Ten Years and Counting …

14 03 2014

On March 8, 2014, I reached ten years of service at Magenic Technologies. When I started in 1999 (don’t do the math just yet), Magenic had only been around a few years and it was my first consulting job. I stayed at Magenic for about 5 1/2 years. During that time, I went from an application development consultant in Visual Basic to a Business Intelligence Architect specializing in SQL Server Analysis Services and MDX.

Magenic Logo At that point in my career, I was beginning to travel more and take on a much larger leadership role as Magenic was growing beyond that first office in Minneapolis, MN. I went to work for one our customers, XATA Corporation, as their Data Architect. For the next 4 1/2 years I learned a lot about transportation management and how important data was in that area. (My Twitter handle and domain name, DataOnWheels, was established during this time.) I also learned what it meant to live with your code and architecture after the consultant left. While at XATA, I continued to be involved in the SQL Server community which was very helpful for the next step.

There came a time in my stint at XATA, that it was clear that it was time for me to move on. I started the process of looking at what was available in the market. When I went to Magenic’s career site, I found that my job or its nearest equivalent was available. I called Carole Cuthbertson, “V-mom”, and asked about coming back. We had lunch a week later and the transition back to Magenic was set in motion. (So, if you leave a company you like for good reasons, never burn bridges! You might want to go back.)

When I told my wife that I was going back, she was glad I was. This kind of surprised me as I had been doing a lot of traveling before I left. She noted that I was happier working at Magenic which was better for our family. That was the final push I needed and I returned to Magenic. As I come up on this anniversary, I am really at great point in my career. I truly enjoy being a Practice Lead at Magenic and still consider it a a great place to work.

I recently was talking with a customer who pointed out that communicating ideas with 3 points is very effective. Ironically, I probably should have known that from all of the ministry training I went through. So, I thought I would conclude this post with the three reasons why I enjoy working for Magenic.

1. Family

As I noted above, my wife was happy when I went back to Magenic. What I realized is that no matter how hard it got, Magenic would do what they could to help your family while you worked for them. I realize that everyone’s experience is different, but I saw them work with consultants who were going through tough times with their family.

My Kids During my first couple of years there, I lost both of my maternal grandparents over two successive Christmases. I was close to my grandparents so when the news came, I still remember Tim Wold, my project manager and Magenic’s employee #1, telling me to go take care of my family and he would work out the details on his end. That was characteristic of management and leaders throughout my time here. Family matters to the owners, Greg Frankenfield and Paul Fridman, and that is carried through to the company.

My family has always been treated very well and they enjoy participating at the various events that the company has had from the Christmas party to the summer picnics.

2. Opportunity

When I joined Magenic, I had no idea what it meant to be a consultant. With mentoring and coaching, I was able to grow from a consultant to a practice lead. I am a technical leader in the company and have been able to expand my career throughout the years with their help. One of the biggest career changes was moving from application development to business intelligence. This has significantly shaped my career today in ways I would have never thought 15 years ago. During my time there, I was also encouraged to give back both internally and externally. This has opened up some great opportunities through the years.

3. Appreciation

Appreciation can take on a couple of different forms. Of course, being paid to do what you love is awesome! Even better when it pays well. However, there is more to appreciation than the paycheck. Magenic has an interesting culture which I had to learn through the years. Because we are hired to go and work at customer sites, it was not always known what or how we were doing. Magenic is a place where you can and should speak up about what your doing. While seeming counterintuitive and self serving at times, letting managers and other leaders know what I was doing, paid dividends for my career. Just as importantly, they were able to understand more about what was going on.

To me and my experience with Magenic, these are 3 key reasons that I returned and stay today. I am now in a place in my career where I need to give recognition to those whom it is due more than receive it. I have the opportunity to impact others in their careers and to help Magenic continue to grow.

I encourage all of you who read this to look at where you work. What is the culture like?Source: http://www.michaelhammack.com/2012/10/05/the-grass-is-always-greener-on-the-other-side/ Do you like what you do? Can you see yourself there in 5, 10, 15 years? Keep your core values in mind as you seek to change companies or careers. If you have had a job move conversation with me, I have likely told you something like “The grass is always greener on the other side, but a lot times it’s because of the manure.”

2013 – A Year In Review

2 01 2014

It is in our nature as humans to look back in order to understand where we have been.

Warning – some of this blog contains stuff about my family… In case you only want the technical stuff.

