Archive for December, 2021
Buh bye, 2021!
In my round-up for 2020, I mentioned it had been a weird year for mostly anyone. I’ll go out on a limb, and state that 2021 has been just as weird. And yet, I don’t have major reasons to complain, and am incredibly grateful for it. 2021 has been a rollercoaster for me, with plenty of things to reflect on. Overall, I’m pretty pleased with how everything has gone, and I’m hoping I can continue 2022 on this trend.
I didn’t set any fixed goals for myself for 2021, and am glad I didn’t do so. I’m sure I wouldn’t have achieved the ones I would have set out, while still having done so many different things. To look back at what I’ve been up to this year, I’ll break it down into these categories:
- Community – Personal
- Community – dataMinds
In short, I made a career move! Around the May-June 2021 timeframe, a lot of things were shifting at the former employer, and it made me realize my heart wasn’t a 100% in consulting anymore, and that I had to start looking at my options. I didn’t feel like switching over the a different consulting company in Belgium, or start doing my own thing as a freelancer.
When I noticed a job posting for Power BI CAT in Europe had opened, I knew I had to move quickly to get my stuff together. I managed to get everything sorted out, and got my application in before it was closed off. Some conversations and interviews later, I got word a proposal was coming my way, which I decided to accept. I took my fair share of time to think things through, but quickly realized I’d only blame myself in the future, if I didn’t give this my absolute best effort.
I joined the mothership on December 1st as a Program Manager in the Power BI CAT (Customer Advisory Team), after 10 years in consulting. I’m now a part of the Europe/Rest of World team with Rui Romano and Lars Andersen, led by Chris Webb. We’ve got exciting new people lined up to join us in 2022, so this will definitely be incredibly interesting! 1 month in, I can say it’s a real change from what I was doing before, and I still have so much ground to cover.
Microsoft is a large organization, and is not easy to navigate. Luckily, every single person I’ve spoken with so far has been exceptionally welcoming and helpful, and really helped me to get settled in. Now that I’ve worked my way through my onboarding materials, and am starting to get caught up on all of the super duper secrets and codenames, I’m looking forward to helping organizations achieve more with Power BI.
Community – Personal
Joining Microsoft also meant I retired from the MVP Program, and am no longer a Data Platform MVP. A pity, as I really liked the options it gave me to connect with other people in the MVP Community, and it absolutely plummets my chances of getting to attend an in-person MVP Summit at Redmond Campus. I’ve had heaps of fun when engaging in these activities, and will definitely miss it.
When I was preparing the figures for my round-up I thought 2021 had been a slow year for me in the form of presenting community sessions. Looking at the numbers, I realized I was horribly wrong as it actually has been quite the busy year with 28 sessions presented over the course of the year. The majority of these have been virtual, with the only exceptions being Power BI Next Step (September) and South Coast Summit (October).
In April 2021, I did decide to tone it down with presenting virtual sessions, as it was simply not giving me the satisfaction I had before. I still want to do them, but at a lower frequency. Virtual event fatigue is real, yo! That said, I do appreciate all the organizers for the time they put into putting on these user groups, conferences, .. Because of their effort, I get to present these talks across the world.
I have some ideas for new sessions brewing, so I’m trying hard to take the time to work out these vague ideas into actual sessions. My speaking schedule for 2022 is already filling up nicely, and I definitely want to get some more variation in the sessions I’m presenting.
I managed to write 6 (including this one) blog posts in the past year, and this is definitely where I want to put more focus on in the next year. I’d like to have supporting blog posts and Jupyter Notebooks for the sessions I’m presenting, where I can provide more context and explanation for certain topics. And, instead of only writing down my random discoveries in OneNote, I could definitely create blog posts out of those, to have some more reading material in the future. Who knows, I may even publish a blog post under 1000 words this time 😂.
