Raw Data By P3 Adaptive
The Public Face of Power BI, w/ Adam Saxton of Guy in a Cube
Guy In A CubeListen Now:
He’s just a guy in a cube helping people. That’s the simplest way to describe who Adam Saxton is. He turned a childhood fascination for computers into an amazing career at Microsoft (he’s currently a member of the elite Power BI CAT Team), he has a hugely successful YouTube channel Guy In A Cube with his partner Patrick LeBlanc, and is a respected fixture in the data community. He sits down with the Raw Data Crew and talks about his origin story, the work he puts in for the YouTube channel, Power BI, life on the road, and everything in between. Enjoy our conversation with Adam Saxton, he’s more than just a Guy In A Cube
Rob Collie (00:00:00): Today, we welcome Adam Saxton, founder of, and co-creator, ongoing co-host of Guy in a Cube. I could just probably stop there. You know who I'm talking about. Amazing story. Really just sort of a gift to the community, so it's just really, really gratifying to get to spend... We were recording for almost two hours.
Rob Collie (00:00:19): We talk about Power BI. Of course, we talk about Power BI. But really, we also focus a lot on just his story, like how did he find himself in this situation? What was his road that brought him here? How does he look at his job? How does he look at his two jobs? And I found it all incredibly fascinating. I finally got to ask him a bunch of questions. I've been meaning to ask for a long time, and I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. So let's get into it.
Announcer (00:00:45): Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention, please?
Announcer (00:00:49): This is the Raw Data by P3 Podcast, with your host, Rob Collie, and your co-host, Thomas LaRock. Find out what the experts at P3 can do for your business. Go to powerpivotpro.com. Raw Data by P3 is data with the human element.
Rob Collie (00:01:07): Welcome to the show. Adam Saxton. How are you, man?
Adam Saxton (00:01:12): Yo. Living the dream, my friend.
Rob Collie (00:01:14): Living the dream indeed.
Adam Saxton (00:01:16): Living the dream.
Rob Collie (00:01:17): Yeah. I can get behind that. I think I could understand that.
Adam Saxton (00:01:20): I got a roof over my head, my kids are healthy. I got no issues.
Rob Collie (00:01:24): The fundamentals.
Adam Saxton (00:01:25): Yes.
Rob Collie (00:01:26): You got a pretty hot gig too.
Adam Saxton (00:01:27): Can't complain. Can't complain.
Rob Collie (00:01:29): Yeah. Yeah. Well, you know how it is?
Adam Saxton (00:01:33): Yeah.
Rob Collie (00:01:33): Always, always.
Adam Saxton (00:01:33): There's always something to complain about.
Rob Collie (00:01:34): You can always complain.
Adam Saxton (00:01:35): Yeah. But seriously, living the dream there. From the day job perspective, it's an amazing job with a lot of freedom and it definitely pays the bills, and then I get to also do the fun stuff on the side for my passion. Wife is very supportive, so it's nothing to complain about really on that. There's people with much worse problems than what I've got.
Rob Collie (00:01:57): Oh my gosh. Yeah. Like you said, the contrast between our work from home knowledge worker jobs and how good that is for all of us is just so, so, so in such sharp focus over the last year. In a way, our lives haven't changed. They have.
Adam Saxton (00:02:16): I miss traveling.
Rob Collie (00:02:17): Yeah.
Adam Saxton (00:02:19): I want to travel again.
Rob Collie (00:02:20): I miss seeing my kids. They're living the teenage life and so they're quarantining with their mom, who doesn't seem to have the same, I don't know, level of paranoia about this disease that my wife and I do.
Adam Saxton (00:02:37): It's a problem when you're not on the same page. That could be disheartening.
Rob Collie (00:02:39): Yeah, it is. But what it really is, I'm actually kind of grateful for it, because how are you going to fence in a couple of teenagers who are just now discovering the dating life and all of that? I'm actually sort of in a weird way, grateful that my ex is actually willing to take the risk. I don't know. It would just be unending conflict if they didn't have a place to stay.
Adam Saxton (00:03:03): Right.
Rob Collie (00:03:03): It sounds like I'm complaining, but actually I'm like, "Well, I do miss my kids," but even there, we lucked out. Even there, we lucked out.
Adam Saxton (00:03:11): Yeah.
Rob Collie (00:03:11): And that's crazy.
Adam Saxton (00:03:12): I remember just some folks I talked to, because I'm like, "Oh, I work from home. My wife actually has a job where she works from home as well."
Adam Saxton (00:03:20): And they're like, "Oh, because of COVID and all?"
Adam Saxton (00:03:23): I'm like, "No, I've been working from home for years," so I'm like, "Nothing on that front changed."
Rob Collie (00:03:27): Our whole company, we like to joke, we were working from home before it was cool.
Adam Saxton (00:03:31): Yes.
Rob Collie (00:03:32): Except we did travel. We did go and visit some people. We would visit our clients. So we've had to make that change.
Adam Saxton (00:03:40): There's customers I work with, where one of them in particular, right before everything got shut down, I was actually planning with them saying, "I'm going to come out monthly," and then that didn't happen.
Thomas LaRock (00:03:52): So I will say, you're talking about teenagers in COVID. I got a senior and a junior in high school.
Adam Saxton (00:03:58): Yeah.
Thomas LaRock (00:03:58): One of them really doesn't leave the house anyway, so no issues there.
Adam Saxton (00:04:02): Yeah. I have the same situation. Sophomore in high school, her sweet spot is just laying on her bed, drawing, watching videos, playing games. She's basically my clone.
Thomas LaRock (00:04:14): And we've been remote learning since last March.
Adam Saxton (00:04:17): Yeah.
Thomas LaRock (00:04:18): They sent all the kids home, then they tried to get through the end of the school year, remote learning, and it wasn't as good, but they put together a good plan here. And we were remote for the first four months and now they are hybrid. But we elected to keep our kids remote. We weren't forced to go back.
Adam Saxton (00:04:36): Right.
Rob Collie (00:04:36): My kids, they were exactly that. They were the digital life. They lived on their phones, they never left the house, and that was how it was for years. I was always kind of trying to encourage, "Well what about going out into the real world every now and then?" They really got into the real world right around the time of COVID. That's when they turned the corner. I'm like, "Ah, no."
Adam Saxton (00:04:59): Yeah, that sucks. Yeah. My younger daughter, she's 13 now and she's always active and wants to ride horses, she wants to go hang out with friends, so it's really hard on her. But my older daughter, she's 15 going on 16, and she's like, "Yeah, I don't care. I don't like to people."
Rob Collie (00:05:16): Yeah. Well, like I said, I was living that life as a parent and then in the space of two months, boom.
Adam Saxton (00:05:22): Yeah, that sucks. That is tough. That is very tough. Very tough.
Rob Collie (00:05:27): I'm discovering things like what, there's a Tinder for teens? What?
Adam Saxton (00:05:31): Whoa. I didn't even know that.
Rob Collie (00:05:34): The other kids meeting people on Tinder, it's like, "What?"
Adam Saxton (00:05:39): That doesn't seem safe.
Rob Collie (00:05:41): What about at Xbox? Just go back to being the Xbox recluse.
Adam Saxton (00:05:46): Yes.
Rob Collie (00:05:47): All right. So let's get back to talking about Adam. Enough about our kids.
Adam Saxton (00:05:52): Yeah.
Rob Collie (00:05:53): In our inaugural episode, Tom and I talked about how we first met and the backdrop for all of that was SQL Twitter.
Adam Saxton (00:06:02): Yes.
Rob Collie (00:06:02): When I first saw Guy in a Cube show up on Twitter, I'm like, "Hey, I recognize that face. That's A. Saxton."
Adam Saxton (00:06:11): Yeah.
Rob Collie (00:06:11): You know how you get this weird, crazy ability to recognize people based on Twitter?
Adam Saxton (00:06:18): Funny story about the Twitter thing, because I absolutely agree. I met so much of, at the time it was the SQL family, and then it's expanded past that. The way I met folks and got to know some of the MVPs and other folks in the community was through Twitter. I remember being at PASS Summit one year and this big guy comes up to me, he's like, "Adam Saxton."
Adam Saxton (00:06:37): And I'm like, "Hey, how's it going?"
Adam Saxton (00:06:39): He's like, "Dude, it's great to finally see you face-to-face."
Adam Saxton (00:06:41): I'm like, "Yeah." And I'm looking at his badge, I see his name. I'm like, "I have no idea who you are, dude. What is this?"
Adam Saxton (00:06:47): He's like, "Oh, I'm SQL Chicken."
Adam Saxton (00:06:49): And I'm like, "Oh, okay. I know you buy your Twitter handle. I don't know you by..." Because a lot of folks didn't even have pictures of themselves either, so I'm like, "I have no way to connect with who you are."
Rob Collie (00:06:59): That's right. But you, when you were on Twitter as A. Saxton, it was a picture of you, wasn't it?
Adam Saxton (00:07:04): Yeah. My awsaxton's always had a picture of me and then Guy in a Cube has not.
Rob Collie (00:07:09): Okay.
Adam Saxton (00:07:09): For a little while, I had my little animated picture, but then that changed also.
Rob Collie (00:07:15): All right. So back in around 2010, 2011, in the early 2010s, what were you doing professionally?
Adam Saxton (00:07:23): I was a support engineer in SQL support at Microsoft, and actually not working on SQL. They had four different groups that were part of the SQL support group. One was actual SQL engine, then there was this advance performance team, and then there was the analysis services team. And then my team, which was originally called the web data team, and we owned all of connectivity, so connecting to SQL and then all of the developer support, so ADO, ADO.NET. And it also included reporting services because they didn't know where else to put it.
Rob Collie (00:07:58): It just totally belongs here. ADO, ADO.NET, reporting services.
Adam Saxton (00:08:02): Yes, absolutely.
Rob Collie (00:08:03): Yeah.
Adam Saxton (00:08:04): It's a web product, so it's developer.
Rob Collie (00:08:06): Oh, yeah.
Adam Saxton (00:08:06): Sure.
Rob Collie (00:08:07): Yeah.
Adam Saxton (00:08:07): Sure.
Rob Collie (00:08:07): Yeah. I didn't know that. I didn't know that you were Microsoft, even back in the day.
Adam Saxton (00:08:13): Yeah. I started on the web data team. So actually, I started doing support for Microsoft when I was a senior in high school. I did that for four-and-a-half years. That was my job when I was a senior in high school, so that was a Monday through Friday, 3:00 to 7:00 PM. It was an awesome-
Thomas LaRock (00:08:29): I'm sorry, you were a senior for four-and-a-half years?
Adam Saxton (00:08:32): No, no, no, no. I started when I was a senior and I did that job for four-and-a-half years.
Thomas LaRock (00:08:37): Okay. Okay.
Adam Saxton (00:08:38): So, that was supporting. Yeah, I was a senior for four-and-a-half years and...
Rob Collie (00:08:44): There's some sort of Matthew McConaughey joke in here.
Adam Saxton (00:08:47): Yeah.
Rob Collie (00:08:47): I get older, the queries stay the same age.
Adam Saxton (00:08:51): That's it. That's it. But yeah, I was supporting. I started there supporting Windows 95 and then Windows 98, Windows Millennium.
Rob Collie (00:08:59): What?
Adam Saxton (00:09:00): Oh yeah. And then right into Windows 2000. Then I started getting developer skills at that point, and then I went off just doing different developer jobs, all self-taught. Then in 2005 I saw a job for a contractor position. It was in Charlotte. It was under a contracting name, the actual contractor, not Microsoft, but the way it read, I was like, "Man, that sounded like the Microsoft support." And it said web data. I didn't know what that was at that point. And then I went and it was support. So I started doing support as a contractor in 2005 on the web data team. And then 2006, I became a full-time employee.
Rob Collie (00:09:35): Did you move to Charlotte for that?
Adam Saxton (00:09:36): I did. I was living in Tucson, Arizona at the time. And then we relocated to Charlotte. We were in Charlotte for about a year and a half, and then we found out that there was a site in Dallas, Texas, the Las Colinas site. And my wife's originally from Texas, her family's outside of Houston, and so we relocated to Dallas, and that's when I got to meet folks like Bob Ward and Bob Dorr on the SQL side, and they basically became my mentors at that point, and it went from there. So I've been doing Microsoft for almost 15 years now.
Rob Collie (00:10:08): Okay. Let's go back because again, another unknown thing I didn't know. Microsoft support.
Adam Saxton (00:10:16): Yeah.
Rob Collie (00:10:16): In high school?
Adam Saxton (00:10:18): Yes.
Rob Collie (00:10:18): All right.
Adam Saxton (00:10:18): Yeah. So I started November 1996, is when I started doing that.
Rob Collie (00:10:24): Oh my gosh. So I had started at Microsoft in Redmond in July 1996.
