A Day in the Life of Jen Stirrup: Wednesday 25th July, 2018 #SQLCareer

As a follow up to my last post, I thought I’d share more details with you.

Midnight

As before, I’ll start my day at midnight. I’m reading about motivation and reward, and it’s role on organizational behaviour. If you’re really interested, I’m reading Karabenick and Urdan’s 2010 book, and specifically, it’s chapter on expectancy theory. If you want the skinny, here is the Wikipedia entry on Expectancy Theory. You can see it relates to a lot of things, including how people solve problems on computers. There’s some research that suggests that the usability and user adoption of a computer solution depends on a few things, including the user’s self-confidence and the expected usefulness of the solution. As an architect who builds BI, data science and data-oriented solutions in general, this is important to me since it helps me to understand what decision processes people go through when they decide whether to use software or not.

1.30am – Sleep

6.30am – I am woken by doggy licks and demands for cuddles by Copy and Paste, who, somehow, have managed to break out of the dining room and break into my bedroom. I am sure that there is some teamwork going on somewhere. I let them outside, and I shower. The three of us eat breakfast in my back garden.

7am – Due to the heatwave, I’m taking Copy and Paste out early in the morning, and then again late at night.

8am – Back home, and it’s time to start my day. Plenty of fluids for Copy and Paste and for me, and then C + P go and hide from the heat.

Dealing with the Hot Spots at work

If you know anything about FlyLady, you will know she’s an online coach who helps you to declutter and clean the house. Why am I talking about this? Because there is a lot of home-spun common sense in her materials, which can apply to different things. Take, for example, a hotspot. According to FlyLady, we have hotspots in our home that just collect clutter and junk, and her advice is to go for progress rather than perfection so that you eventually work through it. FlyLady’s advice is that you should make a daily effort to spend an allotted time, even just minutes a day, working on a hotspot.

A hot spot is an area, when left unattended, that will gradually take over. My favorite analogy is of a hot spot in a forest fire; if left alone, it will eventually get out of hand and burn up the whole forest. – FlyLady

I think we all have hotspots in our work, which we hate doing. For me, it’s my accounts, and, in particular, my expenses. So, today I’m dealing with my expenses so I can give them to Anja, my rather long-suffering personal assistant. We work together remotely and my hated job is getting the expenses in a format she needs so she can upload the expenses and add corresponding details into Receipt Bank so they can be billed back, where appropriate. So, today’s hotspot is to do that job.

9am

I have dealt with my mental hotspot, and it’s a good thing. I feel as if a weight has been lifted and it puts me in a better state for the day.

So, now to actual work, after having grabbed a coffee. Copy and Paste get a wipedown with a cool cloth, and I refresh their water bowls.

This morning, I am working on a remote data visualization project, which I love. It feels like a hobby. I am using Power BI to create the dashboards and templates. I have done a series of wire-frames to show how, and why, the artefacts have been laid out as per my design. The difference here is that everything looks quite different from the original work, so I need to explain the Why as well as the How.

Since I’m doing my MBA, I have access to online libraries so I can dig out the research as I go along. I need to prove myself since data visualization is an art as well as a science, and the science is backing up my rationale.

11am

After grabbing another coffee, I have an online meeting with Peter, a developer who is helping me on a project. We need to work together to swap skills in order to deliver a piece of work. I have the Azure expertise, and he has the development skills that I need. So we use GoToMeeting and we share screens and share the control of the keyboard.

11.45am

I have started to get ‘silent’ phone calls again, with someone breathing down the phone at me. I pick up the phone and I take it to another part of the house, and I leave it there. They are breathing down the phone to my empty hallway upstairs.

I come back downstairs, and I apologize to Peter for the interruption and we keep going, until I knock off to grab a drink before my next meeting.

11.55am I check on the phone, and the caller is still there. He’s quiet now but the call is still open. I don’t say anything and I just hang up. It’s not welcome and it’s a nuisance more than anything else. I need my phone back for my next call.

