Being a Microsoft Regional Director: faith, trust and pixie dust for good

I’m still learning about being a Microsoft Regional Director and I’m figuring things out. I’d like to thank Microsoft here for this opportunity and I’d like to thank the great RD team at Microsoft for their seemingly-endless patience with my questions!

Here is my opinion. I don’t represent anyone other than myself, and this is in no way official. I am extremely honored to be a Regional Director and an MVP and I think that the RD role is worth exploring further. This is just an opinion, and that I’m still learning about the RD role since I am new to it. I might add that i’m still figuring out being an MVP as well. Actually, I’m still wondering what job I want to do when I grow up!

Let’s take an example. Recently, an email popped up in my mailbox from a senior executive and decision maker, who asked for a hiring strategy for Azure team members and a commentary about POs for Azure, including Power BI. So I made a huge impact at that customer site, which was a large organization and a big ship to steer around. In fact, it takes faith, hope and a little dash of pixie dust as well as joining hands with the team in order to make the jump in digital transformation; people, processes and technology. And then, I rinse and repeat at other organizations so that everyone has a good leap of faith in the direct direction.

Recently I was on the BBC, talking about a different client where I am helping with a data science for good project, which focuses on homelessness and other aspects of social care. I’ve put the video here, in case you’re interested:

You probably think that any one-woman-band projects mean much, but they do. In fact, it’s huge. I have been working with the first client for months, on and off, combining my time with other customers in an ad-hoc way. I am convinced that Azure is the right solution and the role was born out of the roadmap to Azure that I had worked with them to produce, as part of a larger strategy piece; and it’s just the first role and more will be added later.

For the second customer case, the work we are doing, using Microsoft technologies, is going to have a good impact on people’s lives. The data overrides your perceptions. When we think of homeless people, we think of the tramps on the street, right? Wrong. What about victims of domestic violence, who become victims of unexpected homelessness because they are in fear for their lives? What about their children? That’s how hard people have it in their lives, and in the tech world, we are so blessed, often. What are we complaining about, really?

I don’t think that the RD role or the MVP role are sales roles at all. I don’t benefit financially from these recommendations. I am entirely independent and, if I recommend a solution, it’s because I believe that it is the correct solution.

So I think an RD is partially about having that strategic impact that Microsoft can really see and feel, in a good way. There will be nothing to tie me to the purchase of Azure at all, because I didn’t receive anything and I don’t sell Azure, and I didn’t make anything from the sale. I’m an independent consultant so I get paid for my time, not the fruits of my recommendations. But people will feel the results; the new hires, for example.

So I think an RD is partially about having that strategic impact that other people can really see and feel, in a good way. In these digital transformation pieces, I’m making people’s work easier for them through better processes, great technology and mentoring, supporting and helping people. For the work I’m doing in data science for good, I’m using Microsoft Data Science technologies as part of an amazing, amazing team who are doing great things and making people’s lives better. I think that is it, really: about using your pixie dust to do good things. It’s not about ‘bigger is better’ – bigger business, higher github admissions, higher turnover, larger number of hires, bigger number of Azure VMs, bigger number of forum answers or bigger profile on Stackoverflow. I think it’s about having the same pixie dust as anyone else, but throwing it liberally on the right things.

Rule your mind or it will rule you – Buddha

I think it’s about personal growth. It’s also about striving to have a maturity of outlook and a cool head, and I am trying very hard to heal and be the clean person I’d like to be. I’m doing my MBA and it’s all about personal growth and development. It’s unlike any other course I’ve done, since it means I get really hard feedback about myself as a person as well as my work. Some of the feedback is great, and other feedback is uncomfortable and provokes cognitive dissonance, but the self-honesty means that I can work on it through reflexive and reflective leadership techniques. For example, I’ve written before about having Imposter Syndrome but now I am learning to watch my thoughts better (mindfulness and my Buddhist journey) which means I’m starting to understand better if it really is Imposter Syndrome, or perhaps it’s a reality check, or perhaps I am just being silly? I have grown so much in the past few years and my Buddhist journey tells me that I have a long way to go.

When others go low, you go high

Kirk D Borne, who is an immensely insightful gentleman, asked me a deceptively simple question: what does this actually mean for you? I’d like to thank Kirk here because his generous and insightful question provoked me to think of  for days. I love it when someone challenges me with a wise question and one that I hadn’t considered before, which was kind of the point! I’ve decided on an answer: what being an RD means for me is the opportunity to network, learn and share with people who are brilliant, mature, optimistic, knowledgeable, willing to share freely and with no reward in it, know when to speak and when to stay silent, experienced in business and in the tech sphere. I’m with a great set of people who I admire.


