SQLStarter Track Back Again In Indy

Last year I pulled together an idea that had been haunting me for a long time and started the SQLStarter track in Indy.  You can refer back to my blog post on the creation/inspiration.  I can tell you, the day of the event I watched intently the attendance for the sessions in the track.  So glad to see it was really well attended and I got great feedback!  I would really like to thank all the speakers who helped get this going.  Thank you so much to Josh Fennessy, Dave Leininger, David Maxwell, John Deardurff,  Traci Marcero, Kevin Kline, and Jim Bennett!  You guys will never know how grateful I am for your help getting this off the ground!


I’d like to bring it back again this year so I’ll need speakers again.  All the sessions are intended to be introductions to different tracks in data related fields.  If you would like to be involved, please let me know.  I think the tracks below worked well but if you have thoughts/suggestions, I’m all ears.  Also please help get the word out to people thinking about getting into a new career or starting out.

  • Intro to Big Data
  • Intro to Data Science
  • Intro to Database Administration
  • Intro to Database Development
  • Intro to Business Intelligence


And another pic from a time when my judgement was questionable (see previous blog). 



PASS Summit 2015 Highlights

I’m back home from PASS Summit 2015 and reflecting on the experience.  I think I even still have a little bit of the goofy grin that I couldn’t wipe off my face all week.  I do so love PASS Summit!  This was my 5th consecutive one.  I went back and looked through some of my previous blog posts and I still have all the same giddy, giggling idiot feelings I have had all these years.  Below are my top 10 highlights of this year’s PASS Summit.


10.  Calories don’t count at PASS Summit – Ok this isn’t really true but I pretended it did. After I had an egg white omelet at breakfast the first day, it was all downhill from there. It’s difficult to eat well at a conference and I missed eating like a truck driver so I took a healthy eating sabbatical while there. The Morning After burger at Tap House is very good by the way.

My egg white omelet was at one of the "hey pull up a chair" breakfasts at Daily Grill.
My egg white omelet was at one of the “hey pull up a chair” breakfasts at Daily Grill.

9.  Great Sessions – As with every Summit, I didn’t catch as many sessions as I would have liked (highly recommend purchasing DVD/download of sessions for this reason). I did catch my dear friend, Mark Vaillancourt’s (Twitter | Blog) session “A Bigger Boat: Data Visualization Lessons from the Movie Theater”. Mark always cracks me up and I always enjoy his sessions.  Great information on perception with the right balance of humor mixed in to it.

Mark caught a fish this big!
Mark caught a fish this big!

I also caught Kasper de Jonge’s (Twitter | Blog) session “The Analysis Services Evolution”.  Poor Kasper had all the presentation planets align against him.  He couldn’t get the screen to display except setting up like he is in the picture below.  He handled all the issues VERY well and it was a great session.  Folks were excited to hear of the new features in SSAS so that helped too.

Poor Kasper!
Poor Kasper!

8.  Birds of a pitiful feather – On Friday they had the Birds of a Feather lunch. This is where they will setup tables with specified subjects. It’s always nice for good discussions. I went with my friend and former co-worker, Meagan Longoria (Twitter | Blog) . I was thinking I would sit at the Datazen table but turned out there wasn’t one. I did find a table though on geo-spatial. There were only a couple folks sitting there at the time so we sat there. After chatting with them for a couple minutes, they left and Meagan and I manned that table together alone (cue the All By Myself song). We had fun but that was a lonely subject table(reason I said pitiful)! The whole Birds of a Feather lunch seemed to be scaled down a bit more than in years past too.

The masses at the WIT Luncheon
The masses at the WIT Luncheon

I also missed the lunch where they setup tables for regions.  I always met new people at each lunch from my area who weren’t familiar with the local user group.  I’ve connected with several folks over the years at that lunch.  Not sure of others experience but I missed it.


7.  SQL Mystery – Doug Lane (Twitter | Blog) is a brave man!  He had a couple of sessions at Summit where he uses other speakers as cast members in his sessions. It’s like incorporating community theater into his technical sessions. I was asked to be a cast member in “SQL Server Mystery: Dead Reports Don’t Talk”. He sent the script several days ahead of time but I was more nervous about this than my technical session. I feel I do well with conversations. I feel I do well in a rehearsed technical setting.  Anything off the cuff, in front of an audience, yeah not so much. That and I hated the thought of me impacting his Summit session if I messed up. I survived but definitely could have done a better job. Sorry Doug!

