My first (but definitely not last) AWS certification.
On Friday, December 18, 2020, I began a new chapter in my career by becoming an AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner. I’m a little embarrassed because I said that I was starting down this path over two years ago (see related blog post, Old Dogs, New Tricks).
The AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner is not a requirement on the path to becoming an AWS Certified Solutions Architect, SysOps Administrator, or Developer. It’s designed to demonstrate an understanding of AWS “in any role, including technical, managerial, sales, purchasing, or financial.” Obtaining this certification was a good way to ensure I understood AWS concepts in a way that I could explain to my customers, who are often not in traditional IT roles.
I’ve obtained my first AWS certification but I doubt that it will be my last. As I look at the available AWS Certifications, I’d like to obtain the associate AWS Certified Solutions Architect and the AWS Certified Data Analytics specialty certification. But in addition to study time, hands-on experience is a necessity. Right now, I’m getting a lot of hands-on time with Azure and there’s a possibility I’ll also be learning how to set up SAP BusinessObjects on the Google Cloud Platform. So who knows what the future holds?
My fellow SAP analytics professionals and I are reacting to an altered career landscape.
Editors Note: As luck would have it, today is the 11th anniversary of this blog. Thank you to all of my readers who have stuck with me through such humble beginnings.
As an IT professional, it has always been necessary to keep learning and growing. As an SAP analytics professional, that’s become even more clear as SAP is pivoting away from the classic SAP BusinessObjects platform. SAP customers must augment their analytics toolkits (see related article, Everything Must Change). To be fair, the SAP BusinessObjects platform isn’t going to disappear overnight, playing an important role in SAP’s “hybrid” analytics strategy. But just like the new and unfamiliar Crystal Enterprise/BusinessObjects XI platform had to be learned and embraced back in 2005 (what? No more Supervisor?), it’s time for me and many of my BusinessObjects peers to expand our horizons.
On a personal level, I’ve finally done something that I’ve put off for years. I bought a beautiful sea foam green Fender Stratocaster and signed up for Fender Play, Fender’s cloud-based self-service training platform. As an accomplished pianist, I’m amazed and just a little frustrated how a guitar uses completely different muscles than a piano keyboard.
On a professional level, I’m branching out my skills by studying for Amazon AWS certification as my employer became an AWS partner this year. I wasn’t one of the lucky consultants to get certified first, but I do not intend to be the last. Amazon offers three different certification paths (see illustration below) and I plan to become an AWS Certified Solutions Architect with a Big Data specialty.
I’m not alone. Several of my long-time BusinessObjects friends are moving on. My friend Eileen King just became a certified Looker professional.
I officially passed my Looker Certification test today!!! I’m really excited to be able to take on this new opportunity and take on a new position with Infinite Resource Solutions! I officially started last month but I didn’t want to jinx it until I had the certification!
And Jay Riddle is hanging out with the cool Tableau kids, too.
It’s been refreshing to attend a conference with over 17,000 people that seem to be generally happy with their software vendor’s products and customer support. Ready for new challenges and to start to actually enjoy learning again. Hello @tableau. Goodbye @SAP. #tc18
Looks like I spoke too soon about being unaffected by Twitter’s purge.
Last month I wrote that I was virtually unaffected by the Twitter purge that hit United States Presidents Trump and Obama (see related article, Thankful for real Twitter followers). This month, I looked at my follower statistics and noticed a sharp decline on Wednesday, August 15, 2018.
On Tuesday, August 14, 2018, I had 4,416 followers.
But on Wednesday, August 15, I had only 4,344 followers – a loss of 72 followers or 1.63%.
Is Twitter continuing to purge inactive/fake accounts? Or did some of my followers take offense to me writing about SAP Analytics Hub?
President Trump lost less than 1% of his followers. Former president Barack Obama lost nearly 2%.
Curious to see how my own Twitter account fared after the purge, I turned to my Twitter analytics page. I was surprised to learn that I actually gained a modest number of followers over the past 28 days.
As you can see, I gained 7 followers during the past 4 weeks.