Adam Saxton (00:10:28): Nice. Nice.
Rob Collie (00:10:30): We're basically twins, you and me.
Adam Saxton (00:10:32): Yeah. That was very IT-focused at the time, so it was all Windows, I was playing around on with Exchange Server and Active Directory, once that eventually came out.
Rob Collie (00:10:40): That's what an average high school kid does.
Adam Saxton (00:10:42): Yeah.
Rob Collie (00:10:42): Just play around with a little Active Directory.
Adam Saxton (00:10:44): Oh, yeah.
Thomas LaRock (00:10:45): How does a high schooler get hired by Microsoft though?
Rob Collie (00:10:47): So I built my first computer when I think I was 15. And then when I turned 16, I had to get a job. I was very passionate about the fact that I was not going to get a job in the food industry. So restaurants, grocery store, whatever. Nothing against that. But I was just like, "Look, I love computers. I want to work with computers. I'm going to get a job with computers." And in the mid 90s, it's still kind of new. If you were on the internet, if there was such a thing, it was AOL or CompuServe. It wasn't what we have today.
Rob Collie (00:11:18): So there was a little retail shop that was in Tucson. It was called Egghead Software. I don't know if you remember that. It was a retail job, selling software. So I got a job at Egghead Software for a little bit. One of the guys I met working there, because they started a call center in Tucson, Arizona for support, he ended up working there and he called me up. He's like, "Adam, I think you would love this job. They're hiring some more people for Windows 95 support. Do you want to apply?"
Rob Collie (00:11:46): So I was like, "Yeah, let's do this."
Rob Collie (00:11:48): Then I came home one day and my mom was like, "Why aren't you at work?"
Rob Collie (00:11:52): And I'm like, "I got a job with Microsoft."
Rob Collie (00:11:53): She's like, "Don't lie to me."
Rob Collie (00:11:54): And I'm like, "No, seriously look." So in high school, I have an orange badge for Microsoft and I'm a senior in high school and I'm studying for MCP.
Rob Collie (00:12:05): That's so cool. I just didn't have any worthwhile hobbies in high school. The first PC that I had, I got it when I was a freshman in college. I had never really been all that into it.
Adam Saxton (00:12:17): Yeah. So my first computer was a Commodore 64, 128 combo. And I had two five-and-a-quarter-inch floppy drives, and that was everything.
Rob Collie (00:12:26): Two?
Adam Saxton (00:12:26): Yeah. I remember programming on basic there. I was really just a video gamer. That's all I wanted. Then my dad ended up, he had a 386 and he upgraded to a 486 with a turbo button. I remember that. That was very exciting. So then he gave me the 386, and I was 11 or 12 at the time. He said, "Look, I'm going to give you this computer, but if you're going to use it, you're going to know how to use it."
Adam Saxton (00:12:54): I'm like, "Okay." So I had to go through this tutorial on DOS 6 and it was Windows 3.0 and DOS 6. So I just learned how to do it and I was playing around with these commands. I'm like, "You know what? I'm going to do this on my dad's computer because it's a little faster." I said, "All right. Let me try this new command. What is this? F disk... Oh. Oh, crap. I don't know what that's doing. Right. We're going to turn that off."
Adam Saxton (00:13:20): Then my dad comes home and was like, "Oh my God, my computer won't boot. What's going on?"
Adam Saxton (00:13:23): And I'm like, "I have no idea."
Rob Collie (00:13:25): Yeah.
Adam Saxton (00:13:25): I'm like, "My computer's fine." So I learned all that stuff, and then by the time I was 12, I knew way more than he did. I remember he had a game, so this may bring back some memories. He had a game called Leisure Suit Larry.
Thomas LaRock (00:13:40): Oh, yeah.
Adam Saxton (00:13:43): All the pixels. One of the things they had, they had this kid protection in front of it where you had to answer these historical questions.
Rob Collie (00:13:51): Yeah.
Adam Saxton (00:13:51): And at the time I was in Pennsylvania and we had a basement and so the computers were down there. I'd yell up to my mom during the day because again, I'm 12 years old, we didn't have the internet, I couldn't just go look this up. So I was like, "Mom, which war was Franklin Roosevelt a part of?"
Adam Saxton (00:14:07): And she's like, "I think it was World War II."
Adam Saxton (00:14:09): I'm like, "Select." I'm like, "All right, I'm in."
Rob Collie (00:14:13): Yeah. It had an adult level. The game became dirtier if you could prove that you were a grownup.
Adam Saxton (00:14:21): Yes. That's how I hacked Leisure Suit Larry. I started with the social engineering.
Rob Collie (00:14:27): Yeah, that's right. That's right. You also mentioned having the two, five-and-a-quarter-inch floppy drives on the Commodore. You were the shit back then.
Adam Saxton (00:14:34): Yes.
Rob Collie (00:14:35): Because you could make copies of games without having to swap disks every so many.
Adam Saxton (00:14:39): Yeah.
Rob Collie (00:14:40): Luke and I were part of that culture from the Apple two perspective. I never had the dual drive.
Adam Saxton (00:14:46): I was PC all the way. So I remember when I was a senior in high school, there was also this issue at my high school where I guess someone deployed some virus. They were using, it was a Novell infrastructure. And they deployed a virus and I was pulled into this office or whatever. I was one of three people that they tagged as suspicious for this activity. I'm like, "Wow. Thank you. It wasn't me, but I appreciate that." Then there was this other time I came in and I saw my teacher scrambling, he was on his Mac. They all used Macs, and I'm like, "What's going on?"
Adam Saxton (00:15:20): He's like, "Ah, it's just the network's just not working.
Adam Saxton (00:15:24): I actually had a laptop. I was senior in high school working at Microsoft. I had a laptop and I'm like, "Well, what's going on?"
Adam Saxton (00:15:30): It was like, "Well, no one on this floor is working." And they had the computer guy come into the room and he's messing around on his computer. And I'm like, "All right, well, if the whole floor is down, that ain't going to fix anything." So I told the teacher, I was just like, "Look, do you want me to look at it?" I'm like, "It's probably like an issue with the hub or the router or something. Where's it at?"
Adam Saxton (00:15:51): The computer guy is like, "No, I can't take you to that. It's sensitive and you're not allowed."
Adam Saxton (00:15:56): And then the vice principal came in and said, "No, just show him." So they walked me down to the janitor's closet and the broomstick... Seriously, I kid you not, the broomstick fell and knocked the power cord out of the wall. And when they plugged it back in, the whole floor was better.
Thomas LaRock (00:16:10): Exactly.
Adam Saxton (00:16:10): I was like, "You guys are stupid."
Rob Collie (00:16:13): That's like a movie scene. Some sort of crisis going on, and then there's this outsider, and the outsider's just like, "I know how to fix it." And the there's the establishment that says, "No, we're not letting it..." But then someone comes in and overrules.
Adam Saxton (00:16:26): Yes.
Rob Collie (00:16:27): They say, "Give him a chance."
Adam Saxton (00:16:29): Yes.
Rob Collie (00:16:29): And the music swells.
Adam Saxton (00:16:31): Dun, dun, dun.
Rob Collie (00:16:33): Yes.
Adam Saxton (00:16:34): You open the janitor door. Dun, dun, dun.
Rob Collie (00:16:38): Yeah. That's right. That's right.
Adam Saxton (00:16:39): People were like, "No way."
Adam Saxton (00:16:41): That was like, "I swear to God, it was the classic trope of..." Yes. So one of the best stories I have from support. So the old modems. Even before the main modems, you had the coupler modems.
Rob Collie (00:16:58): The ones like in more games.
Adam Saxton (00:17:00): Right. So this guy calls up and he's just like, "Look, I'm trying to connect to my BBS server and every time it does, it just disconnects, it drops it. It used to work fine, but it just started not working."
Adam Saxton (00:17:11): I'm like, "All right. Well, let's go through and let's see what it sounds like."
Adam Saxton (00:17:14): So he starts doing it and you hear something in the background and I'm like, "What's that noise in the background?"
Adam Saxton (00:17:21): "Oh, that's my parrot. I just got that a couple weeks ago."
Adam Saxton (00:17:25): And I'm like, "Hmm, can you move the parrot to the other room?" And then all of a sudden, it starts working. It's like, "Oh my gosh." The parrot was mimicking the modem sounds.
Rob Collie (00:17:35): Yeah, that's crazy. Is that on the flow chart? Like reboot, reinstall the drivers, move the parrot.
Adam Saxton (00:17:43): Windows 95 and 98, it was always a clean boot, safe mode, or safe mode then clean boot. And then it's just bring it down to the simplest form, remove options and keep trying, and that's support. That's troubleshooting.
Rob Collie (00:17:57): And then you get escalated to tier three.
Adam Saxton (00:18:00): That's right.
Rob Collie (00:18:00): Where they talk about "Well, talk to me about the pets."
Adam Saxton (00:18:03): Yeah. Tier three is animal control. You got to...
Rob Collie (00:18:08): That's great. That is really, a really a good story.
Adam Saxton (00:18:11): There's many more. There's many more like crazy, weird. Oh my gosh.
Rob Collie (00:18:16): I have the same sorts of stories about bugs.
Adam Saxton (00:18:18): You mean software bugs. Yeah. Not real bugs. Not like an Indiana Jones bug moment in a tunnel.
Rob Collie (00:18:24): If you get real bugs, I recommend you just get a parrot. That will hoover those things up. But sometimes the way that the real world conspires, chaos can leak into a finely-crafted system, in the form of a parrot in this case.
Adam Saxton (00:18:39): Yes.
Rob Collie (00:18:39): Just sometimes it's just beautiful, isn't it?
Adam Saxton (00:18:41): Yeah.
Rob Collie (00:18:42): It's just beautiful what can happen.
Adam Saxton (00:18:44): Yeah. It's always amazing. That's the other thing I loved in the developer support side of it, just working with code and I got into memory dumps and going through all of that and just being able to logically, just follow it and trace it down and this is the line of code where the problem is, and being able to get fixes for that, and that was always fun.
Rob Collie (00:19:04): Yeah. There's nothing more fun for me than going through a memory dump.
Adam Saxton (00:19:08): Yes. I love the smell of dumps in the morning.
Rob Collie (00:19:12): Yeah. I'm actually completely kidding. I've never once...
Adam Saxton (00:19:16): I love memory... I live to go through a memory dump. Patrick. I remember my business partner, Patrick, we were in his basement one time. Microsoft had acquired, I don't even remember the name of them anymore. It was Dataviz or some third-party company we took over and ended up getting incorporated into a Power BI Report Server, and also SQL Server Reporting Services.
Rob Collie (00:19:41): Datazen.
Adam Saxton (00:19:41): Datazen.
Rob Collie (00:19:41): You're talking about Datazen.
Adam Saxton (00:19:41): That's it. Yeah, Datazen.
Thomas LaRock (00:19:41): Datazen.
Adam Saxton (00:19:42): There was this weird thing where they had their little builder thing and it was trying to get data, and he's like, "Why is this so slow?"
Adam Saxton (00:19:52): I'm like, "You must be working with big data." I'm like, "What is it?"
Adam Saxton (00:19:55): He's like, "It's like 30,000 rows in an Excel file."
Adam Saxton (00:19:57): I'm like, "Whew, that's really big." So I'm like, "Well, just give me a memory dump. I'll see what's going on."
Adam Saxton (00:20:04): And he's like, "What?" So we start looking at the dump and I'm like, "Oh no, here it is. Right here's the call stack. This is what you're doing. You're getting stuck in this weird loop. It's just really slow."
Adam Saxton (00:20:13): He looks at that and he is like, "Dude, that's like the matrix. What are you looking at?"
Adam Saxton (00:20:17): And I'm like, "Ah, I just see a blonde, brunette, redhead. It's fun."
Rob Collie (00:20:19): Yeah. And then you point to this other place on the screen and you turn and look at him and go, "Naughty. Naughty."
Adam Saxton (00:20:26): Yes. There was one time I was asking a guy, he wrote this third-party extension thing for Reporting Services, and he was claiming that it was fine. I'm like, "Look, this error is coming from your extension."
Adam Saxton (00:20:41): He's like, "No, it's not."
Adam Saxton (00:20:42): And I'm like, "Can you send me the source code for what you do?"
Adam Saxton (00:20:45): "No, I can't send you the source code."
Adam Saxton (00:20:46): I'm like, "Can you send me a memory dump?"
Adam Saxton (00:20:49): "Oh yeah, I can send you that."
Adam Saxton (00:20:50): I'm like, "All right." And it was .NET, so I'm like, "Oh, I'll just extract the binaries and here you go. It's on line 18."
Adam Saxton (00:20:57): And he's like, "Oh, you're right. How'd you know that?"
Adam Saxton (00:21:00): "It's magic."
