She Taught Me to Code–A Tribute to Sheila, My Wife

12 01 2015

A tribute is an expression of gratitude or praise. A couple of years ago, I started a series about individuals who have impacted my career. I do this as a tribute to my father-in-law, Ed Jankowski who passed away five years ago this past December (2014). Check out my original post about him and his impact on me being in software development today.

Picture - WeddingShe Taught Me to Code

My wife, Sheila, actually did get me started down the programming path. We had been married just over a year when she showed me how to use Microsoft Access to create databases, entry forms, and reports. She knew how to do some of the code behind to solve problems. As I noted in the first paragraph, her dad was a significant influence during the start of my career. His influence was not lost on her either. It was that work she did with me that got me interested in computers. If you ask her today, she is more a user of software and not a builder of applications. However, she was the first to show me the possibilities and joy of creating applications for practical uses.

My Success and My Wife

Over the years, I have worked in the corporate world and in consulting. As my career began to take off, Sheila supported me and the effort required to learn and move up in a career which I started after completing college. From Bethany Press to Magenic to Xata to Magenic and now Pragmatic Works, she has been supportive, even when it made life harder at home. Without her, I would not have been able to do much of what I have accomplished.

I really had this perspective reinforced with the article from Harvard Business Review – The One Thing About Your Spouse’s Personality That Really Affects Your Career. Here are a couple of highlights from that article that speak volumes about Sheila’s influence on my career:

First, conscientious spouses handle a lot of household tasks, freeing employees to concentrate on work (“When you can depend on someone, it takes pressure off of you,” Solomon told me). Second, conscientious spouses make employees feel more satisfied in their marriages (which ties in to the first study I mentioned). Third, employees tend to emulate their conscientious spouses’ diligent habits.

… what isn’t obvious is the extent to which so many people are parts of teams, in a sense — two-person teams that are based outside the office.

Being a data guy, it is really cool to see research reinforce the impact my wife has on my career. Interestingly, I have made job changes to retain that support as well. The companies that have supported my wife have been the most enjoyable to work at. Even when the job demands were rough, those managers and leaders who cared about my wife and family both in word and action were the best places I worked at. Here is one last quote from the HBR article about this topic as well:

We can’t and probably don’t want to know the details about these teams, but as Solomon points out, if organizations really understood the workplace effects of strong outside relationships, they might be more receptive to policies like flextime and telecommuting that make it easier for employees to spend time with their significant others.

I have been married over 20 years and have 4 teenage children. Without my wife and her support, I think that we would be in a very different place and I definitely would not be as happy.

So, to the love of my life, thanks for putting up with the long hours, working weekends and travel. I know it has been hard, but with you I am a better person and more successful. Thanks so much.

The Only Constant Is Change

5 10 2014

In March of this year, I celebrated 10 years at Magenic. I blogged about it and called out values and reasons for staying (Ten Years and Counting …). Now, I am writing to talk about my departure from Magenic. I can start by saying the decision to leave was neither quick nor easy. As I noted in my previous post, I really liked working at Magenic and still have nothing bad to say about it.

So, let’s get on with it. As of Friday, October 3, 2014, I left Magenic and am starting a new opportunity at Pragmatic Works. It is only fair that I talk about my decision and some of the reasons behind it. In my March blog post, I focused on three areas that kept me at Magenic. For me to make the move I did, I had to see that these three areas must bePragmaticHeaderLogo covered by Pragmatic Works as well. So, being a research type of person, I asked friends who were currently employed at Pragmatic Works and, in particular, one consultant who had also worked at Magenic. Would Pragmatic Works measure up in Family, Opportunity, and Appreciation? Based on what I learned about it, yes. I think both companies provide much of what I look for in these three key areas. So, why the change? After taking some time off, I realized that I wanted to pursue more of Microsoft’s cutting edge BI, data, and cloud technologies. Magenic has always been a cutting edge company, but Microsoft was moving in directions that did not particularly align with what Magenic does in these areas. (For the record, Magenic’s pursuit of Microsoft’s cutting edge application development technologies is excellent.) This is where Pragmatic Works comes in. They do a lot of work with the latest advancements in Azure, Power BI, and SQL Server and which gives me more opportunities to work on those tools to deliver great customer solutions.

The interesting part for me about the entire process is that I truly think I would be happy at either company. With over 10 years of service and over 15 years of history with Magenic, I am sad to go. I have made many friends over the years and I truly enjoyed the opportunities I had to influence people and careers as a Practice Lead. I wish Magenic and the team that I left, only the best. Without Magenic, I would not be where I open-dooram today.

