A personal ‘thank you’ to everyone who attended my session at SQL Saturday Jax yesterday; your excitement about starting (or continuing) your technical journey was inspiring.  A special ‘thanks’ to those who personally took the time to tell me that they were encouraged,  that they could create their own technical path to ‘fully employed’ as a result of the session.  I am truly humbled by your gracious comments.


The slide deck for the presentation is now loaded to the SQL Saturday website: scroll down the page, find my session, and you’ll see the download option.  In addition, I’ve  included the slide deck with this blog post as well. Three Foundational Bricks PDF format

Many of you took the time to complete the session survey, thank you for your positive feedback!  There was one comment that caught my eye, and I want to address it briefly now, and hope to go into more detail with another blog post.  The survey comment asked the question ‘how to become fully employed but no work experience’.

The focus of yesterday’s talk was to provide you resources to get you started in the learning process, but the ‘experience’ question is a good one.  Until I can address this in detail with a future blog post, I’ll leave you with two ideas.  After you’ve learned your skills, volunteer your technical skills at a non-profit organization.


Small non-profits usually cannot afford much IT support, so you volunteering your services would provide them with the technical services they need, and provide you with the ‘real-world’ experience you need for your training (and your resume).

Create a Portfolio

Should any of your training incorporate Power BI, you can show your reports and dashboards live on your Power BI site (which is free for a personal account).  Also, create some SSRS reports and capture them with screenshots; you can then embed the screenshots as part of your growing portfolio.

Let me know if delving further into this is of interest to you, and we can explore this in greater detail.  I would love to hear from you, so feel to leave comments/questions on what you’re interested in hearing about.  I’d like to explore Power BI Desktop and T-SQL basics you need to know in the coming weeks.

Before I close for today, you might want to sign up for IT Pro Camp on June 11th at Keiser University,  click here for more information.  20160507_085222_resized

So thank you for taking this technical journey with me as we continue becoming ‘technical’ together.  And consider signing up for new blog notices by subscribing at the Subscribe@ section to the left.   Until next time!

Susan Schneider lives in Jacksonville, Florida with her wonderful husband Steve. She enjoys sailing and is a ‘wanna be fisherman’, and loves all things BI.  See more information under the ‘About Me’ section.  Remember to sign up for new blog notifications:  Go to Subscribe2 on the sidebar and sign up!

Several of you have been asking why there has not been a blog post of late. Well, I took a full-time job last year as a BI Analyst, so my time has been limited; however, there are so many exciting things happening in the ‘tech universe’, I could wait no longer.  Needless to say, it’s great to be back!

Microsoft is ready to unveil SQL Server 2016, and the changes to SSRS are set to be major. In fact, if you are in the Jacksonville area on April 20th, Brad Gall is speaking at JSSUG on ‘What’s New in Reporting Service 2016’; for more info, click the link at the end of this blog.  And Power BI……the Power BI team has put out new features on a monthly basis.  In fact, the landscape of Power BI has changed so dramatically over the past 7 months, you would be amazed.

My last blog left off with the promise of exploring Lynda.com Part 3 on Power BI; but things have changed so drastically with Power BI, the Lynda.com courses we were set to explore are obsolete for the most part. There have been 13 monthly updates in Power BI Desktop alone; check out the link at the bottom.

So you see, unless you’re following Microsoft directly or watching the newest Pragmatic Works free ‘Training on the T’s’; it’s a race to keep up with the technology. How fun is that!  Well that leads me to more good news; SQL Saturday Jacksonville is happening next month, May 7th, on the campus of University of North Florida.  I have included a link with information; it is a free, full day of technical training.  You will definitely want to sign up and spend the day with us.

There will be 9 different tracks, with over 40 sessions; and there will be 3 Pre-Conference sessions on Friday, May 6th.  The Pre-Con sessions will cost you a little money, but it is well worth the price!    The  3 Pre-Cons are:

-A Day of DBA Fundamentals: Install, Maintenance Plans and Security

– A Day of Azure

-Introduction to Data Science

If you can’t make a Pre-Con session on Friday, definitely sign up for SQL Saturday, it is totally free. Should you be able to attend SQL Saturday, I hope you will consider attending my session at 10:15 entitled: ‘From Non-Technical to Fully Employed Technical:  The Road Less Traveled’.

It’s hard to believe that since beginning my technical journey 6 years ago, I now have the privilege to speak at the same SQL Saturday that started me on my journey to technical. I hope you’ll consider joining me on May 7th as we continue becoming ‘technical’ together.  Until next time!

Jacksonville SQL Server User Group (JSSUG)

SQL Saturday Jacksonville

Power BI Updates

Susan Schneider lives in Jacksonville, Florida with her wonderful husband Steve. She enjoys sailing and is a ‘wanna be fisherman’, and loves all things BI.  See more information under the ‘About Me’ section.  Remember to sign up for new blog notifications:  Go to Subscribe2 on the sidebar and sign up!