Rob Collie (00:21:01): Adam, I completely did not plan to ask this, but in your support days, you said up through Windows 2000. Did you ever end up crossing paths with supporting the Windows Installer MSI?
Adam Saxton (00:21:14): Not on the Windows 2000 side, because I know that was a whole different architecture from the Windows 95 and 98 stuff. So I didn't end up actually dealing with any of that. It was right when I was going out was when they started bringing the Windows 2000 stuff.
Rob Collie (00:21:28): Okay. 2000 was NT. It was the first time that they-
Adam Saxton (00:21:31): Yes. It was the NT kernel.
Rob Collie (00:21:31): It sort of thrown out the consumer Windows.
Adam Saxton (00:21:34): Yeah.
Rob Collie (00:21:35): Yeah.
Adam Saxton (00:21:35): Bringing it together.
Rob Collie (00:21:36): We could have really nerded out. You were saying that you've been into Active Directory and all of that. Yeah. I might actually have spent more time in total time in over career in Regedit.
Adam Saxton (00:21:47): Yeah. Oh, yeah.
Rob Collie (00:21:47): Than you.
Adam Saxton (00:21:48): Yeah, probably.
Rob Collie (00:21:50): Maybe.
Adam Saxton (00:21:50): Maybe.
Rob Collie (00:21:50): Just because of my two years in setup.
Adam Saxton (00:21:52): I will say though, the experience of going through on the IT side and understanding things like Active Directory, networking, Exchange Server and having that foundation and then going into SQL support, because one of the challenges I've always had, even today, folks that are doing Power BI and when we're connecting to data sources, they don't necessarily understand everything involved in that pattern. And I'm like, "Look, it's a data source. We're going to go over the network. We're going to have some protocol to go get that. We've got to wait for it to come back. How many hops in latency do we have in between?" And just having that foundation has really helped to understand the whole picture and not just my funneled or little tunnel vision of whatever product I'm working on, and so just being able to go past that and play around with it. That's how I got into Kerberos. I love Kerberos.
Rob Collie (00:22:43): Oh man. Oh gosh. Again, back in the early 2010s, everyone loved setting up Kerberos.
Adam Saxton (00:22:51): Oh, SharePoint.
Rob Collie (00:22:52): Yeah. SharePoint. Kerberos It's the worst thing ever.
Adam Saxton (00:22:53): SharePoint Integration with reporting services. I knew everything about it because nobody else wanted to touch it.
Rob Collie (00:22:59): Yeah. And Power Pivot for SharePoint, right?
Adam Saxton (00:23:01): Yes. The gallery. The gallery with Silverlight. That was amazing.
Rob Collie (00:23:05): Oh, yes, yes, yes.
Adam Saxton (00:23:07): Yes. Good times.
Rob Collie (00:23:07): I think Power Pivot for SharePoint was the peak awkward server product. It was-
Adam Saxton (00:23:13): It was so awful.
Rob Collie (00:23:14): Oh.
Adam Saxton (00:23:14): It was so bad to set up and so fragile.
Rob Collie (00:23:18): Yeah. At the company I was with, when I first left Microsoft, we eventually resorted to writing agents that were just constantly polling to see if various services had died.
Adam Saxton (00:23:27): Yeah.
Rob Collie (00:23:28): And if they had, forget trying to diagnose it, don't even try to get to root cause.
Adam Saxton (00:23:33): Just no. Just restart it.
Rob Collie (00:23:33): Just restart it.
Adam Saxton (00:23:34): Just restart.
Rob Collie (00:23:34): Restart it automatically. "Oh, it's out? It'll be back. It's no big deal."
Adam Saxton (00:23:38): Yes. I actually had a blog post one time. I titled the blog post When in Doubt, Reboot. It just fixed it. It's not worth going into any of the other details.
Rob Collie (00:23:50): And move the parrot.
Adam Saxton (00:23:51): Yes. Move the parrot.
Rob Collie (00:23:52): Definitely move the parrot.
Adam Saxton (00:23:53): Move the parrot.
Rob Collie (00:23:54): All right. Let's-
Thomas LaRock (00:23:55): Woo.
Adam Saxton (00:23:57): That was my 200-plus pound dog getting a little excited.
Rob Collie (00:24:00): Oh, that's okay. That's okay. I've got a combined 200 pounds of dog.
Adam Saxton (00:24:06): I have five dogs, but he's the biggest.
Rob Collie (00:24:09): I have two dogs, four cats.
Adam Saxton (00:24:13): I don't like cats.
Rob Collie (00:24:14): Yeah. I didn't either for a long time.
Adam Saxton (00:24:16): Yeah, nice.
Rob Collie (00:24:16): Now I've converted.
Adam Saxton (00:24:18): I will never like cats.
Rob Collie (00:24:18): Yeah. You know how it is.
Adam Saxton (00:24:20): I'm on the Power BI cat team, but I don't like cats.
Rob Collie (00:24:23): You know how it is, if you don't like scotch and you're around someone that really likes scotch and you say, "I don't like scotch." You know what's going to happen is you're going to spend the next couple of hours drinking scotch.
Adam Saxton (00:24:34): Yes.
Rob Collie (00:24:36): And at the end of it, you're like, "Nope."
Adam Saxton (00:24:39): I'd like to say that's how I got into Jägermeister, but that's not what happened.
Rob Collie (00:24:42): No, that's not how anyone-
Adam Saxton (00:24:44): I just got it and I'm a like, "Sure, I'll try it." I'm like, "Oh, this is delicious."
Rob Collie (00:24:48): Oh, really?
Adam Saxton (00:24:48): Yes.
Rob Collie (00:24:48): It wasn't a lot of people standing around you, chanting, "Go, go, go"?
Adam Saxton (00:24:52): No, this was the whole, the incident thing I was referring to earlier with, and Tom was part of that.
Rob Collie (00:24:59): All right. Well, I do want to get to that.
Adam Saxton (00:25:00): Yes, okay.
Rob Collie (00:25:01): I want to get to that.
Adam Saxton (00:25:02): Okay.
Rob Collie (00:25:03): But just chronologically, I'm the worst about this, staying on topic.
Adam Saxton (00:25:08): Yes, we're not there yet.
Thomas LaRock (00:25:10): Okay. I'm going to get ready for it though. I'm going to bring up on Swarm-
Adam Saxton (00:25:15): Yes, there is a check in on a location.
Thomas LaRock (00:25:16): ... the Adam Saxton memorial washroom.
Adam Saxton (00:25:19): Yes. I have a screenshot of that.
Rob Collie (00:25:22): All right. You know what? Let's save this for late in the podcast. It's like the reward for people who stick around.
Adam Saxton (00:25:28): Yes.
Rob Collie (00:25:28): You know?
Adam Saxton (00:25:28): Yes. Stay tuned till the end where you hear this embarrassing moment.
Rob Collie (00:25:32): That's right. That's right. It's not like they have fast forward technology in podcasts.
Adam Saxton (00:25:38): No.
Thomas LaRock (00:25:38): There's nothing embarrassing about Jägermeister.
Adam Saxton (00:25:40): No. But no, there's... Sure.
Rob Collie (00:25:43): Okay. Look at that restraint. I saw it.
Adam Saxton (00:25:46): Yes, sure.
Rob Collie (00:25:47): I could feel that restraint.
Adam Saxton (00:25:49): Yes.
Rob Collie (00:25:49): Okay. So let's go back.
Adam Saxton (00:25:50): It's taunting me. I want to jump right in and I'm holding back.
Rob Collie (00:25:54): So you're awsaxton, you're on Twitter.
Adam Saxton (00:25:58): I'm just a guy in a cube, doing the work.
Rob Collie (00:26:01): Lower case guy in a cube, right?
Adam Saxton (00:26:04): Yeah. Just, I was literally in a cubicle, in a Las Colinas, just doing support cases.
Rob Collie (00:26:09): Yeah. I was laughing when you said, "I was supporting SQL, but not actually doing any SQL."
Adam Saxton (00:26:13): Yeah, I wasn't doing SQL.
Rob Collie (00:26:15): Yeah. Well, that's okay. At the same time I was a SQL server at MPB and wasn't doing any SQL.
Adam Saxton (00:26:18): Right, yes.
Rob Collie (00:26:19): That was just sort of what we did. SQL was this gigantic catchall branding thing. Data platform's probably more accurate. So a number of things change for you. If you fast forward to today. I don't have the chronology.
Adam Saxton (00:26:32): Yeah. I didn't give you the timeline.
Rob Collie (00:26:34): That's okay. That's what we're here for. We're here for the origin story.
Adam Saxton (00:26:37): Yes.
Rob Collie (00:26:37): That's what we want.
Adam Saxton (00:26:38): Yes.
Rob Collie (00:26:39): What was the vat that you fell into, or the radiation you were exposed to turn into your current form?
Adam Saxton (00:26:45): I would say that that was Bob Ward is what did that.
Rob Collie (00:26:49): Well, at a high level, there's really two questions. Number one, there's the transition from SQL, if you will, to such a strong presence in Power BI today.
Rob Collie (00:27:03): ... to such a strong presence in Power BI today.
Adam Saxton (00:27:04): Yep.
Rob Collie (00:27:04): So, there's a very interesting, I think, evolution in even just in the type of technology that you work with.
Adam Saxton (00:27:11): Yep.
Rob Collie (00:27:12): A lot of people, and I don't trivialize this because a lot of people struggle with a sequel to Power BI transition, even though you wouldn't necessarily expect it.
Adam Saxton (00:27:23): Well, I mean, It's a different mindset.
Rob Collie (00:27:25): It's totally a different mindset.
Adam Saxton (00:27:26): I know.
Rob Collie (00:27:26): Right. It's not surprising to me really, but it was when I first encountered it. It was news but the other one is, obviously, the transition from support to essentially a public figure.
Adam Saxton (00:27:37): Yeah.
Rob Collie (00:27:38): So, there's the Guy in a Cube, Twitter handle and show and brand, and all of that. How do these things all come to pass?
Adam Saxton (00:27:46): I love working with technology, I love working with people. When I was in the SQL support group, a lot of the foundations for that evolved there. I've been very fortunate in my career path since high school on, that I've always naturally had a mentor of sorts.
Adam Saxton (00:28:02): I always hate when the forced mentor, when I was in support, they were like, "You need to mentor X, Y, and Z." I'm like, "That's not how this works." I'm like, "I love when it's more naturally, it just comes about." I've always been able to... I've been fortunate to just have that regardless of where I was, and in SQL support that person was Bob Ward.
Adam Saxton (00:28:20): He was very active in the community. I didn't even know the community existed before him. I didn't even know that was a thing. I remember when I was doing just actual, just Web development on my own that when I hit an issue, I was like, "I scour the forums." I'm trying to figure out an answer.
Adam Saxton (00:28:39): I'm trying to reverse-engineer things. I didn't even know you could call support for help. I ended up working in support where people would have those problems and call up for help. I'm like, "I didn't even know that was the thing." I'm like, "Wow, that was amazing."
Adam Saxton (00:28:53): So, I go through that, I get introduced to SQL PASS, and the SQL community at large get into Twitter. I start blogging because Bob asked me to start blogging with him and Bob adored. So, I'm giving back, I love that action. In support, we had this mantra of, they called it front of the funnel.
Adam Saxton (00:29:13): So, what can we do for case deflection? At the time I was like, "Well, blogging is great because it's a one-to-many activity. I can just get it out there. People can search for it and find it." Then, that got to a point we did in this internal training, we called them triages where we spent an hour, someone would present on a topic, "How do you troubleshoot something?" Answer some questions. At that point, I'm like, "This is weird."
Adam Saxton (00:29:39): I'm like, "This is great information to get out there." I would say 80-90% of it is not confidential. It's just like, what logs do you collect? What do you look for in the logs? Then, what do you go? What settings do you go change to address the issue? Nothing confidential.
Adam Saxton (00:29:55): So, I was sitting there one time and I was just like, "You know what? I'm going to try this YouTube thing." Because I was doing the blogging. I was doing that, once a month I would do a blog. I'm like, "What if I did a video with the blog?" I'll start this YouTube channel, but what do I call it? I could have called it Adam Saxton, but I'm like, "I want something else."
Adam Saxton (00:30:15): So, Bob would always say, we joke with him because he was the senior technical leader. He was like this principal architect, big poobah kind of person in the group. So, we'd always joke with him like, "you're up on high. We're just the folks in the trenches. This is what we do."
Adam Saxton (00:30:33): He would always laugh. He's like, "Dude, I'm just a guy in a cube." We were all in cubes at the time. He's like, "I'm just a guy in a cube." So, I was like, "Man, if I steal that?" He's like, "What do you mean?" I'm like, "Well, I'm creating this YouTube channel and I want to do a branding thing." I just want to call it Guy in a Cube because I aligned with him in his mentality of approaching that stuff. He's like, "Yeah, that's fine, whatever."