Doug's super fun SSRS Mystery session
Doug’s super fun SSRS Mystery session

6.  Kasper knowing who I was and said looked through my session slides! – I still get star struck at PASS Summit. I was introduced to Kasper and he had a question about one of MY slides! I am still giddy about that!


5.  Tim Chapman is a helluva guy! – Knowing I was new to Microsoft, Tim (Twitter ) reached out and pointed me to great resources to help navigate the oodles of tools and info within Microsoft. Not only that but he introduced me to some great folks at Summit. Thank you much Tim! Very much appreciate it!


4.  Speaker Idol – I was asked by Denny Cherry (Twitter | Blog) if I would be a judge in this year’s Speaker Idol. For those unfamiliar, it is a contest for speakers to win a speaking slot at the next year’s Summit. I said yes and was very glad to be a part of it and honored to be in the line up of judges (Mark Simms (Twitter), Andre Kamman (Twitter | Blog), Allan Hirt (Twitter | Blog), Joey D’Antoni(Twitter | Blog), and Karen Lopez (Twitter | Blog)). All of the speakers were great! Due to that, it came down to getting way nit picky on the tiniest of details of the sessions. I felt little uncomfortable doing that since many of the speakers I consider friends.  Still was a great process to be a part of and I picked up some tips for myself as a speaker.  The winner was David Maxwell (Twitter | Blog) . Congrats David!

No Summit trip is complete without a trip to Bush Garden. Many times it's Jason twisting my arm to go :)
No Summit trip is complete without a trip to Bush Garden. Many times it’s Jason twisting my arm to go 🙂

3.  Marco Russo / Alberto Ferrari in my session – My session was over SSAS Tabular performance. I reference Marco Russo (Twitter | Blog) and Alberto Ferrari (Twitter | Blog) many times during it. During practice run throughs of my session, it dawned on me that this was the only time I would give the session and they could show up.  Guess what?! They came to MY session!! That still cracks me up a bit and was great to meet them in person.


2.  Seeing all my #SQLFamily all week – One of the best parts of Summit is that you can’t throw a rock all week and not hit a member of #SQLFamily.  Over the years I have met so many wonderful SQL people from all over the world. Summit is the one time of year when the majority of those folks are together. Makes me feel all SQL warm and fuzzy just thinking about it.

My favorite pic of Summit!
My favorite pic of Summit!
  1.  Stephanie Bruno moment – I help babies in Africa! – I went to dinner with a group on Thursday evening at Tap House. I met Stephanie Bruno (Twitter) a couple years ago when she attended my spatial data session.  We became friends that year and kept up some after that Summit. She works for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (www.pedaids.org). She was at that dinner and began talking about how I helped her with some Datazen work she was doing.  And by this act of me getting information to her, I was also in a way helping babies in Africa!  I get teary eyed again just thinking about it. I mean we speak and hope some bit of info we relay helps folks do their jobs or helps them with an issue they run into but that’s usually the end of the thought. It really hit me in the gut to be able to draw a line to a concrete example of something I did, doing some real good in the world!  One session, one connection did that! It’s really amazing to think about and helps push more passion into my speaking in the community, my push to drive new speakers, and my push to get folks to become part of this amazing community!

Goodbye MVP and yoga pants

Life is funny you know. So many times you are moving right along and fate throws you new paths you weren’t expecting. I recently had a very surprising phone call. It was from a friend and colleague at Microsoft who was hoping to move to a new role. He said he wanted to give me a heads up as he had recommended me as a good candidate to replace his potentially vacant spot and I would start getting phone calls. I was very glad he did as I was stunned and sounded like a mumbling idiot while the information processed. Microsoft!? Moi?! I was very happy at BlueGranite and wasn’t looking at all. But everyone has that short list of companies where if they call, you at least pick up the phone.


Fast forward a few weeks and I have just accepted a TSP position with Microsoft! I’m giddy with excitement for this opportunity! And there the tears well up again, but I’m so sad to be leaving BlueGranite! This company is an amazing group of people who are astounding in the BI/Data Analytics field. I have joked in the past that there may have been some deals with the devil within upper management to have acquired the talent that they have. And they took a chance hiring this DBA with less than stellar track record in BI, but wanted to learn. Part of the reason too that I went to work for BlueGranite was I had many friends who work for them. That is what makes leaving so hard…I’m going to miss working with these folks so much! I am very proud to have been able to call myself a part of this team. Thank you for everything BlueGranite!