Aside from a very active US president, Twitter doesn’t seem the busy news source that it used to be, especially for analytics news. I’ve noticed that more and more people are interacting with me and my blog from LinkedIn, not Twitter.
You can keep up with my analytics antics on your favorite social network, assuming that it’s either Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter.
The roadmap of the SAP BusinessObjects platform makes me scared. But I won’t stop and falter. Here’s what Howard Jones taught me about SAP analytics strategy. And growing older.
Earlier this year, my wife and I got to see Howard Jones in concert from the second row. The last time I saw him in concert was way back in 1989, so I was grateful for the opportunity.
I discovered Howard Jones in my teen years. His groundbreaking use of synthesizers as a “one-man band” was a big inspiration for me. After all, there are so many guitar heroes but so few piano heroes. He was definitely mine. Known for the positive messages in his lyrics, Howard expressed my thoughts when SAP announced revisions to its analytics roadmap just a few days after the concert (see related article, Everything Must Change).
And do you feel scared? I do!
But I won’t stop and falter.
Change can definitely be scary. And sadly, you can’t stop it. Just like you can’t stop having birthdays.
Thanks for all the kind birthday wishes yesterday! It was fun and humbling to see them come in from all over the world. pic.twitter.com/FjYTrFuwtm
I’m grateful to artists like Howard Jones because at age 63, he’s not only riding his past success like No One Is To Blame. He continues to tour and create new music like the autographed Engage CD that I picked up at the concert. His success doesn’t magically wipe away the rampant ageism that is in modern IT. But it does give me hope as I grow older.
Treating today as though it was the last, the final show
Get to sixty and feel no regret
It may take a little time a lonely path, an uphill climb
Success or failure will not alter it
Don’t be fooled by what you see. And don’t be fooled by what you hear- especially from Microstrategy. They posted this FUD gem during SAPPHIRE last month.
SAP is phasing out BusinessObjects. MicroStrategy is providing long-term solutions that deliver the capabilities modern business demands. Learn more, including how our consultants can help you create a clear, personalized, and efficient migration path: https://t.co/o7LWP81Vmz
Things have actually gotten better during the past few months. SAP has moderated its tone when messaging its analytics customers, committing to delivering SAP BusinessObjects 4.3 in 2019 (see related SAP blog by Mike Flannagan, SAP Customers Champion the Intelligent Enterprise with SAP Analytics Innovations). And SAP is making smaller batches of improvements in the forthcoming SAP BusinessObjects BI 4.2 SP6, expected later this month. In his aptly-named song Those Who Move Clouds, Howard Jones sings:
I wish that I could offer you a chance to change direction.
But you know that pathways must be followed to near destruction.
Sadly, “You can look at the SAP analytics roadmap, but you can’t change it” doesn’t rhyme. But I’ll continue to work on that. In the meantime, this old dog is committing himself to learn new tricks with SAP Analytics Cloud, SAP Cloud Platform, SAP HANA, and even non-SAP technologies. Because things can only get better.
In the meantime, don’t crack up. Bend your brain. See both sides. Throw off your mental chains. And don’t always look at the rain.
Sometimes inspiration comes from an unlikely source. Last week, it came when I took my 7-year-old son to see Cars 3, the latest Disney/Pixar movie. As its title indicates, Cars 3 is the third installment in a series that began in 2006 with the original Cars. Maligned by many computer animation fans as the worst movies created by the usually innovative Pixar, I could tell from its movie trailer that Cars 3 was going to be different from the previous two movies and deal with some adult themes.
Even if you don’t have a 7-year-old child as I do, I recommend taking in Cars 3 while it’s still in theaters. Appreciate how Pixar has taken realistic scenery beyond what we’ve seen in previous Pixar films. And see if you can find even more leadership lessons (author Joseph LaLonde found twenty-nine), celebrity voices, and the infamous Pizza Planet truck.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I borrowed a copy of this book from a public library and did not receive it free from its publisher. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
The week between Christmas and New Years is the worst time to use vacation, but that’s not stopping me.
