TIL: Microsoft Software & Systems Academy (MSSA) for veterans

Now I’m part of the Regional Director Program, I’ve decided to learn more broadly about some of the great things that Microsoft do in order to be a diverse and conscious organization.

I was interested to read about the Microsoft Software & Systems Academy (MSSA), which is aimed at veterans with career skills required for today’s growing technology industry, as they progress from their military careers to their new careers.

The MSSA is aimed at all sorts of careers.  There are even Business Intelligence careers mentioned here, which I love. MSSA Programs are available at major military locations nationwide in the US, so it’s clearly something they’ve thought about, and are taking seriously.

You can read more here.

Want to know more about #Fintech? Fintech-friendly Microsoft have teamed up with 11:FS to support Fintech democratization of knowledge

11:FS announced that Microsoft has become a strategic partner on their Fintech Insider podcasts. Microsoft wants to be an integral part of tackling some of the biggest challenges in financial services and collaborate on topics of interest to the industry audience.

11:FS, from Fintech Insider, is the #1 business podcast for Fintech innovators, influencers, and those eager to learn more about this exciting space.

The latest podcast from London is one of my favourites: Deputy Mayor of London, Rajesh Agrawal, to talk about how Brexit is set to affect the city. As a micro business owner, I was particularly interested in how Agrawal plans to encourage entrepreneurship in London As someone with a keen interest in diversity, there is an interesting segment on how the gender diversity needs to be encouraged to maximise the talent available; particularly important after Brexit.

To summarise, I’m glad to see Microsoft are supporting the democratization of data – and Fintech – in this way. I hope you’ll tune in. See you there!

So how many badass female inventors, role models do you know? Here’s a handy starter book list to share and inspire

How do you inspire girls to make choices that inspire them? How can we inspire girls to be badass and yes, it is a compliment? How do you give them role models?

There is nothing worse in the world that not having any choices. So let’s give our daughters the chance to have options and choices, just like boys. Don’t filter them out before they get started.

I’m in data and technology (my uncle was at Bletchley Park) and I was inspired to learn to program as an eight-year-old girl by a spy who cracked Japanese codes whilst hiding out in India. I was extremely lucky to be taught by someone who knew Alan Turing personally and was friends with Ludwig Wittgenstein, but many folks don’t know where to start. They just know that they have to harness their daughter’s enthusiasm somehow. And there is nothing wrong with boys reading these books either…. or anyone else. My son can read these books and say ‘wow, Hedy LaMarr was awesome!’ and that’s great to hear, right?

On Twitter, I saw the British historian and BBC presenter Dan Snow post the following tweet:

What Mr Snow may not have expected is that there were many responses about the fact that many inspiring women in history get forgotten, or even written out of history. Think Bletchley Park; how many famous women do you know from there? There were thousands of female workers at Bletchley Park there but we only hear about the men.

It’s time to right this wrong, and Snow’s tweet got me thinking. Some mentioned some of their favourite books that focused on women who inspire, in order to show their daughters a different way. Example:

WE NEED MORE OF THIS! We often talk about girls needing role models, and we end up being caught in a paradox.

How do we inspire girls with role models, if there aren’t any role models? How do we get role models, if we can’t inspire girls?

Before you read below… how many women can you think of? A quick poll of people around me produces ‘that woman who invented Tippex and was David Bowie’s mother’ – three things with that; a. stop defining her as a mother b. remember her own name as well c. she wasn’t David Bowie’s mother (!). A quick research shows that Bette Nesmith Graham actually was the mother of one of the Monkees. In a reverse Handmaid’s Tale sort of way, you might call him Michael OfBette. If you haven’t read Handmaid’s Tale, please do; it will make you angry because it is so plausible. It will make you scared for how the world could go, and that’s exactly why you should read it.

Well, the good people of Twitter started to put the world to rights again, when people started to note their own favourite books, which showcase women in a variety of fields. I am listing them here, and please do add more in the comments.

I do not get paid for recommending books because that’s plain grubby and money-grabbing. I’m recommending these because the good folks of Twitter recommended them, and I will be reading them myself.

Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls – recommended by James O’Flynn

Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World by Kate Pankhurst – recommended by James O’Flynn

Rejected Princesses: Tales of History’s Boldest Heroines, Hellions, and Heretics by Jason Porath and recommended by Jenny Colledge

Tough Mothers: Amazing Stories of History’s Mightiest Matriarchs by Jason Porath

These books are perhaps more for the adults:

Laurel A Rockefeller writes a series aimed at women in history

As I said, I’m into technology so I have to recommend Programmed Inequality (History of Computing): How Britain Discarded Women Technologists and Lost Its Edge in Computing. Written by Marie Hicks, it will inspire and hurt and you will learn something about how Britain can do better. Plus, WELCOME TO MY LIFE, PEOPLE.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – If you don’t read it, then you have to watch it. It’s painful because it’s articulate, insightful and it feels so close to the surface that you can almost touch the dark reality that’s not so far away from ours.