The other painful piece of this is that if I’m renewed for MVP in a few days, it won’t last very long. Being an MVP has been such a surreal experience! It’s still unreal I was able to be a part of this group of crazy smart, crazy passionate, and crazy generous people. Being an MVP is, was, and will always be a great source of pride in my career.


And dear yoga pants, I will miss spending most of my time with you. We’ll still be together, just not as often.


Cleveland Rocks – SQLSaturday Cleveland 2015

Heading home now from SQLSaturday Cleveland. I know I say all the SQLSaturdays are good but this one really was fantastic! I am a little amazed at how many passionate people are in that area that help with that event. I think a lot of that has to do with Mr. Allen White (Twitter|blog) and his constant encouragement of others in the community. It shows and is inspiring!


So I head out from Indy on Friday with Warren (Twitter|blog) who graciously agreed to drive. Which thanks to that and technology, I was able to finish up work while on the way. He then drops me off at Harness Cycle spin studio. Real life Super Woman Erin Stellato (Twitter|blog) set up Joey (Twitter|blog) and I to do a spin class there that she instructed! Is there anything she can’t do!? 🙂 Thanks Erin for setting that up!  Was really nice to have a fitness activity that for a change that wasn’t running related.


From there we head to Ironwood Café to the speaker dinner. They setup a feast! When the waitresses started bringing food, they didn’t stop! Well done there organizers, I was impressed. After that I head back and chat for a good long time with the dynamic duo Data Chix, Audrey (Twitter|blog) and Julie (Twitter|blog).


Event day comes and I get myself over to Hyland Software at a reasonable time in the morning. I was lucky again and have a session right after lunch so wasn’t rushed. The Cleveland folks are lucky with that venue they have at Hyland. It’s a great facility! I am super jealous! After getting there I head to the speaker room which was setup with an amazing spread! Brewnuts (donuts with BEER in them!!), healthy options, and homemade goodies including caramels from Erin (see I told you…Super Woman!).


I was able to sit in on Joey’s lunch session and show support to one of the great SQL community sponsors, SIOS.  After that I had my session which was on spatial data again. I really enjoy that one as it shows the potential analysis with floor plans and spatial data. I had several say they enjoyed it and even two who told me it was their favorite of the day!


After my session was over I went to watch my homegirl, Julie’s session on SSIS. She was doing a decent amount of tweaking to it so was there for some morale support in addition to learning. She’s a pro and it was great. I know I have run into some of the same things she went over. SSIS can be, well let’s just say non-intuitive at times. She goes over many of these spots that can make folks bang their heads on their desk.


Last session of the day I caught Michael J. Swart’s (Twitter|blog) Drawing Conclusions talk. He is such a great artist and he used his illustrations to convey some SQL Server lessons. Good stuff and glad I was able to catch that one. That and I got to listen to him say “about” (he’s Canadian).

Michael Swart caught a join this big :)
Michael Swart caught a join this big 🙂

After the prize drawings we all went to Ambrosia to decompress and have some dinner. It was a Hungarian place. The food and company was great! And I found out I do like stuffed cabbage…who knew?! The staff seemed a bit overwhelmed but it happens. After that a few of us went over to Bar Louie for one more beverage and chatting.

The crowd at the end of the day for prize drawings.
The crowd at the end of the day for prize drawings.

Thank you Cleveland folks for having me speak again! Looking back on the weekend I really do feel blessed to be a part of this community. Good people, good times!


SQLSaturday Nashville 2015

I am just wrapping up a great start of SQLSaturdays to begin 2015. The first one was in January with SQLSaturday Nashville. I know I have mentioned it before but Nashville has a special spot in my heart. My very first SQLSaturday I ever presented at was in Nashville so I always try to make it down there. That and Nashville is full of some of my favorite SQL peeps!