Adam Saxton (00:30:53): I remember, he and I talking, it was about a year or two ago and he's like, "I had no idea this would become this." I'm like, "I didn't, either. So, here we are." That's the philosophy I've had is I'm just doing the work. Even when I present, I'll say like, I'm a PM on the product team, I don't care about the title. The official title is Principal program manager.
Adam Saxton (00:31:16): I never put the Principal in there. Other people will for me, I don't care about that. I'm just here helping you. I don't care where I'm at in the org chart. I'm just trying to help you fix something. That's what I like to do and that's what I've always done in support. Going in, that's what made me do the blogging, that's what made me do the video now for six years. That's what we're still doing.
Rob Collie (00:31:38): I remember, Guy in a Cube used to be you.
Adam Saxton (00:31:42): It was just me.
Rob Collie (00:31:43): In a cube?
Adam Saxton (00:31:43): This was part of the problem was I didn't have any forethought. I actually thought it was going to be shut down. So, when I first started, I told my... I love gear. If you can't tell, I know folks listening to this, can't see it. But most people understand that production quality on my end is very good. I like gear, I like spending money on gear.
Adam Saxton (00:32:03): My wife knows that. When I first started doing, I'm like, "Yeah, I want to buy this, this, and this." She's like, "Let's hold on. Why don't we figure out if this is actually just going to be another six-month fad for you before we start spending a lot of money."
Adam Saxton (00:32:18): So, I was like, "Fair enough." Then, I think, was two years into it, I was like, "I don't think it's a fad, honey." She's like, "No, you're right." When I went to go get the camera I'm on now for my main videos, I mean that's a $6,000 rig and she even... She's like, "Yeah, get it." I'm like, "Okay, let's get it."
Rob Collie (00:32:35): The picture of your setup, your gear that you sent to us backstage, Luke was getting pretty jealous. Yeah.
Adam Saxton (00:32:42): He and I were talking a little bit before and he was just like, "Oh my gosh." I was showing up because I've got all my stream. This is my actual live-stream setup. So, I can just touch of a button and do a bunch of things and it's amazing.
Rob Collie (00:32:53): They didn't give Luke that level of gear when he was working at the radio station.
Adam Saxton (00:32:57): Yeah. I know because they had to worry with budgets and all that. I don't care. I just spent money on stuff. It's the Banana setup.
Rob Collie (00:33:06): Yeah.
Adam Saxton (00:33:07): It was that evolution of like that's my passions now in life have become Power BI as a technology is a passion. Then, my other passion is turned into video production and the YouTube side of it. The fact that I can marry both of those together from Guy in a Cube standpoint is just, it's a love of doing it and that's what's kept it going. It's been an incredible journey on that front.
Rob Collie (00:33:31): You did me without knowing it, you did me a huge favor. I just loved your early videos. It was so freeing to see the way you edited.
Adam Saxton (00:33:40): I had no idea what I was doing.
Rob Collie (00:33:42): But it Totally worked. There would obviously be splicing together of several takes in your videos. It was just like calm and confident the way you did it. Just no transition, no fade, nothing like that. [crosstalk 00:33:56]
Adam Saxton (00:33:56): Just hard cuts.
Rob Collie (00:33:57): Just hard jump cuts.
Adam Saxton (00:33:59): That's The YouTube way. That's the thing is I've always looked at what others are doing to understand. That's how I learned. I learned by example and by doing it. At the time, I didn't know anything about video production or YouTube or anything. I didn't know. I went and bought Camtasia. How do I even use this? It's all self-taught. Even today, I'm still learning new things. I actually have a video editor now.
Adam Saxton (00:34:28): Up until September of last year, I edited everything. Every all post-production was me. Patrick didn't do anything. All he did was turn on the camera, record it, drop it in this OneDrive folder and it just magically showed up on YouTube. That's all he ever did. People would always ask him, "What do you use to do all?" He's like, "I have no idea. Go ask Adam." Now, I've got a video editor so that has given a lot of my life back to me.
Rob Collie (00:34:54): Let's talk about that. It's like when you make a movie, the actors have no idea how good the movie's going to be.
Adam Saxton (00:35:01): Yep.
Rob Collie (00:35:02): The movies are made in the editing room.
Adam Saxton (00:35:04): Yep.
Rob Collie (00:35:05): The same is true for YouTube videos.
Adam Saxton (00:35:09): Yes.
Rob Collie (00:35:09): So, it is hard to outsource the editing of your videos.
Adam Saxton (00:35:17): It was like letting go of my baby. I like video editing. I do a weekly Roundup on Mondays. I'm still editing those because it's a really fast turnaround, but the video editors editing the main technical videos. I remember, Patrick first saw it and he's like, "Adam, you have to stop editing my videos." I'm like, "Yes, I agree. That's why we're doing this." I'm like, "Because they're better at what they're doing."
Rob Collie (00:35:40): But it's still a challenge there. In that video editor, you find someone who's good at editing video, they don't come from your subject matter.
Adam Saxton (00:35:49): Nope.
Rob Collie (00:35:49): They don't necessarily have the same, I don't know, sort of tone in their fingers that you would... How do you sort of maintain the direction of the content? There's some edits you can make that actually will result in something that's misleading on a technical basis.
Adam Saxton (00:36:05): Yes.
Rob Collie (00:36:05): Right?
Adam Saxton (00:36:05): Yep.
Rob Collie (00:36:05): Even though it was a good video edit, how do you quality-control for that? How do you train and pass that kind of tribal knowledge off?
Adam Saxton (00:36:13): I will tell you that. So, the video editor, it's actually a team of three people. So, I never know which one of that three people is actually editing the video. It's coming from their company. I will tell you that I've given little to no direction to them on any of it. We'll do an edit pass, so they'll put it up on Frame.io and I look over and I'm like, "Yep, good to go. No edits needed." There was one video, where it was super in the weeds. I think it was around Power BI embedded. So, it was like, they needed some help on that.
Rob Collie (00:36:47): Yeah.
Adam Saxton (00:36:48): But I've been very fortunate that they are very good at what they do. I think some of it also comes to the way Patrick and I go through the content and the way we lead through it, that it's fairly obvious where we're going.
Adam Saxton (00:37:02): I think some of that is just the style that we've had, we try and make it as simple as possible. By doing that, even if you don't know anything about it, you kind of understand the context of where we're at and what we're doing. I think that's helped them from an edit perspective as well.
Rob Collie (00:37:19): We're living that experience right now with the podcast, we really do a good job with it. I say we, I mean, Luke.
Adam Saxton (00:37:24): Yes.
Rob Collie (00:37:25): Outsourcing, post-production, it's easy to say.
Adam Saxton (00:37:29): It's always interesting too. One thing I do miss also as editing Patrick's videos, he will comment on the videos too. He's like, "Oh my gosh, Adam. I'm so sorry, man. I totally... Just cut. Cut all this out." I'm like, "No, I'm going to cut this out." I'm like, "Yes. Obviously, you screwed that up."
Adam Saxton (00:37:48): So, he'll add color to some of the things he's doing and it's great. He did this one thing and the first video that our video editor did, Patrick did this thing subconsciously, where he likes to use a phrase like, "Look, this is going to show you your ugly baby. You've got an ugly baby.
Adam Saxton (00:38:04): You're not admitting it and we're going to show it to you." So, he did this thing. He's like, "Look doing this action is just going to give you a nice-looking baby." She put this whole Lego, little baby wrap over his arms. It was like, "Oh my gosh, that is so good." That was awesome. But he'll do those things, or he's a lot more spontaneous than I am.
Rob Collie (00:38:26): I think, you're pretty spontaneous.
Adam Saxton (00:38:29): When I brought him on though, I said, "Look, Patrick, we're both technical." He's very smart. But I said, "Look, I'm bringing you on for the entertainment. So, I'm more of the corporate kind of feel and you're the entertainer. We balance each other."
Adam Saxton (00:38:42): That's why it's stuff that we present, it's always better when we do it together than if we do it separate because he's chaos and I'm order. He's funny and I'm more of the like, "Let's just get down to business." I've learned some things from him. He learns from me. It's a very good relationship on that front.
Rob Collie (00:39:00): Well, let's continue the evolution. So, you started the YouTube channel while you were still officially in support.
Adam Saxton (00:39:07): December, 2014.
Rob Collie (00:39:09): Okay. Now, it's quote-unquote, just an unpaid side gig habit...
Adam Saxton (00:39:15): Was a hobby.
Rob Collie (00:39:16): Hobby.
Adam Saxton (00:39:17): Labor of love.
Rob Collie (00:39:17): Right. Okay. At some point along the way, it becomes a part of your official... I don't even know. It's such an untraditional arrangement.
Adam Saxton (00:39:27): It's never been part of my day job. It's never been.
Rob Collie (00:39:30): Okay. Your job changed at Microsoft at some point.
Adam Saxton (00:39:35): Yes.
Rob Collie (00:39:35): I don't know actually the details of the relationship of Guy in a Cube to Microsoft.
Adam Saxton (00:39:41): Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Rob Collie (00:39:42): What can you tell us about all of that? It's really kind of cool.
Adam Saxton (00:39:46): Yep.
Rob Collie (00:39:46): Not what I would expect.
Adam Saxton (00:39:47): So, this is one of those things where I tell people, where this was something I never asked permission, I just started doing it. I'm like, "Look, I've got a passion. I see a need and an opportunity." From the Microsoft side, I've always looked at things. I'm like, "Look, I always have had the flexibility to do the right thing as it aligns to the business."
Adam Saxton (00:40:08): Because that's what they care about is we need to make sure we're aligning to our core business priorities and what we're doing. As long as everything is met there, we have a ton of flexibility of what we can do, whether it's taking the initiative to do certain things and trying to help. So, I saw this as it's an opportunity. I'm not going to ask for permission. I'm just going to start doing the being mindful of the business. So, I'm not slamming Microsoft. I'm not.
Adam Saxton (00:40:34): I'm being very thoughtful and just trying to help people. As part of that, I remember, right when I started doing the Guy in a Cube stuff, nobody knew who I was, from that standpoint. I already had a lot of relationships on the product team, just from the support interactions that I've had. I was on-site in Redmond with the engineering teams for a week.
Adam Saxton (00:40:58): This was right when James Phillips came in, who's now the president of Business Applications Group, who owns Power Platform and Dynamics at the time though, he was brought on for Power BI. So, I just set up a one-on-one with him. I was like, "Hey, I'm in support. I want to make sure we understand the relationship and how in support can we help you from an engineering side? This Power BI thing is just going to be rolling out.
Adam Saxton (00:41:22): We want to make sure that we're ramped up to be able to support this." Then, I also mentioned, I was like, "By the way, I've also started this video and I'm doing blogging, this Guy in a Cube thing, and I'm doing technical videos to help people out." He's like, "I love it. Sounds amazing. Keep doing it." I always thought marketing was going to shut me down because I've always done my own thing. I'm not necessarily aligning to the core messaging that they want to do, but no, even the marketing folks are telling me, they love it. It's great.
Adam Saxton (00:41:51): I'm just promoting the product and helping people adopt it and whatnot. That went on and that's how I kind of became that Power BI guy. No one in support wanted to touch it because, in support, it's always about what are the call volumes that are coming in. What are we getting calls on, that's where we're going to go focus. I saw this Power BI thing. I'm like, "This is where the product team is going. This is the direction nobody's paying attention to it." Nobody is paying attention to it because we're getting no calls.
Adam Saxton (00:42:23): This was in the original Power BI for Office 365 before what it is today. So, I said, "Look, I'm going to be that guy." So, I just started digging into it. I started meeting with the engineering teams. I'm like, "Okay, where are the specs for this? How does this actually work? What's the flow? How are these things connected?" I just started playing with it.
Adam Saxton (00:42:41): Then, I started doing videos on it and then we started getting calls, but it was such a low volume that they routed all of those calls just to me, because it was seriously, maybe five calls a week. It was nothing. So, the videos and blogs I was doing were basically the summaries of the support calls that I was getting. This was the scenario and this is how we fixed this. This is how this works.
Rob Collie (00:43:03): This is so parallel to me to what I did with my blog around PowerPivot. It was like it was in this place that kind of no one cared about.
Adam Saxton (00:43:13): Yep.
Rob Collie (00:43:14): The existing Analysis Services folks in the community...
Adam Saxton (00:43:18): I was there in support when all of that came out.
Rob Collie (00:43:20): Mostly, Analysis Services crew in the community had no interest in this thing that was embedded in Excel.
Adam Saxton (00:43:27): No, that was like, "This is just a cute little thing they're playing around with. It's never going to make it."
Rob Collie (00:43:31): I had moved to the Mid West and so I needed a new job. So, I just started blogging about it. Most of my blog posts for the first three years were just things that I was doing with PowerPivot in my day job, problems that I've had to solve and overcome, and all of that. Like you, I didn't really know or expect it to turn into what it...