Our local region
Probably the most important one of all, I want to make sure our local community talent gets the chances they deserve. We’ve got some incredibly talented speakers in Belgium, whom I think will do great in the future. I’m not sure yet and the what, when, and how, but I do want to make sure they get some extra exposure, and help if they need it.
Community – dataMinds
For our user group, 2021 was also a curious year. Our ‘normal’ planning is to hold about 10 evening sessions in the September – June timeframe, send out a monthly newsletter + round-up in that same timeframe, plus organize a free Saturday event in March and dataMinds Connect in October. Then, we sometimes decide to opt in for Global Bootcamps, but it’s not necessarily part of the plan at the start. In 2021, we did put together a nice mix of speakers and topics, and can look back with joy on the attendance we got in these weird times.
For the Saturday event in March, we unanimously agreed that if we were putting this together, it had to be a distinction from all the other virtual events that have popped up lately. We did notice that the representation of speakers from our local area (Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxemburg) in these online events was fairly low, with mostly the same names coming back. For that exact reason, we branded our first dataMinds Saturday as the BeNeLux edition, and only wanted to schedule speakers residing in this local region. We managed to get some new speakers launched, and this was so rewarding to watch.
Then, our crew agreed we were not looking forward to another virtual edition of dataMinds Connect, and decided to move along with planning for a ‘as normal as possible in-person’ edition in October. Come May 2021 we made the decision to move forward, and get the wheels in motion, with constant decision gates based on external factors.
It wasn’t easy getting this edition planned and executed, but I’m so happy we managed to get it done in a responsible fashion. Personally, I got so much energy out of having conversations with loads of people at the venue, and am glad we pulled it off.
We’re cautiously considering our next steps for 2022, and specifically the 15th anniversary of dataMinds Connect (formerly known as SQL Server Days Belgium), and I’m looking forward to keep contributing to these activities. And, we already have a great line-up of evening sessions planned for Q1 2022, with plenty of ideas for more sessions to come!
2021 has been a wild year for me where I kept getting reminded with force that I’m not 18 anymore, and need to make myself take some breaks. I love doing a variety of activities that can be related to the tech stuff I do, or beyond. But enough is enough, and I really need to pace myself. Pace myself, and take the time to better process some things, which will help me out in the long run.
For 2022, I’ve got some cool things outside of tech lined up, that I’m cautiously preparing for. Here’s to hoping I get to see these plans through! I’m rooting for our world to go back to a less erratic situation, and to get back out there.
As I mentioned in the intro, I’m so fortunate and don’t have any major reasons to complain. My heartfelt wishes to you and those close to you.
May 2022 bring you everything you deserve.
It’s T-SQL Tuesday!!
T-SQL Tuesday is the brainchild of Adam Machanic (Blog | Twitter). December 2009 was the first T-SQL Tuesday invitation that went out by Adam. It is a monthly blog party on the second Tuesday of each month. Currently, Steve Jones (Blog | Twitter) organises the event and maintains a website with all previous posts. Everyone is welcome to participate in this monthly blog post.
This month’s T-SQL Tuesday is hosted by Xavier Morera ( Blog | Twitter | LinkedIn ). Xavier says: “How much do you love meeting in person, where would you like for your next event to take place, and why Costa Rica?”
The original post is here.
1. Which is your favorite conference and why?
Over the years, I’ve attended a variety of events, ranging from really small ones (40 people) to fairly large ones (12.000 people). I’ve visited larger ones like PASS Summit and SQLBits, and thoroughly enjoyed them, but the whole experience felt a bit draining overall. There’s constantly new people popping for conversations, too many things happening at the same time, and way too many things I’d like to be doing at that same time. And, I’m notoriously bad at hiding in a crowd, as people always seem to find me quickly.