So head down with my husband, Rod (Twitter) on Friday afternoon. Love it when he’s able to go with me so he can be a part of this side of my world. We love traveling together too so it’s a win win. We make it down in time to head to the speaker dinner which they had at Tamera (Twitter|blog) and Kerry’s (Twitter|blog) house. God bless the brave souls who open up their houses to host parties related to their events. I love the intimacy/coziness of those parties. I just can’t imagine putting the added stress of cleaning house/etc on top of organizing an event. Dinner was great and Tammy/Kerry/family were great hosts!


Event day we head over to the venue at Lipscomb University. It’s a really nice space for the event. Being the swell guy he is, Rod agreed again to take pictures of the event (see them here). I get situated and begin doing preparation for my session. I did my latest incarnation of spatial data presentations. I enjoy doing that one so much! It went well and got some good feedback so I think folks enjoyed it.

Talkin spatial
Talkin spatial

After the event Rod and I went to grab some dinner. I enjoy me some food and was really excited to try a local specialty called “hot chicken”. We heard a song about it from Dom Flemons and figured if it’s good enough to write a song about it, it had to be good! Thanks to Louis’s (Twitter|blog) recommendation we go to Big Shakes and it was amazing! Like I needed more reasons to get down to Nashville but I now have hot chicken to add to the list.

Good times at after party!
Good times at after party!

From there we go to the after party at Athletic Club Bar & Grill. Was nice as it was at the hotel so didn’t have to worry about driving anywhere and could relax. Such a good time! Between the tales of “Ha-va-ee” from Robert Verell (Twitter) or Gareth’s (Twitter|blog) swamp people impression, I thought I was going to pull a muscle laughing so hard. Great meeting new folks and being with old friends. Thanks to all at Nashville for having us and congrats on another excellent event!

WIT panel discussion
WIT panel discussion

One of the big lessons/impressions I took away from Nashville was from lunch at the event. I was asked to be a part of the panel for the WIT lunch discussion. During all WIT talks I always think of how I am with my daughter. I had a little revelation while we were talking. I want to make sure I help her understand that no matter where you go, there will always be people who know more than you do on any given topic. There are those who are just genuinely conveying knowledge and know more than you. There are also those douchebags that make themselves feel better by making others feel stupid. Whether it’s someone who is trying to make you feel like an idiot, or just someone who knows more and is trying to help, don’t EVER let your lack of knowledge dissuade you from anything! I know I have been there, I think we all have. I hope I can help both my kids to understand that as it’s not just a lesson for women but all of us. Keep learning and embrace that you don’t know it all and you never will. And when you encounter the douchebags, use those feelings to light the fire under your tail to get better!

Power BI, Uncategorized

Custom maps in Power Map

Many folks know I love playing with spatial data. In one my current presentations, Spatial Data – Looking Outside the Map, I do a demo creating a floor plan with spatial data and do analysis and reporting against some hotel data. I am actually on my way to Seattle right now and have the great honor to present this at PASS Summit. In the September update there was an exciting feature released to Power BI, custom maps in Power Map. What it essentially allows you to do is to map your data to any image file you want. Seeing some of the examples of what could be done (http://blogs.msdn.com/b/powerbi/archive/2014/10/07/5-minute-tutorial-for-creating-custom-maps-with-excel-and-power-map.aspx) I was excited to see what I could do with my demo hotel data.


I have the click to run version of Office so it runs updates auto-magically. When I opened Excel though I didn’t see the option for custom maps. So I go to File – Account – Update Options and choose Update Now. It runs the update and voila, custom maps.


So my data is really typically hotel data that is stored in SQL Server. I like to call my hotel “Plaza Del Hope”. It contains run of the mill information for Plaza Del Hope guests. One of the main things it contains is arrival dates of my hotel guests. I pulled that into Power Pivot and create all the relationships I’ll need. After I have my data in the model in order, now begins the less than super fun part. How custom maps work is that you will use an x, y axis information to detail how your data will relate to the image file. So you will need to create those coordinates. The easiest way to do that is to open your image in Paint. Then you need to make sure your Paint is set to show coordinates in pixels. Mine was not and instead was using inches. If you need to change it then select File – Properties – and then specify the units to be pixels.  Then when you hover over your picture, in the lower left it will display the X,Y coordinates for the image.