Family Fun

This past year has been very interesting for me personally and professionally. In the past year, my youngest, Mikayla, has entered Junior High officially taking our family out of elementary schools. Mikalya joined me at the SQL Saturday event in Omaha. At the same time, my oldest, Kristyna, is now a senior at Burnsville Senior High School. Both of my boys, Alex a junior and Andrew a freshman, are both taller than me and staying active. Alex joined us at the Minnesota SQL Saturday and did a lot of volunteering. Andrew probably had the best event of all as he joined me at SQL Saturday in Fargo. There he got to see Bill Gates in person. I am proud of all of them, they are great kids. This was also the year I celebrated 20 years with the woman I love, Sheila. Without her support, I would not have been able to get this far in my career as well. Yep, it has been a busy year personally. Soon there will be lots of college, marriage, and maybe even grandkids. Wow, I must be getting old.

Magenic and the Server Development Practice

2013 is my first full year as a Practice Lead at Magenic. I started out as the Practice Lead for our Business Intelligence and Data Practice. In August, my role expanded to include SharePoint, Biztalk, and TFS. This allows us to focus server technologies at Magenic. Along  the way, I have had to learn a lot about VMs (still a work in progress). I really enjoy working with the pros across the company that we have. We some very talented BI, SharePoint and BizTalk consultants including a few virtual TSPs in SQL Server, Business Intelligence, and BizTalk.

During this past year, I have traveled around the country to consult, to speak, and to meet customers. I have had the privilege of speaking at multiple SQL Saturdays, Modern Apps Live, SQL Live, and Code Mastery events. It has been fun. I almost made it to all of our offices including the locations we opened this year. I made it to Minneapolis, Chicago, Atlanta, Charlotte, Boston, New York City, and San Francisco. Still need to get out to Los Angelos and Manila.


While it has been hard at times, the travel experience has been good overall. I try to keep my speaking engagements up to date, maybe I will see some of you next year.

This year I also authored outside of the blog. Chuck Whittemore (The Insight Analyst)The Changing World of Business Intelligence: Leading with Microsoft Excel - Custom Software Development White Paper and I coauthored a white paper on Leading with Excel: The Changing World of Business Intelligence. This was a fun project where we bring together Microsoft Excel and Microsoft BI in a real world way. We continue to successfully work this strategy with our customers and it was the impetus for my Excel BI Tips blog post series. I SQL Server Analysis Services 2012 Cube Development Cookbookalso had the privilege to coauthor a book that is just being released: SQL Server Analysis Services 2012 Cube Development Cookbook by Packt Publishing. This the third book I have worked on and it has been a while since was last published so this was a good experience for me. I still don’t know if I would take an entire project on, but maybe someday.

This year wraps up with me becoming a virtual TSP with Microsoft to further support their efforts with SQL Server and Business Intelligence in the marketplace.

One other thing that has been interesting for me is that with the release of Power Pivot and SQL Server Analysis Services Tabular Model, I am seeing a huge shift in how I work with and sell BI. I have always worked with cubes, but now I see the in-memory space as a more compelling and leading edge solution that will continue to change what my career will look like. While I had a lot of fun being a cube and MDX wizard, the ability to deliver results to business users in a timely fashion with great visualizations is actually more fun. The more things change …

Happy New Year!

I hope you and your family had much to look back and celebrate this year. I thank God for the blessings of a great company to work for and an awesome family to be with.

Logging into Azure and Office365 with Different Accounts

14 03 2013

I have been doing some work on the Modern Apps Live! content that required me to use both an Office365 account and an Azure account.  My Azure work is currently associated with my Microsoft Account (formerly known as my Live ID).  On the other hand, I am working with a Microsoft Office365 account which I have been unable to tie to my current account at this point.

While I was working with Office365, I was trying to open my Azure account to get some storage info that I wanted to use.  It told me I was already signed in with a different user ID and it did not have access to my Azure portal as noted in the image below.


Obviously I did not want to sign out, so I started looking for options.  The IT Director at Magenic, Dave Meier, mentioned he was having the same issue with multiple Microsoft accounts. So, we determined this was somehow related to IE so I installed Google Chrome.  By using Chrome I was able to work around the issue.  However, Dave came across the following article regarding this change in behavior starting in IE 8 http://blogs.msdn.com/b/askie/archive/2009/05/08/session-management-within-internet-explorer-8-0.aspx.  Turns out they changed how they manage sessions in that version.

imageThe article brings up a couple of options to work around.  One is using Alt-F-I to change the session.  Kind of annoying as I actually use my mouse (some of you keyboard junkies will like that solution).  So I used the shortcut option and created a shortcut for IE on my Windows 8 desktop which uses the switch –noframemerging.  I added this to my Taskbar, and voila, I have an easy way to open a new session browser which ignores my other session.  Keep in mind that you are essentially running two different sessions in IE which means that you will have two sets of credentials active.  Be sure to keep track of which is which.