So, Mr Snow, if you ever decide to do a series on female badass characters throughout history, I think  you’ll have a very interested audience. #SubtleHint

I want better things for our children, boys and girls. If you are reading this far – Well done you – and it gives me hope that we might miss out on the dystopian future in The Handmaid’s Tale after all.

It’s about giving girls choices. If your daughter wants to be a mommy and wear pink, that’s fine. But if she also wants to be a car mechanic or scientist or save the world through environmental science, she shoudl be able to do that too.

 

Modelling your Data in Azure Data Lake

One of my project roles at the moment (I have a few!) is that I am architecting a major Azure implementation for a global brand. I’m also helping with the longer-term ‘vision’ of how that might shape up. I love this part of my job and I’m living my best life doing this piece; I love seeing a project take shape until the end users, whether they are business people or more strategic C-level, get the benefit of the data. At Data Relish, I make your data work for different roles organizations of every purse and every purpose, and I learn a lot from the variety of consulting pieces that I deliver.

If you’ve had even the slightest look at the Azure Portal, you will know that it has oodles of products that you can use in order to create an end-to-end solution. I selected Azure Data Lake for a number of reasons:

  • I have my eye on the Data Science ‘prize’ of doing advanced analytics later on, probably in Azure Databricks as well as Azure Data Lake. I want to make use of existing Apache Spark skills and Azure Data Lake is a neat solution that will facilitate this option.
  • I need a source that will cater for the shape of the data…. or the lack of it….
  • I need a location where the data can be accessed globally since it will be ingesting data from global locations.

In terms of tooling, there is always the Azure Data Lake tools for Visual Studio. You can watch a video on this topic here. But how do you get started with the design approach? So how do I go about the process of designing solutions for the Azure Data Lake? There are many different approaches and I have been implementing Kimball methodologies for years.

cellar

With this particular situation, I will be using the Data Vault methodology. I know that there are different schools of thought but I’ve learned from Dan Lindstedt in particular, who has been very generous in sharing his expertise; here is Dan’s website here. I have delivered this methodology elsewhere previously for an organization who have billions USD turnover, and they are still using the system that I put in place; it was particularly helpful approach for an acquisition scenario, for example.

 

Building a Data Vault starts with the modeling process, and this starts with a view of the existing datamodel of a transactional source system. The purpose of the data vault modelling lifecycle is to produce solutions to the business faster, at lower cost and with less risk, that also have a clear supported afterlife once I’ve moved onto another project for another customer.

 

Data Vault is a database modeling technique where the data is considered to belong to one of three entity types: hubs, links,and satellites:

 

  • Hubs contain the key attributes of business entities (such as geography, products, and customers)
  • Links define the relations between the hubs (for example, customer orders or product categories).

 

  • Satellites contain all other attributes related to hubs or links. Satellites include all attribute change history.

 

The result is an Entity Relationship Diagram (ERD), which consists of Hubs, Links and Satellites. Once I’d settled on this methodology, I needed to hunt around for something to use.

How do you go about designing and using an ERD tool for a Data Vault? I found a few options. For the enterprise, I found  WhereScape® Data Vault Express. That looked like a good option, but I had hoped to use something open-source so other people could adopt it across the team. It wasn’t clear how much it would cost, and, in general, if I have to ask then I can’t afford it! So far, I’ve settled on SQL Power Architect so that I can get the ‘visuals’ across to the customer and the other technical team, including my technical counterpart at the customer who picks up when I’m at a conference. This week I’m at Data and BI Summit in Dublin so my counterpart is picking up activities during the day, and we are touching base during our virtual stand-ups.

StockSnap_DotsSo, I’m still joining dots as I go along.

If you’re interested in getting started with Azure Data Lake, I hope that this gets you some pointers from the design process.

I’ll go into more detail in future blogs but I need to get off writing this blog and do some work!

Azure CosmosDB, Azure Data Lake Analytics and R sessions at Microsoft Data and BI Summit BA

I’m excited to be speaking three times at the Data & BI Summit in Dublin, 24th – 26th April. It’s extra special for me since it will be my first event as a Microsoft Regional Director and also after having been named one of the top 20 women in Artificial Intelligence, Data Science, Machine Learning and Big Data by Big Data Made Simple by the team over at Crayon Data.

I’m speaking on the following topics:

  • R and Power BI
  • Azure CosmosDB and Power BI
  • Azure Data Lake Analytics with Power BI – details to be announced as there have been a few logistic changes.

Here are the details below:

PUGDV07 – R in Power BI for Absolute Beginners

When: Tuesday, April 24 16:00 – 17:00 Where: Liffey Meeting Room 1 (it’s on the first floor) In this session, we will start R right from the beginning, from installing R through to data transformation and integration, through to visualizing data by using R in Power BI. Then, we will move towards powerful but simple to use datatypes in R such as data frames. We will also upgrade our data analysis skills by looking at R data transformation using a powerful set of tools to make things simple: the tidyverse. Then, we will look at integrating our R work into Power BI, and visualizing our data using beautiful visualizations with R and Power BI. Finally, we will share our work by publishing our Power BI project, with our R code, to the Power BI service. We will also look at refreshing our dataset so that our new dashboard has refreshed data. This session is aimed at getting beginners up to speed as gently and quickly as possible. Join this session if you are curious about R and want to know more. If you are already a Power BI expert, join this session to open up a whole new world of Power BI to add to your skill set. If you are new to Power BI, you will still get value from this session since you’ll be able to see a Power BI dashboard being built in an end-to-end solution.