Accountability is a very tough thing to learn and it’s something that I ask myself every day: who is accountable? Professionally or personally, you can’t shrug off personal accountability. To lead by example, you have to be accountable, which means that people can have faith and trust in you.

It’s about people you can have faith and trust in, and striving to be that person. The RD program inspires me to work towards being all of these things and to consider accountability.

It also means that I am working to make sure that nobody steals my pixie dust. Michelle Obama inspires me here: when others go low, I go high. Words to live by!

Don’t let anyone steal your Pixie Dust

Following on from accountability, it’s about being an authentic you and striving to be a better  you. On my office wall, I have a picture of Tinkerbell, as follows.


My onboarding to the RD Program has been incredible and people outside and inside of Microsoft have been amazing. So I’d like to thank everyone who has congratulated me and I can promise that I will do my best.

PASS Summit Notes for my AzureML, R and Power BI Presentation

I’m going to have fun with my AzureML session today at PASS Summit! More will follow on this post later; I am racing off to the keynote so I don’t have long 🙂

I heard some folks weren’t sure whether to attend my session or Chris Webb’s session. I’m honestly flattered but I’m not in the same league as Chris! I’ve posted my notes here so that folks can go off and attend Chris’ session, if they are stuck between the two.

Here is the order of things:

  • Slide Deck
  • How do you choose a machine learning algorithm?
  • How do you carry out an AzureML project?
  • AzureML Experiment 
  • R Code

So, the slide deck is here:

  • AzureML Experiment 

You can see this experiment in the AzureML Gallery. You may have to sign up for a Windows Live account to get a free AzureML studio account, and I recommend that you do.

  • How do you choose a machine learning algorithm?

Kudos to Microsoft – this is their cheatsheet and I recommend that you look at the original page.

Here is some more information on the topic from Microsoft, and I recommend that you follow it.

How do you carry out an AzureML project?

Try the CRISP-DM Framework for a start

See the Modelling Agency for the original source.

CRISP-DM Process Diagram.png
CRISP-DM Process Diagram” by Kenneth JensenOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

R Code

Here’s a sample R code. I know it is simple, and there are better ways of doing this. However, remember that this is for instructional purposes in front of +/- 500 people so I want to be sure everyone has a grounding before we talk more complicated things.

You may have to install the libraries first, if you haven’t done so.



# Let’s rename the columns

# Let’s see if the columns renamed well
# What is the maximum age of the adult?
# How much data is missing?

# How many rows do we have?
# 32561 rows, 15 columns

# There are lots of different ways to deal with missing data
# That would be a session in itself!
# For demo purposes, we are simply going to replace question marks, and remove rows which have anything missing.$workclass <- as.factor(gsub(“[?]”, NA,$workclass))$education <- as.factor(gsub(“[?]”, NA,$education))$marital.status <- as.factor(gsub(“[?]”, NA,$marital.status))$occupation <- as.factor(gsub(“[?]”, NA,$occupation))$relationship <- as.factor(gsub(“[?]”, NA,$relationship))$race <- as.factor(gsub(“[?]”, NA,$race))$sex <- as.factor(gsub(“[?]”, NA,$sex, fixed = TRUE))$country <- as.factor(gsub(“[?]”, NA,$country)) =’?’ =’ ?’
adult.tidydata = na.omit(

# Let’s check out our new data set, called adult.tidydata

# How many rows do we have?
# 32561 rows, 15 columns

# Let’s visualise the data
boxplot(adult.tidydata$education.num~adult.tidydata$earning_level,outline=F,xlab=”Income Level”,ylab=”Education Level”,main=”Income Vs Education”)

for (i in 1:ncol(adult.tidydata)-2) {
if (is.factor(adult.tidydata[,i])){
pl =ggplot(adult.tidydata,aes_string(colnames(adult.tidydata)[i],fill=”earning_level”))+geom_bar(position=”dodge”) + theme(axis.text.x=element_text(angle=75))


plot <- ggplot(data = adult.tidydata, aes(x = hours.per.week, y = education.num,
colour = hours.per.week))
plot <- plot + geom_point(alpha = 1/10)
plot <- plot + ggtitle(“Hours per Week vs Level of Education”)
plot <- plot + stat_smooth(method = “lm”, se = FALSE, colour = “red”, size = 1)
plot <- plot + xlab(“Education Level”) + ylab(“Hours per Week worked”)
plot <- plot + theme(legend.position = “none”)

That’s all for now! More later.

