Damn it Feels Good to be a Trainer

You’ve seen Office Space, so you know the song. I won’t attempt to reproduce the lyrics here[1] but you know where I’m coming from.

I’ve been a Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) since 1996, and “trainer” has been a key part of my identity for longer than that. I love the technology side of my work; building software is a challenging and fulfilling endeavor, and I’ve never found anything quite like the creative outlet that comes from envisioning, designing, and creating something out of nothing but will. But the other side of my job is also compelling: helping people get the most out of the software and systems that they use. Being able to tell a story, to paint a picture[2], to connect the dots to help someone achieve goals that were previously out of reach, to see that “light bulb moment” where a student understands a new or complex concept – this is often what makes the difference between a good day and a great day.

Just as working in technology is a process of continuous learning[3], working as a trainer also requires an ongoing professional investment. Fortunately for MCTs, there is an online worldwide trainer community[4] to provide guidance and support, to share resources and foster growth and improvement.

But sometimes a trainer needs to step up a little more. Sometimes classroom time and online interactions aren’t enough to take your training skills to the next level. Sometimes you need something a little more personal and face-to-face. And in this context, I’d like to mention the North America MCT Summit 2012, coming to Redmond, WA on October 17th. This community-organized event will include a wide range of trainer-focused sessions covering technology[5] and “soft” presentation skills. There are also custom “MOC Cram” sessions designed to help get trainers quickly up to speed on new courseware and for even a Train The Trainer event for IT trainers who are not yet MCTs but would like to earn the MCT credential. 2012summitemailsigSpeak

I’ll be there, both presenting and attending, and if you’re a trainer you should be there too. Over the years I have attended and presented at many technical conferences, but it is the trainer events that I remember most fondly. Not only does an MCT Summit better target the specific needs of IT trainers[6], it also provides an ideal venue for professional and social networking. Trainers I have met at MCT conferences have become clients, employers, contractors, employees and perhaps most importantly, friends. Sometimes being a trainer can be a lonely profession – it’s just you and your students, and no one really understands what you do, except for other trainers. Being surrounded by people who know exactly what you do every day, who understand the unique joys and challenges of being an IT trainer[7] is an experience not to be missed.

So come to Redmond – the MCT community will be waiting.

[1] This isn’t entirely true – I did sit down with the intent of writing alternate trainer-specific lyrics, but I soon realized that my innate gift for lyrical invention doesn’t apply to the world of gangster rap. Perhaps “Kings of Training” or “Touch the Slide” will feature in a future post. Perhaps not…

[2] Figuratively. My art skills are the stuff of legend, and not in a positive way.

[3] What other careers require near-constant skills upgrades, as new versions of software are released and new computing paradigms introduced?

[4] If you’re an MCT and are logged in with your Windows Live ID Microsoft Account, this link will work for you. Otherwise, not so much.

[5] Both technical deep dives and how to best communicate new technologies to your students.

[6] Instead of attending general sessions and hoping to glean a tip or trick or two on a topic you already know, imagine having a session dedicated to moving beyond your existing level of knowledge. Instead of attending general sessions and gritting your teeth while you watch someone whose core competencies don’t involve presentations, imaging having a conference where every session is delivered by someone with deep presentation and classroom experience, where you can pick up tips on what do to, not just what not to do. It sounds pretty nice, doesn’t it?

[7] Yes, I have this song going through my head now too.

Posted in Conference, Training, Work | Leave a comment

Welcome to the new blog – SSIMagine what’s next!

Even though there is five years’ worth of content already, this is the first post for the SSIMagine blog, which will focus on Enterprise Information Management (EIM) and Self-Service Information Management (SSIM) with a spattering of Business Intelligence (BI) thrown in for good measure. All historical posts have been migrated from my old BI Polar blog, which I’m in the process of retiring.

As a quick re-introduction, my name is Matthew Roche, and I am a Senior Program Manager with the SQL Server product group at Microsoft. I work on Master Data Services and Data Quality Services, and have previously worked on SQL Server Integration Services. All three of these products are key players in EIM, SSIM and BI, and they tell a “better together” story as you probably already know.

Although I work for Microsoft and will be posting on technical topics, I want to stress that this is a personal blog, and any opinions posted here are mine and mine alone. I built my career around SQL Server and Microsoft technologies for well over a decade before I joined Microsoft as an employee, and I plan on using this blog to share my personal experience and opinions. They may well be shaped by my experience on the SQL Server team, but they’re still mine, and not that of Microsoft, disclaimer, disclaimer, etc., etc..

Welcome aboard!

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So You Want to Work at Microsoft?

I love SQL Server. [1]

I love working for Microsoft. [2]

For me, these two loves are two things that go well together.

I also love competition.

If you love SQL Server as much as I do (and if you don’t mind competition) you could have the opportunity to see if you love working for Microsoft as well, and have a fun experience while making it happen, by participating in the “Be the Next Microsoft Employee” show. I won’t go into the details – you can click on the link for that – but these are the highlights that leap out at me as being particularly cool:

  • The show is focused on real-world SQL Server professionals
  • Finalists get to attend TechEd North America in Orlando (to get introduced to the public audience as a finalist) and to Microsoft campus in Redmond (for job interviews) with Microsoft picking up the tab
  • The winner has a shot[3] at a Service Engineer position with Microsoft’s internal IT organization, MSIT[4]
  • There are many foodie tie-ins to the show: Not only does the theme remind me of one of my family’s favorite TV shows – The Next Iron Chef[5] – but finalists will get to eat at Elemental while they’re in town for their interviews[6]

Are you interested yet?

