout the whole business. These changes affect people, process, technology and data.

I love seeing Big Results with Big Data and Little Data

Regardless of whether I will remain an MVP or not, I will cherish the time that I have been given this Award. I love my work and I love what I do.  I wonder if it is a zero sum game; and eventually, my time will be up and it will be someone else’s chance. The program will survive without me, and I will go on to love what I do and live life as an MVP alumni.

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What’s next for me? Well, I have got a place to do my MBA, and I am hiring someone to help me to take over some commitments whilst I drop some things to do that. I will write more about that later, but, for now, salve!

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Jen’s PASS Diary: Two Pillars for Leadership

As always, I don’t represent PASS. Here are my two pillars:

Say Thank You.

The number one item is to say ‘Thank You’ to people for their efforts, even if you don’t like what they did. They are on a path; and so are you. Saying Thank You is the glue to healthy communities, particularly on social media.  The duties of gratitude are perhaps the most sacred of those which the beneficent virtues prescribe to us. (18th Century Scottish economist and philosopher, Adam Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments, 1759)

Empirical science agrees: gratitude, even a simple “thank you”, is a basis of leadership; without it, you can’t lead effectively. People will remember that they didn’t get a Thank You. I hear this often from volunteers, unfortunately, and it’s fairly universal across geographies and events, both within and outside of SQLFamily. Say it, and mean it. I don’t hold to Machiavelli’s maxim, written in the 16th Century: It is better to be feared than loved.

Expect criticism, both justified and unjustified.

I’ve taken a lot from John Donne’s 17th Century poem, the Prohibition. Here is an excerpt:

Take heed of hating me,
Or too much triumph in the victory ;
Not that I shall be mine own officer,
And hate with hate again retaliate ;
But thou wilt lose the style of conqueror,
If I, thy conquest, perish by thy hate.
Then, lest my being nothing lessen thee,
If thou hate me, take heed of hating me.

Donne was a metaphysical poet and you can take from this poem what you will.

One aspect for me is being isolated; outside a circle of friends, family, community, whatever you want to call it. When people criticise, occasionally, what they can actually mean is: I said that you were x, and that means that I must be, by definition, y. Example: you’re not a team player (because I said this, this must mean that I am a team player), you are not good at a particular thing (because I said this, that must mean that I am good at it). This means that they have the ‘style of conqueror’ because I give them something to point at, and therefore, I serve a purpose. When you recast criticism into these terms, suddenly, it becomes much less meaningful and what you realise is that you need to stay true to yourself, and not ‘hate with hate retaliate’. Really, it’s not worth it. The real trick is to work out whether it’s valid criticism or not, and look at the motivation.

So, what have I been working on?

I pulled two nighters, to try and pull together a draft strategy for PASS Business Analytics. At 43 years old, I thought that my days of working right through the night were over; well, they are not. I don’t believe that anyone else does this, particularly not for a volunteer role, and I thought I’d point it out here to show the level of commitment I have to the community.

Now that we are not doing a full PASS Business Analytics Conference in 2017, people must be wondering what we are doing next, and what the strategy is? Well, I am trying my best to define it and we will release when we have agreed and signed it off. This is going to take some time, unfortunately. Business Analytics touches all parts of PASS: finance, marketing, and the other Portfolios will also have input. We will also need to have an eye on things globally.  I’m also working on a few other things. I am doing Thought Leadership podcasts and if you want to give me a podcast, then please get in touch!

I am assisting some of the sponsors at the moment; I won’t say whom, at this point. Basically, I want them to have a good experience of dealing with PASS, and me personally of course, so I am trying to juggle to make sure that everything works out well for them. I am not a great fan of the word ‘sponsor’ – personally, I prefer ‘Partner’. It feels more equitable.

Given that I have a good pillar and a bad pillar of Leadership, and this is a ton of hard work, why am I doing it? Well, it really is lonely at the top, even if you don’t see that you are at the top of anything at all, others do, and that’s when it starts.

Truth is, I have learned a lot of lessons, certainly more than just two! and I’m left with very few real friends. Now, the thing is, when you realise that you have really nobody left, then it actually gives you a certain freedom and a latitude. That realisation is a gift. Along with that gift, I’ve come to withstand criticism a lot better, but it’s also made me determined that I will not ‘hate with hate again retaliate’. People’s actions speak for themselves, and I don’t need to say a single word about it. I will just continue to try to do good things, and hopefully you will join me on the way.

I think that you put into it, what you get out of it. It’s not all bad. I have met some wonderful people who continue to shine a light out. To them, I say Thank You. Some people have got Thank Yous coming their way, and I will let them know that they are heartfelt.

With leadership, you have to stick true to yourself because, actually, it’s the only way to be. I think that these two pillars feed into that, for me. What do you think?

I keep this diary so that you come on a journey with me, and I wonder if you’d reach the same conclusions? I’d be interested in your thoughts.

