Grab a cup of coffee and settle in for a good read with PASS’s new book club. In this Q&A, Ike Ellis, co-leader of the Book Readers Virtual Chapter, shares the group’s first selection, how meetings will work, and how to make time for this important learning activity.
Q: What’s the purpose of the Book Readers Virtual Chapter?
A: Reading a book by yourself is an excellent way to learn. The only problem is, the book can't answer your questions if it isn't explaining something well. Sometimes books don't give you real-world options or tell you actual stories about how a technology or technique has been used in the field. Other times, a book will say something really important, but it's helpful for an expert to point it out and say, "Listen up, this is really important." Book authors also need to be politically correct, so sometimes they may not say, "Yeah, no one really does it this way in the real world." All of these problems are solved with a little book-club mentoring. A mentor can make the book come alive.
Q: The VC’s first book has been selected – Itzik Ben-Gan's T-SQL Fundamentals for SQL Server 2012. Tell us a little about it.
A: The SQL Server community is chock-full of experts, and we could have chosen so many fantastic books. But we had to start somewhere, and who better to kick us off than Itzik?
T-SQL Fundamentals is an excellent way for readers to get a 10,000-foot view of what T-SQL has to offer in SQL Server 2012. We all have blind spots. Maybe some of us aren't using CTEs when appropriate. Perhaps some of us don't know the difference between a table variable and a temporary table or aren’t using the MERGE statement to full effect. This book is a great way to uncover some blind spots and improve our core T-SQL skills.
Q: So how will the book club work, how fast will you be going through a book, and what should people come prepared to talk about at the meetings?
A: Our first meeting, March 20, is an introductory meeting where we’ll frame the importance of the topic, discuss the rules of the group, practice using the remote software, and open the discussion to see what everyone hopes to get out of the group. There might be some kinks to work out since we're brand-new at this and still learning. We'll start reading the book after the first meeting.
We’ll then meet the third Wednesday of every month at 12pm Pacific Time (19:00 GMT). I think we'll end up reading 100-150 pages a month. That's about 4-8 hours of reading, which I think is reasonable. We’ll try not to get too aggressive because we know people have busy lives with too much to do already.
Once we begin reading, everyone should make sure they bring their questions and comments to the meetings. The interaction is why we have this group. I'll be there to answer questions and to verify technical accuracy, but I might not know the answer to every question. I believe that real learning happens when you try to explain what you know to someone else. That's why it's very helpful for readers to help each other – so that both readers benefit from the explanation.
Q: Back to your comment about busy lives – any tips on finding time to read?
A: I read all the time. I read everything I can get my hands on. I think we need to remember that our technical skills all have an expiration date. If we don't sharpen the saw, the blade gets dull – and who needs a dull blade? We have to keep learning, keep growing, keep expanding, or we will atrophy. I love learning and consider it a core skill that every technologist needs to have. Good leaders will allow for time to study and learn during the work day. I would consider approaching management with the need so they can allocate time toward staying sharp.
Q: How can people join the Book Reading VC and send any questions, suggestions, or ideas for future books to read?
A: Joining the VC and getting on our DL is easy: Just go to the PASS Virtual Chapters page and click on the Join button beside the Book Readers VC. We have contact information on the website for any questions. And if we need a separate interface for asking questions throughout the month, we'll start a Google group for our members.
Q: Brad Cunningham is joining you as co-leader of the VC. What can we expect from your co-host?
A: Brad has been a C# MVP since 2008. He's always on the cutting edge of software development, writing new web, mobile, and enterprise solutions. His code has been featured all over the Internet, on numerous podcasts, and at user groups. Brad and I have known each other for years, have co-presented on numerous topics, and have worked on software projects together. We’re good friends and look forward to having a great time sharing our love of technology and books with the community.
Cross-posted from the PASS Business Analytics Conference Blog
By Chris Webb
One thing that’s always surprised me in the 15 years I’ve worked in the business intelligence industry is how little I’ve been involved in the analysis of the data I’ve been working with. Maybe this was because some of the business users I’ve worked with haven’t been very interested in analysing the data themselves. I deliver a nicely formatted report with a table and a few charts on it. They see whether their sales are going up or down, they get a warm fuzzy feeling (if sales are going up) or some harsh words from their boss (if sales are going down), and that’s it.