Also, as a quick sanity test, Google Chrome works the same way.image  Even when I open a different Chrome instance, it keeps my session state. So, it appears the IE shortcut is a nice way to handle this issue.  Although, it is nice to know I can use a Chrome instance and and IE instance if that is my preferred method.

Add a comment if you try this in FireFox and want to chime in.  I really only want to use one browser, so Chrome is still one more than I want.

UPDATE:  You can also use InPrivate or Incognito modes accomplish the same thing.  Thanks to Rocky Lhotka ( T | B ) for pointing this out.

Using Word 2013 to Create Blog Entries

26 10 2012

Over the past few years, I have used Windows Live Writer to create my blog entries on WordPress. Given the nature of Microsoft’s push to use Office for more including social and other online presence, I thought I would see if Word 2013 would actually work to create and edit blog posts. For the record, I am using Office 2013 RTM (I wouldn’t try this with the Preview. J) .

Creating My First Post with Word

Step one, find out if Word has a blog template. Answer: Yes.

When you select the template you get the following dialog:

When you pick this the first time you get the opportunity to set up your blog account.

Among the default blog providers are Blogger, WordPress, and, yes, even SharePoint. Once you choose your provider, the rest of the process allows you to choose your blog and set up your credentials. You can set up multiple accounts if you have multiple providers or blogs. Once you set up your account, Word opens with the following blog template:

Some Final Thoughts…

You also have the ability to publish as draft, choose categories, and other typical blog type activities. Overall, I really like the editing experience. You also now have the additional capabilities use in Word such as SmartArt and WordArt.

Windows 8 and Hyper-V: It’s that easy!

30 08 2012

First, I need to set the record straight – I am not a systems guy.  When I need work done to set up a server or install an OS or handle networking, I usually talk to people who know what they are doing.  After the system is ready, I am build BI and data solutions on the system.

As far as Virtual Machines (VMs) go, I really did not like working with them.  I seem to always have issues getting them set up correctly and being able to work with them on a regular basis.  In particular, getting connected to the host system and internet always annoyed me.

Win 8 LogoWell, I upgraded to Windows 8 two weeks ago. Yes, I actually upgraded from Windows 7 to Windows 8 without issue.  I am really enjoying Windows 8 and my kids think it looks cool.

However, after the install, some VPN software provided by my client did not work.  It appears to have issues working with Windows 8.  I had heard that Hyper-V was easy to setup and use in Windows 8.  It’s true!  I merely had to turn on the service, create the network, create a VM, and point to a Windows 7 ISO and, voila, I had a VM running with Windows 7 and an internet connection.  A BuildingHyper-V logo Windows 8 blog post by the Steven Sinofsky on Hyper-V was the key to simplicity.  Check it out!  They have a video, 3 minutes long, on creating a VM in Windows 8.  It worked!

Kudos to the engineering team on making this a simple exercise that even a non-systems guy could figure out and use!

#meme15: Reasons I Like My Job

15 08 2012


When Jason ( B | T ) posted this assignment, I thought it would be a fun topic to write on.  Before I get into my reasons, some history is in order.  I will have been employed at Magenic ( T ) for over 8 years.  My employment has not been contiguous, as I left for about 4 1/2 years.  In my first stint at Magenic, I came into consulting with no idea what I was getting into.  When I left, 5 1/2 years later, I was doing a lot of travel while leaving my wife with 4 kids under 10 at home.  My reason for leaving Magenic was to be closer to home with less travel.  Now, on to the topic because the reasons I like my job and the reasons I returned are very similar.

Reason #1:  My wife likes where I work

When I mentioned to my wife that I was ready to go back into consulting, she noted that going back to Magenic would be good for me and for the family.  As it turns out, Magenic provided me with a supportive and fulfilling environment which meant a better home life.  Furthermore, she likes how they treat our family as if they matter as well.

Reason #2:  This too shall pass …

I work in consulting.  I really like the freshness of each contract and the knowledge that no matter how bad it looks, it will pass as well.  Keeps the work new and exciting without the burden of working on the same thing for years.  (FYI – did that for 4 1/2 years.  I like consulting better.)

Reason #3:  I get paid.

I don’t do the job for free and I still get a paycheck.  Given the economy of the day, this is a valid reason for liking my job.

