Thoughts about professional development, technical communication, technology, and living life
I’m just some guy living in upstate New York who’s sharing his thoughts with the rest of the world. I’ve worked in various positions in technology since 1989, discovered that I have a knack for writing and communication, and presented my first SQL Saturday presentation in 2015. It was there that I realized that my thoughts and opinions could actually be helpful and useful to other people.
I’m also a musician. I started playing the piano when I was 7, the clarinet when I was 8, and I picked up the saxophone and mallet percussion when I was in high school. I’m also a songwriter; click here to give my demos a listen!
So kick back, grab a cup of coffee, and feel free to contemplate (or scrutinize) my thoughts.
Our guest speaker for the month is Patrick LeBlanc
Topic: Analytics in the Age of AI: What’s Next for the Data Platform?
Join Patrick LeBlanc to learn about the latest developments in analytics with Microsoft. From data integration and engineering to data science and business intelligence, find out how next-generation services can transform your data into intelligence and innovation. Also, see how the new AI-infused Copilot experiences accelerate developer productivity while building in security and compliance for your data.
In my past eight years of being a presentation speaker, I’ve discovered that being a speaker has its fringe benefits*, including networking, learning opportunities, and complimentary admittance to conferences such as PASS Summit and STC Summit. I do these conference presentations on my own time and my own dime — I have rarely received any reimbursement for speaking at these conferences — so this latter benefit can be a big deal, as conference fees can be very expensive, and I would not be able to attend these events if I wasn’t speaking at them.
(*I even get swag every now and then! 🙂 )
I’ve spoken twice at WE Local conferences, which, unfortunately, are not comped for speakers. They do, however, provide a speaker’s discount that does bring the fee down to a more-than-reasonable amount, allowing me to attend these events. I try to support initiatives such as SWE and WIT whenever I can, mostly by speaking at and attending events.
Last month, I received another benefit through my involvement with SWE. I received an email thanking me for purchasing a membership to SWE. “Wait a minute,” I said to myself. “I didn’t authorize a purchase of a SWE membership. What gives?”
It turned out that since I presented for a SWE Local conference, I received a comp membership to SWE! So for the next year, I am a SWE member!
Women are underrepresented in STEM fields, so I am happy to support organizations, such as SWE and WIT, that promote women’s involvement. My SWE membership is a nice benefit, and I hope I can use it to continue supporting women — and technologists in general — in technical fields.
I hate spam passionately. There are few things that piss me off more than being bombarded via email or social media about products for which I don’t give two damns. These days, with the proliferation of bots and malware, spam can also represent a security issue. I suspect it’s probably already happened to me, but I really don’t want anything to do with these things that track my every move.
On a related note, I often get requests to connect, over LinkedIn and Facebook, from people (or is it “people”?) whom I have no idea who they are. Once in a while, I’ll get a connect request from a familiar name or a long lost friend, and even then, I check to make sure I’m not already connected with them, lest it’s someone whose account has been hacked or spoofed. Nevertheless, if I get a connect request from someone I know, I’ll gladly connect with them, with or without a note. However, this is the exception.
That said, whenever I give one of my presentations at a conference, I include an introduction slide, along with some of my contact info, mainly my blog and my LinkedIn profile. I regularly tell people that I am happy to connect with them via LinkedIn, so long as they include a note telling me who they are and how we’re connected.
This is not the first time I’ve written an article about my frustrations with connect requests. Here is a sampling of some of my other articles (and I’m sure there are several others that I haven’t listed below).
So once again, I am writing an article about networking online. And once again, I am outlining my ground rules.
Send me a note with your request! If I have no idea who you are, I will NOT connect with you! Send me a note telling me how we’re connected! If you send me a connect request with no note, and I don’t know who you are, your request WILL be deleted!!!
Don’t make me work to figure out who you are! Don’t just assume that just because we have something in common (alma mater, fraternity, hometown, friends in common, etc.) that I will know who you are!!! See my bullet point above about including a note and tell me who you are! If I have to work to figure out who you are, chances are that I will delete your request.
Don’t try to sell me something or suck up to me!!! I am constantly bombarded with connect requests that tell me “I can help promote your business.” If I’m looking to buy a service or product, I’ll ask. And another type of email that infuriates me is one that says “I think you’re a wonderful person. I hope you will connect with me!” Suck-ups piss me off to no end. These types of requests get deleted just as fast — maybe even faster — as requests with no note.
