The number one question I get asked is if the capstone was difficult. The short answer is “yes.” The capstone is designed to test the knowledge and skills gained from the classes in the course, as well as expand your horizons as to how you would deal with “real-world” projects. The next question I get is “Do you think I can pass it?” Absolutely… if you give it your all.
The capstone I completed was divided into three parts. * data analytics * building and testing a machine learning model * write a professional report
The Sum of Three Parts
Part 1, Analyzing Data
The capstone really put me to work. Reviewing and analyzing data is very easy and straight forward for me. I really enjoy looking between the lines and finding the patterns that emerge. The capstone allows the student use of any analytics program they desire. For this portion, Excel was my choice, and it proved to be a wise one. Part 1 took mere minutes for me to complete. It was the second part of the capstone where the majority of my time and effort was spent.
Part 2, Machine Learning
In order to create a successful machine learning model, you will need to be proficient in your Google-Fu. Building the machine learning model took more knowledge and experience than I had gained in the course work alone. A large amount of my time was spent exploring various approaches and algorithms. Many hours were spent researching algorithms and trying to figure out the best ways to go about training the unruly model.
I was frustrated, tired, and admittedly ready to give up. REALLY AND TRULY. A thought occurred: “This is why they call it ‘Data Science’. I am sitting here trying to find answers along an untrodden path.” In that moment, I imagined this is what it feels like to be a true scientist. Just as in physical science, data science requires time, patience, research, trial and error.
Not being one to give in, I persisted until the best combination of algorithms was found. It was a profound relief to test the model against my data and to see it be successful.
So many people in the community helped guide me in the direction to find answers. Thank you to all who wrote blogs, tweets, whitepapers, and produced videos. Sharing your unique views and understanding with others makes us a stronger community.
Part 3, Professional Report
Armed with my data, my experiences, and my successful machine learning model, the final step in the capstone is to put it all together in a written report! Holy goodness. This was much more difficult than I had expected it to be. Your grade for the third part is dependent on other students and their assessment of your report. Yet another real-life experience to get you ready for a career as a Data Scientist!
The report took a few days to complete; the last day I worked a solid 30 hours straight on it. I could not sleep; was excited, terrified, stressed, and also just REALLY ready to get this completed. Once my report was submitted, I began reading the other students’ reports as assigned. The reports were outstanding. Those students brought to light information that had not shown itself in my project. Each report was vastly different; the story the data told the other three varied from each other and mine as well. How interesting that we all had the same data sets and somehow all four of us presented completely different stories!
Undoubtedly, the classes in the MPP Data Science course taught me a number of valuable skills while also having the unintended consequence of teaching me some things about…well…me.
When faced with something new and extremely difficult, I learned that I have the ability to rise up and learn and be successful. That the willingness to learn something new can set you apart from others.
At the end of the capstone, while reviewing other students’ reports, I saw opportunities for more learning as their approaches to the same material differed from mine.
Finally, I learned that when we work together for a common goal, we are stronger and smarter together.
They say you can’t go back home again. That is true, but this week I will be traveling back to where it all started. I am headed back to speak SQL Sat Nashville! Last year at this time (January 2018) I nervously arrived at SQLSatNash to present for the very first time.
With a ton of support from my friends and family, I created a session over Soft Skills and I was ready to present! I had prepared. I had obsessively gone over each and every word on the slides. I had practiced and practiced and had actually given a test run to my husband’s company. I was ready. I WAS READY!
Is it time to panic?
No sleep was to be had the night before my session. I was excited and nervous.. and very scared. The day was here and I could not be any more prepared. I walked in to set up laptop and the room was freezing. I swear I could see my breath when I talked! You see, the university had been closed the day before due to ice and snow, and the rooms had not yet warmed up. This gave me a new panic. How was I going to keep people’s attention in such a cold room? Would they even stay?
My knees were knocking, and it wasn’t just because the room was a balmy 40 degrees (F)! I was nervous and was constantly questioning my decision to step into the public speaking realm.
Calm down, you are amongst friends!