I’ve never been happy with this state of affairs, though. Many companies have ignored the potential of the data they’ve captured. What’s more, I feel I’ve been missing out as well – left out of the rewarding process of digging through terabytes of data to unearth some previously unknown insight that could transform my customer’s business.
Fortunately, times are changing. All the recent discussion around “big data” and “data science” is enticing more companies to do something useful with all the data they’ve piled up. This, in turn, presents a challenge and an opportunity to business intelligence professionals like me. The challenge is that now in addition to ensuring that the numbers are correct and the reports are pretty, I also have to be able to help my customers understand their data. I need to know about data visualisation techniques and understand why pie charts are a bad idea and why 3D graphs aren’t cool or clever. I need to know about data mining, how to calculate a forecast using linear regression, and that correlation is not the same thing as causation.
I’ll never know as much about these things as a statistician or a quant on Wall Street, but that’s OK because they’ll never know as much about the systems delivering data to them as I will. But I will need to know enough to be able to talk intelligently to people in these roles – and to be able to provide guidance to my customers when they don’t have skilled data analysts on their staff. This, of course, provides the opportunity for me to become more closely involved with how the business is run and, therefore, more valuable to it.
It’s not just BI pros who will need to move with the times. DBAs, developers, and anyone else in IT who works with data will also be affected by these changes. Having the skills to manage data or move it from place to place won’t be enough in the future; we’re all going to have to work together to add value to our data by helping people understand it. If IT as a whole isn’t willing to contribute to these business goals, it risks being relegated to a non-core function or even outsourced.
All of this is why I’m going to the PASS Business Analytics Conference in Chicago this April. Business analytics is the next stage of evolution in getting the most value from the data we collect and manage, and I want my career to encompass that full life cycle. The BA Conference is a place where traditional BI pros like me and the analysts who work with the data that we deliver can come together and learn more about each other’s responsibilities and how we can all do our jobs better. I’m excited about the opportunity to learn new skills and grow professionally, and I hope you can join me in Chicago and on that continuing journey.
¿Estás buscando entrenamiento SQL Server de calidad, en español? No busques más, el nuevo capítulo virtual global en español de PASS lo tiene, con sus dos sesiones en línea mensuales, como la sesión de hoy, “Análisis Predictivo con SQL Analysis Services 2012” impartida por Alan Koo de Puerto Rico.
“Nos emociona mucho poder brindar entrenamiento gratuito, de SQL Server, a todos los hispano hablantes. Hemos tenido asistentes de todo el mundo, incluidos México, Puerto Rico, Perú, Colombia, España, Estados Unidos, Canadá y hasta de China,” señala Miguel Angel Granados Troncoso quién se encarga de la logística de los eventos del capítulo virtual.
El capítulo virtual global en español es en realidad una extensión de lo que se inició en 2009 como una opción de reunión en línea para el Capítulo Virtual de PASS en México. En 2010, el capítulo suspendido las reuniones físicas por completo en favor de las sesiones web, y el otoño pasado, se convirtió en el capítulo global de habla hispana para los profesionales de SQL Server alrededor del mundo.
Próximamente el capítulo virtual contara con la participación de otros reconocidos expertos en SQL Server, como Rafael Salas, José Luis Rivera (quién se encarga de la difusión de los eventos del capítulo virtual) y Héctor Jiménez, el capítulo virtual cubrirá una gran variedad de temas enfocados a SQL Server 2012 entre los que destacan desarrollo y administración de bases de datos, Business Intelligence, big data, alta disponibilidad y más. Las sesiones son grabadas y archivadas en el sitio web del capítulo virtual para que puedan ser vistas posteriormente por los miembros; se pueden registrar al capítulo virtual global en español desde la página de los capítulos virtuales de PASS.
El capítulo virtual trabaja continuamente en un repositorio de recursos de BI y SQL Server en español bajo el liderazgo de Héctor Eugenio Jiménez y la colaboración de Miguel y José en la búsqueda de otros voluntarios que quieran participar en el capítulo. Héctor dejo la siguiente invitación “Si están interesados en contribuir o tienen alguna idea o quieren hacer alguna pregunta, no duden en ponerse en contacto conmigo ya que juntos tenemos muchas oportunidades de apoyar a la comunidad de habla hispana.”
