Recently I’ve received several emails with the same basic theme. I was sought out because I am a Business Intelligence Consultant and they want to know whether the career would be good for them. Well, it’s hard to read a short synopsis of someone’s experience and recommend a life altering directional change. So, I decided to explain a bit about my history and why I made that decision.
Five years ago, I had a very comfortable position working with a software product called Made2Manage, which utilizes SQL Server, hence the name of my blog. I was an expert at it and became able to solve problems very quickly. This left me with some idle time and I got comfortable. However, over time I got bored and needed challenge in my work life and realized that my procrastination to grow was costing me dearly in opportunities and money. Once you reach a point where you are comfortable, your value levels off. Also, I lived in Michigan, which was an economic black hole, so I was unlikely to earn a good living.
The first step I took was to move to a better economic area, Dallas Texas, and work for a much larger company as their Made2Manage expert. I got more involved with SQL Server and reporting and this led me to Brent Ozar. After asking some technical questions, I asked him a similar question that I’m addressing in this article. Basically, what should I do with my career? He put me in contact with experts in various disciplines, some not involving SQL Server, so I could decide my future direction. He convinced me to blog, get involved in the SQL community, and I became hooked.
Why did I choose Business Intelligence?
- Fascination. I love working with data, cleaning it up, and creating systems to report on it. I enjoy showing a user their data in a meaningful way and watching them get excited. Data analysis is both a science and an art. Also, I enjoy practicing a skill that many don’t understand and cannot perform.
- Variety. I don’t do well with repetitive boring tasks. As a Business Intelligence Consultant, most areas of SQL Server are involved so there are many different tasks to accomplish. This staves off boredom and insures that you are always learning.
- Challenge. Because the Business Intelligence discipline involves so many aspects of SQL Server, it’s a real challenge to gain a level of mastery. Do you think that BI is just about reporting? Think again. I have to understand data modeling, both OLTP and OLAP. I need to have a level of mastery in SSRS, SSIS, and SSAS; not to mention the new and evolving tools such as SQL Server 2012 Power View and PowerPivot. Further, you need to know how to set up SQL Servers, disaster recovery procedures, and performance tuning. In other words, my work at some point or another touches almost every aspect of SQL Server.
- Competition. Well, really the lack of competition as compared to other areas of technology. For example, I enjoy .NET software development, but I did not want to compete with outsourced labor or kids just coming out of college. Why try to compete with people who will do quality work for very low wages. Database Administration is not a topic that is typically taught in college so the practitioners tend to be more mature, by that I mean older but not necessarily in temperament. One reason why I didn’t take the Production DBA path is that it’s just too easy to outsource. Someone in a foreign land can check your backups, perform maintenance such as index and query tuning, etc. Also, Microsoft is pushing everything toward the Cloud, and this may cause issues for those with primary functions like disaster recovery, administration, and performance tuning.
- Demand. To quote Paris Hilton, “Its hot!” Microsoft is continuing to invest boatloads of money into Business Intelligence and more and more companies are investing in their BI infrastructure. In the world of SQL Server, Business Intelligence skills seem to be in the highest demand to me.
- Compensation. It’s basic supply and demand. Being a BI Professional is difficult so many people can’t do it. The demand is increasing. This disparity causes salaries to rise.
- Freedom. My skill set allows me considerable freedom as to where I work and for whom. Ideally, I would work for a company which relies on SQL Server, which is almost everyone. However, even if a company doesn’t have SQL server databases, dimensional modeling skills and the flexibility of Integration Services to connect to nearly any data source means that BI professionals are still valuable.
- Interactivity. “I’m a people person damnit!” I enjoy talking to people which is one of the reasons I’m so active in the SQL community. Business Intelligence lends itself to more interaction because you are developing your projects for users. Also, this is one of the reasons why BI is resistant to outsourcing. Does your CEO want to spend hours talking with someone he can’t understand or someone he can meet face to face and feel confident that his/her needs are being addressed?
- Community - The SQL Server Community is the best technical community I’ve ever seen or heard of. One of the primary reasons I went the SQL Server route is because our community is so much better than that of competing products. When I have a question and Google it, someone I know has already blogged about it. They’re friendly, helpful, generous, exceedingly knowledgeable, and make it easier to learn SQL Server than other technologies.
On Monday, I’ll answer the other question posed to me in those emails. Should you pursue a Business Intelligence Career?