In order to calm my nerves, I started playing Can’t Stop the Feeling. This is one of my go-to feel great songs. People started filing in, and I kept it playing. I started dancing (to keep warm and also because I had no idea what to do with all that nervous energy!) and I was surprised to see others started joining me!!! Much to my amazement and pure enjoyment, Aunt Kathi was on the front row to see ME and she started dancing as well! Actually I think she lead the dancing! ha ha (Seeing Aunt Kathi there in my session made me feel like a super star. Having her join me in dancing made me feel even more special. Thank you Aunt Kathi!)
I look out over my audience and see some amazing people. John Morehouse, Duke (#JohnsDad), Rie Irish, Allen Kinsel, Lance Tidwell, Jim Donahoe, my son Robert, Chris Hyde, and many others were there to support me! What an amazing group of #SQLFamily! The time was now, and I did not want to disappoint them! So here we go, the song was over and it was time to start!
If you have not attended my sessions, they are… less than boring. I feel that my job as a speaker is to not only education, but to entertain. So, sort of edutainment I suppose. I was so full of excitement and energy, I felt like I was buzzing all over the place! I had a lot of great audience interaction and participation and before I knew it, the presentation was complete. WOW! That time sure flew by! I was shaking, I was excited, I was on a new-found high that I had never experienced before! I was totally bit by the Speaker Bug!
I went on to speak at several SQL Saturdays in 2018 and had a wonderful time at every event. If you are wondering where the next or nearest SQL Saturday is to you, you can visit the SQLSaturday website and find out! Remember that just as important as the training you receive, the networking at SQL Saturdays can be greatly beneficial to you and your career. Don’t be afraid to approach a speaker and ask questions. We are there to share knowledge and to network as well.
I am super excited to be chosen to speak in Nashville again. It is such a great event put on by great people. This year I will be discussing something near and dear to my heart, Ethics in Data. I would love to see you at SQL Saturday Nashville 2019! You can find out more and register here!
And hey, if you want to start presenting but don’t know where to start, check out this blog (Just Start at the Beginning) and send me a message! I would love to help grow new speakers! You can do this.
You have undoubtedly heard that Data Science is one of the fastest growing fields in the data industry and one of the best jobs in America . While many people are interested in a career in data science, they are afraid it might take more than they have to offer. I was one of these people. I was afraid that I didn’t have the knowledge or mental (or mathematical) aptitude needed for such a career. Being the unwavering person I am, I set a goal to learn more and then went on a search for information. I found the Microsoft MPP in Data Science program and thought “Well, I can at least give it a try.”
*Let me pause here and applaud Microsoft for partnering with EdX.org to assemble and bring in this training… and making it available to anyone and everyone for FREE. You can take and complete these classes for free. The only payment needed is if you decide to complete the classes for verified certificates (needed to complete the MPP Certification).
What it takes
Are you interested in studying data science? Ask yourself these questions:
Do you have an interest in exploring abstract ideas?
Are you a curious person?
Do you feel comfortable seeking for answers in unique ways?
Do you love exploring with new programs and technology?
Are you interested in finding the story within the story?
Are you good at finding patterns where there seem to be only random ideals and images?
Are you interested in working with data?
What is a Data Scientist?
If you answered yes to the above questions, you just might be the next great Data Scientist! Let’s break down what a Data Scientist does. The role of data scientist is a unique one as it requires an ability to think on your feet, think outside the box, be creative with technology, and be somewhat of an entrepreneur. Data science walks the fine line between technology and creative story telling. A data scientist is one who knows how to use various means to pull narratives from data to create a great story. You see, data is not merely a static table of letters and numbers. No, it is much more than just digits in a row. Data is a living, breathing, ever-evolving collection of information that is searching for a way to tell its’ story. Data scientists are curious, technically equipped story-tellers exploring the data landscape for the next great story to share. Sound interesting? If so, keep reading!
Data Science Tools
On my journey to becoming a Microsoft MPP in Data Science, I started where we all start… at the beginning. The very first class in the MPP Course is Introduction to Data Science. This is your typical intro class. It is easy, but very important. This will guide you through what to expect, how to navigate the classes, as well as provide an over-view of the basic concepts and principles on which data science is based.