Adam Saxton (00:43:55): I had no forethought on where this was going. I was like, "It's just me. I'm toying around. Maybe, at some point, I'll stop it. I don't know."
Rob Collie (00:44:02): I started the blog primarily as just like a digital resume.
Adam Saxton (00:44:05): See, I wasn't even thinking about that, either. Because I was like, "I'm in support. I'm not going anywhere." All of my thought and focus on that was like, "I'm just helping customers." That's all I was doing. I didn't really think about any other aspect of it.
Adam Saxton (00:44:17): I was just like, "Look, I just want to give back to the community." Seriously, that was all I thought about. I should have thought more about it at the time and I didn't. Looking back, I was like, "I made a lot of mistakes."
Rob Collie (00:44:28): Yeah. You wouldn't, if you just planned it out a little better, you wouldn't be the massive failure that you are today.
Adam Saxton (00:44:33): Right. Exactly.
Rob Collie (00:44:35): Yeah. You're really...
Adam Saxton (00:44:36): I'm glad you recognized that.
Rob Collie (00:44:37): Yeah. You're really a disappointment to all of us, Adam. That's why we had you on the show, really.
Adam Saxton (00:44:41): Yes.
Rob Collie (00:44:42): You know?
Adam Saxton (00:44:43): Yes. You just wanted to just bash me in and give me the reckoning that is needed.
Rob Collie (00:44:49): You finally met your match.
Adam Saxton (00:44:51): Yes. This is the intervention call, right? That's what this is.
Rob Collie (00:44:56): I don't know. We're pretty bad at that.
Thomas LaRock (00:45:00): So, I want to ask something about Guy in the Cube.
Adam Saxton (00:45:03): Guy in a Cube, not the Cube.
Thomas LaRock (00:45:05): The comment that you made was, it's not part of your day job.
Adam Saxton (00:45:08): Yep.
Thomas LaRock (00:45:09): So, do you do all the recording in your off hours then?
Adam Saxton (00:45:14): Yes. Honestly, in my day job, I'm always busy doing the day job. I don't have time for doing the Guy in a Cube stuff.
Thomas LaRock (00:45:20): My question was going to be more about like, you have to have some level of support at Microsoft and you did mention that the marketing team...
Adam Saxton (00:45:27): I mean, they didn't. They loved me doing it, but they didn't.
Thomas LaRock (00:45:29): That's right.
Adam Saxton (00:45:30): Yeah. They didn't stop me.
Thomas LaRock (00:45:30): No. That's what I'm saying is that they didn't stop you. You have some level of support and encouragement from your employer for what you [crosstalk 00:45:37].
Adam Saxton (00:45:37): That's always been there.
Thomas LaRock (00:45:37): Yeah.
Adam Saxton (00:45:37): Yes. That's always been. Every manager I've had and the different teams that I've been on... Once I left support, part of the thing that I had and I had this in my mind and when I left support, I was still... Maybe, not even 10,000 subscribers yet when that happened. But even at that point, I knew that I was the... I've told every manager since then I was like, "Look, I'm going, to be honest with you the day that you tell me to quit YouTube or stop it is the day I leave Microsoft."
Adam Saxton (00:46:07): I was like, "I'm just going to say that, right now." So, I'm like, "Let's come to an agreement. Let's come to an understanding. But if you are against that, then..." That's actually part of the reason why I left support was because they were starting to say, they're like, "Look, we see everything you're doing on certain things. We really want your community involvement."
Adam Saxton (00:46:22): Because I was doing other things outside of Guy in a Cube, but I was just really focused on community and they were starting to put the cramp down saying, I shouldn't do the Guy in a Cube stuff. I'm like, "Well, that has nothing to do with my day job stuff. I'm still doing." They're like, "Yes, but we don't want you to focus that much on, we only want you to do 10% of community engagement." I'm like, "Well, I want to do 100%. Maybe, I need to go find a different gig."
Adam Saxton (00:46:46): So, I did, but every manager I've had... So, when I left support, I went to the Power BI documentation team because it was content-related. I felt like that was more in line from then support because video and that stuff is content. So, I'm like, "This kind of aligns." But even then, they were like... Everyone on the engineering team, the marketing teams, and then my managers on the product side, I've always been very supportive of the Guy in a Cube.
Adam Saxton (00:47:11): They want that to still happen. When I was brought on the Power BI CAT team, obviously folks there knew I had my technical acumen was there. My manager was very upfront and he's like, "Look, he's like, I want the Guy in a Cube. This is like the CAT team is the A-team of people working on the Power BI product. I want Guy in a Cube as part of this." I'm like, "Okay. Let's do it."
Rob Collie (00:47:34): I imagine That somewhere back in the hallways of Redmond and the marketing department, there was the equivalent of the... Should we let him into the Janitor's Closet kind of conversation?
Rob Collie (00:47:43): There was someone saying, "No, this guy's out there sort of doing marketing on our behalf. He's rogue. We need to reign him in." Someone said, "No, let him into the closet, give him the access." You got support, not support, or the lack of opposition.
Adam Saxton (00:47:59): Yes.
Rob Collie (00:48:00): Knowing Microsoft, there was definitely a conversation at some point.
Adam Saxton (00:48:04): At this point of where I'm at now, I've actually heard some things about conversations that have happened and for different reasons but I know that stuff about that has happened. I don't necessarily know the details of it, but...
Rob Collie (00:48:18): But now it's too late. There's no way they can go back. You're like, "What do you know, who I am?"
Adam Saxton (00:48:26): Yeah. No, I don't.
Rob Collie (00:48:26): You don't seem like that kind of guy.
Adam Saxton (00:48:28): No, I'm not. I remember, Amir Netz, who's the CTO for Power BI, we were at a conference one time, just having dinner. There was a bunch of us there and he's just like, "Wow, you became the face of Power BI." He's like, "How'd you do that?" I'm like, "one video at a time for six years." I'm like, "I'm just there." I was there before anyone else.
Rob Collie (00:48:52): Yeah.
Adam Saxton (00:48:53): It's just consistency. It's a lot of hard work. This is not easy.
Rob Collie (00:48:58): Yeah, the grind.
Adam Saxton (00:48:59): Yeah.
Rob Collie (00:49:00): I was two blog posts a week. You've made fun of how long my blog posts are in the past and they're encyclopedias. That's part of the reason why I don't do them anymore is because that just...
Adam Saxton (00:49:08): A lot of work.
Rob Collie (00:49:10): There's too many other things competing for my time. Plus honestly, there's so many people even at our company, who are so much better at these tools than I ever was, I sort of feel like I had my run. I want to do something different now.
Adam Saxton (00:49:25): I could see from your perspective, letting other people shine, where their strong suits are, and let them help them build up what you're working on and building.
Rob Collie (00:49:34): I go to my own company's people, my own team with DAX questions.
Adam Saxton (00:49:39): Yeah.
Rob Collie (00:49:41): It's like, "Why didn't you write a book on that?" "Well, yeah."
Adam Saxton (00:49:45): Yeah. I did.
Rob Collie (00:49:46): But it turns out you're still a lot better.
Adam Saxton (00:49:47): I'm old, so.
Rob Collie (00:49:50): Yeah.
Adam Saxton (00:49:52): There's that.
Rob Collie (00:49:52): There's that too. Yeah. Okay. That's great. I didn't know any of that backstory and I've been really, keenly interested in it for a long time. So, you described Patrick as your business partner.
Adam Saxton (00:50:05): Yep. He's my second wife. I described him that way as well.
Rob Collie (00:50:08): Okay. So, business partner in Guy in a Cube?
Adam Saxton (00:50:11): Yeah.
Rob Collie (00:50:12): This is obvious but Microsoft doesn't own Guy in a Cube. It's not a Microsoft thing.
Adam Saxton (00:50:18): That's correct.
Rob Collie (00:50:18): So, you've got your own LLC or whatever.
Adam Saxton (00:50:22): I do now. Yeah. I didn't, originally.
Rob Collie (00:50:23): Yeah. That's fascinating. So, you work two jobs.
Adam Saxton (00:50:27): Yes.
Rob Collie (00:50:28): I think a lot of people would probably assume looking in from the outside that Guy in a Cube is part of your Microsoft duties.
Adam Saxton (00:50:35): Well, I've had people comment on things, especially, when I first started doing it. There was one video I did in 2015 where I actually had some friends of mine, they had some camera gear and they helped me film something.
Adam Saxton (00:50:47): I actually did that video on the Power BI YouTube channel, because they had asked me to... At the time, I wasn't monetizing anything. I was so small. I was just helping out. The comment on that video was, "Wow, Microsoft really stepped up their production quality." I'm like, "Yeah. No, they didn't. That was me."
Rob Collie (00:51:05): All right. Let's talk about your day job then.
Adam Saxton (00:51:08): Yeah.
Rob Collie (00:51:09): What does that look like?
Adam Saxton (00:51:10): So, the way I describe is the Power BI CAT team or the customer advisory team or something... I actually don't even remember what CAT stands for anymore because we just always call it CAT and it's customer advisory team or something like that. The way I describe this to people, because when we come in and they say, "We're part of the CAT team." They're like, "I have no idea what that is."
Adam Saxton (00:51:29): That's why I just don't even say it. I'm like, "We're a team of elite ninjas that drop in and help unblock you to gain adoption with Power BI." They're like, "Well, that makes sense." Our team deals with the largest customers, enterprise customers working with Power BI. Those, that are trying to push the limits and push the product, it's part of the product team.
Adam Saxton (00:51:47): It's the voice of the customer for the engineering teams. We're working with it... It's honestly amazing, the level of amount of data that some of our customers are working with. So, I joke sometimes because there's people that will complain and say, "Well, I'm doing 300 million rows and Power BI just can't handle it."
Adam Saxton (00:52:10): I'm like, "That's cute. That's itty-bitty data." So, I'm like, "I'm working with a customer, where they have a 100% imported into a tabular model of 1.5 billion rows inside a Power BI and that thing's running like a champ."
Rob Collie (00:52:22): Yeah.
Adam Saxton (00:52:22): So, 300 million rows. I'm like, " Probably, got a bad data model."
Rob Collie (00:52:33): Completely.
Adam Saxton (00:52:33): Yes.
Rob Collie (00:52:33): Completely.
Adam Saxton (00:52:34): Yes. That's, honestly. It's a broken record. That's what Patrick's and my day job. It was just like, you've got people coming in and saying, "I want to go to a P4 or P5 because I need more memory and space." I'm like, "No you don't. Give me 30 minutes and DAX Studio, and Tabular Editor. I'll give you 9-10 recommendations to optimize your model."
Rob Collie (00:52:53): Boy, I bet, you see a lot of data models, quote-unquote, that are just one wide table.
Adam Saxton (00:52:59): Yes. It's amazing. We had our Phil Seamark ended up joining our team. He was an MVP. I remember, a month or two after he joined the team, he's like, "Wow, I just had this in my head. I mean, these are the largest enterprise customers in the world.
Adam Saxton (00:53:14): This is Fortune 500. These are all companies that everybody knows the name of these companies. I just imagine, they've got these rock-solid teams that are building this stuff and it's really going to push my... They're doing some really wonky things." I'm like, "One giant table with 300 columns." I'm like, "What are you doing?"
Rob Collie (00:53:34): Well, this is where that sequel to Power BI transition really lands with both feet.
Adam Saxton (00:53:39): Well, I'd say Excel to Power BI as well.
Rob Collie (00:53:42): Well, but I mean, IT doesn't even understand Excel. The average IT professional can't write a VLOOKUP.
Adam Saxton (00:53:51): In fairness, I can't write a VLOOKUP, either.
Rob Collie (00:53:53): You never needed to. It's okay. We forgive you.
Adam Saxton (00:53:55): Yes.
Rob Collie (00:53:56): True story. I'll hide the names.
Adam Saxton (00:53:58): Protect the innocent.
Rob Collie (00:53:59): Well, some of the people in this story are not...
Rob Collie (00:54:03): Some of the people in this story are not innocent. So many people in this story are committing a sin.
Adam Saxton (00:54:08): Data blasphemy.
Rob Collie (00:54:09): Yeah. Well also just like an interpersonal bad human sin in my opinion, but we were a subcontractor to another contractor. Actually, there was a three level contract job. We don't usually do this kind of thing at all.
Adam Saxton (00:54:22): Like layers of wrongness.
Rob Collie (00:54:23): Layers of wrongness already. At one of the world's largest energy firms. We'll keep it like that. And there were different legs of this project. We were doing part of one part of it but then there was a sibling part that was like one universe over next to us. And they had brought in one of the big four accounting and consulting firms to do that part of it.
