So what is SQL Trail all about? In this episode we invite our MVPs to discuss some of the topics they are ready to share on SQL Trail. We know there are lots of options for training and networking — this is our iteration on what the experience should be. If after you listen to the episode and want to sign up, you can use our sponsor code “MaconIT” to save $250 of the cost! We hope to see you on the SQL Trail!
Listen to Learn
01:35 Kevin Feasel’s interview
06:09 Monica Rathbun’s interview
08:15 Chris Hyde’s interview
11:05 Angela Henry’s Interview
16:15 Meagan Longoria & Melissa Coates’ Interview
21:46 Closing Thoughts
Carlos: Compañeros, welcome to another edition of the SQL Data Partners Podcast. I am Carlos L Chacon, your host, and it is good to have you on the SQL Trail. Ironically, that’s what we’re going to be talking about in today’s episode. I thought it would be interesting to invite some of the speakers that will be at the SQL Trail event in October, which is about one month away. So, in Richmond, Virginia, I’m holding a small event for those who are interested in data platform. The idea, we want to continue the conversation we’ve been having on the podcast and interact in real life, if you will. We are having the SQL Trail event October 10th, 11th and 12th. And so, in today’s episode, what we’re going to do is I’ve spoken with most of the speakers. Unfortunately, I couldn’t quite organize all of them, but they’re going to be telling us a little bit about what they’re going to be doing and why they’re excited about the conference.
Carlos: And to those who have listened to this podcast before, one of our speakers at SQL Trail this year needs no introduction.
Kevin: And yet we’re still going to give him one.
Carlos: Because it’s the polite thing to do, right? My mother raised me that way. So Kevin Feasel is with us today and we’re chatting a little bit about his involvement in SQL Trail this year. So Kevin, we have an open schedule with SQL Trail, meaning we’re going to select some content actually, when we get there. One of the things that we’ve done is we’ve invited speakers like yourself that have some sessions already prepared or some known content that they are ready and available to give. So, why don’t you give us a quick rundown of some of the options or some of the content that you generally speak on and may be speaking on at SQL Trail.
Kevin: Sure. I like to call my set of content The Weird Side of SQL. I like to get into some things that, hey, it’s interesting, it’s out there, it’s not something that a lot of people are going to see. On the slightly less weird side of SQL Server, I tend to focus a lot on two swaths. One is R and data science, so looking at introducing SQL Server and .net developers to R. What it can do for you, how it can be your friend. Then we get a little bit deeper into data cleansing. Showing how to take a data set and run it through some functions, try to find some interesting results, try to find anomalous data, which actually feeds into the third talk, which is outlier detection. So that one I focus on forensic accounting techniques, where they’re looking for outliers. The other half of the interesting talks that I tend to do focus around the Hadoop stack, so that whole ecosystem. Teaching people about the basics of Hadoop, showing how to integrate with SQL Server, working with Kafka, a distributed message broker. And the third half is still some SQL talks, like SQL development. I have a talk on the APPLY operator. Actually, we did, I believe it was episode 13 on the APPLY operator.
Carlos: That’s the one, that’s right, yeah. Yeah, one of the other cool things about SQL Trail is that ability, and one of the reasons why we’re taking this exercise, is so that you are familiar with what the speakers have spoken about in the past, so even if that topic doesn’t get selected and you want to have a hallway track session about it, it’s still something that you can approach and have a conversation on.
Carlos: Now, this is your second year at SQL Trail.
Kevin: It is.
Carlos: And you do tons of conferences.
Kevin: I do. Actually, I’ll be leaving that for another conference as soon as it’s over.
Carlos: So why did you decide to do this one?
Kevin: Because you asked.
Carlos: Yeah, I was wondering if that was the reason.
Kevin: No, I enjoyed it last year. It was a very interesting approach to a conference. It wasn’t the same as, “here’s a bunch of people sitting in a room. They will not talk to each other because, let’s face it, we’re a bunch of IT people and talking to people is scary,” but instead, a very small group specifically focused on interaction. The layout of the venue was such that, hey, we’re sitting at one big circular table. I had the best seat at the table, mind you, but that doesn’t mean that I was necessarily that much better than everybody else. Just a little bit better, by virtue of my seat. Others may disagree and say that their seats were the best, but I think we all know who’s really was the best seat. So, being able to sit at that table, being able to say, “come in and I’m not coming down from on high to tell you about the glories of Hadoop.” I’m happy to do that, I enjoy doing that, but just being able to talk with people and start talking about their specific use cases, that’s an approach that doesn’t scale to a large venue. It doesn’t scale to a large conference, but within a small, like a community-style conference, it works great, and I think it’s a great approach that contrasts well with the other conferences.
