Buh bye, 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:

  • Professional
  • Community – Personal
  • Community – dataMinds
  • Personal

Professional

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

Sessions

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.

An overview of the sessions I presented in 2021.

Blogs

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.

An overview of the dataMinds evening sessions of 2021.

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!

Personal

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.

Wrapping up

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.

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