Female Brick Layer

Sometimes it’s hard to envision the finished product of your labors when you’re in the middle of the construction mess.  And it’s hard not to become frustrated when you can’t instantly learn all the great technical stuff out there.  Well, you’re heard that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your technical studies.  Building a solid technical foundation takes time and a ‘no quit’ attitude.  If there was another way to do it, I would have found it by now!  So let’s continue our journey as we explore Excel, an essential part of a solid foundation.

Excel 2013 Focus with Lynda.Com

I hope you have completed some of the courses we discussed in Lynda.Com In-depth: Part 1; if you have not read the post, click here.  For those of you who have completed the courses suggested in Part 1, you’re now ready for focused courses on Excel 2013.  But why Excel, when we’ve been studying SQL Server?  Because Excel is the preferred ‘go to’ for business analysis by the vast majority of companies.  Managers and owners still like the ‘slice and dice’ of Excel, so you must know Excel as well.  It will also set a solid foundation when you move into Power Pivot!

Building a Solid Foundation

Lynda.Com has a plethora of Excel courses, so we need to limit the scope.  Today’s post focuses on five courses; they teach essential and advanced concepts, so let’s take them in the best order for learning.  The great place to build a strong foundation is at the bottom, so Excel 2013 Essential Training is where you should begin.  Even if you have a good understanding of Excel, this course will serve as a refresher while introducing you to additional features found in the 2013 edition.

Excel 2013 Essential Training is 6 ½ hours long; most of the ‘Essential’ course topics taught on Lynda.Com are lengthy but worth the time.  After completing the Excel 2013 Essentials you will be able to enter and organize data and build workbooks.  You will be introduced to basic functions, formatting, creating simple formulas, sorting data and more; in addition to an introduction to pivot tables.  Now keep in mind, a pivot table is not the same as a Power Pivot table; the business intelligence aspect of Excel 2013 will be discussed in the third part of Lynda.Com.

Next Level Up

Once you’re waded your way through the Essentials course, you can move on to Excel 2013: Tips and Tricks course.  This course is 4 ½ hours and shows you how to increase your productivity with ‘power user’ tips; teaching you how to create formulas quickly, split data into columns, apply formatting, build charts, and create split screens quickly.  There is also a chapter on ‘Top Ten Shortcuts’ and ‘Ten Tiny Tips’, if you don’t have time for the full course.  But before you move on, watch the section on Database Techniques with ‘Flash Fill’ feature.  Now you can move on to Excel 2013: Power Shortcuts. 

Excel 2013 Power Shortcuts is a mere 3 hour long course showing you over 65 tips, tricks, and shortcuts.  Some of the material mirrors the previous course, so compare and contrast to see which one you’d like to watch.  The Power Shortcuts topics cover creating hyperlinks, setting print areas, removing duplicates, analyzing a formula for errors, and summarizing data with charts and tables.

Higher Level

The last two courses deal with more complex subjects: Data Validation and Time/Data; both are considered Intermediate level courses.   Excel 2013: Data Validation in Depth, only one hour in length, shows how to control data input into workbooks by controlling dates, length of text, types of data allowed in a workbook, using an error alert tab, and more.  The focus of this course is to ensure your data is accurate and valid.

Our last course for review is Excel 2013: Working with Data and Time.  This one hour course explains how Excel stores and uses dates and times and how Excel stores dates and time.  You’ll learn useful date/time functions to customize your dates, format dates over a 24 hour period, and calculate differences across dates and times.  A solid understanding of dates and times will greatly enhance your skills when you work inside a Power Pivot model as well.

A Few Final Thoughts

Next time, we’ll conclude the Lynda.Com In-depth with a look at the Power BI courses for Excel, with emphasis on Power Pivot, tables, and charts.  This is where the fun really begins!  You will not want to miss it.

I’m reminded of a saying my sailing captain would often say:  “When you get to the dock, you’ve already arrived at your destination.”  Captain Kevin wanted to convey that the trip was not about getting to a location, but enjoying the journey along the way.  So thank you for taking this technical journey with me as we continue becoming ‘technical’ together.  Until next time!

Susan Schneider lives in Jacksonville, Florida with her wonderful husband Steve. She enjoys sailing and is a ‘wanna be fisherman’, and loves all things BI.  See more information under the ‘About Me’ section.  Remember to sign up for new blog notifications:  Go to Subscribe2 on the sidebar and sign up!

