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My latest presentations

I frequently present at user groups, and always try to create a brand new presentation to keep things interesting.  We all know technology changes so quickly so there is no shortage of topics!  There is a list of all my presentations with slide decks.  Here are the new presentations I created the past year:

Building a modern data warehouse

Embarking on building a modern data warehouse in the cloud can be an overwhelming experience due to the sheer number of products that can be used, especially when the use cases for many products overlap others. In this talk I will cover the use cases of many of the Microsoft products that you can use when building a modern data warehouse, broken down into four areas: ingest, store, prep, and model & serve. It’s a complicated story that I will try to simplify, giving blunt opinions of when to use what products and the pros/cons of each. (slides)

AI for an intelligent cloud and intelligent edge: Discover, deploy, and manage with Azure ML services

Discover, manage, deploy, monitor – rinse and repeat.  In this session we show how Azure Machine Learning can be used to create the right AI model for your challenge and then easily customize it using your development tools while relying on Azure ML to optimize them to run in hardware accelerated environments for the cloud and the edge using FPGAs and Neural Network accelerators.  We then show you how to deploy the model to highly scalable web services and nimble edge applications that Azure can manage and monitor for you.  Finally, we illustrate how you can leverage the model telemetry to retrain and improve your content. (slides)

Power BI for Big Data and the New Look of Big Data Solutions

New features in Power BI give it enterprise tools, but that does not mean it automatically creates an enterprise solution.  In this talk we will cover these new features (composite models, aggregations tables, dataflow) as well as Azure Data Lake Store Gen2, and describe the use cases and products of an individual, departmental, and enterprise big data solution.  We will also talk about why a data warehouse and cubes still should be part of an enterprise solution, and how a data lake should be organized. (slides)

How to build your career

In three years I went from a complete unknown to a popular blogger, speaker at PASS Summit, a SQL Server MVP, and then joined Microsoft.  Along the way I saw my yearly income triple.  Is it because I know some secret?  Is it because I am a genius?  No!  It is just about laying out your career path, setting goals, and doing the work.

I’ll cover tips I learned over my career on everything from interviewing to building your personal brand.  I’ll discuss perm positions, consulting, contracting, working for Microsoft or partners, hot fields, in-demand skills, social media, networking, presenting, blogging, salary negotiating, dealing with recruiters, certifications, speaking at major conferences, resume tips, and keys to a high-paying career.

Your first step to enhancing your career will be to attend this session! Let me be your career coach! (slides)

Is the traditional data warehouse dead?

With new technologies such as Hive LLAP or Spark SQL, do I still need a data warehouse or can I just put everything in a data lake and report off of that?  No!  In the presentation I’ll discuss why you still need a relational data warehouse and how to use a data lake and a RDBMS data warehouse to get the best of both worlds.  I will go into detail on the characteristics of a data lake and its benefits and why you still need data governance tasks in a data lake.  I’ll also discuss using Hadoop as the data lake, data virtualization, and the need for OLAP in a big data solution.  And I’ll put it all together by showing common big data architectures. (slides)

James Serra's Blog

James is a big data and data warehousing technology specialist at Microsoft. He is a thought leader in the use and application of Big Data technologies, including MPP solutions involving hybrid technologies of relational data, Hadoop, and private and public cloud. Previously he was an independent consultant working as a Data Warehouse/Business Intelligence architect and developer. He is a prior SQL Server MVP with over 30 years of IT experience. James is a popular blogger (JamesSerra.com) and speaker, having presented at dozens of PASS events including the PASS Business Analytics conference and the PASS Summit. He is the author of the book “Reporting with Microsoft SQL Server 2012”. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.


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