This year, I’ll be taking some much-needed vacation between Christmas and New Years. The timing wasn’t my first choice, but due to circumstances beyond my control there was no summer vacation this year. Author Scott Burkun says that I’m taking vacation at the worst possible time. And I couldn’t agree more.
The week between Christmas and New Years is the worst time to use vacation. It’s when everyone else is on holiday, turning even the most stressful workplaces into calm zones of highly independent and low interruption work time. Spending your vacation dollars to avoid a paid vacation in the office, is the worst bet in the vacation world: sometimes it’s a forced bet, as family plans force your hand, but it’s still a lousy value.
Early on in my career— while lamenting my junior status and lack of vacation days— I quickly noticed many of the same observations as Mr. Berkun. In most US organizations, senior management- the people in the organization with the most vacation time- disappear at random intervals between the Thanksgiving holiday (the fourth Thursday in November), Christmas (December 25) and New Year’s Day. The lack of corporate activity can be further aided by the “year-end IT freeze” that attempts to guarantee system availability for busy holiday shopping or year-end financial closing.
If you’re “stuck” at work having a “staycation”, make the most of it. Pick a small number of new technical skills to master. Install the latest version of your BI software on a sandbox. Most BI organizations have a number of outstanding tasks that never get done. Now is the perfect time to cross a few off your to-do list (be sure to add these to your list of accomplishments on your upcoming annual performance review). And don’t ignore the softer skills. Plan some lunch dates with your immediate co-workers as well as your support teams like system administrators and database administrators. Listen to their war stories as well as the corporate rumors for the upcoming year.
As for me, I’ll be enjoying some down-time with my family this week. And planning next summer’s vacation!
The New York Times, responding to Nate Silver’s move to ESPN.
There’s an interesting post on the New York Times web site about the departure of Nate Silver to ESPN. And as usual, some succinct and sassy commentary from John Gruber on his Daring Fireball blog. But the New York Times’ editor Margaret Sullivan had this to say about Nate Silver.
He was, in a word, disruptive.
Nate Silver is an American statistician who correctly predicted the winner of all 50 states and the District of Columbia in the 2012 United States presidential election between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. His Five Thirty Eight blog has become a popular feature of the New York Times web site and his recent book, The Signal and the Noise, became an instant best-seller after the presidential election.
There are some clear parallels in his story to our own stories in the field of analytics and BI. Fact-based decision making from business intelligence frequently goes against the grain of The Established Way of How We Do Things Around Here. Wayne Eckerson captures this maverick spirit, seen in the seven people profiled in his latest book Secrets of Analytic Leaders. Administering a business intelligence platform or even a corporate analytics program pales in complexity to the challenges- both with people and technology- in changing organizational culture to a fact-based, data-saturated culture. The process is frequently disruptive. It takes guts, an even temperament, and a long-term focus.
But as Nate Silver apparently discovered, sometimes it also requires a career move.
On May 12, 2012, on the eve of SAP SAPPHIRE, I ran my first 5k race with my 11-year-old daughter Emily. Emily participated in Girls On the Run, a 12-week program that combines “training for a 3.1 mile running event with self-esteem enhancing, uplifting workouts. The goals of the programs are to encourage positive emotional, social, mental, spiritual and physical development.” I’m really proud of my daughter and her accomplishments.
We envision a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams.
If you can’t tell from the above photograph, I’m not a natural athlete. Last year, I couldn’t run from my house down to the first stop sign without being out of breath. But in September, I downloaded Active Network’s Couch-to-5k app and started running. The goal of the app is to take you from walking to running a 5k in just 9 weeks.
I’d like to tell you that I charged through the workout plan in 9 weeks. But I didn’t.
I’d like to tell you that I ran faithfully during the cold winter months. But I didn’t.
I’d like to tell you that I figured out how to work a long day at the office then bee-line to the hotel treadmill. But I didn’t.
I’d like to tell you that I ran a flawless 5k with my daughter. But I didn’t.
But here is what I can tell you.