Before I sat down to write this post, I reviewed the Lynda.Com website to refresh my memory of courses taken and courses I want to take.  Forty minutes passed before I looked up from my screen; so many great courses, so little time!  Today we’ll break down the plethora of Lynda.Com training options over several blog posts: Part 1-SQL Server and T-SQL, Part 2-Excel 2013, and Part 3-Microsoft Business Intelligence/Excel 2013 Power BI.  Other Lynda.Com courses on ‘building your brand’: Branding Basics, LinkedIn, and WordPress for Blogging will be examined later in the overall series. For my previous post on Lynda.Com basics and free trial information, click here to read. So, if you’re ready, join me in exploring Lynda.Com courses on SQL Server.

SQL Server

SQL Server is the backbone of the Microsoft BI stack: SSIS (SQL Server Integration Services), SSAS (SQL Server Analysis Services [Multi-dimensional and Tabular flavors]), and SSRS (SQL Server Reporting Services); with everything ‘talking’ to each other via T-SQL (Transact SQL) language and DAX (Data Analysis Expression) language for Tabular and PowerPivot in Excel 2013. To help you build a solid foundation, I‘ve listed several Lynda.Com courses with their time length and subject matter. You don’t have to follow my order, but it will probably help you from getting lost and ‘falling down a rabbit hole’.

At the time of this writing, it’s hard to find the SQL Server 2012 Developer Edition for $59, but you can still purchase the SQL Server 2014 Developer version for around the same price. So purchase SQL 2014 Developer Edition if you don’t already have a SQL Server instance, so you can follow along with the Lynda.Com SQL Server 2012 course without any problems.

Installing SQL Server

The first course to watch is Installing SQL Server 2012; it’s a three hour long course. Not that you’ll be able to get through it in three hours, as you will want to stop and rewind the video, take a few notes, and actually practice the examples on your own SQL Server Developer Edition. So it will be helpful to have an extra monitor for these classes; one to view the video and another screen to work with your SQL Server application. If you have not purchased your SQL Server Developer Edition for 2012 or 2014, this would be a great way to watch the video and install your software at the same time!

Installing SQL Server 2012 teaches you how to install and maintain your SQL Server application, either from the GUI (Graphical User Interface-it’s like an installation wizard) or from command prompts. This course also shows you how to configure and enable the different components of SQL Server, and how to connect to databases.

The Language that Makes SQL Server Run

The second course I suggest is Introduction to Transact-SQL; it’s over fours long but you’ll need every minute of it.  This course is a good introduction to T-SQL, but the best way to learn T-SQL is from Itzik Ben-Gan books; Ben-Gan is a T-SQL guru to me.  In an upcoming blog I will talk about my favorite training books and authors, but if you can’t wait until then, I recommend Ben-Gan’s book ”Microsoft SQL Server 2012 T-SQL Fundamentals”.

With the Lynda.Com course on Transact SQL, you will learn how to use the SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS), basic command statements like SELECT, inner and outer joins, and more.  Another Lynda.Com course, Querying Microsoft SQL Server 2012, will build on the previous T-SQL course.

Querying Microsoft SQL Server 2012 is over five hours, and includes a history of SQL and the relational data model theory. From here you’ll build your skills to include working with special data types like characters, integers, time and date. You’ll be exposed to advanced topics like subqueries, common table expressions, and query performance.

If you have the SQL Server 2014 Developer Edition, this next course SQL Essential Training (3 ½ hours) has been updated for SQL Server 2014. The course provides a good understanding of SQL terminology, writing basic queries, sorting and filtering, along with updating a table with triggers. Creating views is also included in this course.  These courses will give you a good overlay of T-SQL, but I still recommend you buy the Ben-Gan book; yes, the book is just that good!

So What’s Next?

If you have completed the above courses, you now have a basic understanding of the SQL Server application and know the basic T-SQL commands, but these two don’t paint the full picture; you need to understand the concepts of a relational database, so I recommend another Lynda.Com course, Relational Database Fundamentals. To be a good developer or report writer, you must know about relational databases and, well, ‘relationships’!  SQL Server Reporting Services in Depth is an advanced course on Lynda.Com, but it’s a good way to show how to build static reports from a relational database.

Final Thoughts

I’ve provided you several excellent training courses through Lynda.Com, but they might seem overwhelming. Where do you find the time? I remind you of the old saying, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time”. This is a good time to remember this saying.  You will not become technical overnight, but you WILL become technical; you just need to remain steady in your studies.
We’ll continue exploring other great courses on Lynda.Com for the next few posts, so stay tuned.  Until then!

Susan Schneider lives in Jacksonville, Florida with her wonderful husband Steve. She enjoys sailing and is a ‘wanna be fisherman’, and loves all things BI. See more information under the ‘About Me’ section. Remember to sign up for new blog notifications: Go to Subscribe2 on the sidebar and sign up!

