Guess who is appearing in Joseph Sirosh’s PASS Keynote?

This girl! I am super excited and please allow me to have one little SQUUEEEEEEE! before I tell you what’s happening. Now, this is a lifetime achievement for me, and I cannot begin to tell you how absolutely and deeply honoured I am. I am still in shock!

I am working really hard on my demo and….. I am not going to tell you what it is. You’ll have to watch it. Ok, enough about me and all I’ll say is two things: it’s something that’s never been done at PASS Summit before and secondly, watch the keynote because there may be some discussion about….. I can’t tell you what… only that, it’s a must-watch, must-see, must do keynote event.

We are in a new world of Data and Joseph Sirosh and the team are leading the way. Watching the keynote will mean that you get the news as it happens, and it will help you to keep up with the changes. I do have some news about Dr David DeWitt’s Day Two keynote… so keep watching this space. Today I’d like to talk about the Day One keynote with the brilliant Joseph Sirosh, CVP of Microsoft’s Data Group.

Now, if you haven’t seen Joseph Sirosh present before, then you should. I’ve put some of his earlier sessions here and I recommend that you watch them.

Ignite Conference Session

MLDS Atlanta 2016 Keynote

I hear you asking… what am I doing in it? I’m keeping it a surprise! Well, if you read my earlier blog, you’ll know I transitioned from Artificial Intelligence into Business Intelligence and now I do a hybrid of AI and BI. As a Business Intelligence professional, my customers will ask me for advice when they can’t get the data that they want. Over the past few years, the ‘answer’ to their question has gone far, far beyond the usual on-premise SQL Server, Analysis Services, SSRS combo.

We are now in a new world of data. Join in the fun!

Customers sense that there is a new world of data. The ‘answer’ to the question Can you please help me with my data?‘ is complex, varied and it’s very much aimed at cost sensitivities, too. Often, customers struggle with data because they now have a Big Data problem, or a storage problem, or a data visualisation access problem. Azure is very neat because it can cope with all of these issues. Now, my projects are Business Intelligence and Business Analytics projects… but they are also ‘move data to the cloud’ projects in disguise, and that’s in response to the customer need. So if you are Business Intelligence professional, get enthusiastic about the cloud because it really empowers you with a new generation of exciting things you can do to please your users and data consumers.

As a BI or an analytics professional, cloud makes data more interesting and exciting. It means you can have a lot more data, in more shapes and sizes and access it in different ways. It also means that you can focus on what you are good at, and make your data estate even more interesting by augmenting it with cool features in Azure. For example, you could add in more exciting things such as Apache Tika library as a worker role in Azure to crack through PDFs and do interesting things with the data in there. If you bring it into SSIS, then you can tear it up and down again when you don’t need it.

I’d go as far as to say that, if you are in Business Intelligence at the moment, you will need to learn about cloud sooner or later. Eventually, you’re going to run into Big Data issues. Alternatively, your end consumers are going to want their data on a mobile device, and you will want easy solutions to deliver it to them. Customers are interested in analytics and the new world of data and you will need to hop on the Azure bus to be a part of it.

The truth is; Joseph Sirosh’s keynotes always contain amazing demos. (No pressure, Jen, no pressure….. ) Now, it’s important to note that these demos are not ‘smoke and mirrors’….

The future is here, now. You can have this technology too.

It doesn’t take much to get started, and it’s not too far removed from what you have in your organisation. AzureML and Power BI have literally hundreds of examples. I learned AzureML looking at the following book by Wee-Hyong Tok and others, so why not download a free book sample?

How do you proceed? Well, why not try a little homespun POC with some of your own data to learn about it, and then show your boss. I don’t know about you but I learn by breaking things, and I break things all the time when I’m  learning. You could download some Power BI workbooks, use the sample data and then try to recreate them, for example. Or, why not look at the community R Gallery and try to play with the scripts. you broke something? no problem! Just download a fresh copy and try again. You’ll get further next time.