Reason #4:  Blah, blah, blah

One of the reasons I came back to Magenic is the fact that they enabled me to find more speaking engagements.  While blogging for me at times can be a chore, speaking at user groups, SQL Saturdays, conferences and other events is fun.  It is one of the things I really love about my job.  This year I will likely get over ten speaking engagements in with over 12 sessions delivered on various SQL Server and BI topics.  Yes, this is fun.

Reason #5:  Coworkers and peers

My final reason is my coworkers and peers.  I get to work with a lot of smart, fun, and driven people.  It is refreshing to go to work and see how each and everyone is finding ways to push the envelope.  Not only that, many I am able to count as friends who I would keep in contact with whether or not we worked at the same place.

I am really pleased with where I work and enjoy what I am doing and who I work with.  I can only hope that I can help improve it for those around me.  What I found interesting about this meme is that it did not prompt a “career” response.  My job enables me to pursue my career, which is awesome.  I could do this elsewhere, but why?

Upcoming BI and Data Events with Magenic in Fall 2012

14 08 2012

As I started looking over my event calendar, I was amazed at how many events Magenic is sponsoring, hosting or providing speakers for over the next couple of months.  As always, one of my goals is to make everyone aware of opportunities to increase their knowledge in BI and data or even network with other data pros.  Not all of the events are Magenic events, but Magenic has stepped up to sponsor or provide speakers for the event.  I will update this blog with more details as they become available, but I want to get you thinking about the possibilities to learn and connect.bi-summit-logo

BI Summit (Chicago, August 23, 2012)

This event is coming up very soon.  Register today to hear about BI topics that matter to you as a customer and in particular as a business user.  Ted Krueger ( B | T ) and Aaron Lowe ( B | T ) will be showing off some of the new Microsoft BI capabilities.  I will be joining them for the round table at the end of the day.  Sign up today as space is limited!

Code Mastery (Chicago, September 12, 2012)

cm-logoNot to be outdone, a few weeks later Magenic’s Code Mastery event comes to Chicago.  There is an opening session by Ted Krueger discussing query tuning for developers and admins alike.  Then, a full track will be offered on a variety of BI topics.  The speakers include your truly, James Phillips ( T ), and Aaron Lowe.

SQL Saturday #156 (Providence, September 15, 2012)

Join James Phillips at this event as well.  If you see him at Code Mastery in Chicago then at SQL Saturday in Providence let him know.  I am sure we all would be interested in how and why you SQL Saturdaytraveled the country to hear him.  He will be speaking on SSIS 2012 and loading data warehouses.

SQL Saturday #149 (Minneapolis, September 28-29, 2012)

We are loaded to bear for this event.  Steve Hughes and Ted Krueger will be conducting preconference sessions.  Beyond that, a number of Magenicons have submitted sessions.  We expect the final list before the end of the week and I will update this post when they list is finalized.  Magenic is also a Gold Sponsor for this event.  Oh, and this year the precons are on Friday with the full event on Saturday.  Thought we would try something new this year.

8/15/2012 UPDATE:  Magenic speakers announced:  Ted Krueger, Aaron Lowe, Jeff Prom and I have sessions at this event.

Code Mastery (Minneapolis, October 2, 2012)

This event is still being finalized, but hold the date!  We have a BI track that includes implementing BI with SharePoint.  Our speakers include Jeff Prom ( B ), Josh Owens ( T ), Curtis Smith and Greg Moser ( T ).  Look for more details coming soon.

Minnesota SQL Server User Group (Minneapolis, October 14, 2012)

Magenic is the sponsor for October’s user group meeting and Jeff Prom will be speaking on Data Quality Services.  PASS_2012_120x240

PASS Summit (Seattle, November 6-9, 2012)

And the Summit wraps up a busy fall season.  I have two sessions at this conference.  Ted will be a part of Ask the Experts and Birds of a Feather.  A number of other Magenicon’s will also be in attendance.  We will look forward to wrapping up a this fall’s data and BI community events at the Summit.

Join Magenic’s data pro’s at any of these conferences or meetings.  Magenic is a huge promoter of business intelligence and data related education within the SQL Server community.  We look forward to seeing you at any of these events.

How I Got Started in Software Development-A Tribute to Ed

20 12 2011

A tribute is an expression of gratitude or praise.  As I head into this holiday season I wanted to express thanks to those individuals who have impacted my career through the years.  What got me thinking about this was the fact that my father-in-law passed away two years ago in mid-December.  I wanted to honor his memory.  I have chosen to do this by starting an annual blog entry where I recognize an individual that has directly impacted what I am doing today.  As a result, this first tribute will recognize my father-in-law, Ed Jankowski’s influence on my career.