12pm

I have a meetings with lawyers and representatives from a company who have asked for my expert opinion with a number of things. The actual content is confidential, of course, but I thought I’d share it because I had a meeting during my last post as well.

For various reasons, I have a mistrust of lawyers and the police, which readers of my MeToo blog will no doubt guess at. I was let down. I don’t even bother reporting the calls because all the police do is give you false hope that they will do something. If the mysterious caller reads this, know this: really, you do not bother me. I have been through much worse. Find something better and more fruitful to do with your life, and if you want my attention and respect, you have to earn it by doing good, clever, intelligent things. In the meantime, I am going to continue to ignore you so hard that even you will begin to doubt your own existence.

So, I have been nervous all morning about dealing with lawyers. That said, this lawyer is very direct right from the bat, and that helps put me at ease.

1pm

Normally I’d like to take a walk again, particularly after calls which I find stressful. It’s too hot for the dogs, though, and I don’t want to leave them in this heat. So I do a little yoga instead, and I have a light lunch before diving back in to work.

2pm

I’m using PowerPoint and Power BI, and creating the template for my customer. The customer are not using Power BI but they are interested in adopting it, and, if they do, it will go worldwide so it would be great to empower people to use their data in such a great and impactful way. Note: I am not selling Power Bi and I am not a reseller. The customer will have to go and work with Microsoft directly. I’m not financially incentivized to recommend it but I do here, because it is a great fit.

Here are a few things I’m thinking about:

colour-blindness – I find Coblis, the colour-blind simulator, essential to my work. Under some conditions of colour-blindness, some shades of blueish green can become quite grey. If I’ve used grey elsewhere in the dashboard which shows bar charts, for example,, then the viewer will not be able to distinguish between the legend and the bars properly.

Golden Ratio of Design – I am thinking about the design layout.

Using statistics to combat dual axis – You can read more about the problems of dual axis over at Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic’s blog here. I am looking at indexing the data in order to show it better.

5pm 

I have an internal community call with some Microsoft team members. There will be more news on this in the future, but for now, all you need to know is that I am very excited!

6pm

It’s time to eat something, so I make a simple light meal of noodles, veg and I crack an egg in it. While I was at University, I lived with some girls from Malaysia and Hong Kong, and we used to share cooking tips. Miyana I have not forgotten your advice and yes, ginger makes everything taste better! I also make some ginger tea, which I can cool for later.

I eat at my desk, and I clear out some emails. I have been asked by someone to nominate them for an MVP Award and I don’t mind doing that, of course, but I don’t know them at all and I have the barest of details. For some reason, they seem to assume that I have influence over the program. So, I confirm in an email to them that I have no influence over the Program and that I don’t officially work for Microsoft although I do community volunteer (non paid) work. I think that the perception has come from the fact that I’m a Microsoft Regional Director so people make all sorts of assumptions. I figure out that they have some misunderstandings of the MVP Program and I point them to do some reading and to come back to me with more precise details. This takes a lot of my time and I’ve spent about half an hour sorting it out.

7pm

Time to walk the dogs. It’s cooler now, and the dogs have been extra quiet and mopey today because it is so hot outside. I decide to take them out for a couple of hours.

I am passionate about the environment and I care about reducing plastics, wasting water, and maintaining a good environment. So my dogs and I walk in a local park, and I pick up litter as I go. Today, I pick up four plastic bottles, a container which has held stacking crisps, and a plastic wrapper, which are just laying around. I hate people sometimes.  I usually pick up at least one plastic bottle a day, so that adds up to 30 plastic bottles a month which I pick up and recycle as a minimum – today was four bottles that were missed. It makes me angry; it’s such a simple thing and the waste all adds up. It all adds up if we all do our little bit of good, you see.

The park has recycling facilities so I recycle as much as possible except for one bottle of water, which is nearly full. Instead of tipping the water out, I take it home and I put it on my petunias and my geraniums so that the water isn’t wasted, and I recycle the bottle.