I hope to see you at the PASS keynote! To register, click here: 

5 Things I need you to do if you want me to nominate you for an MVP Award


It’s great to see so many people want to participate in the MVP Program. I find that I’m being asked fairly frequently at the moment – say, a couple of times a week – by community individuals if I will nominate them.

Here are some disclaimers:

  • I have no influence over the MVP Program at all
  • I consider myself lucky to be part of the Program. It is a gift, not an entitlement, and it can be gone at any time.
  • The people who nominated me were not my friends, apart from one person (thank you Andrew!). These were generous people who gave their time to nominate me, and it turns out I was nominated by a lot of people, over a period of time, before I got the Award.

I tend to be happy to nominate people if they ask me; after all, it’s not my decision and it may be good for the Program as well as the individual. From my experience, it wasn’t my community ‘friends’ who nominated me, it was people who didn’t know me very well but they could see that I was making a positive difference in the community. I see the MVP Award as a ‘golden ticket’ to do even more positive things for the community; it is about being other-centered, and not self-centered, I think.

OutliersI don’t see that I am an expert now I’ve been given an Award. Throughout his book Outliers, Gladwell repeatedly mentions the “10,000-Hour Rule”, claiming that the key to achieving world class expertise in any skill, is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing the correct way, for a total of around 10,000 hours. What he doesn’t say is the next step: the world is moving so fast, you have to keep working all the time to stay on top. So that means that other things sometimes have to be let go.

My brother, a wise man, once told me that ‘it’s lonely at the top’ when I complained about the number of ‘real’ friends I’d lost, particularly over the past two years. Although I don’t see myself at the top of anything (unless it is a complete mess) I see that, sometimes, other people do; and that’s why they ask for the nomination. If I can inspire someone to do good things for the community, then that’s a good thing for me. In fact, leaders should leave a plan and a structure behind them in their trail; good leaders look at what they leave behind them, as well as looking far forward into the future.

I do nominate people myself, and sometimes I’m lucky that they get the Award after one or more nominations e.g. Stephanie Locke, Mark Wilcock, Ryan Adams and Mark Broadbent, but sometimes I nominate and it doesn’t happen for the nominee. I do try to nominate people who I can see are in my ‘trail’ and hopefully, if anything, my life will serve as a cautionary tale and a ‘teachable moment’ for others.

So, what do I need you to do for me? Tell me, in your own words:

  1. Your community activities. Please list them out for me. Don’t assume that I know. I don’t remember what I did, last week. I certainly will have very little clue what you did, even if you were with me.
  2. What you think you’d contribute to community life for Microsoft, their product groups, and the people who work at Microsoft. They are people too and I love most of the ones that I come across. Be generous with your time with Microsoft people too; don’t assume that, because they work for a massive company, that they aren’t under pressure or really busy. Trust me. They are. Don’t criticise without offering to help first.
  3. The area of expertise you think you bring to the MVP Program. I know we are all Data Platform these days, but it makes things simple.
  4. What would you like to do for the Program?
  5. Tell me more about you. Help me to find a thread that makes you unique, and stand out a little.

I know it seems a lot. I’m busy and i need help filling out the form, and I want to do a good job for you. If you can’t be bothered to give me these things, well, you can’t really expect me to spend hours collating all of this information for you! I can tweak it so it’s good English (for example) but you will help me a lot of if you can be your own voice. I don’t want to miss something out, because I forgot to put something in.

What you could do in return; say thanks to me, ask other people to nominate you too, and, most of all, nominate people yourself. Be generous with your time.

Help me to help you.
Image from page 311 of "Greek athletic sports and festivals" (1910)

See you in Paris? Presenting at SQLSaturday Paris?

Fancy joining me in Paris? 25th June, I’ll be there! The details are below.It’s the place to be, to learn Microsoft Data Platform technologies e.g. Azure, Power BI, SQL Server – and there’s a range of sessions for beginners to experts. Register here – 

Also, a big Thank You to the SQLSaturday Paris team for having me along again. They always do a professional, world-class job of organising the event. Contact Jean-Pierre Riehl for more information ( twitter and GUSS site  )

They are also offering workshops and here’s the information for you to check out. Kevin Kline‘s session will be in English.


