Bill Baker - Database Weekly (Aug 11, 2008)

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The big news of the past week was the release to manufacturing (RTM) of SQL Server 2008. There have been lots of blogs and articles on this, including my own editorial on Thursday, so I'll stop here after saying I like this release more than 2005, maybe more than 2000 (at the time).

Somewhat lost in the shuffle of the big announcement, but something I've seen on a few blogs, is that Bill Baker is leaving Microsoft. For those of you that are unsure of who Bill Baker is, he was the leader of the BI development group for a long time and is now moving to Visible Technologies, where I'm sure he'll do well.

I've met Bill a few times and heard him speak many more. If any of you have been to PASS, Bill is the bearded guy that has usually given one keynote. He's also run the BI Power Hour at TechEd and PASS, which has been a great talk to go see. At each of the talks I've seen (3 in total), he has his team of people up there and they each have about 5 minutes to demo their tool in a fun way. With heckling and jeers from their co-workers, I've seen Donald Farmer show SSIS with a "magic 8-ball" transformation", Brian Welcker implement games with Reporting Services, a "Deal or No Deal" game, and more. It's a fun time, lots of swag thrown to the audience and almost continuous laughter for an hour.

I have always found Bill's talks thought provoking and insightful, and most importantly, enjoyable. Bill's not afraid to have a little fun, even at his own expense, and is one of the better speakers that I have heard throughout the years. I am not sure of what he has done inside Microsoft, but I do know one thing from watching and speaking with various members of his teams over the years.

He's a leader.

It's hard to describe exactly what that means, but people followed Bill, were inspired by him, and at the same time, enjoyed his company. I know I did and felt he was one of the few people I've met in my life that I would enjoy working for.

And I think Microsoft will miss that. Bill moved over to the Office group, helping to add Business Intelligence capabilities to those products and probably more, so he hasn't directly been working with SQL Server, but I think that this move is a significant loss for Microsoft. There are few enough leaders in the business world, few that can excite, motivate, and energize employees, and keeping them around should be a top priority.

After many years at Microsoft, perhaps there was a need for another challenge, or a change in working environment, or something else, but I wish him the best of luck and hope to see him speaking at some event in the future.

Steve Jones


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