I am striving to reduce my purchase of anything plastic in the first place, so I am switching to non-plastic packaging as I go along. Examples are:

lush-solid-shampoo-132

Solid shampoo and conditioner bars rather than bottles – I use Lush shampoo and conditioner bars, wrapped in paper, so it means I am not buying plastic bottles. We are used to foaming up shampoo and getting things in lather, but that is normally just sodium laurel sulphate. So, to lather it up, just rub it in your hands and on your hair. This works great. Instead of bottles everywhere, I declutter and I have a few simple bars of soap, which smell amazing.

Travel tip: Solid shampoo bars are better than bottles for the plane, since they get through airline security just fine.

 

I am switching to purchasing toilet rolls on subscription from Who Gives a Crap? that don’t use plastic wrapping paper. Plus, 50% of the profits go to building high sanitation solutions around the world in the most deprived areas. Examples include: WaterAid AustraliaSanergyShining Hope For Communities and Lwala Community Alliance

 

This chimes with my concern to save water and if it means that I can switch my purchases to help someone else, then, why not?

9pm 

I am back home. I am recording YouTube videos at the moment, and my surroundings are now quiet enough that I can actually record my voice. The videos are in the can, but the audio needs reworked. I do this until midnight, when it is time to read my MBA work again.

I use Techsmith Camtasia which is amazing for producing videos. For me, it has no real competitor and I love it.  It has a lot of settings but it is worthwhile taking the time to learn them. If you are looking for video software, just get it. You won’t regret it. It will save you a lot of time.

I also use Audacity in order to finesse the sound. It is open source, and I export the audio back into Camtasia.

Over to you

I’d be interested in more ways in which I can help the environment in my daily life, so please feel free to leave comments and thoughts. I’m always looking for new things to do.

References

Karabenick, S. & Urdan, T.C., 2010. The decade ahead theoretical perspectives on motivation and achievement 1st ed., Bingley, U.K.: Emerald Group Pub. Ltd

Useful Data Sources for Demos, Learning and Examples

One question that pops up from time to time is the question over sample datasets for use in self-learning, creating training materials or just for playing with data. I love this question: I learn by actively trying things out too. I love the stories in the data, and this is a great way to find the stories that bring the data to life, and offer real impact.

narrative

Since I deliver real projects with customer impact, I can’t demonstrate any real customer data during any of my presentations since my projects are confidential, so I have three approaches:
  • I use sample data and I have a signed NDA
  • I ask the customer for their data, anonymised and have a signed NDA.
  • I use their live data and have a signed NDA
If the customer elects the first option, then I use sample data from below.
To help you get started, I’ve cobbled together some pointers here, and I hope it’s useful. Please feel free to leave more ideas in the comments.

Entrepreneur

The latest edition of Entrepreneur has an insightful article on open source (frameworks vs libraries) and it has some good pointers to datasets at the bottom of the page. https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/310965 I’ve also pasted them here for you:
Bernard Marr has an updated list of datasets here, on Forbes. I’m not going to steal Marr’s list so I recommend that you go and head over to his page, where you’ll find sixty-plus options.

Data Source Direct Connectivity to R, Python, Ruby and Stata

R has a number of APIs that connect to public datasets e.g. the World Data Bank, which allows connectivity from R, Python, Ruby and Stata.  I used this for my recent demos at the Power BI event in the Netherlands, and it worked sweetly. SO you’d write your script to call the package, embed it in Power BI and it will go and get the data for you. I then create the chart in R, and put it into the Power BI workbook.

Quandl

Quandl offers financial data, and it has a hook so that R can connect directly to it as well.

Kaggle

Kaggle is owned by Google, presumably so that Google can promote Tensorflow. Since people share code based on Kaggle datasets, it’s very easy to pick code, copy it, change it, and see how it works. However, this can be an issue, since you can’t be sure that the code is correct.