I will be attending Marco Russo’s session on DAX, Markus Ehrermueller-Jensen‘s session on data visualisation, Isabelle Van Campenhoudt and Serge Luca‘s session on Power BI, Kevin Kline’s session on Troubleshooting, and then I’ll be presenting on Cortana Analytics.


SQLSatParis Agenda

20 sessions, 25 experts internationaux

Le SQLSaturday, c’est LA conférence technique internationale de l’année. Avec plus de 25 speakers de 10 nationalités, vous retrouvez le meilleur des technologies Data de Microsoft : SQL Server, Power BI, Azure, deep dive, etc.

Les préconférences

Cette année, les préconférences sont de retour. Imaginez passer la journée entière avec un expert internationalement reconnu pour creuser un sujet particulier ? A mi-chemin entre la formation et la conférence, les préconférences vous permettent de découvrir en profondeur une technologies ou un savoir-faire.

Les premiers sponsors du SQLSaturday Paris

Microsoft, Pyramid AnalyticsData by Design, Jobly, AZEO, DCube et SUPINFO Paris.

Vous pouvez devenir sponsor en nous contactant: ou en passant par le site de l’événement:

Focus on the Global Spanish Virtual Chapter

I love that the PASS Virtual Chapters have a global impact for Microsoft data platform learners around the world. The VCs are my portfolio for my role on the PASS BoD.

In case you haven’t seen the VCs, PASS offer free learning in a variety of languages, including Hebrew, Spanish, Portugese, Italian and so on.

Some of the volunteers have started to post up the webinars onto YouTube so that it is easy for everyone to access. In case you haven’t tried it… this is a time consuming and finicky effort and I am so grateful for their efforts.

I’m looking through the Global Spanish Virtual Chapter videos and here is the link for the Spanish speakers amongst you.

And you can follow them on Twitter here:

Why I refused a session at SQLBits; it’s not about your rank, but your legacy

In martial arts it is not your belt rank that matters but the legacy you leave.” – Grandmaster CK Leow, Founder, Moodukkwan Malaysia
I’ve attended every SQLBits except two: the first one, because I didn’t know about it, and SQLBits 6, because I had been made redundant the previous day and I didn’t feel up to it.
Overall, I have spoken at every SQLBits since SQLBits 7, where I was fortunate enough to be picked to speak at the event in York. Since then, I have spoken in most of Europe and in the United States. I also held a Diversity in Technology event at the last SQLBits, and I am considering doing another event.

I was also lucky enough – and hard working enough! – to be elected on the PASS Board of Directors last year, winning the election outright with a convincing majority. I continue to work really hard on that role, and I will blog separately about what I’ve been doing since a lot of it isn’t ‘visible’ and SQLfamily members probably don’t see it.
I’m fortunate to be holding a precon this year, which is called the DataAnalysts Toolkit. We will look at R and PowerBI for a whole day. What’s best is, I will be giving you hands on labs and notes – if you bring your laptop, that is! I will announce in due course what software you need to install.
I’m holding a Friday session, which is a one-hour version of the precon.
However, I turned down the opportunity to speak on the Saturday. Why?
– I have worked, really, really hard to be a speaker at SQLBits. I am extremely proud to have been chosen, so this was a difficult decision. 
– however, I believe in fairness and the promotion of new speakers. I think that other people should be lucky enough to get a session too. I was concerned that I would be greedy in taking two sessions. There are plenty of people who would like to speak at SQLBits, and I refused, saying that the slot should go to a new speaker who hasn’t done it before.
Sometimes you have to do the right thing for the community, even if it is a wrench for yourself. 
I was lucky to get votes and to be picked, but I do worry about the time when the votes stop and I don’t get picked any more. This is a perfectly natural response. I also don’t go around my friends and family and ask them to vote for me, because that isn’t fair. If I get picked, I want it to be picked on a fair community vote and not because I emailed everyone in my department and asked a boatload of people to vote for me. I’d like to thank everyone who did vote for my session.
At the same time, I think it isn’t about the rank you hold or the number of sessions you give; it is about the legacy you leave behind. So, when I sit in sessions and see people talking about Excel and trellis charts, for example, I remember that I talked about that at SQLBits a few years ago. I was the first to talk about these topics at SQLBits, and I am happy that I trailblazed and now other people are talking about data visualisation as part of other sessions. 