If so, follow the instructions to enter, and post a comment to let me know.


[1] This should surprise no one.

[2] Hopefully this won’t surprise too many people either.

[3] Since this is a real job for the real Microsoft, there’s no guarantee that anyone will get a job offer, just like with any interview.

[4] MSIT is one of biggest IT organizations in the world, and they work on some of the coolest projects I’ve seen. They’re often early adopters of Microsoft products and technologies, participating in TAP/”dogfood” programs and regularly deploy pre-release versions of products like SQL Server into production environments. Speaking of a member of the SQL Server team this is super valuable, because it provides us with real-world feedback that makes the RTM versions of the product better. Speaking as an ex-BI consultant this is super exciting, because how many clients or projects let you stay at the cutting edge of technology and make a real difference in the products you use and love.

[5] Not unlike the Iron Architect competition from way back in 2007, for those who remember back that far.

[6] They should feel free to invite me along, especially if the show organizers are paying for dinner 😉

Posted in 2012, Certification, Performance, SQL Server, SSIS, Training, Work | 2 Comments

Bring the Special Ops Tour to YOUR City

Calling all SQL professionals!

Oh yeah, we used that in the last video, didn’t we…

We’re just getting started.

Yes we did, and SQL Server fans from across the country have visited www.specialopstour.com and voted for the cities where they want the tour to visit. As of today the most voted cities are:

  1. San Diego, CA
  2. Boston, MA
  3. Denver, CO
  4. Minneapolis, MN
  5. Chicago, IL
  6. Atlanta, GA
  7. Dallas, TX
  8. Cleveland, OH
  9. New York, NY
  10. Detroit, MI
  11. Phoenix, AZ
  12. Los Angeles, CA

There are only a few more days remaining before the survey closes, so if you want to get your city on the list[1] the time to strike is now. Be sure to cast your vote before the next mission begins…

[1] Or, conversely, to keep your city from being bumped off the list.

Posted in 2012, Special Ops, SQL Server, SSIS | Leave a comment

5 Tips for a Smooth SSIS Upgrade to SQL Server 2012

The SSIS team has just released a white paper on upgrading to SSIS in SQL Server 2012:

Summary: Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Integration Services (SSIS) provides significant improvements in both the developer and administration experience. This article provides tips that can help to make the upgrade to Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Integration Services successful. The tips address editing package configurations and specifically connection strings, converting configurations to parameters, converting packages to the project deployment model, updating Execute Package tasks to use project references and parameterizing the PackageName property.

If you’ve been using SSIS in versions prior to 2012[1] please take a moment to check it out. The evenings you save may be your own…

Direct link: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh667275(d=lightweight).aspx

[1] And if you read this blog, odds are this is a safe bet.

Posted in 2012, BI, SQL Server, SSIS, Upgrade | Leave a comment

Setting up a SQL Server 2012 RC0 VM

I ran across this excellent article last week, but forgot to share it before I went offline for the Thanksgiving holiday. Fortunately it was waiting for me in a browser tab this morning to remind me.

How to Build a SQL Server 2012 RC0 Hyper-V Virtual Machine

Setting up a new development[1] environment for a new product is often complex. When the new product is something as diverse as SQL Server 2012, and when you want to explore integration with other products like Visual Studio, SharePoint and Exchange, the setup process can be positively daunting.

In this wiki page, Richard Davis presents a step-by-step approach for building a SQL Server 2012 RC0 VM. I haven’t gone through the whole thing myself, but when I need to build out a comprehensive demo machine, this is where I’ll start.


[1] Or demo, or play, or whatever.

Posted in 2012, Denali, SQL Server | 2 Comments


If you’ve been following the pre-release versions SQL Server 2012 (previously code-named “Denali”) you’ve probably been using the Community Technology Preview (CTP3) that Microsoft released back in July. You probably have already seen the Release Candidate (RC0) that was made available last week.

But what you may not know is how SSIS is changed between CTP3 and RC0. RC0 is a big leap forward for SSIS, and includes some significant new functionality, such as:

  • Script Component debugging
  • Attunity Change Data Capture components
  • Change Data Capture for Oracle
  • ODBC Source and Destination components
  • Externalize parameter values in Visual Studio configurations
  • New REPLACENULL expression function
  • UI for Pivot and Row Count transforms
  • Tons of minor fixes and improvements based on CTP feedback

SSIS developer Matt Masson has a more in-depth look at these changes on the SSIS team blog[1], but I wanted to call them out here as well.

The final bullet[2] is also worth stressing. You may not notice these improvements directly, but the SSIS team have made a significant “fit and polish” for RC0, improving functionality that was delivered in (and before) CTP3. If you’ve been using SSIS in CTP3, be sure to download RC0 today and give it a try.


[1] And to give credit where credit is due, the “what’s new” list in this post was blatantly copied from an email from Matt as well.

[2] Which I added to Matt’s list.

Posted in 2012, Denali, SQL Server, SSIS | Leave a comment