Final Note

If you’re teaching or presenting using this data and/or sample code, you can be pretty sure that your training delegates have got access to the Internet too so you need to be sure that you credit people properly.
I am not mostly doing training, although I do training now and again. I am a consultant first and foremost. I’m meta-tracking my time with Desktime and with Trello since I am measuring exactly how I spend my time, and training does not account for a high percentage; project delivery takes the majority of my time.
Although I’m a guest lecturer for the MBA program at the University of Hertfordshire, and I’m going to be a guest lecturer on their MSc Business Analysis and Consultancy course, I do not consider myself a trainer. I am a consultant who sometimes does training as part of a larger project. I haven’t gone down the MCT route because I regard training as part of a bigger consultancy route. I never stop learning, and I don’t expect anyone else to stop learning, either.

literature

See you at Techorama?

Techorama

Why should you go to Techorama?

Techorama is a yearly international technology conference which takes place at Metropolis Antwerp. We welcome about 1500 attendees, a healthy mix between developers, IT Professionals, Data Professionals and SharePoint professionals.

I’m delighted to announce I’m speaking, and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the Techorama team for all of their hard work and effort in putting on a great show.

Guthrie_print[1]

First off, there will be a keynote by Scott Guthrie, EVP of Cloud + Enterprise, Microsoft Corporation – now this is BIG NEWS.

Scott Guthrie, EVP of Cloud + Enterprise, Microsoft Corporation will be keynoting at Techorama 2017 (May 23). In his keynote, “Azure, The Intelligent Cloud”, Scott will open the event with a strategic vision on the Microsoft cloud.

Scott Guthrie will also give another breakout session on May 23 which will be a Q & A session. Come with your questions!

 

 

 

The event itself will be top-notch content for Developers, IT Professionals, Data Professionals and SharePoint Professionals: 11 parallel breakout sessions with top speakers from all over the world: experts in their field, offering meaningful networking opportunities with partners and like-minded people

There will also be a unique conference experience in a movie theatre with lots of surprises!

What will I be talking about? You can find out more here at my dedicated Techorama page.

Data Visualisation Lies and How to Spot them

During the acrimonious US election, both sides used a combination of cherry-picked polls and misleading data visualization to paint different pictures with data. In this session, we will use a range of Microsoft Power BI and SSRS technologies in order to examine how people can mislead with data and how to fix it. We will also look at best practices with data visualisation. We will examine the data with Microsoft SSRS and Power BI so that you can see the differences and similarities in these reporting tools when selecting your own Data Visualisation toolkit.

Whether you are a Trump supporter, a Clinton supporter or you don’t really care, join this session to spot data lies better in order to make up your own mind.

We hope to welcome you at Techorama 2017!

 

PASS Business Analytics Day, Jan 11, Chicago

pass-ba-day

PASS’ first Business Analytics Day, which will be held in Chicago on January 11, 2017. You can choose one of two full-day, in-depth sessions for $595: In-Database Analytics with R and SQL Server 2016 and Mastering Power BI Solutions.

These are unique learning opportunities to get more advanced in R or data visualization with Power BI. And as with other PASS events, the goal is to allow you to walk away with real-world analytics knowledge that you can use immediately!

PASS Business Analytics Day

You have two great choices: In-Database Analytics with R and SQL Server 2016 and Mastering Power BI Solutions.

In-Database Analytics with R and SQL Server 2016

With Microsoft SQL Server 2016, data scientists can run in-database analytics using R. This is a “best of both worlds” scenario: delegate database management to SQL Server whilst you create analytics and visualisations in R and Power BI. In this session, we will cover the overall architecture of SQL R Services and go over some best practices. We will look at best practices in analytics and visualisations with a focus on R, and then we delve more in-depth into some practical common use-cases.

Speakers:
David Smith, R Community Lead at Revolution Analytics, a Microsoft Company
Seth Mottaghinejad, Data Scientist, Microsoft

Mastering Power BI Solutions

In this Power BI hands-on Workshop, you will master the “power” of Power BI. Learn to use self-service and enterprise-scale Power BI capabilities; gain valuable skills to integrate, wrangle, shape and visualize data for analysis. Beginning and intermediate level users will learn to address data and reporting challenges with advanced design techniques.