There are a number of tools in the data science repertoire. For the purpose of this blog, we will focus on the tools one can learn through the Microsoft MPP courses.
Analyzing & Visualizing Data
The first tool we look at is for analyzing and visualizing data. The MPP course gives you a choice between working with Power BI or Excel. As I have previous experience with Excel and feel pretty confident there, I chose to learning something new and went with Power BI. I found Power BI to be a super fun tool that felt more like a video game and less like work. I love a good visual! This class easily walked me through setup and through a variety of use-case scenarios. I found it very fun and easy to learn. In fact, what struck me the most about these classes is how very concise yet easily followed the class are.
Communicate Data Insights
Now that you understand the basics of analyzing and visualizing data, it is important to know how to master data communication. It is one thing to be able to look at data and understand it, it takes a completely different set of skills to convey the stories the data has to tell. In the next course, Analytics Storytelling for Impact, you will learn how to fully explore a story to find what a great story is, and what it is not. This course really dives into how to make an impact through storytelling and gives you an idea how to create impact through presentations, reports and how to apply these skills to your data analytics. I thoroughly enjoyed this class as it spoke to the theater major in me. I do love to tell a good story, and this class gave me new ways to look at data and has resulted in me questioning things I see every day like political polls, job descriptions, and advertisements.
Apply Ethics and Law in Analytics
Ethics? What does ethics have to do with being a data scientist? Admittedly, when I first saw that the program had been updated with Ethics and Law in Data and Analytics I was a bit taken aback. I thought I had left the legal field and was on the way to a technical role. Why learn ethics? Data science, and data collection have changed wildly and quickly over the last few years. It is my firm belief that every data professional needs to take this course. Only through taking this course I learned about the possibility of data being accidentally prejudice! Certainly ethics should be considered when collecting and analyzing data! The data scientist would be remiss in not heeding due diligence!
Query Relational Data
The data scientist must know how to query databases in order to get the data needed to analyse. The MPP program offers Querying Data with Transact SQL where you will learn to query and modify data in SQL Server or Azure SQL using TSQL. If you are not familiar, SQL is pronounced in the industry as “See-Quil” not “Es-Que-El”… it is a pet peeve of mine to hear someone say S-Q-L when talking to me about SQL. This course was very thorough and a great way to step into learning how to query and program using TSQL. This class will take some effort, I found it to be one of the more intensive classes in this course. SQL is no easy task, and SQL Server has many versions out there in practical use, each version with different hurdles to jump. This particular class is a fantastic place to start to learn a great deal about SQL.
Explore Data with Code
The next step in the program is to explore data with code. You are given two options here, one path is Introduction to R for Data Science and the other is Introduction to Python for Data Science. For my interests, I chose Python since it is widely used in many areas, especially advanced analytics and AI. To my surprise, Python was a lot of fun to learn. I did more research into the uses of Python and found it to be a very useful tool in my toolkit. I can even design and program holiday lights for my house using Python!
Apply Math and Statistics to Data Analysis
Whoa, wait….math? Math is involved??? Yes, absolutely! Remember back in school when you thought “When will I EVER use this again in real life?” The answer is “Now, and always, honestly.” There are three classes offered here so you can choose which you want to learn:
I chose the Python Edition to continue on my usage of Python from the last class. I was not a great math student, so I was really afraid I would not be smart enough to get through this class. If you are feeling that way, stop that now. Like I have said before, these classes are designed in such a great way that not only was I able to learn and grow, I made a great grade! Don’t let fear of failure keep you from trying something new.
To be honest, I faced this particular class with dread. Much to my surprise, I really and truly enjoyed learning about building machine learning models. You can chose between Principles of Machine Learning: R Edition and Principles of Machine Learning: Python Edition . If you have previously chosen Python as I did, continue on with that path. This class offers a clear explanation of machine learning theory through hands-on experience in the labs. You will use Python or R to build, validate and deploy machine learning models using Azure Notebooks.