Deep Dive: Pragmatic Works Training

I’ve blogged about the great training at Pragmatic Works before, but today, we deep-dive into the various training available through Pragmatic Works; let the lovefest begin with Training on the T’s!

Before my journey on the technical side, I was a teacher; so it’s quite easy for me to recognize great teaching versus good teaching. So, if you have a limited number of hours to dedicate to training, but you want to get the best possible learning experience; then you need to watch Devin Knight’s training sessions. It doesn’t matter what Devin is teaching on, the subject is going to be excellent! Devin is a wonderful communicator and teacher, and he presents the subject matter in a logical progression; making it easy to learn.

Another favorite presenter is Brian Knight.   I remember sitting in a seminar at a SQL Saturday, many years ago, listening to Brian talk about Data Mining.  Brian’s knowledge of the subject, along with his boundless enthusiasm, made you want to learn Data Mining. He says data is sexy, and he’s correct!

I’ll also introduce you to a few more of my favorite webinar presenters: Kathi Kellenberger, Bradly Schacht, Mike Davis, and Angel Abundez. There are other great presentors like Adam Jorgensen, Shawn Harrison, and Jason Strate; but there’s not enough time in the blog post to cover everything!

Building a Strong Foundation

For the next few minutes, I want to list specific Training on the T’s webinar titles and presenters that will help you build a strong foundation in your technical knowledge. I’ve selected the following order of webinars to save you time and help you lay a solid foundation for your learning. So let’s get started!

First off, watch Devin Knight’s webinars, with my comments listed for a few of them:
-Understanding Microsoft Self-Service Business Intelligence
-Introduction to Power BI (**great overview of Power BI Excel 2013)
-Introduction to Power Pivot (**the cornerstone to the Power BI tool suite in Excel 2013)
-Introduction to Common DAX Expressions (**the language that make Power Pivot rock)
-Creating Real World Power Pivot Models (**you’re only as good a your database)
-Introduction to Power Query (**talk about an easy way to ETL: ‘extract, transform, and load’)
-Creating an End to End Power View Reporting Solution (**deliver the ‘wow’ in report presentation)
-Touring your Data with Power Map
-Choosing a Microsoft Reporting Technology

Now, there are many more topics that Devin has available, but I’m giving you a logical course of training to give you the building blocks you need for a solid foundation in the MS BI Stack. After you view these webinars, let’s move on to a few webinars from Brian Knight.

One of the best ‘soup to nuts’ overview on planning a Data Warehouse was recently presented by Brian (with PowerPoint by Devin). The webinar presents a clear cut look at the planning stages of a DW. With that said, it’s also beneficial for beginners as well, as you learn the terminology and concepts; you’ll not want to miss this one.

Brian Knight:
-Tips and Tricks for Planning a Data Warehouse (**great presentation ‘soup to nuts’ overview)
-Quick Start to Power Pivot
-How to use Power Query as your Self-Service BI ETL tool

Topics for a Future Day

When you have some more training under your belt, you’ll want to move on to webinars by Mike Davis, Kathi Kellenberger, Bradley Schacht, and Angel Abundez. When you feel comfortable with T-SQL, learn about Window Functions; Kathi gives two excellent webinars on this subject. Mike Davis gives the best presentation on how to prepare for a technical interview. His presentation on the subject at the 2014 SQL Saturday was excellent, but his webinar ‘Mastering the Technology Interview’ is even better! These folks are just a few of my favorites, but all the PW webinars are excellent. When you get a chance, check out some webinars by Adam Jorgensen, Shawn Harrison, and Jason Strate as well.

Kathi Kellenberger: T-SQL Window Functions
-T-SQL Window Function Performance
-Write Better Queries with Window Functions

Mike Davis
-Mastering the Technology Interview
-Complex DAX Expressions Power Pivot

Bradley Schacht
-Introduction to ETL Using SSIs
-SSIS ETL for Beginners
-Back to Basics: SSIS 2012 for Beginners

Angel Abundez
-Power BI Tips for Data Analyst
-Chart Anatomy 101

Virtual Training

Sometimes you just need to spend some money on training. So when you’re ready to make that move, PW offers Virtual Training courses in six areas: Analysis, Big Data, Business Analytics, Data Integration, Data Visualization, and Database Administration. The cost is $995.00 for 4 days (3 hours each day) of in-depth virtual training; the class is limited to around 24 participants. You’ll usually have labs to complete after each day’s training. For more information click on the Data Sheet (a one page outline of each day’s topics), Details (specifics for each day’s training), and Date/Time(when the class will be offered during the year). I’ve taken the SSRS course and I’m scheduled to take the Tabular and Power Pivot for Developers in October. I can hardly wait!

Workshops and Bootcamps

PW offers workshops around the country; they are in-person two day training courses on a variety of SQL Server topics. Then you have Bootcamp, a week-long intensive learning on either Business Intelligence or Performance Tuning.