Jen xx

AzureCon round up: Intelligent Cloud, Applications, Data, Infrastructure, Business Agility and Cloud Ability

IAzureCon 1 organised an AzureCon viewing party tonight in Hertfordshire, with great team support from Team Awesome over at Cloudamour.

We watched a total of four keynotes, running back to back for almost four hours. The keynotes were all awesome and I’ve blogged some learnings here.AzureCon 3

First up, was Scott Guthrie (t), igniting the keynotes and kicking off the event with the journey to the intelligent cloud. I missed some of this piece because I was welcoming guests as they arrived, making introductions and so on. If you want to see the video, you can catch Scott Guthrie here on Channel 9. The thrust of Scott’s session was about cloud energising business and technical leaders worldwide turn the digital disruption into their advantage. Scott led customers who used cloud to enable their business to break new ground, and share their best practices in using some of the latest Microsoft innovations in enabling their journey to the cloud.

My personal favourite part of this piece was seeing the inspirational Lara Rubbelke (t) up on stage. Lara is inspirational and she’s generous with her time, supporting SQLFamily members. Lara explained the SQL Data Warehouse very clearly in terms of its simplicity to set up, and it’s relevance to the business. I liked her piece because she talked tech and business equally and that’s hard. It’s something I find that I have to do in my role every day; basically, wearing different hats, and it’s not easy to accomplish. Lara achieves this with ease and I recommend that you watch her segment, which is about 32 minutes into the video She also makes you think about how this could be relevant in your environment and that is an important takeaway.

In Lara’s words, using the technology is a ‘zero risk’ decision which allows you to scale up, scale down as you need. We don’t need to move our data, it just works, thereby offering immediate ROI, visualised in PowerBI.

AzureCon 4Next up was Bill Staples (t) the CVP for the Azure App Platform, and the focus here was in growing and expanding
businesses using Azure as a base for apps.

Since apps are so personal and based around customers’ experience, they can help accelerate their business transformation and driving rapid results which are customer-centric.

Bill had some pretty interesting case studies and you can find them over on his keynote session, which is over at Channel 9.

Next up, the session I’d looked forward to the most: T.K. Rengarajan (t), CVP Data Platform. Ranga talked about IoT – the Internet of Things with *your* things. As with IoT, there was a focus on Stream Processing and Predictive Analytics. How can we use that data properly? How can we use it for prescriptive analytics i.e. what can I do? What should I do? We should be able to drive intent on it, to derive intelligent action. Here are some use cases:

  • Rockwell use it to manage gas dispensers.
  • Ford are embedding IoT sensors in their cars, going forward.
  • ThyssenKrup – leading elevator manufacturer. Track the health of their elevators’ health, around the globe. Optimise the service experience before it breaks down.
Here is the Thyssen Krup elevator video from Ranga’s talk:

They have the ability to optimise their service experience in predicting failure before the elevator breaks down. Now, that’s predictive analytics in action, using Azure as a base!

AzureCon 2The session then moved to IoT in a box!

Investment principles for IoT
  • IoT Starts with your things
  • Provide connectivity to both existing and new devices
  • Facilitate new insights by garnessing power of untapped data
Azure IoT Suite, Summarised:
  • Preconfigured Solutions
  • Analytics
  • Workflow Automation
  • Device Connectivity
  • Command and control
  • Dashboards
Azure IoT Suite announced a Remote Monitoring Solution, with a Predictive Monitoring Solution onboarding in a few weeks. Now if that wasn’t enough excitement for you, The Azure Data Lake announcement was made and here is the summary:
  • Fully managed system for analytics. Analyse Data of any size, shape and speed
  • Productive day one
  • Build on open standards – YARN
Data Lake – the great tape record in the sky
What type of customers are looking at it, and what do they need?AzureCon 5
  • the ones with unstructured data
  • u-sql
  • u-sql ETL script
  • Unstructured TSV in Data Lake store to structured tables in data lake store
  • including JSON expansion and filtering
  • Data lake can support both structured and unstructured data
  • Its easy to submit a job, and there is even a slider for parallelism! We can slide up to 1000 levels of parallelism. Ranga asked people to submit a name. I like ‘Pixie Dust Slider’ because it’s sprinkling magic on your data, but I don’t think Microsoft marketing would ever go for that!
  • We can see that U-SQL looks very similar to standard SQL
  • We can make references in .NET
  • One of our columns is a JSON object, but with data lake, we can take a function to extract out that column and work with it.
  • The different jobs are broken down.

