The road to Microsoft MVP

Warning

This is a post about me and my reflection on the Microsoft MVP award.
It basically is a rant.

 

Some history

Back in january of this year, out of the blue, someone in the community I’ve looked up to since entering the data world asked if it was ok if they’d nominate me for the Microsoft MVP award.

For those who don’t know, being awarded the MVP status is considered by many as one of the highest honors you can receive in the Microsoft Community.
Even more so when you know that there are only about 4000 MVPs worldwide in all Microsoft categories and even less (about 300) in the Data Platform / SQL Server category [*].
With only about 150 people outside of the US being awarded MVP for the Data Platform category, you can quickly see what an honor it is to be one of the few people outside of the US to receive this award.

Not so fast

As I said, I got asked if I wanted to be nominated back in january.
While incredibly nice, I didn’t put a lot of value on the award since I was just having fun meeting new people and learning from everyone I met.
On top of that, I didn’t think I was near worthy enough for this honor. However, just the thought of having been nominated by someone known over the entire world and generally considered a community leader was already very cool!

Long story short, I didn’t let this person know it was OK to nominate me until May and didn’t even complete the nomination until the end of July.

Nomination != Award

At the end of July I had spoken internationally at a bunch of events and had met a ton of awesome people in the community. Quite a few of these people turned out to be MVPs and during dinners before or after the events we’d talk about things ranging from beer and food to the community in general.

One person I was talking with dove into his journey towards becoming an MVP. The part of his story that stuck with me the most was how he had been very active and even respected in the community and it still took him over 5 years after his first nomination before receiving the MVP award.

I received a similar warning in January from the person who wanted to nominate me. They warned me that they could nominate me but this didn’t actually mean that much.
It’s still up to Microsoft to select you.
And that apparently is the hard part of becoming an MVP.

What now?

It quickly became apparent that while most of these people weren’t an MVP at all, they were still extremely enthusiastic about what they do and most of them had even been actively sharing their knowledge with the community for a long time already.
For me this blurred the line between what defines a non-MVP and MVP person. They both seem to do the same thing for the entire community, only one gets recognized and the other one doesn’t.
Although I’m probably missing a lot of important details when making this comparison.

So knowing that this nomination would probably not result in instant “MVP-ness” and most likely not even in the long run, I filled in the forms at the end of July. With that, I had officially accepted the nomination itself.
While I still thought that this one person I looked up to considering me worthy enough was more awesome than actually winning some award from Microsoft.
This initial consideration gave me a better feeling than the thought of perhaps, someday, winning some award.

Back to the real world

As time went by, I slowly kept filling in my community activities in the nomination form.
Near the end of 2017 the pressure started growing as I received more nominations, 6 so far.

And so far I haven’t received an award yet. Some might get discouraged by this, but again, for me getting nominated by more and more by people I look up to means more than receiving an award.
Partly because the award is meant to recognize the work you’ve done for the community and these nominations basically do the same thing in my opinion.
But also because by just being active in the community, you already receive a ton of recognition and you learn so much.

* the amount of MVPs worldwide was borrowed from Kevin Kline’s MVP blog post here.

SQL Server 2017 Machine Learning Services – Offline Installer Issue

Situation

You’re trying to install SQL Server 2017 Machine Learning Services onto an existing SQL Server 2017 installation.
You select the checkboxes for R en Python because that’s how you roll.
And off you go to the next screens!

Issue

That’s when you remember it… Your server isn’t connected to the internet!
Pretty normal, but in your enthusiasm you completely forgot that SQL Server needs to download some binaries for the R and Python components you so desperately want on your precious machine!

Luckily, the installer comes to your rescue and shows you where to download those binaries it needs.
Turns out however… This link only is for one R component and the installer won’t let you pass to the next screen!

Solution

Microsoft has a complete list of all possible components you could ever want to install while offline. From SQL Server 2016 RTM, over to SQL Server 2017 CTP 1 and up to SQL Server 2017 CU 1.

You can find the full list over at docs.microsoft.com: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/sql/advanced-analytics/r/installing-ml-components-without-internet-access

Hopefully, next time you’re installing ML Services, this will save you some time searching for why that “Next” button won’t become active.

 

Microsoft Professional Program – Data Science

Last year, from oktober 2016 up to january 2017, I participated in Microsoft’s Professional Program, specifically the Data Science track.
It was only the 1st public iteration of the program but back then it already felt like a mature course.
This probably had to do with the fact that there had already been a private run of the course in the months before.
David Eldersveld (twitter | blog) was one of the participants in that original run and he gives you a high level overview on his blog.