Closing Thoughts

Pragmatic Works has lots of good stuff under their Resource section; things like Articles and Whitepapers, Cheat Sheets, and more. If you are limited on time, but want consistent, excellent training; spend your time on the Pragmatic Works website. Well, we’ve definitely had a Pragmatic Works lovefest today. Next time we’ll take a deep dive into Lynda.Com and the great technical training available there. Until then!

Susan Schneider lives in Jacksonville, Florida with her wonderful husband Steve. She enjoys sailing and is a ‘wanna be fisherman’, and loves all things BI. See more information under the ‘About Me’ section. Remember to sign up for new blog notifications: Go to Subscribe2 on the sidebar and sign up!

Welcome back to part 2 of ‘Free and Low Cost Computer Training’.  I decided to break up the blog because I wanted you to have time to explore the different sites at your leisure and to not overwhelm you with too much new information.  Also, by the time we dive deeper into each of these sites, you will have had ample time to become familiar with them; so you’ll get more out of the blog posts.  So let’s check out part 2 as we look at SQL Server Central Stairway’s tutorials and Lynda.com.  If you missed Part 1 of ‘Free Training Options’, click here to read it.

SQL Server Central Stairway

SQL Server Stairway is another free training site, offering series of tutorials with detailed training on different topics. The mission statement of the Stairways series is so well written, I’ve included part of it to give you a flavor for the site; notice the emphasis to take you from “zero knowledge of a particular SQL Server topic, to a level of practical understanding… (the) learning gradient is steady and manageable, but also brisk. You won’t be wasting your time.” That’s what I’m talking about!   Read the entire statement and see the different ‘Stairways’ of studies.

Here are a few of the ‘stairways’ available for immediate consumption: Stairway to Data, Integration Services, MDX, Database Design, PowerPivot and Dax, SQL Dialects, Powershell, SQL Server Agent, Reporting Services, T-SQL: Beyond the Basics and more. You’ll need to create a free account for this site as well.  So what’s stopping you; ‘start climbing’!

Lynda.com Website

Lynda.com is the only site I’ve listed that charges on a monthly basis, but it’s worth every penny of it. Membership is $25 per month for 24/7 access to hundreds and hundreds of topics. Lynda.com covers so much more than just ‘technical stuff’; it has courses in Business, 3D, CAD, Design, Developer, Photography, Video, and Web; along with project management, WordPress, etc. This list is extensive, so I won’t try to list everything; check out the site for an overview ; click here for Lynda.com.

Free 7 Day Membership with Lynda.com

When you click on this link, you will be able to try Lynda.com free for 7 days, with unlimited access to over 2,700 courses.

If you like, sign up for the free 7 day trial subscription to get a flavor for what’s available. I’ll do a ‘deep dive’ on Lynda.com in upcoming blogs as well; so you can check the site out now or wait until we talk about it in depth. Regardless, you now have lots of training options!

Personal Suggestions

I would recommend you start with watching the past webinars on Pragmatic Works as a first start. These webinars are only an hour in length and many of them are targeted for the beginner. Personally, I would wait on taking a MVA course until you’re further down the road; these 6-8 hour videos can overwhelm a beginner if you’re not careful. The same might be said of SQL Server Stairways, but you can view some of them and make your own call. Regarding Lynda.com, review the site and sign up for the free membership when you have the time; you’ll want to make the most of those 7 days!

Depending on what courses you decide to take first, you might need to spend a little money on software. In the next blog, we’ll talk about what software you’ll need for what studies and where to find them for the best price. If we have time, we’ll discuss the Office 365 options available and the new prices Microsoft will offer starting       October 1, 2014. Until then!

Susan Schneider lives in Jacksonville, Florida with her wonderful husband Steve. She enjoys sailing and is a ‘wanna be fisherman’, and loves all things BI.  See more information under the ‘About Me’ section.  Remember to sign up for new blog notifications:  Go to  Subscribe2 on the sidebar and sign up!

You might not want to spend a lot of money on technical training right now; but there will come a time when you need to invest some money, like  a course with Pragmatic Works.  But for right now, you are in the exploration stage of your technical journey; so you need some free but good training. This post will give you an overview of three free sites and one low cost, but well worth the money, site. In subsequent posts, I will ‘deep dive’ into each of these sites; and I will highlight courses I have taken, point out insights/pros/cons of each site, and show you courses you might want to take next. So join me for this two part blog as we look at Pragmatic Works’ Training on the T’s, Microsoft Virtual Academy, SQL Server Central Stairway Series, and Lynda.com.