Connections — and networking — are about relationships! Again, I’ve written about this before. In order for me to connect with you, we need to establish some kind of relationship, even if all it is is that you came to one of my presentations. If you want to connect with me because you want to discuss something that isn’t soliciting, preaching, spam, or sucking up to me, then I will be happy to connect with you to continue the conversation. But again — not to sound like a broken record — please put that in a note!
Speaking of relationships…
Networking — and communication — is a two-way street! I’ve alluded to this before (I thought I’d written something about this, but I couldn’t find the article). A relationship is about give and take. It doesn’t have to be anything big; for example, I remember a networking contact once forwarded one of my posts saying that I was in the job market. That’s what networking is. It’s about someone knowing something that you don’t. It’s about passing information along. It’s about working together as a team. If you’re just trying to push something on me without doing anything in return, that is solicitation, not networking.
So, I just felt a need to get this out of my system. I get too many unsolicited “cold call” connect requests, and they’re frustrating. If you really want to connect with me, include a note telling me who you are and how we’re connected. If you don’t, then don’t expect to hear back from me.
This evening, I saw this posted on a couple of my social media accounts, and I wanted to share.
There is an opportunity for a new-ish or novice speaker to present at a major conference, namely this year’s PASS Data Community Summit! New Stars of Data is teaming up with the organizers of Summit to put together this opportunity!
This year, three additional slots — one for each day of regular sessions — will be set aside for a novice speaker to present at Summit! There are some rules involved; for example, you must have spoken at at least one event (such as a SQL Saturday, for example) but have never spoken at a large event such as a Summit. (I’ve already spoken at four PASS Summits, so I’m not eligible! 🙂 )
This article is going out a little later than I’d hoped, but better late than never, and I wanted to get this out while stuff was still fresh in my mind.
After taking some time to recover, I’ve returned home from my first STC Summit! I’ve wanted to attend this event for some time, and I’m very glad I did!
I flew down on a Sunday, checked in, and took some time to decompress from my travels. (It took two flights and stops in two different cities before I arrived in Atlanta.) Even before the two-and-a-half days of sessions began, I connected with several people and even got into some deep discussions related to my upcoming presentation later that week.
I met a lot of people at this event, including STC leaders and other attendees. As it is with any conference event, networking is a huge part of it, and I did my share. My list of LinkedIn connections expanded significantly during the week! I also brought a stack of my business cards, thinking that I would have plenty to hand out. As it turned out, I should’ve brought the entire box. By the end of the conference, I only had two cards left. Personally, I like my business cards, and they’re always a conversation piece whenever I hand them out. I love the reactions I get when I give them to people!
There were a number of things that I took away from the Summit. Among them:
Jack Molisani, one of the people I met, had an article he had written about beating the ATS. I make no secret of the fact that I absolutely hate ATS. But regardless of how I feel about it, ATS is reality, and job hunters need to deal with it.
Jack also offered to review my resume. While I thought my resume was pretty good, I also recognize that there is always room for improvement, so I took him up on it. He gave me suggestions that didn’t even occur to me. Among them: list what I do at the very top, right-justify dates on my experience and education, use san-serif fonts to save space and for better readability, don’t list proprietary systems (genericize them instead), and make my accomplishments more actionable (e.g. “saved the company millions of dollars by…[doing this]”).
Jack also introduced me to Dr. Craig Baehr, the editor of Intercom magazine. We spoke about possibly writing an article in which they feature STC members (like me!). I told him that I was definitely interested, and would be in touch. I hope I can live up to the standards!
There were a number of sessions that spoke to me. I attended Amanda Patterson’s presentation about creating a taxonomy. I have to admit that information organization is an area when I could use some brushing up, and I found her presentation to be quite informative. I also attended Swapnil Ogale’s session about building an online portfolio. I have to admit that this is an area that had not occurred to me, and it’s definitely something I want to build. I’ve put in for jobs where employers ask me for writing samples, and I would send them a link where I keep a few PDF files. This session taught me that an online portfolio can be just as critical as a resume. I intend to set aside some time to build such a portfolio. The next time I’m asked for writing samples, I’ll be able to send them here.
I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about my own session. My job hunt presentation has been one of my best sellers as of late. I think this is one of my better presentations, and everyone I spoke with afterward said that I gave a good presentation. I’m happy to help people out as much as I can, and hopefully, attendees will have gotten something out of my session.
As part of the Summit activities, a resume review session was also offered. During my presentation, I encouraged people to sign up for it and get their resumes reviewed (a point that I mention during my presentation).