I no longer stop at the stop sign. I keep running. Much farther and faster than I could last September. And even though my first 5k race is now a memory, I am still running. I’ve put away the Couch to 5k app and started using RunKeeper. I bought a FitBit, just like Greg Myers. And some bright red Nike running shoes. I’m determined to enter another 5k this summer.
What does this story have to do with business intelligence? Everything.
Real life is messy. Maybe you meant to retire your Desktop Intelligence reports months ago, but they’re still lurking around. Maybe your dreams of creating a Business Intelligence Competency Center were shattered by management. Maybe that big career move… wasn’t that big after all.
You ran out of breath at the first stop sign.
We can’t obtain perfection. We can only strive towards it.
The first thing we can learn from a real rock star like Eddie Van Halen is to always deliver your best performance with a smile. Prior to the concert, I was highly skeptical that a fifty seven year old artist could perform with the same virtuosity he had shown 30 years earlier. But not only did Eddie create a fantastic guitar performance, he did it with a smile. He seemed to be fully engaged, catching the magic moment. An SAP rock star should always maintain a positive and even temperament, even when dealing with loud-mouthed annoying co-workers like David Lee Roth.
2. Keep Your Skills Up to Date
During the concert, vintage album covers and photographs scrolled across the large video screen behind the band. They were a reminder of past rock-and-roll glories and made even this blogger reminisce fondly back to the year 1984. A real rock star can continue to have a successful career reliving past glories, performing 30-year-old hits, and recreating their guitar solos note for note. But sadly, an SAP rock star cannot rely on his or her past technology skills. Instead of dreaming about yesterday, an SAP rock star makes future plans, leaving older products and product names behind with an emotional detachment. SAP professionals that cling to the past and refuse to adapt will look as out of place as a fifty seven year old David Lee Roth in sparkly party pants.
And they’ll sound out of place, too. Thirty years ago, DLR’s on-stage banter shaped his bad boy image and no doubt helped him score backstage with groupies. But today, the same comments reveal a different kind of truth – a creepy, dirty old man that no good father would want around his daughter. Can you see what I mean?
3. Acknowledge Positive Contributions Regardless of Their Source
Sammy Who? Although you couldn’t tell by their omission from the set list, songs from the Sammy Hagar era of Van Halen actually sold more albums and yielded more #1 hits than those from David Lee Roth. But band members and many fans alike consider the original DLR days as “the good stuff”. So although a real rock star can ignore some of their biggest hits to placate the ego of their current lead singer, an SAP rock star always acknowledges positive contributions regardless of their source.
4. Create Clear and Detailed Project Plans and Deliverables
Van Halen’s “no brown M&M’s” requirement in their concert rider is an oft-quoted legend that is actually true (see Snopesor even Wikipedia). Trashed dressing rooms aside, the brown M&M requirement was placed in the concert rider as a simple test of whether the concert venue had read and followed the more important safety requirements of the rider (although Xcelsius Guru Mico Yuk would argue that David Lee Roth should have paid more attention to the red M&M’s). Detailed project plans and well-written documentation is a must for any SAP rock star. Real rock stars can get away with trashing their dressing rooms. But SAP rock stars never trash their cubicles over unmet project requirements or less than stellar implementations.
SAP supply chain fanatics will also enjoy the article Alice in Supply Chains that I found while researching Van Halen’s M&M tale.
5. Mentor the Next Generation
As somebody who hasn’t closely followed the personnel changes in the band, it was very obvious to me that the bass player was much younger than anyone else on stage. Indeed, Van Halen’s current bassist is twenty-one year old Wolfgang Van Halen, son of Eddie Van Halen and Valerie Bertinelli (yes, I was checking Wikipedia during the concert). I have no doubt that both father and son take great pride in performing together. Hopefully Wolfgang will improve on his father’s career and avoid the substance abuse pitfall that beset his dad and so many others in the music industry. Both real rock stars and SAP rock stars can (and should) pass along wisdom and skills to the next generation.
What did you think of Van Halen’s SAP SAPPHIRE performance? And what tips do you have for aspiring SAP rock stars?