Pragmatic Works

I can never say enough good things about Pragmatic Works; the company and the people are fabulous. Pragmatic Works is a local consulting and training company that started small and now has served over 7,500 national and international clients. Regardless of their phenomenal growth, this group of guys and gals are always humble and fun to be around. When you check out their website, take time to view their ‘Company Culture’.  Their five company business tenets are Be Humble, Deliver Wow, Achieve Mastery, Value Community and Mentorship, Every Second Counts, and Be Fun, Creative, and a Little Weird. Hey, that’s what we want to be! Click here to read the full statement.

This blog is not meant to be a love fest about Pragmatic Works, but my technical journey was due in great part to their purposed effort to give back to the community and to mentor new folks in the tech field, with things like JSSUG and SQL Saturdays. Pragmatic Works started the Jacksonville SQL Server Users Group (JSSUG) many years ago and continues to be instrumental and participatory in both JSSUG and the SQL Saturdays each year. Without Pragmatic Works’ involvement in the community, I probably would not have begun my technical journey or this blog; but enough about that, let’s look at their weekly live, free webinars called Training on the T’s.

Every Tuesday and Thursday  at 11:00 AM, Pragmatic Works provides a live webinar on different technical and professional topics.  View all their training options here.  Under the ‘free’ training tab, you will see  topic areas like  SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS), SharePoint, Business Intelligence, Big Data, DAX, Azure; the list goes on.  Every webinar is presented by experts in their field; many of them being Microsoft’s Most Valued Professional (MVP).

Click on the link for the Training Center; from here you’ll see a tab for ‘Future Webinars’ and ‘Past Webinars’. The ‘Future’ tab shows a list of upcoming training for the next few month, but pay attention as sometimes they have a week’s worth of daily webinars on a specific subject; more about that in future blogs.

On the ‘Past Webinar’ tab you are able to view previously recorded training sessions. Sometimes your schedule doesn’t allow you time to view a webinar live, but you have access to all the past webinars 24/7. Clicking on the past webinars, you will see the most recently recorded topics, or you can do a search for a specific topic area. There are currently 418 entries in the ‘Past Webinar’ section; that’s 418 HOURS of excellent, free training on a broad range of technical topics. We’ll spend much more time in an upcoming blog about specific webinars (and topic areas) worth watching on the site. But don’t wait until then, check out the upcoming webinars now. All you need to do is complete an online registration to register for future  webinars or click to watch previously recorded ones.

Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA)

Microsoft provides free online IT training courses broken down by either topic or products, as shown by the screen shot.

Microsoft Virtual Academy

In addition to previously recorded trainings on the site, MVA has upcoming trainings you can view ‘live’; and they are free as well. To get started with MVA, you need to sign up for a free account. You can create your own ‘My Learning Plan’, and I recommend you do this.  The Learning Plan will put all your courses in one place, making them easy to locate and view .  Also, when you complete a MVA course, you earn ‘learning points’. You don’t win any prizes, but it shows a potential boss that you’re serious about training and staying on the cutting edge of technology. We’ll go into more detail about MVA in a later blog, but for now, I’d like you to check out the link to an article written by Michael Otey of Windows IT Pro. At this link, Michael answers the top ten questions about MVA.

I decided to break this blog post into two parts because I want you to 1)  have time to explore these two sites at your leisure and to 2) not overwhelm you with too much new information.  Also, by the time we dive deeper into each of these sites, you will have had ample time to become familiar with their training topics and formats.  Lastly, by giving you more time to explore these new sites, you will get more out of the upcoming ‘deep dive’ training posts on Pragmatic Works and MVA.  See you next time for Part 2 of ‘Free Training Sites’.  Until then!

Susan Schneider lives in Jacksonville, Florida with her wonderful husband Steve. She enjoys sailing and is a ‘wanna be fisherman’, and loves all things BI.  See more information under the ‘About Me’ section.  Remember to sign up for new blog notifications:  Go to  Subscribe2 on the sidebar and sign up!




“It’s Like Drinking Water from a Fire Hose”

I have heard this saying for many years, but could not understand the significance (or truth) of the statement until I began my technical studies. There is so much ‘stuff’ that you can learn in the technical field; and when you finally choose an area to study, then there is more ‘stuff’ to choose and learn in that area. And on top of that, there is ALWAYS new information, new breakthroughs, new technology, new terminology, new updates on old ‘stuff’; and you, as a ‘techie’ want to know it ALL! The truth is there is so much exciting technology out there, but you can’t learn it all. You must decide a general interest area and go from there; so we’re going to take a 10,000 foot view of the technical landscape. Yet, even from this view, we’ll not have time to talk about other learning areas like Azure, Big Data, Database Administration or Sharepoint 2013 BI; but we’ll cover as much as we can.