I’m not criticising others who have two sessions, and I am happy for them. My focus is slightly different, particularly since I hold an elected seat on the Board of Directors. I want to say ‘thank you’ to everyone who voted for me, and I hope that this is a visible sign that I am working for the SQLFamily and the technical community.
At the same time, I think it is important to leave a legacy, even if people don’t see it. I don’t know whom they picked instead of me, but by making a sacrifice myself, it does mean that someone new can have the opportunity that I got. 

That said, I look forward to seeing people at my session and you can be assured that I will do my best, as always.

PASS in Africa discussion

This is a repost from the SQLPass Discussion Board

A blog post has asked a series of questions on PASS by Mark Stacey, who is based in Africa and has previously spoken at PASS. I won’t repeat his blog post here but you can read it here:…ass-board/ The other candidates have commented on the blog, but in order to give the issue a wide readership, I have set up this Discussion Board question. 

Previous to this blog post, I wrote a blog asking a similar question…tions.html and…n-top.html 

I’ve tried to distil Mark’s post to a few points, which I’ve put below. 

Point 1: Africa has been totally short-changed on events (see Mark’s post for more detail) 

I’ve blogged here and commented in other places that I’d like to see a SQLRally Africa, particularly with a BA track. 
I have taken a broader approach and wondered if this could be a two-way process. Instead of criticising people’s ideas that won’t work, let’s talk about things that might work. I’m a firm belliever that good ideas can be wrought from ideas that initially seemed to be poor, once you’ve discussed them with people. Suggestions are valuable. 

If online events do not help, what about eBooks? Would this help the community in Africa? Considering online is an issue, are there other practical ways that help could be given? For example, would be good to have USBs with material sent out to the UG groups with material on it, for example? I sometimes take collateral from Microsoft, sponsors and PASS to hand out to my UGs and nobody has ever objected, not once. People like Mark Stacey have spoken at SQLPass Summit so perhaps a process could be put in place so that they are given a box of educational collateral to take back. This would be a matter of two things: putting a process in place and the availability of resources. This would assume, of course, that people wouldn’t mind taking items back with them. THis is just an example and I am sure that the community can think of other examples. 

It seems that if we get our thinking brains on, we can make things happen. We’re smart people and we should be able to do this. 

Point 2: More data about what PASS is doing (see Mark’s post for more detail) 

I need to hold fire on this. There are usually issues with opening data up to the community. I’ve been through this before with other technical communities, and there are all sorts of issues around PII for example. 
I think we need to ‘baseline’ across the globe in order to measure global growth, trajectory of growth and so on. 

Point 3: More transparency and fairness (see Mark’s post for more detail) 

I don’t believe that Mark is alone in becoming confused by the Regional Mentor role. It is something that I have been confused about in the past, and I believe that the role’s defined boundaries need to be clarified. It’s easy to think “Well, the Regional Mentor should be doing X, Y, Z” but it may not be part of their role. For example, they do not have to attend SQLSaturday events in their region although many of them do. Personally I think that the Regional aspect is an important part of the role, and I’d like to see the role clarified to the community as a whole. 

Point 4: Closer alignment with other communities (see Mark’s post for more detail) 

The SQLPass Mission Statement clearly refers to ‘data professional’. Not ‘SQL Server’ professional. This is a move from being ‘technology’ specific to being domain specific. 
SQL Server has broadened to include deeply business-oriented people who use data, as well as including the deeply-technical folks. 
I see it as consistent with looking after ‘data’ professionals that there is a cross-pollination of skills in different areas. Some are BI ‘generalists’ who do end-to-end solutions, rather than focus on one area. 