Love,

Jen

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jen’s PASS Diary: A week in the life of a PASS Non Executive Director

As always, I don’t officially represent PASS here. As you will know, this week the application opens to be on the Board of Directors for PASS. I’ve held my post for two and a half years, and I am not up for election this time. If anyone has any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. I also help run the London Power BI User Group, where I am responsible for the sponsors and I help recruit and manage speakers.

If you are considering the role of PASS Director, I thought you might be interested in what a typical week looks like, for a PASS Director.

First things first; please don’t think that the role involves kudos.With PASS, you aren’t building your own empire, but you are building an empire for the community as a whole. This can mean putting PASS first, and putting the team before yourself. If you are doing it because you think it will help build a business, then you need to rethink that. As an independent consultant based in Europe, I have had no business at all from being a PASS Board Director. PASS are still fairly nascent in Europe, and organisations over here don’t seem very interested in that part of my life; they are mainly concerned if I can deliver for them whilst having this commitment.

I certainly do not feel that I have kudos from it, at all. If you have an ’email signature’ career strategy whereby your objective which is led by having more and more titles on your email signature, I can see that the role might be attractive. However, I personally don’t see any kudos from the role itself and I think that I get kudos and thanks for the things that people can see; events, speaking sessions, books, webinars and podcasts. If your career strategy is led by titles, then I think you overstate the importance of hierarchical roles and job titles; people are more interested in what they can hold in their hands, and see, as a consequence of what you do.

So what about the stuff I do, that you can’t see?

I have had three evenings this week, used up with PASS Meetings: Monday, one with the BA team, Thursday, with the Exec, and Friday (Today) I will have another meeting with one of the PASS Summit Sponsors over one of their activities at PASS Summit 2016.  I am going to try and squeeze in a fourth meeting with another PASS HQ member tonight as well, but that has to be confirmed.

I say ‘tonight’ because PASS are based out in the PST timezone, and I am based in London so they are eight hours behind me. So basically, the PASS ‘day’ starts at 5pm for me. I try to hold my meetings from 8pm onwards (12pm PST) because I usually have to travel home, and this can mean problems in participating effectively over Skype. I also try to get ‘family time’ in the early evening and I try to carve out this time so that my family don’t lose out.

Note that this doesn’t include the work I do outside of these meetings:

  • setting up Thought Leadership podcasts for PASS BA
  • creating a BA strategy
  • setting up a PASS BA Advisory board and interacting with the potential members for that
  • preparing for the sponsor Skype meeting on Friday.

It’s a lot of work and it’s stuff that people can’t see, which is why I mention it here.

What am I working on?

200px-strategy_concept-svgA Business Analytics strategy document that outlines where I think PASS should go. This is particularly important now that we are not having a PASS Business Analytics conference in 2017. What does this involve, in terms of skill set?

Defining a strategy is based on knowing:

  • where your organisation is today
  • where you want it to be
  • how you want to get there

The risk of not changing and improving can be as significant as the risks which may affect your plans to develop and grow an organisation. I take after one of Steve Jobs’ Crazy Ones; this is a risk in itself. Although I will never achieve as much as the Crazy Ones in the video, these are the crazy attitudes that I bring with me; the people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.

There is a lot of ‘noise’ in the data world, and I am particularly concerned with trying to ensure that PASS continues to change and move ahead in terms of efficiency, reputation and meeting the PASS Goals of disseminating high quality community education in data. It is an important exercise since it forms the blueprint of the strategy. To do this, I need to  learn lessons and appreciate what factors may influence the likely success in delivering your goals and success for PASS. This is what forms the basis of my thinking for BA.

Defining a strategy is a process, and this is one key area where a PASS Director adds value to the organisation. The objective of the process is to pull together the activities of the various areas of PASS that touchpoint BA, so that it is in a good spot to achieve its organisational objectives. Once the strategy is in place, it will help to specify how PASS organises to incorporate BA, set objectives and point community and team members towards those objectives through a commonly held vision.

traditional-vennYou’ll notice that this isn’t a technical skill; this is all people and process. As a Business Intelligence professional, I think about the people and the process, too. I’ve said before that Business Intelligence is often change management in disguise, and part of defining a strategy is that change management necessarily follows. I lean towards a more agile delivery, and I am working with PASS right now to point the ship towards a more agile delivery where the BA Strategy definition and process is concerned. It’s not enough just to be agile; you have to pay attention to people and process, too, and it can be more difficult when the people are volunteers who don’t need to do anything that you ask of them. It’s a sensitive balancing act.

To achieve this well, the execution process needs to be separated from the creative process of generating the strategy. As a ‘doer’, it can be hard to excise yourself from the execution and it is tempting to do that, because you see short term results. However, I am focused on long-term results, and strategy definition is a longer-term process that looks further into the distance, and has the objective of pointing the organisation towards that vision.

To summarise,  hope that gives some insight into what I have been doing this week. Any questions, let me know!

 

 

 

I’m speaking at Live! 360 Orlando

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I’ll be speaking at Live! 360 Orlando, December 5-9. Surrounded by your fellow industry professionals, Live! 360 provides you with immediately usable training and education that will help make you the ‘go to’ expert in your organisation.

