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Why I’m a Business Intelligence Consultant (T-SQL Tuesday #111)

T-SQL Tuesday #111: Why I'm a Business Intelligence Consultant

This month’s T-SQL Tuesday is hosted by Andy Leonard (@AndyLeonard). Andy wants to know what is our “why”, or why we do what we do. Before I can answer the why, I will briefly explain the what :) I work as a Business Intelligence consultant, focusing on Data Warehousing, Data Integration, and Data Visualization.

The short answer to “why?” is because the work is both challenging and rewarding. As a Business Intelligence consultant, I get to use all my skills from programming to design. I get to satisfy my instinctive need to group, organize, and sort things when working with data. Then I get to make things shiny and pretty. Finally, I get to work with other people, learn about their industries, and help them do their jobs better.

The long answer is… longer :) I absolutely love my job now, but I ended up in the world of data completely accidentally. I’ve gone from Web Development to Graphic Design to Interactive Design to Java Programming to SharePoint Development to Data Warehouse Architecture to Community Evangelizing… And now I’m here :) (Phew!) So why am I a Business Intelligence consultant?

Beginning: HTML and CSS

I have always loved all kinds of puzzles, brain games, and technical challenges. They’re fun :) Around the age of 10, I started building websites. They were just a next-level challenge for me. Something to experiment with and figure out! I quickly grew to dislike WYSIWYG editors because the code was “yuck, ugly“, so I decided to learn HTML and CSS. And I loved it. It was my first experience with any kind of code. I was instantly hooked.

Teenage Years: PHP and MySQL

When I turned 13, I begged my dad to let me use his credit card and then repay him so I could buy my own domain. It took some convincing and explaining what a domain and web host was, but he finally agreed :) (Love you, dad!) I now had my own little playground. From there, I moved on to learning PHP and MySQL to power my blog (before they were called blogs) and a bunch of fansites I was running. (I may have been a geeky outsider with no friends, but I was still a teenage girl who loved boybands! :D)

High School: Graphic Design

In Upper Secondary School, similar to High School, I chose to study Media and Communication. For the first time, I received formal education in subjects that were also my hobbies: web design, web development, and graphic design. I spent three years working with Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign, and I loved every minute of it. While I considered becoming a graphic designer and even interviewed for internships, I eventually decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree instead.

University: Java

I started studying Computer Science / Information Technology with an Interactive Design specialization. During my first year, I was introduced to Java programming. I immediately fell in love. It was so much fun building programs and making them work! So I switched from Interactive Design over to Programming instead. After three years, I was one of only three women to graduate in a class of thirty.

Microsoft University: SharePoint

I briefly worked with SharePoint in university, and that’s when I learned about Microsoft University, a collaboration between Microsoft and Microsoft partner companies. You submit one application to Microsoft, which is then sent to all the partners. The partners decide if they want to proceed with an interview, and finally if they want to hire you. If they do, you get accepted into Microsoft University, where you get to kickstart your career. You get about six weeks of intensive training, followed by one or more Microsoft certifications. While studying, you get a full salary from your new employer. This is a fantastic program, and I’m so proud and happy that I was accepted into it. I learned a ton about SharePoint… which I never used again :)

Present: Business Intelligence Consultant

After my intensive SharePoint training at Microsoft University, I started working as a SharePoint consultant. There was just one problem. They didn’t have any SharePoint projects! So they put me on a Data Warehouse project instead. Hey, it was still Microsoft, right? :)

And that’s where I’ve been for the past ten years. I’ve worked as a full-time consultant, in-house employee, independent consultant, and I even spent one year building up my soft skills as a community evangelist within the global Microsoft SQL Server and Data Platform community. Now I’m back to full-time consulting. It’s been ten exciting years, all focused around Microsoft Business Intelligence in one way or another. And this is where I want to stay – at least for a while :)

To sum it up…

The long answer to why I’m a Business Intelligence consultant is because it just so happened that I ended up as one. I could just as easily have ended up as a graphic designer, Java programmer, or SharePoint developer.

But the short answer to why I do what I do is because I love it :) I get to use all my skills, I get to help people, and I get to give back by being involved in my community. It’s challenging and rewarding. And as long it is, I’ll keep doing it :)

About the Author

Cathrine Wilhelmsen is a Microsoft Data Platform MVP, BimlHero Certified Expert, international speaker, author, blogger, and chronic volunteer. She loves data and coding, as well as teaching and sharing knowledge - oh, and sci-fi, chocolate, coffee, and cats :)


Hi! This is Cathrine. Thank you so much for visiting my blog. I'd love to hear your thoughts, but please keep in mind that I'm not technical support for any products mentioned in this post :) Off-topic questions, comments and discussions may be moderated. Be kind to each other. Thanks!

That’s an impressive history. Do you know what led you to be interested in creating a website in the first place? That’s outside the norm for most kids that age so curious if something pointed you to it or if you had some interest you wanted to share or perhaps just helped someone else. I can definitely relate to the problem-solving and puzzles, though we didn’t have websites to work on and our coding options were a bit .. limited. You either went really BASIC or had to dive into something quite a bit more complex.

Kind of curious what I might expose my youngest to in order to help her grow. She’s absorbing everything right now and is curious about everything. I already learned that it needs to be paced. My oldest wanted to jump straight to the last chapter in a “learn Python through making games” book when she was young.

Reading the ‘Why I’m a BI Consultant’, if it was me I would have stayed at either Java programmer or SharePoint developer.
Reason being that working as a BI Consultant (meaning working with databases), there is one catch nobody tells you about, until it’s too late.
That is, every customer database/s are different, and thus their business rules are different, not to mention the people that work with the applications don’t know the business rules that well. Won’t even mention that due to bad design, many applications databases are a mess.
Now as a BI Consultant, you need to be a psychic, instantly – figure out the business rules / track and fix all bad data / try and do a solution on the back-end which was supposed to be done by the application / fix integration issues between applications which was stuffed up by the application developer or programmer / do a BI Solution on a badly designed application, etc. The list is endless.

Now if you’re a Java programmer / developer or SharePoint developer, you create the database from scratch (no messy database to work with), the key stakeholders are too eager to assist with the business rules – life is much easier, hehe.

Hi! This is Cathrine (again). Just a reminder. I'd love to hear your thoughts, but please keep in mind that I'm not technical support for any products mentioned in this post :) Off-topic questions, comments and discussions may be moderated. Be kind to each other. Thanks!

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