Chris Webb

1. Everyone’s an accidental DBA (or database professional) – what’s your story? How’d you become a SQLPerson?

I was a VB6 programmer at the beginning of my career, about 12 years ago. I was put on a project evaluating the beta version of OLAP Services (which became Analysis Services) in the SQL Server 7 beta program, which then led to a very complex project using it, and I’ve been lucky enough to work with Analysis Services and MDX pretty much full-time ever since. So I guess I was very lucky in that I started learning a successful product very early on in its lifetime.

2. What’s your favorite part of your current gig?

I’ve been working for myself as an independent SSAS and MDX consultant for around five years now, and the thing I enjoy most is working for myself. I’m not one of those people who dislike being bossed around by others or gets bothered by workplace politics, so working in a larger company never really bothered me at the time, but there’s a certain thrill you get from working for yourself. It’s the knowledge that all the money you earn has been earned by you and no-one else, that any success you enjoy is the result of your own efforts, and the feeling that you can do whatever you want, whenever you want. Of course the reality of working for yourself is that you have to be extremely responsive to your customers’ needs and you end up working much harder than you would otherwise, but the work is a lot more satisfying as a result. Oh, and the fact that I can take just about the whole of August off as vacation is good too!

3. Complete this sentence: “If I could do anything else, I would…”

If I won the lottery or something, I’d want to head back to study or do research at a university. I have a history degree and I’d like to apply my BI skills to the currently very unfashionable subject of quantitative history – the use of numeric, rather than textual, evidence in historical research. Some of the work that my friend Mark Whitehorn did at Cambridge a few years back using SSAS with data captured by Charles Darwin is the kind of thing I find extremely interesting.

4. Complete this sentence: “When I’m not working I enjoy…”

Umm, sleeping, eating and spending time with my family. I don’t have much time for anything else unfortunately.

5. Complete this sentence: “I think the coolest thing in technology today is…”

Data visualisation tools like Tableau, or the forthcoming Project Crescent from Microsoft. I’ve been working in the BI industry long enough to know that most reports and dashboards do a terrible job of presenting data and helping people make decisions from it; when you use a tool like Tableau that makes it easy to create great-looking data visualisations you really appreciate the difference in the results compared to what you get with, say, Excel.

6. Complete this sentence: “I look forward to the day when I can use technology to…”

Analyse terabytes (or more) of data in the cloud. Despite all the obvious obstacles to cloud-based BI (How do I get the data up there? Is it secure?), it is coming and I believe it will be very compelling. Something like Google BigQuery – which can now be accessed from Google Docs – which can give extremely quick query response times on vast amounts of data is an indicator of the future. If you have terabytes of data to analyse and the choice is between using cloud-based BI, or paying millions of dollars for your own MPP BI system (such as Parallel Data Warehouse or Netezza), or just not being able to analyse it at all, then suddenly the obstacles to using cloud-based BI seem less daunting.

7. Share something different about yourself. (Remember, it’s a family blog!)

Different? I’m no different from anyone else, unfortunately…

Originally published .

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