Rob Collie (00:54:48): Now they were both power BI tabular. Right, all that kind of stuff. And you know, the 300 million rows, all that kind of stuff. Like we were loading just you know how it goes just insane amounts of data. Like every single transaction that ever like happened in the history of this company forever.
Adam Saxton (00:55:02): And I need all of this.
Rob Collie (00:55:03): And we were just crunching, just absolutely destroying it. You know, it was like, "oh, you want a 10 year trend"? no problem. It's just like we had it all. So in the meantime, our sibling, over in that other parallel universe, we kept hearing these rumors, like they're struggling to get one month of data loaded. And we go because you know, we're friendly people. Can we take a look? We can help.
Rob Collie (00:55:26): And we got told, no, you are not allowed access to that closet. Right. We said, listen, we have the Big Four over there, and you know what else? The Big Four, that company, they sent their number one, Microsoft power BI expert to do this.
Adam Saxton (00:55:44): All right.
Rob Collie (00:55:45): And we go, oh, well then that must be something really complicated going on over there. We believe them. We're so naive. And then another two months goes by and they still can't get it, it's just a total failure. And so after hours, when like no one was looking, someone said, "Hey, can you come over and take a look?" We opened it up. Yep. One big wide table. And we're slapping our forehead, okay, this is how much dishonesty is running around in the world. And you know, the amount of money being charged for that number one, Ms. Power. it's [crosstalk 00:56:18].
Adam Saxton (00:56:18): That and it's one of the Big Four. I'm like there's money there.
Rob Collie (00:56:21): It was fraud. They were committing... It should be charged with a crime.
Thomas LaRock (00:56:27): Hold on. Just remember this. When you graduate medical school, right. They're going to call you a doctor, but not every doctor graduates top of the class. So that company could legitimately be saying, this is my number one power BI guy, Microsoft. That doesn't mean he's top of the class.
Adam Saxton (00:56:45): Yes. That's a fair statement.
Rob Collie (00:56:47): But it's top of the class for them.
Thomas LaRock (00:56:50): That's the best they could find. You know, that there's a dearth of people that can do proper data analysis. That was the best that they had.
Rob Collie (00:57:00): I will tell you now, one of the struggles we have when we're getting into some of these engagements, I will be completely honest with you that there's only a handful of people that really understand how to do it. And they don't work at these companies.
Thomas LaRock (00:57:13): Right. So I was surprised Rob, that you didn't know that guy. Because when they said, Hey here's you is our number one guy. He works at power BI I'm like you probably there's what a dozen of you in the world, you should have known exactly who that guy was. As soon as you didn't know him, you, you should have just questioned and go. Never heard of him.
Rob Collie (00:57:29): Let Me let you guys in on a little secret.
Adam Saxton (00:57:30): You don't Know everyone?
Rob Collie (00:57:32): Well, I don't know everyone, but the world is every day right now, manufacturing, just legions of people who are really, really good at this. And they're all on the business side. And they're all well, not all but overwhelmingly unknown and underappreciated.
Adam Saxton (00:57:53): Yep. I would Agree with that.
Rob Collie (00:57:54): They're not going to find their way into that room where they had the Big Four best power BI expert deployed because it's just like a different career path. It's entirely too authentic essentially, to find yourself in that situation, I'll be completely fine. This is part of our business model. I believe this. I mean in a way that I bet my career on it. This is the future. It's the people who are good at business. Good at communicating. If, they come from a tech background. Great. But they also have to have this other stuff. It's this hybrid that we're always talking about on this show. I think that most IT organizations are really struggling to embrace this fact, that their best data modelers, their best BI people are that unknown man or woman hiding in the finance department. It's not the CFO. It's not even the director. Right? It's this hidden diamond in the rough, this gem. And they're everywhere. Now
Adam Saxton (00:58:56): Working with one of my customers, there is that person, they work in finance and they came out of that world and he understands like all the finance aspects of stuff from the business side and he applies and he's an amazing data modeler. He's one of the best. And I've even said everyone needs that person in their company. We need clones of that person cause he's making amazing things. You and it's just incredible. And we do on the power BI CAT team, there's a program called the power BI enterprise voice, where we bring in direct people from those enterprise customers. And they have direct communication with feedback with the engineering teams. And one of the things we try and do is get someone from the business persona and then someone from the technical persona to try and get both represented in the program.
Adam Saxton (00:59:44): And I'll be honest, like the technical folks are good and I enjoy working with them. But the business folks, we seem to get more and or different types of feedback come from the business folks that tend to be more actionable than the technical cause the technical, we get on the tech side, we just get siloed in on this problem or this specific space instead of understanding the whole picture of that business side, along with it and how that would impact. And so having those business folks as part of that discussion is very important.
Rob Collie (01:00:13): Well, I'm glad that's also showing up on your radar. I think that as an outsider now, I think that Microsoft tends to miss this in my conversations with Redmond. It's very, very often about what it takes to convince a CIO, to commit to power BI as a platform. I see that a lot. And then I love that you are more engaged on the adoption side. What happens after you make the sale?
Adam Saxton (01:00:43): Well, I mean we're still engaged. So, where there as part of the adoption, but then it's an ongoing discussion of, I mean, I've been working with companies that have been using power BI for years, but it's still about adoption, right? It's about growth. It's about how else can we help you within the business? You know, help us scale it up. All of that. The other thing I would say is one thing I, I would agree in the beginning of my Microsoft career you're right. It was all about, we got to convince the CIO or the CMO or the CDO, like some C level has got to make that decision. Whereas now I've seen that conversation shift more to we need to find the influencer and it doesn't necessarily have to be the C level. Maybe it's a director level type person. Some of that has enough influence and has those connections in the business to help us be that sponsor and to push that. And we do have evidence that absolutely helps from an adoption perspective. And typically I'll be honest. I'll lot of times that person's in finance.
Rob Collie (01:01:40): Yes that's our experience as well.
Adam Saxton (01:01:43): If you Can find that person, sometimes we're not as successful there, but sometimes we are. Or sometimes that person that's in that influence role is not necessarily pro Microsoft, which is hard. And sometimes that's forced upon them. It's just interesting to see it's definitely moved away from the C level. Although those discussions do happen, especially at certain companies, but it's more about the influencer who can actually influence that decision from a business side of it. That's how we're going to grow adoption and actually get past the self-service grassroots stuff into real, the mix of the service and the IT central type of implementation.
Thomas LaRock (01:02:23): I was going to ask you, Adam, you used to travel how much? 50% or?
Adam Saxton (01:02:30): I always like to say it was 25%, but I think it was closer to 50% at certain points there were peaks and valleys, but yeah.
Rob Collie (01:02:37): Yeah, Same.
Adam Saxton (01:02:37): That was all self inflicted by the way. That was just because I wanted to go to conferences and speak and...
Thomas LaRock (01:02:42): Sure. Yeah. But I remember specifically the time that you were trying to get home to Houston and it was flooding. Right. And I've been there as well where I've been on the road and something's happening at home.
Adam Saxton (01:02:59): Yeah. It was Hurricane Harvey.
Thomas LaRock (01:03:00): Yeah. And usually for me, it's like a snowstorm and my family makes the best they can when I'm not here to clear it all the way. But I've had incidents and where I couldn't get home and I think it was the same for you. And I thought you might want... I think there are people out there that experience, that same thing where you're on the road. It's self-inflicted as you said, it's something you're doing that you love, you enjoy. And at the same time, there's something just weighing on you. You're like I need to get home.
Adam Saxton (01:03:31): Oh. And I was constantly talking to my wife, getting status, looking at the weather, looking at the news. And I was coming from Israel and there was a stop in Newark, New Jersey and then from Newark to Houston. And when I got to Newark and I'm looking, I'm like, there's no way we're going to take off because it's the storm's going to be right over Houston at the time that we're supposed to land. We took off and I'm, constantly in contact with my wife saying like, look, I'm, going to try, make sure you're safe, what do you need. Thankfully, her parents were about an hour and a half away. She wasn't necessarily alone, but yes it was, nerve-wracking absolutely a hundred percent just worried about them. And I there's nothing. Absolutely nothing I can do. cause I'm not there.
Thomas LaRock (01:04:18): Yes, exactly you're sitting there. There's nothing more that I can do. There's nothing I can lift. There's nothing, right. It's just this emotionally draining experience. And for those of us that hit the road from time to time, I don't think people understand that enough. It's not just being away. There's also all sorts of things. You know, I've missed soccer games and things like that. But the times I wasn't able to come home and I get home and they're telling me, "It was an ice storm and we had no power and you could just hear that the branches of the trees just breaking and creaking all night and we couldn't sleep." And I'm like, okay, this... So you, you have to have that balance between everything you're doing.
Adam Saxton (01:05:07): Well and everything I've done too. it's conversation with my wife as well, understanding the family and making sure we're not impacting anything there and the balance of work, play and family.
Thomas LaRock (01:05:20): Now the play part, see everybody thinks my kids are oh, you're going to all these places. And it's all happy, fun play time.
Adam Saxton (01:05:30): Yeah. It's just a party. It's just always a party.
Thomas LaRock (01:05:32): And it's not, it really isn't except for the times where it is. so my first trip to Damastown, I was the president of pass and I was asked to go over to attend their 10th anniversary celebration. And they were holding this sequel conference in Damastown. Stop. Yes. And it's easy to get there. You're fly to Frankfurt.
Adam Saxton (01:05:54): Frankfurt, the airport that is the bane of my existence.
Thomas LaRock (01:05:59): I don't mind Frankfurt.
Adam Saxton (01:06:00): Oh, I had an experience there. So [inaudible 01:06:02]
Thomas LaRock (01:06:02): I [inaudible 01:06:03] mine.
Adam Saxton (01:06:04): Oh, okay. I've never been to that one.
Thomas LaRock (01:06:07): I love the event. It's probably my favorite event of the year. And I can't go this year and that's really, it's sad. The thing about the Germans and this is mostly for Rob's benefit. So they, they threw this 10th anniversary party my first year and it was fabulous. It was, it was a lot of fun. They had a lot of fun putting it together and it was a nice environment to be in. It was to explain it for Rob. It was really like being with another extended family. And what's weird for me is all these people kind of knew me. They'd come up to me. They'd thanked me for my work with past. And I'm like, I really have no idea who you are. This is my first trip to Germany. Who are you? So at some point that first night somebody there, they're German. So there's a meeting of two cultures happening here. First is the love of Jägermeister for the SQL community at that point in time. And I'm in the home of Jägermeister right? Jägermeister comes from a little town, not [crosstalk 01:07:10].
Adam Saxton (01:07:09): Going through the Frankfurt airport and there's just massive displays in the [inaudible 01:07:14]
Thomas LaRock (01:07:14): So they bring out two handles of Jägermeister and it's special. Jägermeister, because it comes from the town and somebody brought it in specifically for their birthday celebration. And so we finished those bottles and there were a lot of people. It wasn't just like, [crosstalk 01:07:29] yeah,
Adam Saxton (01:07:29): It's not just six men in a corner finishing two bottles.
Thomas LaRock (01:07:32): Right, they were a lot anyway.
Adam Saxton (01:07:34): And these bottles are not small bottles.
Thomas LaRock (01:07:36): They're handles. That's a 1.75. It's big. I get to go back the following year and they're like, okay, next thing I know there's two bottles of Jägermeister. I'm like, are we doing this again?
Adam Saxton (01:07:47): I have very similar experience.
Thomas LaRock (01:07:49): Are we doing this again? I thought that was just for your birthday. They're like, no, no, So Adam shows up at SQL conference one year and [crosstalk 01:08:01].
Adam Saxton (01:08:01): So naive, and naive Little Adam
Thomas LaRock (01:08:05): We're at their basically attendee event. They have some food, they have some drinks and we grab some seats and I forget how many, maybe a dozen of us were just hanging out, getting caught up for a lot of us, talking with people from all over the world. Right. But at some point during the night out comes those two bottles and they always find me. They're like Mr. Jägermeister. They bring the bottles straight to me. And of course Adam's right next to me.
Adam Saxton (01:08:34): You were the second half of that. That was the second bottle I had parked. I was already halfway gone by the time I got to you. Okay. So there's a whole other part of it before I even got to you.
Thomas LaRock (01:08:44): So the play part. So the incident, I don't want to get into too many details, but I have a feeling
Adam Saxton (01:08:50): I'll get into the details.
Thomas LaRock (01:08:51): Okay. Yeah. well,
Adam Saxton (01:08:52): Some of the details,
Thomas LaRock (01:08:53): Right, some of the details because I don't think you remember.
Adam Saxton (01:08:56): This is one of the few moments in my life where I... So people have told me. So like the whole, the check-in thing
Thomas LaRock (01:09:03): On swarm. Yes.
Adam Saxton (01:09:04): I don't remember that part.
Thomas LaRock (01:09:05): No. Well we, we created the Adam Saxton Memorial washroom in your honor. Specifically because of events that night.