Let’s take SQLSaturday Cambridge as an example. Mark Broadbent took the brave decision to include a SharePoint precon, and included SharePoint speakers, sponsors and community members amongst the SQLSaturday event. I attended, spoke and sponsored SQLSaturday Cambridge and saw the event from different perspectives, and I have to say that Mark and the team did a stellar job on every front. The additional point was that the event also held a strong community streak by visibly supporting a charity this year. Personally I love this aspect, and I hope to see it at other events.

Leadership Styles: My perspective on how to say no to ideas

Denise McInerny posed the following question on the PASS Election Discussion Board, and I have posted my answer here:

PASS has a lot of passionate and creative people with many good ideas. Like all organizations we have finite resources, which means we can’t do everything we want to do.One of the hardest things about being on the Board is saying “no” to a good idea. How would you approach that aspect of the job?

Let me give you an example recently where an email precipitated a huge and very heated community debate – the closure of the MCM program. Although I was not part of the decision-making at all, I was part of the process of the communication around the closure of the MCM Program because I chaired a conference call between Microsoft and the MCM community. For some reason, the Register obtained a copy of it without my knowledge, but it was supposed to be restricted to the MCM community.

In order to understand more about why the decision to close the MCM happened and to facilitate conversation and discussion between the community and Microsoft, I opened a Connect case, which ended up being the highest-voted SQL Server connect case with over a staggering 800 upvotes.
By opening a Connect case, I opened a two-way conversation which, unfortunately, ended up turning sour as people vented a very personal series of criticism on individual community members, which I will not deign to repeat here. Due to this, the Connect case was closed, unfortunately, since the Case was being dragged around by a tiny but extremely vocal minority who felt a Connect case was an appropriate forum to make personal and wholly unfounded criticisms of people who worked at Microsoft, or were attached to the Community in some way.

I then worked with Microsoft in order to host a conference call with the MCM community, whom I deeply respect. Despite the presence of the trolls on the Connect case, it was clear that there were a number of extremely smart engaged people, who had great ideas about the way forward for the MCM program and for MSL in particular. This was in despite of their huge personal disappointment at the closure of the program, which many had spent a lot of money, time and effort in participating.

I chaired the call between the MCM community and Microsoft, collating questions over a number of days and distilling them into a number of common themes due to the repetition of some questions.

Although the call did not produce the outcome that many wanted, it was at least a way forward for facilitating communication between Microsoft and the MCM community in a more formal environment, which reduced the heat of the Connect case which had been hijacked by trolls. It at least gave a voice to the MCM people who really deserved it, and had great questions and comments about the MCM closure decision, and plans for the way forward.

To summarise, this is an example where I’ve played a part in trying to resolve a very heated community situation, through communication, active participation in the community, and an absolute belief that the good hearts and best minds in the community deserved a hearing, as well as allowing Microsoft to have a say. Incidentally I’d like to thank Tim Sneath and his team for his time for making the time and facilities available to make the communication happen. I also found a way forward to deal with the trolls who were hijacking the normal means of communication i.e. by comments fired to a Connect case.

It was one of these situations where people deserved more than an email, and I think it was right to make it happen. I think that a ‘copy and paste’ email misses the point somewhat, since it does not seem to echo the idea of listening to the individual(s), or taking them seriously. Getting a somewhat modified template answer just doesn’t seem to fit with the energy that people have put into bringing an idea to you.

Saying no can be hard, but if you can clarify ‘why not’, then it can help to reach a common ground between yourself and the community. Sometimes what you mean is ‘not yet’. Communication, and fair communication which isn’t one-sided (like an email) isn’t the way forward.

In my experience, it is too easy to email, and much harder to pick up the phone or do in-person – but the effort can be worth it. It can come across as disrespectful, even. Also, if it is a bad idea that morphs into a good idea after discussion, it is important to give credit where it is due.

I propose that sometimes picking up the phone, or a proper conference call, might be the way forward. It depends on lots of factors, such as the range of the idea, numbers affected, how the idea generators might take it, and so on.

Whilst it is important not to get dragged around by a vocal minority, sometimes a simple conversation is all that it takes, and in today’s connected world, there is no excuse not to do that.