Carlos: There you go. Yes, SQL Trail! Submit. Well, awesome. Kevin, we are looking forward to having you in October.
Kevin: Thank you, I am looking forward to being there.
Carlos: I should say, at this point, that Jonathan Stewart will be joining us, but unfortunately, I was not able to get a recording with him. And so, I’m hoping that he and Kevin are on their best behaviors. The next speaker is Monica Rathbun, she is from Hampton Roads, Virginia, another Microsoft MVP. So Monica, why don’t you tell us a little bit about some of the topics that you might be presenting at SQL Trail.
Monica: I speak a lot on survival tips for the Lone DBA, how to do the job of many-as-one, so how to use your plethora of resources to get your job done without being a subject matter expert. I also talk about Always On Encryption and my company, Denny Cherry and Associates, is knee-deep in Azure, so any questions regarding Azure environments, I certainly can help with that. It’s something that’s still pretty new to everybody and kind of scary, so I think talking about the discussion on will it replace the DBA or what you can do to protect yourself as a DBA and not have Azure take over your workload, which is a scary point to a lot of people. It’s actually a really good thing that Azure takes some of that responsibility and maintenance and things like that away from your hands. It frees you up to do other things, so I think that’s a great topic for discussion.
Carlos: Besides me begging and pleading for you to come, tell us why you’re excited to come to the conference, or what you’re hoping to get out of it.
Monica: I love that it’s a small group. I think having a small number where it’s almost a two-to-one, learning-to-speaker combination, so you’re able to sit there and ask questions one-on-one that you might not want to ask when you’re in a larger group of people. It allows us to discuss problems that you might be currently having and be able to focus the discussion to something you can actually walk away with, and as a speaker, I can learn from that, as well. We can bounce ideas off other speakers, as well as using the participants to learn, ourselves. I think it’s a great environment, where it’s almost like a large round-table, continuous discussion, instead of a very formal conference. I can’t wait, I’m excited for this one. It’s very close to our neck of the woods, and I know everybody that attended last year that was part of my user group speaks very, very highly of it, so I’m looking forward to seeing some more people from our area branching out to Richmond and again, through Norfolk, and see their enthusiasm coming back from the conference. It’s very exciting.
Carlos: We’re excited to have all of our speakers with us this year, but it’s always exciting to add new folks to the list and in our second year, we’re happy to have Chris Hyde with us. And so, tell us what some of the sessions that you’ve done and why people might want to strike up a conversation with you at the conference.
Chris: I’m really excited to talk about Python and data science-y stuff. I’ve got a couple of things prepared. One is kind of an intro to how do I start using data science stuff in my stack using tools I already use, like Reporting Services and it takes some of the statistical goodness, use the Python Integration and SQL 2017 and start doing that today. Then on the other side, I know there’s a lot of people out there who are not yet able to move to the cloud for whatever reason. Whether it’s security or their particular industry or whatever it is, and some of those people may be feeling a little bit left out of some of the machine learning capabilities that exist in Azure. I just saw a great presentation this past weekend about doing sentiment analysis using Logic Apps in Azure, which is great if you can use it. I think there’s still a lot of people that aren’t able to and they want to do some of these tools, so I’m going to show people how to do those on-premises, again, with the Python Integration with SQL Server. And then, in case the crowd aren’t quite ready or willing for the machine learning stuff, I do a lot of ETL and regular BI work, so I’ve got some stuff prepared, looking at those kind of patterns as well.
Carlos: Very cool. Yes, so that’s always exciting, so a bit of cutting edge stuff with tried and true. So, there’s lots of different reasons for coming, and obviously, besides being invited, why did you decide to come to SQL Trail and what are you looking forward to?
Chris: I was talking to Jonathan Stewart about how last year’s event ran and all of the interaction, you know, the fact that it was much more close-knit and interactive than most of the conferences that we go to. Even the SQLSaturdays, for an attendee might not be as interactive as this is going to be, so after talking to him about it, I’m like, yeah, I really want to be a part of that. That sounds like a lot of fun.
Chris: And it happens to fit into my schedule really well between a couple of other SQLSaturdays not too far away. I mean, I’m out in Albuquerque, as you know, so once I cross the Mississippi, everything might as well be next door.
Carlos: Yes, awesome. We’re looking forward to having you in October.
Chris: Great, I’m looking forward to being there.