I will make one suggestion though, before completing this class, would recommend completing Developing Big Data Solutions with Azure Machine Learning . As a more visual-based person, I found that I understood the machine learning models much more after completing the course using Azure Machine Learning.
Build Predictive Solutions at Scale
Okay, now we are getting to some really fun stuff! I think this was my absolute favorite of all the classes. You can chose from one of these three:
I chose Developing Big Data with Azure Machine Learning (AML) and what a blast I had! I can say that working with AML and with Azure Data Studio was like opening up presents on my birthday! The final projects were a lot of work, but I got a real sense of what working in the field as a data scientist and machine learning is all about… trial and error. It was a lot of fun trying to use insights, hunches, best guesses, and technology all together to create and train a model in order to accurately predict solutions!
After all the courses are completed and passed, you can only gain the MPP in Data Science if you successfully pass the Microsoft Professional Capstone : Data Science. As of the writing of this blog, I am slated to begin the Capstone on December 31, 2018 and I cannot think of a better way to ring in the new year!
I have researched many ways to become a Data Scientist. Most universities offer degrees in data science. I have found that on the majority of their sites, they tout a Masters or PHD in Data Science is what you need (with a heavy prerequisite of extensive math and stats classes) in order to become a data scientist. Must you have an advanced degree in mathematics or engineering to become a data scientist? Absolutely not. You don’t even have to hold a degree to work as a data scientist! Take a look at this article published on Forbes: 4 Reasons Not To Get That Masters In Data Science
My advice is to take a look at the Microsoft MPP program and try on a few of the free classes. If you are truly interested in a data science career and are willing to put forth the time and attention needed to learn, you already qualify as a good candidate. Don’t let your past dictate your future. Make the investment in yourself and grow along with the technology as it comes. You can do this!
In 2016 I decided to switch careers. It was a big decision for me, and a bit scary. I had been working in the legal field since I graduated college. It was an area in which I grew and excelled, but it had become stale for me. I knew I wasn’t happy and that my heart truly belonged in a more technically challenging role; however, I had no idea where to start. In walked the Microsoft Professional Program in Data Science. Knowing that I learn best from structured programs, I felt confident that the classroom-style lecture and lab would be a great fit. I found it interesting and so very helpful that the program allowed me to first dip my toe into tech without too much investment. The courses are designed so that you can audit them and not pay a thing! Soon, I was hooked!
Jumping Into the Deep End
Standing on the precipice of greatness is often an exciting and terrifying experience. I was staring at the data field trying to decide which path to take. I was fortunate to be offered a position as a Marketing DBA with a SQL Server consulting company. I began learning and growing as a website designer, marketing specialist, CRM specialist, project manager, event coordinator, and database administrator. Wow, there is SO much to learn! So many paths to take, so many areas in which to specialize. It can be very overwhelming to the new student. After a while I found that I needed to make a move, I needed to take a big leap into the well of knowledge, so I left my position to go back and finish my data science courses.
What is “data science?” you may be asking. I feel that the term is both widely over-used and wholly underestimated. Think about the term “scientist” and what that entails. A scientist uses knowledge and technology to aid in finding an answer or truth. So naturally, a data scientist does the same thing. We use various means of technology, finesse, hypothesis, and trial and error to draw from the data the story that is waiting to be told. My personal journey took me along the path of learning Python and Azure Machine Learning, two things I never knew I would have any desire to learn. I faced these two courses with extreme skepticism. I resigned myself to the thought that I would more than likely barely get by (and that “D stands for diploma” as we used to say in college). Much to my surprise, I found that not only did I understand both, I absolutely fell in love with coding in Python and predictive analysis with Azure Machine Learning!