Adam Saxton (01:09:13): Oh no, I got that part. So Karen Lopez was with us as well. Yes. And so I distinctly remember waking up the next morning going, I just remember there was something about level nine. Karen was talking to me about something level nine. I don't know if that was real. I had to go look. It was like some NASA like level nine tours at the Houston facility.
Thomas LaRock (01:09:36): Right.
Adam Saxton (01:09:36): And I had to look that up because I was like, was that real? Or am I just imagining that? Because, we had this whole conversation about it. I'm like, oh that was real. All right. I'm good. I'm right.
Thomas LaRock (01:09:45): The lesson. I always try to tell, especially when that first time visitors, the secret conference is pace yourself because the Jägermeister is coming.
Adam Saxton (01:09:53): Remember. So like the shots that I got, these were not small shots. It's not like a little shot glass. This was like a big cup. And it's like got a good, healthy portion inside of it. And I think I had nine of those out of two separate bottles.
Thomas LaRock (01:10:06): So, and the thing about Jägermeister is that it really is something you can have a lot more of than you need. I really enjoyed the event. Not just for the Jägermeister, but the camaraderie. Yes. The, the feeling of closeness with all those people that I've met for. And I've gone for six or seven years now. But I do remember, so Adam has not returned since.
Adam Saxton (01:10:27): No I had two. I went the year after that as well.
Thomas LaRock (01:10:30): Did you?
Adam Saxton (01:10:30): Yes I did. I don't remember. [crosstalk 01:10:33]
Rob Collie (01:10:34): Don't don't let the truth get in the way of a good story.
Thomas LaRock (01:10:36): No, no, no. Wait didn't you guys. I think now remember the second year. Didn't you do the power BI hour?
Adam Saxton (01:10:43): Yes.
Thomas LaRock (01:10:43): Did you do that both years or the second years?
Adam Saxton (01:10:45): No. So the first year Casper did it, I was on the sidelines. I was recording it. Then the second year, then they moved it to the big auditorium and I was part of that,
Thomas LaRock (01:10:54): Which is awesome. So these guys and didn't you do like a presentation on beer?
Adam Saxton (01:10:58): No, [crosstalk 01:10:59] what I did there. I could not do in the U.S. Because it involved. I believe it involved Trump at the time. So I wasn't brave enough to do that in the U.S.
Thomas LaRock (01:11:09): So I Love the power BI hour that they do.
Adam Saxton (01:11:14): Oh the power hour. Yeah.
Thomas LaRock (01:11:15): Power hour. Is that done anywhere else or is that just a German [inaudible 01:11:19]
Adam Saxton (01:11:19): No, no, no, no. So that, actually has roots outside of that event. So it was done at past summit. It was done at a bunch of different, I think it was done at TechHead. It was done at TechReady inside of Microsoft. It's been done at Pass. We did one. The last one we did at the Atlanta Business Application Summit, Matthew Roach. And I kind of organized that. We were able to get 1300 people in that room. Yeah. For the power hour. It has a following.
Thomas LaRock (01:11:44): Yeah. Yeah. Those things are great.
Adam Saxton (01:11:46): It's amazing.
Thomas LaRock (01:11:46): And you guys pick a topic.
Adam Saxton (01:11:48): Preface it with you are not going to learn anything actionable out of this, but we're going to have fun with the technology and do things that you never thought about doing and.
Thomas LaRock (01:11:58): No it's brilliant. It really is.
Adam Saxton (01:12:00): But I will say the Germans at the sequel conference, it's a whole other level. Like it is not like in the U.S. It's fairly politically correct? I would say. And in Germany. No, no.
Thomas LaRock (01:12:10): They're passing out beers.
Adam Saxton (01:12:13): Passing out beers isn't the thing. But I remember the first year I went, one of them did, like, it was a whole skit on like the Ashley Madison database. And I was like, whoa. okay, here we go.
Thomas LaRock (01:12:23): I've seen that one too.
Adam Saxton (01:12:24): Yep. So it was, it was great.
Rob Collie (01:12:27): Adam, on a previous podcast, he told the story of my parallel story to that. It was tequila. It was Southern California. And the one part of your story that I kind of raised an eyebrow, was that you're like, I'm not sure that I really remember most much of the much of the evening. There're parts of it that are gone. But then, but you happen to know how many shots you had.
Adam Saxton (01:12:46): Oh, I know exactly how many shots.
Rob Collie (01:12:48): But no, no you do not.
Adam Saxton (01:12:54): Fair, point.
Rob Collie (01:12:54): That is exactly what I was getting at is that the morning after my incident, I woke up and told people the straight face, but guys, I only had two of those margaritas and they looked at each other like, no, oh my God, [crosstalk 01:13:07] he's thing.
Adam Saxton (01:13:08): That's the thing thing I'll add to that. And this goes back to the whole community thing and family. And some people always ask like, oh man, that's really dangerous. And I do know that there are, you do have to be mindful about that. Especially just be safe in what you're doing. And I was, I was surrounded with people I trust implicitly and I knew so like Casper de young was right there. Tom was right there. Karen Lopez was, these are people. I implicitly trust. I've known them for a long time. And there's very few times I've gone that far. It was to the point like Casper had to walk me back to my hotel room. Like he was there. He had to take my phone away from me as well. That was part of the incident. It involved my wife. And it was bad. Not like bad, bad but it was a [inaudible 01:13:50] that could have been avoided. And have been avoided
Rob Collie (01:13:54): Have you seen the quote unquote documentary movie about Motley crue? The Dirt?
Adam Saxton (01:13:59): No. I haven't. Seen that.
Rob Collie (01:14:02): He wakes up in the morning and he's on tour and he is handcuffed to his bed.
Adam Saxton (01:14:07): Oh no.
Rob Collie (01:14:09): Then they replay the events or the past night it ends with his manager handcuffing him to the bed.
Adam Saxton (01:14:15): No, no [crosstalk 01:14:17] just stop. So at the point of this, what I remember of the evening was Casper taking my phone away from me, responding back to my wife, saying, I'm drunk, I'm going to bed. I will talk to you in the morning. That's what he sent. And then he put the phone back in my pocket that whatever you do, do not text anyone, do not answer any calls until you have woken up and you're sober. And I was like, thank you, sir.
Rob Collie (01:14:41): You were Still, you were still receiving and absorbing instructions so.
Adam Saxton (01:14:44): Yes.
Rob Collie (01:14:45): But at least at that point.
Rob Collie (01:14:46): Well, because at that point I had transitioned to water because that's all they were giving me at that point.
Rob Collie (01:14:53): You had good minders.
Adam Saxton (01:14:54): Yes. Like I Said, those are people I trust and they were looking out and we were having a good time.
Rob Collie (01:14:59): And mostly people were just taking pictures of me.
Adam Saxton (01:15:02): Oh, there is a picture. In fact, the only way I can find this picture, it's in my email, but I have to search for, it's only the subject of the email. It was sent by Casper to Patrick and then Patrick forwarded it to me "its fucked up". And it's a picture of me kind of like strown out and yeah, that's the only way I can find that picture. I
Rob Collie (01:15:25): I Missed me some Casper. We're going to have, to have him on the show.
Adam Saxton (01:15:30): Casper's like my brother also, man, we've had adventures together. And I actually, it's interesting because the folks on my team were kind of all over the place. Good portion of them are in Redmond. But I there's a point like with all the traveling and everything, I would tell people that Casper is the person on the team that I physically see the most. Which is interesting because I would go to Europe a bunch. I go to Europe and he's at the things that I'm at in Europe, but also he's at the items in the U.S. As well. And so I'm seeing him on both ends. Whereas the folks in the U.S. I only see at some of the U.S. Things, not all of the U.S. Things. So it just got to the point where I saw him more than I saw Patrick face to face.
Rob Collie (01:16:14): It's a weird new reality. Like us moving around the country, sort of like just sort of being where the kids are until they're done with high school, and being approaching late forties I now have more friends in other countries than I do in my own city. And it's just like, this is not how it's supposed to be.
Adam Saxton (01:16:32): I tell that to folks too. Like when I'm at, when I was at past summit or ignite or anything like that, I'm like the Europe folks. I see them more than I see anyone else just because I'm going to both sides of it. We've had a lot of fun. I would say that the folks in Europe, I would argue that I have little bit more fun over there than I do in the U.S. Just because it's really open there. Right? Like they just enjoy themselves. It's a work hard, play, hard mentality over there of like they're very focused when we need to be serious, but they can actually enjoy themselves at the evening and, and whatnot. And so it's always fun to hang out with them and also being in Europe too, just getting new experiences of life and one pro tip I'll give folks if they do travel for conferences, whenever we get to do that again is try to work in family hacks into those trips.
Adam Saxton (01:17:21): Right. So there're times like when I've been to SQL Bits or SQL conference or whatnot, where I brought my family with me and so my daughters and they were older when we did this was a couple years ago. So they actively remember it. We went to London when SQL Bits was in London and I brought my wife and kids. Came out two days before, did some sight seeing. And then they spent during the conference, my wife spent a day or two just sight seeing London with my kids because I'd already seen it from a different trip. And so they've been to London, they've been to Paris, they've seen Stonehenge. So they've gotten to experience some of the culture outside of the U.S. And can relate to some of that. And it's very different from the U.S. and we've done that too when we've gone to Orlando for some things. So going to like universal and Disney with the kids as part of the work trip, bringing them with me as well. So working that in,
Rob Collie (01:18:13): Exposing them to that Orlando exotic culture
Adam Saxton (01:18:16): Absolutely. So the reason I brought them. The second time I went was because the first time I went and I went to the Harry Potter stuff and daughter loved Harry Potter. And so I'm just sending her pictures of me like posing and the dragons right behind me. And she's like, you're Awful.
Rob Collie (01:18:33): Yeah. You learned your lesson, didn't you? I don't think I've done as well at that as I could have, but it is good advice.
Adam Saxton (01:18:40): I mean, I could have done better as well, but I've tried to because my wife, the number one thing is my wife. Like she's just wants to travel. That's her thing. So once I started traveling to Europe and it was always interesting to, I never thought I'd get to travel outside of the U.S. And when I finally got around to doing it, I found that how easy it was and this really surprised me as well, because the way I hacked traveling to Europe because Microsoft wouldn't pay for it. And so I worked in was I would do these pre-con sessions, a full day thing. And because I was a Microsoft employee, they couldn't actually pay me to do the pre-con. And so the arrangement we did was look, pay for hotel and flight I'll cover food and all that. That's fine.
Adam Saxton (01:19:20): And so that's how I got to go to a lot of this Europe doing, not since I've been on the power BI CAT team they'll that just gets paid for. But before that I would make those arrangements. And it was interesting that the Europe crowds, even if it was a smaller event, they would do it. Whereas, and I tried making that arrangement with some folks in the U.S. For some SQL Saturdays or things of that nature and they wouldn't do it. And I'm like, it's way cheaper. Like I don't understand.
Rob Collie (01:19:48): Yeah. Now it is interesting. Either Europe puts more value on these events or there's something oddly cool about having an American come over, which will be harder to understand.
Adam Saxton (01:19:58): Some Of that is because from an international perspective, they're like, oh it's really good if we can get Americans to, or especially like Microsoft employees or folks like that, they elevate the event apparently at some stages. So
Rob Collie (01:20:12): I wonder if post COVID they'll have the same attitude. they'll be like, do we really want to bring an American over here?
Adam Saxton (01:20:17): Yeah, I know. Yeah. Oh that's true.
Rob Collie (01:20:18): I Don't know. Maybe it's time for us to go solo.
Adam Saxton (01:20:24): Yeah. So it's been interesting and just the experiences that I've had on that front have been, and the friends that I've made by doing that has been amazing.
Rob Collie (01:20:37): So back to power BI for a moment.
Adam Saxton (01:20:38): Yeah.
Rob Collie (01:20:39): How much opportunity do you find for doing like end to end project work? Do you ever get A chance to do something like that?
Adam Saxton (01:20:44): No. No I don't. And I would say this is something that is a gap on my side or just something I don't get exposed to I'm not a consultant. Right. So I don't do those type of projects. I'm very focused on the power BI side. I do find ways to interact with some of the data components, but the re [inaudible 01:21:03]
Adam Saxton (01:21:03): I do find ways to interact with some of the data components, but the real true end to end, I don't really get into that much. I try and find opportunities, especially if it's a Microsoft technology like Azure Synapse Analytics as news, or we're trying to do stuff there. But even Data bricks, I have some high knowledge of it, but at that point, I'm like, look, we got to get someone from that side to help with it, and Power BI.
Rob Collie (01:21:27): And so much of a project is the long tail of all the little details.
Adam Saxton (01:21:31): Yes.