Carlos: Another of our speakers is Angela Henry, and this one is super exciting, because actually when we recorded this, this was not in the works, but Angela has just joined SQL Data Partners as our team member, so we’re super excited about that, and of course, we’re excited to have Angela at the conference. So, Angela, why don’t you give us a quick run-down of some of the things that you’re talking about when you speak at different conferences?
Angela: I have a couple of different sessions out there. I do an Intro to Integration Services, and this is really somebody who’s not been exposed to it, so this is not a deep dive, this is not a session by Andy Leonard where you’re going to learn very deep stuff. This is the intro.
Carlos: Putting C# code into your BIML frameworks and yeah, yeah.
Angela: Exactly, exactly. No, this is to get you started. What tools do you use to actually develop integration services, packages and what is a package and what are the parts and pieces of packages. It’s kind of an overview of what it is and how to really get started with it and the kinds of things that you can do with it. So that’s one that’s actually been very popular.
Carlos: Yeah. To kind of throw back here, for a second, I’m not sure if I told you this story, but this was actually one of my favorite movements of SQL Trail last year. Gretchen submitted the topic of SSIS. She wanted to have this session and it wasn’t originally on the list of things to talk about. But it was uploaded and made it into the timeslot. And then we actually had another attendee, Doug Purnell and another attendee actually got up and gave kind of this impromptu session about that. It was great because, again, very intro level, but also, she was able to then say, “well, I have this question” and help guide some of the conversation about it. I thought that was very, very powerful that we had gotten to the point where everyone was able to help and talk about their different experiences to help someone solve a potential problem that they were having.
Angela: Good, that’s great.
Carlos: Yeah, so it was very cool, that ability to introduce topics and then have a multiple of people chime in with their different experiences, can give a richer experience overall.
Angela: Absolutely. No two people use Integration Services the same way, and just recently, I upgraded my Visual Studio to the newest version and there happened to be a bug when you’re working with SQL Server 2016 as your target. I’m banging my head up against the wall trying to figure out why doesn’t this work? Talked to some friends and they said, “oh yeah, that’s broken, but you can use this piece over here as a work-around and it will actually work.” And it was kind of one of those moments where you’re like, “oh!” A big lightbulb goes on and you’re like, “never even thought to do that.” So yeah, it’s awesome to have those conversations with people because like I said, no two people use it the exact same way.
Carlos: So now I know there are a couple of other technologies that you’ve been playing around with and this will, of course, be after the fact, but you’re actually speaking at the World of PowerBI or something like that.
Angela: Yes, the PowerBI World Tour that’s coming to Charlotte in August, so I’m very excited and I’m giving my intro to What is PowerBI and that session is actually aimed at people with non-technical backgrounds, so you don’t have to know anything. Ad how that session came about is that the director of IT at my company came to me and said, “hey, I’ve heard all this PowerBI, what is this? can we use it at our company?” and that’s where that came from. I developed a presentation for them and then somebody said, “well, hey, why don’t you present that at a user group, because there’s tons of people who have no idea what all PowerBI is and what it can be used for and all that.” Thus, that session was born, so yeah. I will be presenting What is PowerBI at the PowerBI World Tour in Charlotte, very exciting. And I’m always happy to talk about PowerBI.
Carlos: So besides me asking you, why did you decide to come to SQL Trail and what are you most excited about, or what are you looking forward to?
Angela: Well, the whole concept of the session kind of evolves from questions that are asked and you know, yeah, we do have some kind of standard materials for our presentations in our sessions and all of that, but one thing that when I do go to other SQLSaturdays or other conferences is that I’m always, always, at the end of the session inundated with questions about, “oh, well, what about this and what about this?” and because you know, you have a specific set of things that you have to get through in a specific timeframe, you don’t always have the opportunity to answer those questions. So when you told me about this and basically building a session out of questions that people have, I was like, “yes, finally! People are going to get to learn what they want to learn and not what I want them to learn.” So that was the biggest thing, that was awesome.
Carlos: And last, but certainly not least, we have Melissa Coates and Meagan Longoria. The conference is two and a half days. We’ll start on Wednesday at 2pm. We’ll be organizing, introducing everyone to each other, selecting some of the topics we’ll talk about on Thursday. Thursday will be, I won’t say traditional, but we’ll have our sessions on Thursday. There’ll be a variety of topics, we may break into more than one track. On Friday, however, Friday will be slightly different. It will be a single track, and this is our Azure Analytics Workshop and Meagan and Melissa have agreed to present this workshop to us. So, I’m really looking forward to it, and so Meagan and Melissa, why don’t you tell us a little bit about what is going to happen in the workshop.