[Read en Español]
Searching for quality SQL Server training in Spanish? Look no further than PASS’s new Global Spanish Virtual Chapter, which is hosting two free web sessions a month, including today’s “Análisis Predictivo con SQL Analysis Services 2012” by Alan Koo of Puerto Rico.
“We’re excited to be able to deliver free SQL Server training for everybody who speaks Spanish,” notes Miguel Granados Troncoso, who handles events logistics for the VC. “We have attendees joining us from all over the world, including Mexico, Puerto Rico, Peru, Colombia, Spain, the US, Canada, and even China.”
The Global Spanish VC is actually an extension of what began in 2009 as an online meeting option for the Mexico PASS Chapter. In 2010, the chapter suspended physical meetings altogether in favor of web sessions, and last fall, it transitioned to a Virtual Chapter for Spanish-speaking SQL Server professionals around the world.
Other well-known SQL Server experts coming up on the VC lineup include Rafael Salas, José Luis Rivera (who serves as the VC's evangelist), and Hector Jiménez, with the VC covering a wide array of topics, including SQL Server 2012, database development and administration, business intelligence, big data, high availability, and more. The sessions are also recorded and archived on the VC website for on-demand replay by members; you can sign up for the VC on the PASS Virtual Chapters page.
The VC is working on building a repository of SQL Server and BI resources in Spanish and the leadership team of VC President Hector Eugenio Jiménez, Miguel, and José is seeking speakers and other volunteers to help manage the group. “If you’re interested in contributing or have any ideas or questions, don’t hesitate to contact me,” invites Hector. “We have so many opportunities to serve the Spanish-speaking community.”
After a year of transition, the PASS Application Development Virtual Chapter is ready for a fresh start, with this week’s call for volunteers and its first meeting of 2013 scheduled for Feb. 8.
The AppDev VC – one of PASS’s earliest virtual chapters – currently has 10,750 subscribers. After suspending meetings mid-way through last year, the VC is looking to get back on track delivering free webcasts and other resources for application developers working with SQL Server, including information on T-SQL, SQL Server Management Objects (SMO), .NET and CLR integration, ORMs, LINQ, best practices, and more.
“SQL Server is a powerful cornerstone to any data-driven application,” notes new VC leader Gabe Villa. “And knowing how to take advantage of its features can decrease development time and increase application performance.”
Kelly Martinez will present the VC’s first meeting this year, covering “ORMs from A to Z to SQL Server ” Feb. 8 at noon MT/19:00 GMT. To start with, the VC will host a webcast the second Friday of every month and looks to grow from there. To keep up with the latest AppDev VC meetings and news, you can subscribe to the VC on the PASS Virtual Chapters page.
“I’m also looking for volunteers to join me in leading the group and updating our website to make it a valuable resource, such as adding exclusive SQL Server development articles and links to the best learning and support sites,” Gabe adds. “I’d love to hear everyone’s ideas.”
Interested in volunteering, or have suggestions for what you'd like to see from the AppDev VC? Email appdev_DL@sqlpass.org and join the discussion on Twitter (@passappdev) and the VC’s new LinkedIn Group.
The PASS Board of Directors has been diligently working the past couple of years to address the needs and issues of a growing worldwide PASS community. A concerted focus on global growth issues began in 2011 with the appointment of international advisors and continued in 2012 with Global Growth proposals being put forward for your input.
PASS received valuable feedback from the town hall and community leader meetings and Twitter chats, as well as on the published vision document describing how to reorganize PASS to address the needs of a global SQL Server community. Based on your feedback, many meetings, and legal review, the Board has revised the PASS bylaws to reflect where PASS is today and where it wants to be tomorrow.
Now it’s your turn to review the proposed bylaw changes and let us know if you have any comments. You can read:
• Current bylaws (adopted April 2010)
• Proposed bylaws (2012)
• Blackline comparison of the proposed bylaws against the current version
• Minutes from recent Board meeting
Bylaws define the basic principles of an organization and are important for continuity and guidance, especially for not-for-profit organizations that have changing leadership at the Board level. Bylaws enshrine what is key to PASS’s understanding of itself and how it chooses to operate, and they are not something the Board chooses to open and review lightly.
We appreciate you taking the time to review the new bylaws. All comments are welcome until Friday, February 8, 2013. Please send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Board of Directors will be discussing your feedback on the proposed bylaws at its January in-person meeting, with the final vote slated for February 14, 2013.