For me, I prefer the smaller events where you can have some good conversations, enjoy some quiet if you want to, and where there’s plenty of room for some friendly banter with other attendees, speakers, volunteers and sponsors. When I thought about this, there were two examples that first sprung to mind being DataGrillen and Power BI Next Step. Being completely transparent, I attend events for the ‘hallway track’ and have chats with people I otherwise wouldn’t run into. Smaller events are just easier to achieve this goal, with or without certain types of beverages 😊
You’ve probably noticed all the events I refer to are in-person events. I do not dislike online events, but they just don’t give me the same level of satisfaction as speakers, organiser, and attendee. I understand the place they have in our current zeitgeist, but there’s options I prefer better.
2. Which is the best venue that you have visited for a tech conference?
I’ll be very chauvinistic here. The venue we had for dataMinds Connect in 2017 and 2018 was pretty cool and got actual good feedback, despite the session rooms having some sound & tech issues. Back then, we visited the Ghelamco Arena in Ghent, which houses KAA Gent.
The view we had from the large rooms overviewing the soccer pitch was pretty cool, but I particularly liked the room we had in the actual Press Box of KAA Gent. This is where Klaas Vandenberghe ( twitter | linkedin) , Chrissy LeMaire ( twitter | linkedin ) and Rob Sewell ( twitter | linkedin ) held their dbatools precon session, but decided to turn it into a “press release”, because of obvious reasons. After 2 years, we ended up moving away from this venue, for multiple reasons, and going to the Lamot venue in Mechelen. But still, if you’re asking coolest venue, this one really springs to mind for me.
3. Who is the best presenter that you have ever listened to?
I’ll split this into two parts, being online and in-person sessions, because they are completely different experiences to me. These days, you’ll rarely see me attend online sessions where I’m not moderating or presenting myself. I have a notoriously bad attention span (Squirrel!), and I focus all my attention budget on the calls I do during my daytime occupation, whereas I find it very difficult to stay attentive after hours.
There’s a handful of online presenters I’ve witnessed so far that actually keep me zoned in to their entire session. To single out one, I’ll have to go with Alexander Arvidsson ( twitter | linkedin ). Alexander has a certain way of telling a story, and using his set of tools, that keeps me drawn in. For this, I can only tip my hat. If you’re not completely sure about what I mean, I suggest you take a look at his session called “The Untruthful Art – Five Ways of Misrepresenting Data” ( youtube ), which resonated particularly well with me.
For in-person sessions, I can only put forward one name, and be a bit chauvinistic again. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen this person present, and am completely amazed at the breadth and depth of topics he’s covered throughout the years. In the 10+ years I’ve attended sessions by Nico Jacobs ( twitter | linkedin ), I’ve never walked away without learning something new and interesting, even if it were a session on a topic I considered myself to be proficient at. Over years past, we’ve jokingly called Nico our ‘joker’, as we can always can call upon him to fill a gap for a specific topic we’re looking for. He’ll probably have some materials and demo’s good to go anyway..
4. Which location would you like for your next event to take place and why Costa Rica?
There’s plenty of places in the world I’ve yet to discover, and if events are reasons for me to go there, I’m all on board! Someday, I’d like to present at conferences in the US & Canada, as I’ve been told there’s pretty interesting differences in the complete experience. Costa Rica sounds like a very nice place to go to, but only if I can extend the stay by 2 weeks to visit the country, and go train with an old friend of mine at his local dojo.
For reasons outside of tech, I’m dreaming about doing a tour of Japan and visit the cities like Osaka, Kyoto, Nagasaki, Tokyo, .. Visit those cities, but also go train at the different Shinkyokushin Dojos spread throughout the country, and hopefully attend the World Cup of Shinkyokushin Karate one day. If an event in Japan would help me achieve those goals, I’ll grab the opportunity with both hands 😊.
All the reminiscing about times past is fun. But I’m about ready to start doing the real thing again. Here’s to hoping we can pursue those dreams in the near future, and keep it safe for everyone ..
It’s a quick write-up, as I looked over the invite. But still, I wanted to contribute to this one!
Stay safe, take care!