Of course, Summit wasn’t just about presentations. Conferences are also about people. I’ve attended enough PASS events that I have many friends I look forward to seeing, and STC Summit gave me an opportunity not just to network, but to make new friends as well! I succeeded in doing so; over the course of the first couple of days, although I had only just met most of these people, I felt just as comfortable around them as I do with people whom I’ve known for several years! I had no problem attending social events, spending time, and sharing meals with them!
They did have some evening social events planned, but I wasn’t able to partake because of my own plans. When I told people that I was heading to Atlanta for this event, several of my friends who live in the Atlanta area contacted me about getting together. I had dinner with four different friends over three nights. It was great getting together with friends whom I either haven’t seen in many years or don’t get to see very often, and it just added to my great experiences during my trip!
I decided to take Amtrak home, rather than flying. I enjoy traveling by train, and I wanted to take my time going home. It allowed me a chance to see parts of the country that I never get to see, as well as meeting more people on the train. My journey home, which took almost exactly 24 hours, included a three hour layover at Penn Station, which allowed me a chance to get myself a decent dinner in midtown Manhattan before catching my connecting train home.
I’ve spoken four times at PASS Summit, but this was my first time speaking for an STC event. This was important to me. Although I have been heavily involved with PASS, SQL Saturday, and a number of related events for several years (including co-founding a local user group), STC is much more closely related to what I do professionally, and speaking at STC Summit is something that has been on my bucket list for a little while. That item has now been fulfilled. That doesn’t mean I’ll rest on my Summit laurels; I fully intend to apply to speak at this event again, and I very much look forward to the next time!
As I write this, I am preparing to travel to Atlanta for STC Summit! I’m getting all my stuff packed and ready (save for a few items that I’ll need when I get up early in the morning) so that I can just grab my things, catch my ride, and head to the airport for an early morning flight.
My presentation slides are ready to go. I just need to put them on a flash drive. Otherwise, not only am I preparing to speak at yet another conference, I’m also looking to do some networking and some involvement with STC, I’ve already contacted a few friends who live in Atlanta about getting together for dinner and/or drinks. And since Atlanta is a new city for me, I’m hoping to do a little exploring; the College Football Hall of Fame is on my list.
Next week, I’m off to speak at yet another conference!
This time, it is not related to PASS. I will be speaking at STC Summit in Atlanta, GA next week! The Summit is scheduled to take place May 14-17. I am scheduled to speak on Tuesday, May 16!
I will be doing my job hunt presentation. There is a touch of irony about my presentation for this conference, as I, myself, am currently in the job market as I write this. So I can honestly say that I am practicing what I preach.
I am especially excited about this conference for a couple of reasons. First, this is my first time attending STC Summit. I have spoken four times at PASS Summit. Those have all been great experiences, and I very much enjoy attending that event! However, STC represents an organization that is much closer to what I actually do, and I am very much looking forward to speaking at an event that represents what I do professionally! Second, this will be my first time ever in Atlanta (changing planes at the airport — which I’ve done — doesn’t count). It’ll be fun an exciting to explore a new (to me) city that I’ve never experienced before! I’ve already spoken to a few friends who live there, and I’m hoping for a chance to get together with them. I’m also looking forward to meeting people and making new friends as I take advantage of networking opportunities at the Summit!
(The baseball fan in me was also hoping to get to a Braves game, but alas, the Braves will be on the road while I’m in town.)
So next week, I’ll be on the road again! Hope to see people in Atlanta!
I’m a couple of days late in posting this, but I wanted to write this while it was still fresh in my mind.
This past Saturday, I had the pleasure of speaking at SQL Saturday NYC. This is one of my favorite events to attend; indeed, SQL Saturday in New York City was the first one I ever attended way back in 2010, and before I became a presenter, it was the only SQL Saturday that I attended. I try to submit to this event every time it comes up on the calendar, and even if I’m not selected to speak, I make it a point to go to this event as an attendee.
I gave two presentations on Saturday. One was my presentation about speaking the language of technology to non-technologists. It was a decent audience — there were about seven or eight people in the room, not including myself — and they seemed to be pretty well engaged. I haven’t seen any of the session evaluations yet, but the feedback I got was positive.
I also gave my presentation about documentation in disaster recovery. I thought it was a good presentation (more on that in a moment), but only one person showed up for it. This breaks my previous record for my smallest audience for a presentation where people actually attended; the previous record was two. No matter; I still did my presentation (you still have to put on a good performance no matter how small your audience is), and she told me that she enjoyed it!