PUGDV11 – Data Analytics with Azure Cosmos Schema-less Data and Power BI

When: Thursday, April 26 15:00 – 16:00

Where: Liffey Meeting Room 5 (it’s on the first floor)

Good news for Developers and Data Analysts; it’s possible to have rapid application development and analytics with the same data source, using Azure Cosmos DB and Power BI.
Azure Cosmos DB is a schemaless database, so how is it possible to analyse and create reports of the data for analytics and Business Intelligence tools? A single Azure Cosmos DB database is great for rapid application development because it can contain JSON documents of various structures, but this needs careful data visualization. In this session, we will analyze and create reports of Azure Cosmos data using Power BI, looking at data from both developer and data analyst aspects.
In this demo-rich session, you will learn about Azure Cosmos, understand its use cases, and see how to work with data in a schemaless Azure Cosmos database for Power BI.

Hope to see you there!

Issues and Resolutions in starting R and R Server on SQL Server 2017

I am helping some people learn Data Science and we are having a ton of fun! There are lots of things to remember. So I am noting things here, in case I forget!

We noted the following error message, when we saw that R was not running on our SQL Server 2017 install:

‘sp_execute_external_script’ is disabled on this instance of SQL Server. Use sp_configure ‘external scripts enabled’ to enable it.

Here is the longer version:

Msg 39023, Level 16, State 1, Procedure sp_execute_external_script, Line 1 [Batch Start Line 3]

‘sp_execute_external_script’ is disabled on this instance of SQL Server. Use sp_configure ‘external scripts enabled’ to enable it.

Msg 11536, Level 16, State 1, Line 4

EXECUTE statement failed because its WITH RESULT SETS clause specified 1 result set(s), but the statement only sent 0 result set(s) at run time.

Grr! What’s happened here? We had installed R as part of the SQL installation, and we had run the command to enable it, too. In case you are wondering, here is the command:

EXEC sp_configure ‘external scripts enabled’, 1
RECONFIGURE WITH OVERRIDE

So what happens next? Initial things to check:

Is R Server installed properly along with SQL Server? Here are some guidelines to help you.

Is the Launchpad service running? One of my colleagues and friends Tomaž Kaštrun  wrote a nice article on SQL Server Central. If not, this could be due to a lack of permissions in being able to start the service.

Did you restart the MSSQL Service on the machine? This will also restart the Launchpad service as well. If you didn’t restart the service, you will need to do that so it can pick up the results.

Once R is running properly, you can check it by using the following command, borrowed from the official installation guide over at Microsoft:

EXEC sp_execute_external_script @language =N’R’,
@script=N’
OutputDataSet <- InputDataSet;
‘,
@input_data_1 =N’SELECT 1 AS RIsWorkingFine’
WITH RESULT SETS (([RIsWorkingFine] int not null));
GO

If that returns a 1, then you are all set! To prove it works properly, you can retrieve the world famous Iris dataset using the following command, borrowed from the official documentation on sp_execute_external_script:

DROP PROC IF EXISTS get_iris_dataset;

go

CREATE PROC get_iris_dataset

AS BEGIN

EXEC sp_execute_external_script @language = N‘R’ , @script = N‘iris_data <- iris;’ , @input_data_1 = N , @output_data_1_name = N‘iris_data’ WITH RESULT SETS ((“Sepal.Length” float not null, “Sepal.Width” float not null, “Petal.Length” float not null, “Petal.Width” float not null, “Species” varchar(100)));

END;

GO

Once you’ve created the command, execute the following SQL command and you will see the iris dataset:

exec get_iris_dataset

You’re all set! Enjoy R!

First week as a Microsoft Regional Director – what did I learn?

It’s been my first week as a Regional Director and I thought it would be useful to report back on what I’ve learned so far.

Firstly, many existing RDs and Microsoft team members have been in touch to welcome me and it’s been such a nice experience. They are all incredibly nice. I feel I’m joining a warm group of people. There has been no shred of animosity and I have not heard anyone say a bad thing about anyone else. That’s very important to me. They are exemplary models of being the ‘bigger’ person. I will learn to be more sharing and perhaps even more trusting as part of this group, and, on an individual level, some healing as well. I’m joining a group of people who will be good for me. Sometimes it’s hard to work out who is good for you and who isn’t, and I am inspired by them to work even harder at being someone who is good for others.

Secondly, I learned that some of my friends are joining the Program too – Stacia Varga and Reza Rad. I’m thrilled to be joining with them and very excited about the opportunity to work with them.

Strangely, I learned that a lot of people don’t know what an RD is. Some Microsoft team members didn’t know, either, but I was buoyed by their happiness that they thought I was joining them! So I’ve had to explain that it is a community role. Hopefully I can help to explain as I figure things out, too.

Any questions, please leave a comment.