That being said, I joined Pragmatic Works because I believe that I will be able to say the same thing about them in 10-15 years.

Thanks to everyone at Magenic for all you have done and the friendships that have been made.

Pragmatic Works team, let’s get started. I am ready to open the next door of my career.

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: 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.”

Work Ethic and Family – A Tribute to My Parents

9 01 2014

A tribute is an expression of gratitude or praise. A couple of years ago, I started a series about individuals who have impacted my career. I do this as a tribute to my father-in-law, Ed Jankowski who passed away a few years ago. Check out my original post about him and his impact on me being in software development today.

Work Ethic and Family

I returned from visiting my parents in Kentucky over Christmas and thought this would be a good year to recognize the impact my parents have had on my career. I want to start with my dad, Terry, who taught me the importance of hard work. He worked as a dairy farmer while I was growing up. He showed all of us that hard work is a great trait to have. I am so thankful for his example and practical nature. I can definitely say that I am where I am in my career because of the work ethic he instilled in me. Completing the job and doing work I can be proud of are just two of traits I learned from him.


From both of them, I have learned the importance of family. A few years ago, my mom went down to Kentucky to take care of her parents. My dad left everything to go with her short time later. Their love and sacrifice are continual reminders of how important it is to keep your family close and care for them.


I can only hope that I have taught my own children through words and example that hard work will pay off and that family should always be important. In our industry, we often grow our careers on the back of our family. However, at what risk? Let us all take a moment and remember that family is important and that often our careers are more fleeting. Take care of your kids, some day they may have to take care of you.

100th Post

Finally, this is my 100th post on DataOnWheels. Thanks for all of the support in my efforts on this blog and here is to the next 100.

100th Post

Cultural Anthropology and Business Intelligence–A Tribute to Dr. Thomas C. Correll

29 01 2013

A tribute is an expression of gratitude or praise. Last year I started a series about individuals who have impacted my career. I do this as a tribute to my father-in-law, Ed Jankowski who passed away a few years ago. Check out my original post about him and his impact on me being in software development today.

Cultural Anthropology and Cross-Cultural Studies

Prior to working with data and software, my career choice was to be a missionary. Yes, that is correct. I am trained to work cross-culturally with churches and other Christian organizations. Along the way, I learned how to work with software and my career changed. However, as with many things in life, seemingly unrelated items impact real life. In my case, my final degree work was done in Cultural Anthropology. This tribute post calls out one of my professors who greatly impacted me personally and whose training has helped me with my work in BI solutions.

During my stint at Bethany College of Missions in Bloomington, Minnesota, I took a number of courses from Dr. Thomas Correll in the field of cultural anthropology. He was responsible for providing me with the bulk of my investigative and research skills for use in this field. In particular, I remember three techniques that we studiedimage in particular: Life History Study Method, Participant Observation, and Ethnographic Interviews. Two of these, Participant Observation and Ethnographic Interview are based on James Spradley’s work. Through these classes and supporting projects, I learned much in the way of research and analysis.

Dr. Correll, or Tom as he preferred in class, ingrained in me a great desire to research and do it well. Even now, I am proud of the work I did for those classes as they stretched me to learn and delve into areas I was not entirely comfortable with. I really believe that those research techniques have served me well when I work with customers on BI projects. Here is how I see the impact on my daily work from the training I received.

Life History Study Method. The overall goal of this study methodology is to understand the changes that mean something to individuals in their culture. In BI, this has made me understand or pursue those points when companies or departments are ready for their next growth area such as time to move from reports to dashboards. Each of these types of changes reflect a significant shift in how a company sees its data or how to better to use it in day to day situations.  Sounds a bit like the BI Maturity Model developed by TDWI.


Participant Observation. Can you say business analysis? This is the epitome of the initial step for a good BA. What do you see as the needs. Pay attention, observe, understand what is happening in the company. The skills I learned in this class helps me slow down and observe what is happening at a customer. This includes noticing who really impacts technology decisions in a company.  It is not always what it seems at first.

Ethnographic Interview. This is a particular process where I deep dive into what customers are trying to do. I learned how to drive into business needs using these interview techniques.  This research method uses similar techniques you might learn from Kimball.  The key is to ask questions that get answers you need whether you were looking for them or not.

Overall, I can say much of what I am able to accomplish today is a result of what I learned from Tom. He was truly passionate about doing research, doing it right, and understanding the results. Thanks Tom. What I learned from you has been instrumental in my career and in love for information and getting results.

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.


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