SPECIAL OFFER: As a speaker, I can extend $500 savings on the 5-day package. Register here: http://bit.ly/LSPK77_Home

I’ll be presenting the following sessions:

·         A Blueprint for Business Intelligence with SQL Server 2016

·         Agile Analytics with AzureML and R

·         Big Data’s Missing V: Visualization. How Do You BigViz Your Big Data?

 Join me and your fellow industry professionals for 5 days of immediately usable training.  Register today (make sure you use my special code LSPK77 to save $500) to guarantee your space! http://bit.ly/LSPK77_Home

All roads lead to Live! 360: the ultimate education destination! Bring the issues that keep you up at night and prepare to leave this event with the answers, guidance and training you need.  Register now: http://bit.ly/LSPK77_REG

Jen’s PASS Diary: BA Portfolio thoughts, please

As always, this isn’t an official PASS blog post, but one of my braindumps.

In a nutshell, I want to pick community brains. Don’t think analytics isn’t relevant to you, if you’re a DBA: without DBAs, there is no Data Science or Business Analytics. Your input is valuable.

You will have seen the latest blog post from PASS about the strategic direction of PASS Business Analytics conference. If not here, are a few key takeaway quotes:

“The heart of the plan moving forward is community growth, with a focus on expanding outreach to increase visibility, by strengthening local groups, and broadening the scope of our analytics community globally.”

“Business Analytics is a natural extension for PASS. We are committed to helping data professionals connect, share, and learn, whether they work in IT or in the business. We are very excited about the opportunities ahead and look forward to the continued growth and success in the area of Business Analytics.”

I’ve put together a plan of how that might shape up, but I need your help and ideas so that I can do the best job that I can.  for the people who put their faith in me when they voted for me to be on the PASS Board. You’ll see from the post that more than 25,000 PASS members from around the world identifying a professional interest in BA so that’s a lot of people to serve, so that they can connect, learn and share.

I still believe that the industry has got to the point where organisations are either crossing the Rubicon, or sitting on the Acheron where it comes to analytics and making the most of their data.

So tell me: what would you like to see, preferably with an emphasis on something ‘actionable’ that I can deliver? How can I best help you? What do you think would work? Wouldn’t work?

I’ll be releasing a vlog which outlines some of my thoughts and perspectives, in the near future. It will be my first attempt at a vlog and I’ll be happy for any tips too, so I can make that successful.

Here are some contact details:

email: jen.stirrup@datarelish.com

comments box below

twitter: @jenstirrup

LinkedIn: https://uk.linkedin.com/in/jenstirrup to connect

Now, I used to offer to do phone calls and GoToMeeting meetings. However, as many of you will know, I have had to close my Skype account and change my phone number due to various threats, which I reported to the police at the time. Note that these were not vague phone calls: at their height, I was receiving threatening phone calls at a rate of one every two minutes from a variety of phone numbers, day and night across timezones. Some people clearly have a lot of time on their hands. Although that has stopped, mainly because I have changed my details, I am reluctant to hand out these details.

If you’d like to talk, then you can contact me personally so that I go through a process to ‘verify’ you if I don’t know you, and then we will try to arrange something. I am sorry about the extra hoops but I need to protect myself as well as try to help people in the community.

Thank you again; I do appreciate it. I am humble enough to recognise that there is more brain power out there than simply mine. I can’t do everything myself, and I need help to ‘scale’. I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind Regards,

Jen

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Red hair and a teapot dress!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday Power BI! London PUG News #PowerBI

To the Power BI Team – Happy Birthday and congratulations on all of your achievements! You’ve spawned a fantastic product plus a wonderful ecosystem of creative partners, happy consultants, MVPs and Community Contributors, User Group Leaders, and, of course, don’t forget the users. I’d like to thank and congratulate you! I appear in the video, a little way in.

Here’s a video that we all put together; Adam Saxton (@GuyInACube) put it together and worked with Paul Turley did the cat herding getting MVPs together.

Continuing the work, I’m one of the co-organizers of the London Power BI meetup, and we are having a Finance focused meetup this Thursday. Please find more details here amd register here:

Power BI in Financial Services – Rishi Sapra

Rishi will demo Power BI to analyse and visualise some financial datasets and explain why it is just perfect for Financial Services. This includes how and why analysts might move from Excel to PBI for data analysis/discovery as well as a high level view of how Microsoft are positioned within the self-serve/enterprise BI space compared to vendors such as Qlik, Tableau and IBM. Key topics to be covered include:

•  Overview of key functionality of Power BI and how it helps meet the needs of analysts working in Financial Services

•  A look at the EBA Stress Test dataset – both in Excel and then in Power BI

•  A Hands-on demo of working with this data to carry out data cleansing/transformation, calculations and visuals

•  How you can share your reports, keep the data up to date and apply security access by publishing to the Power BI portal.

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See you there!