You can see here I am using an image of a hotel floor plan. I want to be able to visualize the data pertaining to the guests staying in the rooms so I need to tie each room to a coordinate. Now comes the tedious portion. I have to go through and get the x,y coordinates for each room on my floor plan. You can see here I put the x axis coordinate, y axis coordinate, and the corresponding room number into the Excel spreadsheet that contained my Power Pivot model. Doing this portion is when I tried to send telepathic messages of my wish to put spatial data support into the Power Map/View/etc tools to the Microsoft folks.


Once I had that I then pulled that info into my model by clicking Add To Model. I then added the relationships that pertain to RoomNumber.  Now I was ready to start building my custom map. I open up Power Map (From spreadsheet click the Insert tab – click Map – launch Power Map. I select New Scene – New Custom Map. You can name your custom map scene. I set mine to Hotel. Next I select icon next to “Browse for the background picture”.  I then navigated the location for my image that plotted out before. After that I click the Select Pixel Space button and done. I now have a scene that contains the floor plan for my hotel. I wanted the first portion of my tour to contain a view of just the floor plan so I leave this scene alone and create a new scene. I can do this quickly but choosing the Copy Scene option.   This second scene is where I want to start showing some data.


With the second scene active, on the right I will start building my data story. First will specify Geography and Map Level. In the table selection I find the table with the x, y plots (PixelXY). I select X and Y fields and specify they are X coordinate and Y coordinates.


What I want to show is when a guest is staying in the rooms so I select LastName and drag to Height(Count Not Blank). The height is a bit higher than I need it to be so I change that by on right hand pane, clicking the gear looking icon to change settings.


The layer 1 info screen inside custom map isn’t providing any value so I remove that. Next I want to add a time dimension so I will do so by going back to the field list and select ArrivalDate. It will then bring up the play capability on my scene. I am able to click play and can see the arrival of our hotel guest over time and see a visual of what rooms are occupied. Pretty cool huh?!


The X,Y axis plotting is a bit, well not fun but it is definitely a good start. Hopefully this is a stepping stone on the path until we can get spatial data in those tools. The potential for custom maps is exciting and very interested to see how people begin to use them. Please feel free to post in the comments if you have done anything with them.


Below is the full detailed list of steps. Enjoy and have fun with custom maps!


  1. Open Power Pivot and pull in data.
    1. Power Pivot – Manage
    2. From Database – SQL Server
    3. Create any relationships between your tables pulled in. Can do various ways including dragging and dropping in the diagram view
    4. Using a date table so marked it as such
      1. Changed back to Data View
      2. Click the Design tab – Mark as date table
      3. Select the date field
  2. Map out the plots for spaces to use in picture.
    1. Open picture in Paint
    2. My paint was showing units in inches as opposed to pixels. To change:
      1. File – properties – select pixels
    3. Hover on a point in the picture where something would be you would want to plot. In my case I’m showing the booked rooms in a hotel.
    4. Capture the x, y axis info. I put in Excel worksheet where I had pulled my data into Power Pivot. I was plotting out hotel rooms so I also put the hotel room number to correlate it to the x,y plot.
  3. Then I click Add to Data Model
  4. Created relationship with my new table with existing ones in model based on Room Number
  5. Create Custom Map
    1. Go back to Excel workbook
    2. Select Insert Tab
    3. Click Map
    4. Select Launch Power Map
    5. Select New Scene
    6. Select New Custom Map
    7. Name your custom map scene – I set mine to Hotel
    8. Select icon next to “Browse for the background picture”
    9. Navigate to and select the picture you plotted out before.
    10. Select Pixel Space button
    11. Click Done
    12. Can now delete the first default scene and our new custom map scene is only one remaining
    13. I will leave this scene containing only the blank view of the floor plan. Can adjust the scene duration.
      1. Hover over scene and click on the gear looking icon to change scene options
      2. On the right I will change the value to 4 in scene duration
    14. Select New Scene – Copy Scene
    15. With the second scene active will specify Geography and Map Level
    16. Find the table that contains the x,y plotting we did before (PixelXY)
    17. Select X and Y fields and specify they are X coordinate and Y coordinate
    18. Click Next
    19. Select LastName and drag to Height – should be Count Not Blank
    20. On right hand pane – click the gear looking icon to change settings
    21. Bring the height down a bit
    22. Remove the layer 1 info screen inside custom map by clicking the x
    23. Go back to the field list and select ArrivalDate. It will then bring up the play capability on your scene.
    24. Click play and can see the arrival of our hotel guest over time and see visual of what rooms are occupied.