Both of these presentations were newer versions of ones that I’ve had for several years (in fact, the technology language presentation was the first one I ever did way back in 2015). I had made it a point to go through my presentation slides and revamp them. The disaster documents one had become someone stale, so I had to do a renovation project on that one, and I liked the end result. A lot has happened since 2001 (for those not in the know, I worked for a company that had an office in the World Trade Center on 9/11; this presentation is based on that fateful day), and a lot of technology that exists now didn’t exist when 9/11 happened. I made it a point to include sections on what has changed since 2001. Had these technologies been around back then, some of the documentation that I refer to in my presentation likely would not have existed (for example, there is no need for paper phone lists now that we all have contact lists on our phones). These updates changed some of the takeaways for my presentation, and in my opinion, I think it made for a better presentation. This had been one of my least favorite presentations; now I look forward to the next time I get to present it.
The after-party was held nearby at the Hunt & Fish Club, where we met for drinks and hors d’oeuvres. Networking is a huge part of any SQL Saturday — it isn’t all about the presentations — so any opportunity to get together with old friends and make new ones is always welcome! The after-party — whenever they have one (not all SQL Saturdays do) — is also a good opportunity to let off some steam after a long and tiring — but fun — event!
There was a piano just outside the room, and of course, any time I see a piano, I have to try it out! So I spent some time playing and entertaining the attendees!
I had a couple of interesting conversations with two different young people that day. The first happened immediately after the end-of-day raffle drawings. One of the attendees whom I connected with earlier in the day introduced me to a young college student who proceeded to ask me questions, starting with “what technology do you think is trending and I should focus on?” I told her that this was nearly an impossible question to answer (for reasons that I won’t get into now — that’s another ‘blog article for another time). Long story short: unless you’re an expert prognosticator (which I am not), you can’t really predict what the next big thing is (for what it’s worth, I did mention ChatGPT). Several years ago, R was supposed to be the next big thing in data science, but I hardly ever hear it mentioned now. The conversation ended up getting pretty deep, and it could’ve gone for hours; the only reason it didn’t was that they were closing the building, and we were kicked out.
The second deep conversation did not happen at SQL Saturday; it happened when I returned to my AirBnB that evening. The host introduced me to one of the other guests. It turned out that he was visiting from the west coast and was considering moving to the NY Metro Area. We got into a similar deep conversation, and we spoke until well after midnight. It was a good talk, and we connected over LinkedIn so that we could continue the discussion.
Overall, it was another great event, as always! I look forward to the next SQL Saturday in NYC (or any SQL Saturday, for that matter; as of right now, the next one I attend will likely be Boston in October).
This coming Saturday, I will be speaking at SQL Saturday NYC! Of all the SQL Saturdays, I have attended the NYC event the most, and this is one of my favorite events! It is a great opportunity for networking and to learn about a variety of data topics and professional development!
SQL Saturday is always a good time! It is free to attend (there is a nominal fee for lunch), but you need to register. Go to the NYC SQL Saturday page for more information, including a link to register for this great event!
5:30 PM: Food, soft drinks, and networking 6:15 PM: Chapter news and announcements 6:30 PM: Presentation We usually wrap up between 7:30 PM and 8:00 PM.
Thanks to Datto for sponsoring our event!
Our guest speaker for the month is Deexith Reddy!
Topic: Automating Visualizations with Azure Data Factory, SQL Server, and Power BI: Data to Insights
Introduction to Azure Data Factory, SQL Server, and Power BI: Gain an understanding of these three powerful Microsoft technologies and their roles in automating data visualizations.
Data Integration and Transformation: Learn how to leverage Azure Data Factory to ingest and transform data from various sources, then store the processed data in SQL Server for further analysis.
Creating and Automating Power BI Reports: Discover how to create interactive Power BI reports and dashboards using data from SQL Server, and automate the process of updating these visualizations.
Scheduling and Orchestration: Understand how to use Azure Data Factory’s scheduling and orchestration features to automate the entire data pipeline, from data ingestion to visualization updates.
Real-Time Data Processing and Visualization: Explore the possibilities of real-time data processing and visualization using Azure Data Factory, SQL Server, and Power BI, enabling you to monitor and react to changes in your data as they occur.
Security and Compliance: Learn about the built-in security features and best practices for protecting your data and maintaining compliance throughout the automation process.
Best Practices and Tips: Gain valuable insights into best practices for automating data visualizations, including performance optimization, error handling, and maintaining data quality.