In this post I’ll be going into a bit more detail and explain how I experienced the program.
In short, there was joy and there were tears.

Read on for the full story!

Read moreMicrosoft Professional Program – Data Science

I’m attending and presenting at… ALL THE EVENTS!

This year I’ve already presented at more events than I dreamt off at the start of the year (5).
And the invites keep coming in! (5 more!)
This is going to be a long read, a punishment from me to me because I slacked off in blogging in the past months.

So apart from being bored, there’s 2 reasons why you would want to read this post.
1) Interest in, but some fear of, attending and presenting at conferences, user group and community events in general.
2) You’re me from the future and you’re wondering about that amazement and the exciting feeling the young Jan had about these first events. You’re wondering about what fears you overcame and you want to look back at how it all started.

Expect to find the following:

  • UK Power BI Summit (2017/02/17)
  • Denver SQL Server User Group (2017/03/17)
  • Battle of the Beards (2017/03/29)
  • SQL Saturday Israel (2017/04/26)
  • Belgian Information Worked User Group (2017/05/09)
  • in short: 5 more events to find me at before the end of june!

So whichever reason you have, come on in and start reading!

Read moreI’m attending and presenting at… ALL THE EVENTS!

Presenting a webinar, not the same as a conference

Last saturday Back in January, I presented my first webinar for the Global Power BI usergroup.
It was a redelivery of the Personal BI to Personal Data Science session I’ve already given twice together with my colleague Kimberly Hermans (twitter).
Although there was no real negative feedback and even some positive feedback in private, I don’t think I did great.

I approached the webinar the same way as I do a regular presentation.
And boy oh boy, was I wrong to do it this way…

There’s all kinds of different and extra things to take into account compared to an in-person conference or usergroup presentation.

  • The software you’re using
    We used Google+ Hangouts and while I tried it out before the webinar, I didn’t prepare how I would be taking questions. That could’ve gone a lot better.
  • The microphone you use
    The microphone I used was the one that came with my phone. The quality wasn’t the best, especially combined with the room I was in.
  • The room you’re in
    Using a cheap microphone tends to be OK. But in the wrong room you’ll get a lot of echo or environment noise.
  • No or very limited interaction with your audience
    This one struck me the worst. I couldn’t interact with or read the audience which made me unusually nervous.

On top of that, because of conflicting schedules I had to present alone this time.
I thought I would be OK as I knew most of the data science stuff on a basic level.
But it also means that all the interaction and the dynamic that previously existed in the presentation was gone. No jokes, no natural tempo changes, no interaction between presenters.
In my opinion this was the main killer of the webinar.

What’s next?

UserGroup

The Virtual Global Power BI User Group is still organising monthly webinars. You can join or present yourself as well.
Or just participate in the usergroup via different channels like TwitterFacebook, LinkedIn and our YouTube channel.

Personal

I’m embarking on a new webinar journey as well.
More news will follow soon.

 

Data science with Microsoft – Training materials

Today I’ll be guiding you through the, sometimes very busy, world of Microsoft training material.
We’ll put the focus on the training material for data science.

Expect everything you need to become fluent with Microsoft’s Data science solutions.

  • Free training courses with certificates
  • Free webinars & recordings of live sessions
  • Free (e-)books
  • Documentation & Learning Paths
  • Microsoft Virtual Academy

Read on for the good stuff!

Read moreData science with Microsoft – Training materials

Microsoft Foundation Sessions at PASS Summit 2015

This years PASS Summit has seen some of the biggest announcements in SQL Server and Microsoft Business Intelligence history.

  • We’ve finally gotten a clear vision where Microsoft is heading.
    And it even makes sense!
  • Microsoft already was the leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Operational Database Management Systems
    But SQL Server 2016 will bring even more improvements.
  • In the past year, Power BI has gone from “OK” to “Nice” to “Wooooooooow“.
    With all the new announcements, it seems like Microsoft is not even taking it’s foot of the throttle.
  • Cortana Analytics Suite is Microsoft’s way to help you get insight and take action on your data.
    It’s basically everything you need for your Data Science scenario’s.

Below are some Microsoft Foundation sessions from the PASS Summit that talk about these products and what you can expect from them, now and in the future.

If you’re interested in just a list of features, check out Chris Webb’s blog post about the announcements.


Business Intelligence


Advanced Analytics


Big Data and Data Warehousing


Developing Modern Applications on Azure

 


Video’s via http://www.sqlpass.org/summit/2015/PASStv/Microsoft.aspx

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