Hopefully, after this 10,000 foot view, you will see where your technical interests might lie. Personally, as I was interested in Business Intelligence, the Database Fundamentals was the path I chose when I decided to take my first Microsoft exam. We won’t talk about actual exams at this point, but the information contained in the exam ‘areas’ will assist you as you make a decision on your study path.

Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) Tracks

Microsoft has entry level training and certification exams in three fundamental areas: IT Infrastructure, Database, and Software Development. Within each of these areas are different knowledge exams that help you learn core knowledge. I won’t go into detail for each of the specifics, but I’ve included a link for you later in the blog so you can research these areas at your leisure. So before we get ahead of ourselves, what exactly is IT Infrastructure anyway?

Techopedia.com explains IT Infrastructure as follows:
“IT infrastructure refers to the composite hardware, software, network resources and services required for the existence, operation and management of an enterprise IT environment. It allows an organization to deliver IT solutions and services to its employees, partners and/or customers and is usually internal to an organization and deployed within owned facilities.

Typically, a standard IT infrastructure consists of the following components:
• Hardware: Servers, computers, data centers, switches, hubs and routers, etc.
• Software: Enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), productivity applications and more.
• Network: Network enablement, Internet connectivity, firewall, and security.
• Human users, such as network administrators (NA), developers, designers and generic end users with access to any IT appliance or service are also part of an IT infrastructure, specifically with the advent of user-centric IT service development.
• All components that play a role in overall IT and IT-enabled operations. It can be used for internal business operations or developing customer IT or business solutions. “

Three Major Subject Areas

IT Infrastructure : For folks wanting to build a career in desktop or server infrastructure, or a private cloud computing.
349: Windows Operating System
365: Windows Server Administration
366: Networking
367: Security

Database: For folks wanting to build a career in data platform administration or Business Intelligence
364: Database

Developer: For folks wanting to build a career as a software developer.
361: Software Development
362: Windows Development
363: Web Development
372: .NET Fundamentals
373: Mobile Development
374: Gaming Development
375: HTML5 App Development
379: Software Testing

My Particular Path

As you can see, there are lots of options for you to explore, so I encourage you to check out the links and do your own research. As my interest is Business Intelligence, I chose Database Fundamentals. We’ll talk about certification much later in the blog series. For right now, I want you to take time to research the three major areas: IT Infrastructure, Database, and Developer. Once you decide on one, then drill down and examine the learning areas. Find out if you’re interested in software testing or security, business intelligence or Windows Server administrator. Remember ‘drinking water from a fire hose’? Once you know your areas of interests, it should ‘turn down the water pressure’ a little bit.

Where Do I Begin My Studies?

You’ve got some research to do. You’re learning your way around; so have fun on this journey.

1. Start with a general overview of the different facets of Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) with this link to Microsoft. You’ll see three tabs: IT Infrastructure, Database, and Developer.

MTA Certification Tracks

2. When you click on a tab, a dropdown box will show you what exam(s) are included in this area.


3. Click the box entitled ‘Exam’, then scroll down to ‘Skills Measured’; this section provides you details of information you will need to master in this subject area. Expand each area and find out what you are expected to know in order to master a certain area of study.  Then begin work on one area; start small but start somewhere!  Build on your new knowledge, one topic at a time.


Terminology, Terminology, Terminology Again!

Remember when I told you the importance of using the correct technology in a tech savvy environment? Be sure to visit  Technopedia.   At this site you’ll learn the newest terms and definitions, top tags and buzzwords, and much more. In fact, I’ll probably hang out here a while myself! So start clicking!

Join me next time as we explore three major FREE learning sites and one ‘really low cost’ but excellent training site.   Until then!

Susan Schneider lives in Jacksonville, Florida with her wonderful husband Steve. She enjoys sailing and is a ‘wanna be fisherman’, and loves all things BI.  See more information under the ‘About Me’ section.  Remember to sign up for new blog notifications:  Go to  Subscribe2 on the sidebar and sign up!


You Are Not Alone in Your Desire to Change Careers

A recent article in USA Today (link below) discussed the fact that many people in their 40s and 50s were planning major career moves. The article noted that only 41% were working in their dream job; what about the other 60% of us? It surveyed folks over 40 to get their views on what ranked the most important for their ‘dream job’, the biggest obstacles to obtaining that dream job, and changes they wanted to make within the next five years.

Among the most important considerations for a ‘dream job’ were: Higher Pay (23%), Better Work/Life Balance (22%), Lower Stress (15%), Flexible Work Schedule (12%), Desire to Give Back to the Community (10%), Fun Environment (9%), and an Opportunity to Learn or Advance (8%). Of those surveyed, 27% viewed financial obligations as the biggest obstacle to having their dream job, followed by lack of opportunity where they live (19%), lack of adequate training (15%), difficulty in starting a business (14%), lack of time to look for a better job (5%), and not knowing where to start on the job search (3%). I am sure that most, if not all of us, fall into one of these categories. It’s very interesting to note that 46% of those surveyed wanted to make a change in their professional life within the next five years. I told you, ‘You are not alone!” on the career changing journey. Along my personal ‘career changing journey’, I encountered similar obstacles, and I’ll focus on the top four in this blog.