Speaker:
Paul Turley, Mentor with SolidQ, BI Architect, and Microsoft Data Platform MVP

Date: January 11, 2017

Location: Microsoft Technology Center, #200 – 200 East Randolph Drive, Chicago, IL.

We hope you’ll join us!

PASS BA Visual Data Storytelling precon session with Mico Yuk

CEO of BI Brainz | Author | Global Keynote Speaker | BI Influencer | Trainer | Blogger| BI Executive Advisor *@micoyuk*

I am super excited that Mico Yuk is joining us again at PASS BA Conference!

aaeaaqaaaaaaaasjaaaajdfkmzdiywy2lwizmtktnduxyy05zmfilwy1owyzodgyyjzmzaMico Yuk is well known in the Business Intelligence ecosystem as a community leader, BI influencer, controversial blogger, and the founder of the highly rated BI Coaching Series,
the BI Dashboard Formula (aka BIDF). Headquartered in Atlanta, GA, her team of senior coaches and consultants work with Executives to transform their BI teams to meet the challenges in the new era of BI through a series of coaching, training, and consulting services.Mico’s most recent accomplishments include being named one of the Top 50 Analytics Bloggers by SAP and being rated a #1 global keynote speaker at a number of global BI conferences.

A computer engineer by degree, she has been designing and implementing enterprise dashboards for major corporate clients since 2006 and is considered to be one of the top data visualization experts in the world.

First as a consultant and now through her company, she has helped to implement executive dashboard and reporting using the SAP BusinessObjects platform for customers such as Allstate, Pfizer, Aviva Canada, McKesson, Ryder Logistics, Digicel Jamaica, QatarGas, St. Jude Medical, Walgreens, Chiquita, LG, the US Airforce, Medtronics, SAP Global Marketing, Amtrak, Fresh Direct, Bank of America, and Nestle, to name a few.

To find out more about Mico, please visit http://micoyuk.com.

Visual Storytelling – How to Tell a “Compelling” Data Story That Matters to Your Users

This business-oriented, hands-on session will provide the foundation necessary to make your data visualizations more intelligent, actionable, and useful! Whether you are a beginner or a data visualization veteran, this session will guide you on telling more compelling stories with your data, from storyboarding fundamentals to more advanced techniques such as how to add smart context and visual cues. Attendees will learn:

• how to create a simple four-part visual storyboard on paper in minutes, not weeks
why visual storytelling is more effective than traditional reporting
• the one element 98% of data visualizations are missing and how it is negatively affecting user adoption

Format: Half-Day Classroom (Afternoon)

Register here

 

PASS BA Header Mico

 

My Kibana presentation slide deck from SQLBits

Here are the slides from my first SQLBits XIV session at the Excel in London, March 2015.

I presented with Allan Mitchell on the topic of ElasticSearch and Kibana. I did the Kibana section and talked around the topic of data visualisation, and the slides are here. I whizzed through these first, before giving a demo. I’ll post up the SQLBits video as soon as I have it.

Visualising Data with R: HTMLWidgets for R

I’m interested in analyzing and visualizing data with R, as you know. Thanks to Jen Underwood, she pointed me at this cool series of widgets, called HTMLWidgets, that allows you to do some interesting visualisations with R. I must admit I haven’t touched JavaScript for years, ever since I helped to build websites for well known entertainment sites, but I’m glad I can pick it up again. What does it let you do?

  • Use JavaScript visualization libraries at the R console, just like plots
  • Embed widgets in R Markdown documents and Shiny web applications
  • Develop new widgets using a framework that seamlessly bridges R and JavaScript

Why don’t you head on over to the site and have a look? I’ll be playing with it, and finally finishing my R blog series, as soon as I can. I’ve been busy helping to organize the PASS BA Conference, which is taking place in April 2015 in Santa Clara. Therefore, I hope you’ll excuse the radio silence. It’s on my to-do list, which never goes down, ever!