Once finalized and approved by the Board of Directors, these bylaws will be posted on the PASS Governance page. More detailed descriptions of how the PASS Board and organization conduct daily business are not included in the bylaws but are rather captured in policies documents, which the Board will be finalizing in 2013 and publishing to the community.
PASS’s commitment to global growth is not restricted to these bylaw changes. This is just one step on the continuing path toward greater engagement, relevance, and balanced representation for the global SQL Server community. We appreciate your feedback, and we’re excited about where PASS is heading and what we can accomplish together.
A warm welcome to PASS’s two newest local Chapters: the PASS Beijing Chapter and the PASS Taiwan Chapter. The Beijing Chapter – founded by Sun Wei, Song YunJian, and Zhang Quan – will hold its first meeting December 11 on “SQL Performance Tuning.” The Taiwan Chapter, led by Po Chen and Byron Hul, will host its debut meeting December 1. Check out the photos of the new Chapter leadership teams taken PASS Summit 2012 and a video from the Beijing group.
The sky’s the limit for the refreshed PASS Azure Virtual Chapter, focused on Windows Azure and cloud computing, with a steady breeze of SQL Database flowing through its free training and networking for the PASS community.
“Azure and cloud computing are part of the new wave of technology advancement,” says Nigel Sammy, the Virtual Chapter’s leader. “We’re here to help spread knowledge about the technology and provide information that empowers IT professionals to make decisions about whether and when to adopt this technology and how best to apply it to their needs.”
Nigel volunteered earlier this year to help reboot the PASS SQL Azure Virtual Chapter. While the VC was in reboot phase, Microsoft renamed SQL Azure to SQL Database, causing the VC’s leadership team to consider renaming the group as well as changing its focus. The result is the PASS Azure Virtual Chapter, launched in September, under the leadership of Nigel, co-leader Paras Doshi, and webmaster Jose Rivera.
Microsoft Principal Cloud Evangelist Brian Prince presented the VC’s debut session, “Getting Started with Windows Azure.” And Herve Roggero, SQL Azure MVP and co-author of Pro SQL Azure, spoke on "In-Depth Azure’s No-SQL with Azure Tables" in November, with the VC currently making arrangements with Scott Klein for its December meeting. All sessions are recorded and archived for on-demand viewing.
The VC covers topics on Azure and cloud computing, with the PASS community sure to appreciate sessions on SQL Database (SQL Azure) or those that include information about it. If you are interested in speaking at one of the VC meetings, you can contact Nigel.
With the VC's mission to enable Azure knowledge sharing and create a network of Azure and cloud computing professionals, “the goal for next year is to have at least one meeting every month,” Nigel notes, “and to also have some sessions done in various countries and languages so that the Azure community we’re helping build is truly a global community.”
The VC is still working on its meeting schedule to accommodate the most attendees and is also looking at how to serve members in different time zones. You can find information about future meetings on the Azure VC website, the PASS Events page, and via email notifications to VC members and Twitter.
In addition to meeting information, the VC website also has a resources page, which includes links to related blogs and articles. Anyone interested in joining the Azure VC can do so via the PASS Virtual Chapters page. And the VC is always looking for extra assistance – if you’d like to volunteer with the Azure VC, please contact any of the team members.
What a whirlwind week of conversation, learning, and laughter. Attendees, speakers, sponsors, and volunteers hit the ground running last week at a record-breaking PASS Summit 2012 in Seattle, where they came and conquered all things SQL Server. From kick-off keynote presentations and deep-dive technical sessions to interactive lunches, creative networking opportunities, and a sold-out Expo Hall, PASS Summit 2012 offered something for absolutely everyone. The sense of community was felt at every turn and knew no linguistic or geographic boundaries - old friends became reacquainted and new friendships were forged. As evidenced by the community blogs and Flickr photo streams, the SQL Server Community took advantage of every opportunity to connect, share, and learn.
Throughout PASS Summit 2012, attendees had to go out of their way not to connect with each other. The PASS Community Zone (a new addition this year) provided a one-stop shop where attendees met user group leaders, SQLSaturday organizers, PASS Community Evangelists, and other SQL Server community groups. First-time attendees participated in a professional networking session and PASS Summit orientation and were connected with an alumni mentor to learn the ropes and get the most out of their PASS Summit experience. Chapter, Women in Technology, and Birds of a Feather luncheons and fun evening events rounded out the experience. It was impossible to leave PASS Summit without making a new connection and sharing in the #SQLFamily love.