Lack of Self-Confidence….Seriously?

The four largest obstacles I encountered in my ‘technical transition’ were: lack of self-confidence, money, time, and motivation. I can show you sites and provide you information for free or low cost training, but I can’t improve your self-esteem. Knowing this is a huge problem for many of us, I want to address this obstacle first. Think about it, the biggest obstacle to becoming technically proficient might be YOU; at least this was the case for me.

When I left the job market to raise our children, the task of re-entering the job arena loomed large. My thoughts plagued me. What do I have to ‘bring to the table’ in a job setting? Do I have any marketable skills for the current job environment? Can I really ‘self-learn’ and change careers at my age? Can I ‘catch up’? It was a process for me to gain the self-confidence I needed for the journey; step by step. Trust me, it didn’t come overnight! However, with each new skill I learned, each new terminology grasped, each technical book I finished; the pieces (and self-confidence) started falling into place. I want you to address the self-confidence obstacle head on; embrace the self-confidence battle and don’t defeat yourself.

Money, Money, Money

So you might be thinking, “If I had lots of money, I wouldn’t be looking for a job!” How much is this technical training going to cost me? You can spend a lot of cash and take courses at a local college specializing in computer studies, but I’m all about getting the ‘biggest bang for my computer training buck’. Stick with me and I’ll show you how to get lots of free (and low cost training) that will reap huge dividends. Sure, you’re going to need some cash along the way to buy a few training books, to purchase some software, or maybe take a focused, short-term course; but it’s a small amount when compared to the alternatives. I’m all about free training when I can get, and there’s LOTS of excellent free training out there. Oddly enough, it’s not a lack of free training but carving out the time for the training; this leads to our next obstacle.

Time, Love, and Tenderness

Some of you might be in a full-time job somewhere; so carving out time to study is not easy. Start thinking now about when you can set aside a regular block of time for study, each day if possible. If you’re working full-time and in a relationship, that doesn’t leave lots of time to study; so it is always a good idea to have a conversation with your ‘significant other’. Life, and your study time, will be more productive if you have the support of your loved ones in your career change adventure.

Motivate Me

This is much like the ‘Self-confidence’ issue, in that you are the only one who can make yourself study and be committed to push through difficult training concepts. Only you can make yourself go to the monthly SQL Server meetings or other technical groups. Only you can commit and follow through with completing a 500+ page technical book. You get the picture.

You Say Tomato, I Say Tomato

I would be remiss if I did not address the importance of learning the correct technical terminology along the way. As you study, whatever the technical subject, pay close attention to the terminology used and HOW it is used. Nothing will give you away faster in a technically savvy crowd than to mix up your terminology.

Complete Your Homework?

So how did you do with the last blog assignment? You know, the one about locating a local computer group and visiting? If you have not completed that task, it’s time to get moving on it. Click here if you need to re-read that blog post. Getting involved in a local server group is a great (and free) way to learn new topics AND network at the same time.

Let’s Get Your Feet Wet with Some Free Training this Month!

Pragmatic Works is an excellent training resource; I’ll be blogging soon about all the wonderful things those guys and gals do for the technical community. They also offer free weekly webinars along with virtual training classes for a fraction of what you would pay at a community college. So let’s take advantage of one or two of their free ‘Training on the T’s’ webinars.

I selected two free webinars to get you started: ‘Power BI tips for the Data Analyst’ on July 15th at 11:00 AM by Angel Abundez and ‘Networking to Build Your Business Contacts and Boost Your Revenue’ on July 23rd at 11:00 AM by Don Gabor. If you cannot watch them live, you can view them later by going to the ‘Past Webinars’ section. I’ve provided a link to take you directly to the Learning Center at the Pragmatic Works website. Click ‘Future Webinars’ and scroll until you locate the webinars. You’ll need to register for them, and it’s free.

Be sure to subscribe for new blog notifications.  Subscribers of this blog will get extra ‘technical tidbits’ between regular blog posts; make sure you don’t miss out on anything!   See you next time when we talk about “How to Decide the Right Computer Training Path”.

Link for USA Today article 

Link for Pragmatic Works Learning Center

Susan Schneider lives in Jacksonville, Florida with her wonderful husband Steve. She enjoys sailing and is a ‘wanna be fisherman’, and loves all things BI.  See more information under the ‘About Me’ section.  Remember to sign up for new blog notifications:  Go to  Subscribe2 on the sidebar and sign up!