Finally, we moved on to Jason Zander (t) to talk about cloud infrastructure. More pixie dust to make it happen! Here’s a summary:

  • 24 azure regions, more than Google and AWS combined. Welcome India #Azure data centers!
  • Enough fibre to wrap around the globe, 56 times.
  • 1.4 million miles of fiber in the DCs
  • ExpressRoute – for Azure. Speeds of up to 10 Gigabits per second. 21 ExpressRoute locations worldwide, including London.
Then, it was time for home. It was agreed that the party guests would love to hear more Azure information and they are really keen for another group meeting. I’ll be looking to the community to support our growing group with speakers, so watch this space as we grow more #AzureFamily fans here in the UK.
AzureCon 6 MatthewAnd here is a picture of the youngest Azure fan, who likes it because Halo runs on it…..

sMy handy toolkit for my Azure IoT Project – how the Microsoft Partner Network can help

In this series, I’m writing a bunch of very practical posts on helping you through an IoT project. There are plenty of other posts about the ‘why’ and the marketing buzz, but this is about the ‘do’.

If you are using Azure, the chances are that you might be a Microsoft Partner already. There are some useful goodies in there, and you may not be aware of these opportunities. The benefits of the Microsoft Partner network can be found here. However, it can be hard to relate the list to actual projects, and this blog is aimed at translating these benefits into something tangible that can help you on your IoT project. Firstly, though, take a look at the Action Pack subscription video in order to get some background:

How can this help you to start on your IoT project? Well, if you are starting out on IoT and Azure, then the first thing you’ll need are some handy free Azure credits. Now, if you have an MSDN subscription, then you will also have free Azure credits. Did you know that you can get free credits as part of your Microsoft Partner Action Pack subscription as well? Members of the Microsoft Action Pack program receive monthly credits of £65 of Azure at no charge, and the terms and conditions can be found here.

In practice, these means that you can set up two subscriptions for your Azure account; one for MSDN, and the other for your Microsoft Partner Azure credits.

To help you start out on your Azure project with IoT, you can get five internal use licenses for Office365. This is extremely useful, because it means you can download the Office software. So, in my projects, I recommend my customers become a partner with the Action Pack subscription since they will get one the following:

  • Microsoft Office 365—either five seats Office on-premises and five Microsoft Office 365, or 10 seats Office on-premises. You can earn more seats of Office 365 after an additional cloud sale.
  • Microsoft Dynamics CRM—no Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online licenses are granted at the subscription point. These licenses are granted after you close one Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online deal or at least 50 seats of Office 365 in the previous 12 months.

For your IoT project, the first option is particularly useful in the following scenarios:

If you have taken on new team members to do an AzureML project, then you are going to need Office software such as Excel, in order to view data. If people are choosing a career in AzureML, then you can make a safe bet that these team members will want to use the latest and greatest technology. This means that giving them Excel 2007, for example, isn’t going to work. Happy team members produce better results, and it’s important to empower them with the tools that they need, and *want*, to do the a job that they are proud of doing.

If you have Office365, then you can hook up your data nicely so that you can see and share it in Power BI.

  • What is your call to action?
  • Sign up for the Microsoft Partner, and enrol for the cloud Programs
  • Sign up as an Action Pack Subscriber
  • Make sure to look at your benefits, and you’ll see the Azure subscription credits and your Office365 licence keys. To do this, go to Resources, and then look for ‘Access my software and cloud benefits’.

Using my Partner Azure credits, and my MSDN credits means that I have two separate subscriptions for paying for Azure. In my case, I have a subscription for my own Virtual Machines for development, and then a different Subscription for my Proof of Concept work and the portfolio I’m building for demonstrations. It helps me to keep an eye on how much credit I’m “spending” on development work on Azure VMs for development work. At the moment, I have a few physical servers which I *used* to use for development, but I like the portability of having everything in the cloud. It will mean I don’t have to lug my heavy Dell mobile workstation around with me. For demonstrations, I can video my demos in advance in case I can’t access the cloud for some reason. If I find I’m incurring a lot of Azure credits and paying money, then I need to decide whether to purchase another physical machine, or stick with Azure. So far, Azure is winning on cost, and on factors such as performance and reliability, and ease of use. Running a small business and being on the PASS Board mean that I’m incredibly busy, and I need to be careful how I spend my time and effort. As you can understand, doing a lot of tech support may not be the best use of my time – even though I do enjoy it!

Now, you’re ready to move to the next step! There are a range of choices for architecting an IoT project, and I will talk about some of these issues in my next blog post.