Ed Jankowski, My Father-in-Law

I would have to say that Ed was most directly involved with my transition to the field of software development.  I had no prior experience working on computers before I met Ed.  During my employment at Bethany House Publishers, I saw a need Beaver Hatto “automate” the book used to track inventory.  At the time, Ed worked at the parent organization, Bethany Fellowship, as the primary IT guy.  (Quick background note, Ed left HP to work at Bethany as a ministry and a job.  He had extensive experience in electronic engineering, network systems, and related technical troubleshooting and support skills.)

After identifying the need, I approached my boss with my idea.  He noted we likely could not get this done through our divisions IT.  I talked with Ed about the idea and he and my manager worked out a deal.  If I was able to create a program to manage the warehouse inventory, I would then be loaned back to Ed to do something similar for him with the phone system for billing.  In return, Ed would provide hardware, software, and office space so I could figure it out.

Yes, I picked Microsoft Access as my development platform.  Ironically, my wife, Sheila, taught me the basics of Access so I could get started.  I created my first database, THEN learned about relational database theory – normalization.  So, I rewrote the app.  In the end, I created a decent application that would eventually support RF devices and save the company a lot of money because of the efficiencies related to these changes.

After a few years, I went to work for Magenic and moved from application development into database development and then into business intelligence.  But more about that later.  Without Ed’s support in his son-in-law, who knew nothing about software development and very little about computers at that time, I would not be where I am today.  I know Ed was proud of how far I had come and I still miss his input and influence in my work and life to this day.  Thanks Ed.

Why I Blog – #Meme15

15 12 2011

A fellow blogger and SQL guy, Jason Strate (@stratesql) started a meme on Social Networking as a result of a Social Networking session we participated in at SQL Saturday #99 in Minnesota. (http://www.jasonstrate.com/2011/12/the-meme15-on-social-networking/)

The questions for this month are:

1. Why did you start blogging?
2. Why do you currently blog?

Let the reflection begin

Why Did I Start?

I have “started” blogging at least three times that I can remember.  In each case, I had great aspirations about passing along cool stuff I had learned.  Interestingly, it was neither easy nor “fun” for me to blog.  Each of those times I failed because I could not find enough unique topics to write about.  After all, who would want to read a blog about something someone else had written?

So, I gave it another try.  With guidance from the likes of Jason Strate (@stratesql) and Dan English (@denglishbi), I realized that a blog was a way to communicate what I had learned and what was exciting to me.  I fired up my old blog and have been blogging on what interested me and in particular when I had to work to resolve an issue.  Now, I was really a “blogger” and it was cool.

Why Do I Continue?

I still work hard to get blogs written.  I am much more comfortable presenting on a topic as opposed to writing blogs.  However, I have discovered that some of the stuff I write actually interests other people.

I write more now to get out information on topics that I enjoy and to discuss problems I have had to solve.  I do wish I had more time to blog, but I will blog when I can.  It is more fun than it used to be for me and I will keep on blogging.

What’s up with the name?

What is behind DataOnWheels?  Well, on of the attempts I started was while I was working at Xata (www.xata.com) which is a transportation management company.  I really enjoyed working there and the data work was really cool.  I thought DataOnWheels was unique and represented my interest in both data and transportation.  Well, I have since returned to Magenic (www.magenic.com) where I still work with data, but not so much with transportation.  However, a brand is a brand.  I like the uniqueness of the name and I guess I could change my tag to “Have data, will travel” or maybe not.  I just like the name.

In conclusion, if you are interested in blogging yourself I encourage you to give it a try.  There are a couple of free blogging sites out there like WordPress which I use and Google’s Blogspot which my daughter has used.  My final advice is you should write when you want to and don’t feel bad when you have to wait a while.  Do it for yourself first, who knows who will find you when they need that info.

March Presentations Uploaded on SkyDrive

20 03 2011

I presented at three events in the past 10 days. 

  • Magenic Lunch & Learn – SSRS Training – Overview of SQL Server Reporting Services functionality.
  • Minnesota SQL Server User Group – SQL Azure – a good discussion on SQL Azure, it’s capabilities, and cost effectiveness for our solutions.
  • Techfuse 2011 – Performance Monitoring and Tuning with SSAS – a look at the query execution workflow and the tools to monitor and tune Analysis Services.

I hope these provide value to you.  Feel free to comment here with questions related to any of these presentations.


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