Data science really is so much more than exploring with new technology and programs. Data science also draws on the tried and true, and this is where my background in the legal field comes in really handy. For instance, can pure, raw data be racist? (Absolutely, and that will be a topic we save for an up-coming blog. ) When we are given data, it is never in a perfect form: information is missing or duplicated, in the wrong format, or is unusable for many other different reasons. Because of this, a data scientist must know how to clean, manipulate, and finesse the data in order to pull out the story. Much like an artist who starts with a block of marble creates a beautiful statue, Data scientists must know the curves and lines to manipulate to bring out the best form of the story the data is designed to tell. In the legal field, we used words and phrases to convey law, tell stories of guilt or innocence, and create the narrative we desired. It all takes an art form and knack for finesse.
There will come a time in life, perhaps many times, where you find your cheese has been moved. Many times as well that you find you need to move your own cheese. “Why the cheese talk Angela?” you might be pondering. Back in my first job out of college, an attorney I worked with gave me a copy of a book he wanted me to read. It was truly an eye-opening and life changing moment for me. If you have not read the book Who Moved My Cheese ? I suggest getting a copy. It is a good reminder that no matter where you are in life, if you are not living happy and feeling fulfilled, you CAN make a change. You can wait for someone else to move your cheese, or you can just move it yourself. So this is what I did, I moved my cheese.
I invite you to come along on this data science journey with me as we explore new programs and technologies. Over the next few weeks, I will be diving into my experience in each section of the Microsoft Professional Program in Data Science. I will NOT be sharing answers to test or lab questions, that would be cheating, and you know that as well as I do!
Hello from the blogger table for the #PASSSummit WIT Luncheon!
Let’s take a moment to appreciate that delicious lunch, the uplifting music, and the welcoming atmosphere. As I sit here at my table I hear the familiar hum of a thousands of voices lifting and carrying across the room. I hear deep voices, high pitched voices, male voices, female voices, gravely voices, laughter, loud voices, quiet voices. I hear voices of friends and newly made friends of all walks of life. It is beautiful, it is loud, and my heart is soaring.
As amazing as it is here at PASS Summit, this is not at all indicative of each and every workplace out in the world. Not every space is as diverse and welcoming. If you are in a workplace that is not as diverse, you CAN make a difference. You can empower your space!
Director of Technology, Engineering Project Management, T-Mobile is here today to discuss “Mobilizing Your Own Grassroots Movement to Empower Gender Diversity in Technology.” Throughout her 30+ year technology career, across the manufacturing, healthcare, and telecom industries, Lauri has always been passionate about leading diverse teams. She is the Technology Chair of T-Mobile’s Women’s Leadership Network and leads the company’s Women in Technology initiative, to promote and retain gender diversity within Engineering and IT. Lauri is also an active member of the Project Management Institute’s Executive Roundtable.
Exacting change starts with one person who is passionate about making a difference. From there draft 2 like-minded, passionate leaders. Put in the work, be committed, and continue trying new things to get others involved. Coordinate lunch meetings and open up the invitation to all. Try new things to see what works. Happy Hours may work better for your location. Just keep trying. Be sure to track your data so you will have a better idea what works for your location.
*Pro-tip, offering food at your meetings helps boost attendance!*
Look to the Future
Before I break out into a song about children being our future, let’s chat about how STEM events expose children to careers in science, technology, engineering, and math. Opening up opportunities for boys and girls to learn about tech and engineering jobs expands their horizons and promotes diversity. I am still shocked that many young girls are told that tech/science/engineering is “just for boys.” On the other hand, many children from lower income families or disenfranchised locations may not know that these careers in tech would be a possibility for them. We are stronger when we grow together.
Seven Keys to Starting Your Own WiT
Lauri shared some amazing keys with us and I want to share them with you. Read these. Re-read them. Keep them close. Tattoo them to your arm if you must!
Don’t get stuck on how you measure success.
There is no “one size fits all” solution.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
You cannot do it all at once, don’t get discouraged.
Bring people with you (not everyone is going to be ready).
Be brave, you can do this. We can make this change.
It will take all of us!
Good morning from the blogger table on day 2 of PASS Summit! Yesterday was an amazing, wonderful, jam-packed day for sure! Did you meet tons of new people? Did you meet your #DataHero? I met so many amazing, wonderful people! Honestly, that is my most favorite part of any convention and my #SQLFamily make PASS Summit the best ever!