Melissa: This session that we’re going to be doing is really all about exploring options for designing and building the modern type of analytics and BI and data warehousing types of systems in Azure.
Meagan: So there are lots of cloud design patterns out there. there are tons of options in Azure, so we want to share our experiences, things we’ve learned from real customer projects and talk through what we’ve discovered along the way.
Carlos: Does the attendee need a lot of Azure experience to get benefit here, or is this supposed to help them get some of that exposure?
Meagan: So the person who will get the most out of this would be someone who’s somewhat experienced as a data engineer or BI pro or database dub who might be in the early stages of migrating or building in Azure. So, someone who probably has some BI skills and is transitioning those to the cloud.
Melissa: Having said that, because this is one of the hardest things that we had to decide, was what level to go with. So the day is going to be pretty fast moving, though. So if someone has less experience, that person, we’re going to perhaps encourage at the beginning of the day, for the hands-on labs and so forth, they might want to say, observe, absorb, as opposed to say try to follow along and do, you know, copy/pasting of scripts and that sort of thing. That will be kind of up to the individual to decide how they best spend their time there, because we know we’ll have some people that are more beginner level up to maybe even some that are intermediate.
Carlos: Right, but then these would be, they’re going to have something they can take away, and if they wanted to try this again, in theory, they could.
Melissa: Absolutely. Yep, they’ll have all the scripts.
Carlos: So, we know that, like you’ve mentioned, there’s lots of things going on in Azure, and analytics is kind of a loaded word, these days. What are we not going to be talking about in this session?
Melissa: Sure. So, because we want to focus on the analytics side of things, and in doing that, by the way, we’re actually going to be selecting some reference architectures that are available online and talking through those, as well, before taking on building one. But you’re right, more is out-of-scope than in-scope, even though the scope is relatively wide. Things like OLTP or application design, app services in Azure, those are out of scope. Things like complex migration techniques, HADR, write, that kind of stuff we’re not going to cover. The normal one, pricing, licensing, we always throw that kind of stuff out of scope, usually. There’s a few things, also, that we’ll cover minimally, so IAS implementations, administration monitoring, security and so forth.
Carlos: Right, so we’ll wave at it as we go by, and that will be one of the nice things, potentially, is that at lunch or maybe even afterwards, if people want to stick around, then we can have those kinds of conversations. But they’re not going to be the focus of the session.
Carlos: Why did you decide to do a pre-con? I’m interested, now.
Meagan: I blame Melissa.
Carlos: There you go. I’m sorry, that quote cannot be edited. That’s going to go in direct.
Melissa: Basically, the Azure platform is huge. We have an immense number of choices, and it’s intimidating and it’s hard to keep track with. So although by no means are we going to have all the answers, but we’re hoping that we can help people get started. We can talk through, “hey, here’s what we’ve experienced,” or “here’s something we’ve done on a project. It’s not the only way to do anything, but talk through some of those sorts of things and see what happens.”
Carlos: Right and the why. That is becoming a bigger and bigger piece of any solution or, as I talk with more and more folks on the podcast about Azure services, you have to know the why first, and then you can do the doing. Now that I’ve coerced you and convinced you that you need to come, tell us what you’re excited to see. What are you looking forward to about the conference or event?
Melissa: Well, for the record, Carlos was persistent and so that was good. I’m glad you were. I’m glad you followed up with us, because will be fun, for sure. Since it’s smaller and a little bit more personal setting and we’re actually going to try to literally reserve about 20% of the day for conversation, so that every minute isn’t jam-packed. That’s a personal challenge of mine, but we’ll see if we can pull that off. The good conversation and learning, I’m kind of looking forward to that, since it’ll be a manageable size of a group.
Carlos: We look forward to having you on the SQL Trail.
Meagan: Thank you so much.
Melissa: Yeah, yeah, thank you.
Carlos: So, there you go, compañeros. I hope that you get a little taste of some of the options that will be available to you at the SQL Trail event. I feel that we’ve put together, and there will be others that will be in attendance, but we’ve put together a group of folks that are very approachable, that are interested in sharing a wide variety of topics and that are interested in engaging in the conversation throughout the conference. I know training budgets are tight, but you also deserve to get yourself trained, and not only that training, but to make connections that can help you further your careers and so I hope that you’ll consider coming to SQL Trail. You can find out more information at sqltrail.com. Again, those dates are October 10th through the 12th in Richmond, Virginia. As always, compañeros, we’re interested in hearing from you on social media in the variety of platforms. You can reach out to me on LinkedIn at Carlos L Chacon, and compañeros, I very much hope that I will see you on the SQL Trail.