There was no shortage of knowledge at this year’s PASS Summit. Beyond the 150+ speakers sharing their expertise in technical sessions, Microsoft developers talked about the functionalities and features they actually wrote in the new hit “I Made That!” Developer Chalk Talks, with CSS and SQLCAT experts sharing their troubleshooting and architecture insights in the packed SQL Server Clinic. You can’t get that kind of SQL Server knowledge and one-on-one guidance and support under one roof anywhere else in the world. Everyone was open to sharing their knowledge and skills – in the hallways, at dinner, over coffee - it was a sight to see!
Learning trumped all at PASS Summit 2012. Microsoft keynote presenters Ted Kummert and Quentin Clark updated the crowd with the latest news, including the in-memory solution code-named Project “Hekaton” and the next version of SQL Server 2012 Parallel Data Warehouse. Whether attendees were soaking it all in at their favorite of 190+ technical training sessions, talking about their implementations over lunch, trying out a Hands-On Lab, or visiting the Expo Hall – they were learning. And community members around the world joined in the experience via PASS TV’s live streaming. The learning doesn’t need to end there. All PASS Summit Conference session recordings are now available for purchase on USB flash drive (attendees can also choose a download option and will have the opportunity to stream the 2012 sessions for free).
Next Steps: What Did You Think?
For those of you who were able to join us at PASS Summit 2012, thank you. The community is the driving force behind everything that PASS does, and your feedback is very important to us. Today attendees will receive an email with a link to our evaluation questionnaire. Completed evaluations will be entered for a chance to win a complimentary PASS Summit 2013 conference pass, so watch your Inbox for the link.
See You at PASS Summit 2013
Next year, PASS Summit’s incredible training and networking will head east to Charlotte, NC, October 15-18, to keep your SQL Server juices flowing. A discounted registration rate of $1,095 is available until January 4, and alumni can use the special ALUMNI3D code to get an additional $100 off that registration rate. Register now, enjoy the savings, and we’ll see you in Charlotte!
School will soon be in session with the debut of PASS’s 20th Virtual Chapter, dedicated to free training and support of SQL Server and Business Intelligence professionals in the education sector.
“Our mission is to provide SQL Server training that uses educational data and that shows how to take advantage of SQL Server tools for education-related tasks,” says VC leader David MacLean. “We want to start monthly online sessions in December, depending on how quickly we can get speakers lined up.”
David got interested in launching the VC when he registered for PASS Summit 2012 as a first-time attendee and asked if there was anything special for the education sector happening at the event. “Lana Montgomery and Karla Landrum said. ‘There is now,’” he notes with a laugh. “Karla and others at PASS really moved on this, and I am very excited and pleased that we are the 20th PASS Virtual Chapter.”
David will be meeting at Summit with other database pros working in education to recruit VC volunteers, speakers, and members and gather suggestions for meeting topics and web resources. You can find him at the VC tables during the Welcome Reception or leave him a message at the Community Zone.
Some session topics might include:
- How to import SAT/ACT scores from the College Board using SSIS
- How to import the Common application or other vendor application data using SSIS
- Designing SSRS reports tracking candidate stages across multiple years or reports that combine candidate/student data with financial aid data
- Using SSAS to predict the factors that get candidates to enroll
“Speakers don’t have to have a background in education because we all use the same tools,” David notes. “And if need be, I can assist with how they might make some changes to their presentation that would relate it specifically to those working in education. For consultants, this is a great opportunity to develop contacts in the education sector.
If you are interested in speaking, volunteering, or suggesting meeting topics, you can contact David at email@example.com with “Education VC” in the Subject line or on Twitter at @DavidAMacLean1. To join the chapter, just go to the PASS Home page and click the “Join a Virtual Chapter” button.
“I will note that Scotland had an Education Act in 1496, so I think it is appropriate that a MacLean start the Education Virtual Chapter for all the fine laddies and lassies of PASS.” He adds. “If someone buys me a glass of Glenfiddich Special Reserve at one of the Summit After Hours events, I might just sing an old Scottish tune for all fellow Scots.”