As I sit here waiting for the keynote to begin, I am getting the opportunity to chat with other bloggers and all the awesome attendees who come say hello. It is quite amazing being here with my data heroes like Brent Ozar, Kellyn Pot’vin-Gorman, Tim Mitchell, Kendra Little and Kevin Kline (among so many others!). Take a look at their blogs, they are sincerely amazing people with amazing amounts of knowledge!
I Will Survive!
Wendy Pastrick starts us off today with a great reminder that COMMUNITY is what makes us awesome! She broke into song when she had to break down the finances. She was amazing and received a well-deserved round of applause. Seriously, if you have never heard her sing, you should do #SQLKaraoke with her!
First Timers, Diversity, Awesomeness
Next up Tim Ford lets us know that 40% of our attendees are First Timers! How amazing and wonderful! 16 years ago he was a shy first timer, I cannot even imagine Tim ever being shy! Tim also spoke to PASS Summit diversity. I can attest to this being the most diverse tech group I have ever seen! As a woman in tech, I feel more welcome and appreciated than I could ever describe. And as I look around, I see such a diverse group of beautiful, wonderful people in the audience.
25 years of SQL Server
What an amazing treat! We were introduced to some great stories from the past with SQL Server heavy hitters and past and current VPs: Ron Soukup, (1989-1995), Paul Flessner, (1995-2005), Ted Kummert, (2005-2014), Rohan Kumar (2016-present). Surely 25 years of hard work and leadership!
Raghu Ramakrishnan, CTO for Data Microsoft, shared “The cloud changes how we think about building a database, data is elastic, on demand.” I had not stopped to think about how the cloud has changed the landscape of data. We often think of data as mere numbers and letters, something static that gathers and sits until we are ready to use it. However, data is something much larger, it is a living, breathing, ever-growing, changing life force of information that needs to be nurtured. This gives me more of a personal insight in the way I need to address my projects. Mind blown!
Project Name: Socrates (Socrates was a data guy!) “The unexamined database is not worth writing”
If you missed the quote Raghu posted, I found it. I laughed a lot, apparently not much has changed!
“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”
Truly, this keynote is full of so much great information, I am lost in it all. I will go back and review the keynote as many times as possible to better take in what all was covered. Such a testament to the hard work put in by the teams at Microsoft.
Good morning from the #PASSSummit keynote blogger table!
Today, PASS President, Grant Fritchey opened the first day of #PASSSummit #V20 with a rousing “Good Morning!” to all in attendance for the keynote. With this being the 20th celebration of Pass Summit, a lot of focus has been placed on memories and stories from past years. As we look back, we look forward. I love hearing how attendees have grown and changed with each passing Summit. Last night I met a number of first timers and I hope to hear their stories in the coming years. The common theme I hear in the stories is one of community. In today’s (sometimes very harsh) social climate, the stories of community and friendship are a sweet song that play upon my heart.
As this wonderful week at PASS Summit progresses, I hope that each of you have the chance to make new friends, reconnect with old, and learn many new ways to enrich your life and career. To my new #FirstTimers friends, remember to take these three things with you:
You are never alone
We are stronger together
Lift as you rise
Your Models are Only As Good as Your Data
Along with family and networking, we learn A LOT at PASS Summit. There many fantastic announcements by Rohan Kumar, Corporate Vice President of Azure Data, Microsoft regarding innovations and the release of SQLServer 2019. As my interests mainly lie in the Analytics realm, today was mind blowing! I see that my recent decision to go forth and learn #DataScience was a great decision. SQLServer 2019 promises to be an all-in-one tool for the busy data professional. I am very excited to get in and start playing with all the new analytics and ML features.
If you missed Patrick LeBlanc’s first time on the “big stage”, you missed the intro of some amazing PowerBI things, and the introduction of a new standard on the heat scale….hot as wasabi mustard sauce! Great job, Patrick!
Have a great day at Summit, everyone and make some new friends, meet your data heroes, and make memories that will last a lifetime!