Rob Collie (01:21:31): And so, probably it wouldn't require the metaphor you used earlier, the ninjas who parachute in.
Adam Saxton (01:21:38): Yes.
Rob Collie (01:21:38): And this is like a real early 1980s low budget film.
Adam Saxton (01:21:42): Yes.
Rob Collie (01:21:43): It's like, we're going to send you to Paratrooper school and Ninja school.
Adam Saxton (01:21:46): Yes. And so our team, even when I have to set expectations with folks too, it's like we are not consultants. We do not do the implementation. It's more of an advising consent type role.
Rob Collie (01:21:59): Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Adam Saxton (01:21:59): So we will evaluate what you're doing, we'll make recommendations based on best practices and then in some cases we'll get into the weeds a little bit. Some of that's just, do I have bandwidth to do that? And also, is it really interesting and is it really going to help unblock something. Specifically around model design and things of that nature, but I still won't do implementation. So I may come up with a sample or something to illustrate something but past that I'm like, either you have to do that as a company or you have to engage a partner or MCS or something of that nature.
Rob Collie (01:22:31): That makes sense. I bet that they're constantly trying to creep that line.
Adam Saxton (01:22:36): Everyone does. They try and bamboozle me.
Rob Collie (01:22:39): Yeah. But if you were going to write this formula.
Adam Saxton (01:22:43): Yes. But it'll be really quick. It would really help us.
Rob Collie (01:22:47): Yeah. Wait a second. You're the client. I'm...Okay.
Adam Saxton (01:22:53): Yes. And of course, I'm not even Support. So with Support, there's cost associated with that. Whether you're doing professional support and you're actually paying for it, or you're on the premier side where you have a premier contract that has certain hours that you've costed. And, or an MCS engagement where there's cost in that too. When it comes to the CAT team, there's no cost. We're just engaged. There's no billing that happens there. It's a quote on quote free for them to get anything out of us that they can.
Rob Collie (01:23:22): Yeah, totally.
Adam Saxton (01:23:23): They want to try and get like, can you come on site and help us? And I'm like, man, no. Sometimes I will, but still I won't do implementation. Sometimes I've gone on site for customers where we'll do an architectural review, where it's like a one or two day thing with a bunch of different folks from different tech areas and we'll do that type of effort.
Rob Collie (01:23:43): And I think one of the things that I've really, my whole history over the last 10 years with this stuff. Whether as a solo individual or with the company that we've been growing, the exposure to so many different industries, so many different problems. The velocity at which we move our projects, we don't turn a project into a multiyear affair. We get through those things as fast as possible, so that necessarily ups the pace on how much we're exposed to.
Adam Saxton (01:24:13): Yes.
Rob Collie (01:24:13): We still need to be utilized. We still need to be doing work.
Adam Saxton (01:24:16): And that's the other beauty of my job too. When I was in Support, we had to worry about utilization as well. I had to log that time, so that's where that struggle was is, okay, how much time do I spend playing around with something versus actually working a case and logging the hours. Whereas on the CAT side, I'm like, I don't have that. I just do what I need to do to get it done, which is amazing. Which is part of why it's a dream job, right?
Rob Collie (01:24:41): Yes.
Adam Saxton (01:24:42): I'm like, we've got budget, we've got the tools around the bleeding edge. I've got complete access to the engineering teams.
Rob Collie (01:24:47): Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Adam Saxton (01:24:48): Our whole mission is to just help unblock people with the technology, whatever we need to do.
Rob Collie (01:24:53): Almost all the upsides, very few of the downsides. Even as you were describing, I'm sitting going, this is ideal, right? I could ask the question, do you get to do full implementation? But there's also the question of, do you have to?
Adam Saxton (01:25:08): Yeah, I don't have to. And honestly, that's frowned upon because that's not a good use of our time in terms of what we're trying to do.
Rob Collie (01:25:15): Yeah.
Adam Saxton (01:25:15): Now the other thing I'll say with that though, is people are like, I want to get on. How do I get on that team? I'm like, if you look at the people on the team, this is literally the A-team. It's Casper De Young, it's myself, it's Matthew Roach. It's Patrick, it's Phil Seamark. It's a lot of folks that are top tier at what we do. It's a very work hard, play hard mentality. Our manager, Mark Ragera, he is amazing at hiring and finding people that fit that bill, that are very low maintenance. He's not a micromanager either. So he is like, look, you need to get things done. Let me know how I can unblock you, pass that. Go do your job.
Rob Collie (01:25:54): Yeah. I had a chance to talk to Mark really for the first time because he kind of rose to prominence within Microsoft as a voice for this stuff after I'd left. I was very impressed. I was very impressed with Mark.
Adam Saxton (01:26:05): Yeah, he's amazing.
Rob Collie (01:26:07): Yeah. We should also have him on the show.
Adam Saxton (01:26:09): That would be fun. And he'll freely admit he's not the deep technical guy. He's more on the business side. And he came from the finance world also. He gets all of it. His whole thing is he's hiring people and surrounding himself by the technical rock stars, so to speak. He helps shield us from the junk.
Rob Collie (01:26:28): That's great. That's kind of where I've found myself. The fact that I have somewhat of a technical history with this stuff is almost a historical accident at this point.
Adam Saxton (01:26:37): Yeah.
Rob Collie (01:26:37): I'm much more about the dynamics of the market and, and understanding and just sort of like what it does for the industry than I am about the tax formulas anymore.
Adam Saxton (01:26:48): Yeah.
Rob Collie (01:26:49): I still dabble.
Adam Saxton (01:26:50): Yeah, there's obviously some passion there. Right?
Rob Collie (01:26:53): Uh-huh (affirmative).
Adam Saxton (01:26:53): So it's like you enjoy it.
Rob Collie (01:26:55): Yeah.
Adam Saxton (01:26:55): You don't want to not do it at all. But at the same time, especially in your role of the company, it's like, look, you've got to pay attention to other things too.
Rob Collie (01:27:04): We have a lot of reports. We have a pretty sophisticated data model now for our digital advertising and the whole marketing side of the house. And that's not a hundred percent me. I have help, but I'm kind of the ring leader of that process.
Adam Saxton (01:27:17): One thing we struggle with, that Patrick and I have been struggling with, especially being on the CAT team, it's this balance between the CAT team and the Guy in a Cube stuff, because they're dynamically opposed to each other. In stance of on the CAT side, we're getting deep into the weeds of the technology. This is the super geeky stuff model optimization, large scale data, which when you look at it from an overall usage of Power BI, when we look at massive data, large model type, that's a small fraction of the usage of the technology. A Lot of it it's smaller businesses.
Adam Saxton (01:27:52): And even at large enterprise companies, there's a lot of folks that are doing stuff that I wouldn't consider large data. They're doing smaller operation type stuff specific to that business vertical or that team need. So we're in the nitty gritty of the largest stuff that excites both Patrick and I. We love digging into that and understanding how do we optimize this more even at the engine perspective, whereas on the Guy in a Cube side, I'm the destroyer of video ideas for Patrick, because he'll be like, look this cool thing I did in tabular editor and I'm doing this scripting thing, this is going to be a great video. I'm like, nobody's going to watch that dude. Nobody cares.
Adam Saxton (01:28:29): So on the Guy in a Cube side, it's more of the stuff that gets traction on that end is more of the intro and more of definitely not the deep technical side of it because what we're focusing on in our day job that it's all deep technical, but that doesn't translate to Guy in a Cube. And so Patrick is struggling with that way more than I am where he's like, you need to help me to figure out some video ideas that are going to actually be worth doing on the Guy in a Cube side because all I've got is this deep technical and that's not working over there. And I've told him, I was like, if you want to do one video a month on that, go for it. That's fine. But it can't be every week because our views will suffer.
Rob Collie (01:29:10): Talking about views. I would assume that views and subscribers are always trending up.
Adam Saxton (01:29:15): No, not after being off for two weeks and not doing anything. It's actually going to a nose dive. But, yeah. In general, yes, it curves up.
Rob Collie (01:29:22): Taking a, a little breather there.
Adam Saxton (01:29:24): Yeah, it hurt.
Rob Collie (01:29:26): Boy, why would you be so lazy?
Adam Saxton (01:29:28): Yes.
Rob Collie (01:29:29): And like two whole weeks.
Adam Saxton (01:29:31): Two weeks. And then basically slashed our numbers in half.
Rob Collie (01:29:35): That's the temporary.
Adam Saxton (01:29:36): Yeah.
Rob Collie (01:29:37): But what about COVID in general? That the slope of the curve change at all with COVID, people sitting at home, more time on their hands?
Adam Saxton (01:29:45): I don't know that COVID had really anything to do with it. I'm sure it did at some level, but the thing I've found over the journey is the numbers themselves, the subscribers is everything it was an exponential growth. It took me almost a year and a half to hit a thousand subscribers.
Rob Collie (01:30:01): Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Adam Saxton (01:30:02): And then it took me six months to get to 5,000. It was just like, it was always faster than next level.
Rob Collie (01:30:08): Yeah.
Rob Collie (01:30:08): And so we hit 100,000 in April of 2020. April of 2020 is when we hit 100,000. And we hit 150,000, December 14th. We hit 150,000. So I'm like, it was that much of a spread. Whereas it took me almost five years to get to 100,000 and then it took what? Another from April to December to get to 150,000.
Rob Collie (01:30:37): Yeah.
Adam Saxton (01:30:38): And then we're poised to hit 200,000, maybe a little over a year after hitting 100,000.
Rob Collie (01:30:43): That's crazy.
Adam Saxton (01:30:44): And it's insane.
Rob Collie (01:30:45): Yeah.
Adam Saxton (01:30:46): But it goes to consistency and the work and everything. So it definitely does not come overnight. And everyone's start wanting to start... There's lot of... One thing I will say in COVID is YouTube has been, especially in the power BI niche, has been flooded with new people starting channels and doing videos. That's one thing that has changed is it's gotten diluted. When I first started doing Guy in a Cube there was no one doing videos on.
Adam Saxton (01:31:13): Actually in general, even in the text base, from what I saw and I may be wrong, but it looked like there was just very little going on YouTube in general. A lot of it was focused on blogging and things of that nature. No one was doing video. Some people were, but not seriously. Now it's like everybody's doing it.
Rob Collie (01:31:32): Dilution is an ongoing thing.
Adam Saxton (01:31:34): Yeah.
Rob Collie (01:31:35): For a long time there I was the all only person grinding.
Adam Saxton (01:31:38): Yes.
Rob Collie (01:31:39): I had that luxury. No one else was grinding in competition.
Adam Saxton (01:31:43): Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Rob Collie (01:31:43): But, yeah. Now there's obviously huge differences in quality and level of engagement and all of that. Not all are created equal, but yeah. It's like who hasn't started a Power BI YouTube channel.
Adam Saxton (01:31:57): And Patrick comments on this also. And I tell him to just ignore it, because it's going to happen of where you see some videos or stuff that people are doing and they're imitating what we're doing on the Guy in a Cube side, they're imitating what others are doing as well. And I was there. When I first started doing YouTube, you go after, okay, what caught your eye? And you're looking at other people and you're trying to figure out your voice when you're early on.
Adam Saxton (01:32:20): I get it. People are trying to do that. It doesn't necessarily bother me. It bothers Patrick a lot, but I'm like, we got to do our thing and people are going to come up to our level or they're going to try to. And it's more than just production quality. You've got to have the entertainment factor. You got to have the key chemistry, the personality. I would say that's weighted way more than the production quality. Who cares? As long as your audio's okay, who cares about the rest of that? It doesn't matter.
Adam Saxton (01:32:47): Audio is important, because if you can't stand listening to it, you're going to abandon that really quick.
Rob Collie (01:32:51): Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Adam Saxton (01:32:52): But the video, use your cell phone. I don't care. Use a webcam. It doesn't matter. Don't use a web. A lot of people just do screen capture. The thing that Patrick and I have is the chemistry between us and the balance that we bring to each other. We understand what each other's thinking. We're on the very same wavelength. We've been doing it for years now so it's the content quality. It's the value. It's understanding that. That's what they have to rise up to. And then we have to think about, okay, we got to do something that separates us now. What's the next thing we can do to separate it.
Adam Saxton (01:33:24): And me getting the video editor was part of that because most people aren't doing that. And so the production quality is a lot higher. It does add value to what we're doing but we got to maintain the content quality as well.
Rob Collie (01:33:36): I have a couple other quick questions here that are more on the technical front.
Adam Saxton (01:33:40): All right.
Rob Collie (01:33:40): Or about the tools with enterprise customers, what are for like large Power BI customers struggling with the most these days? What are the things that you're most commonly either asked to help with? Maybe on the technical level, but maybe also on that kind of like social engineering level. Are there any common threads there or is it pretty much every single instance is different?
Adam Saxton (01:34:03): There's differences in each approach. The theme is I've already said it earlier that sometimes we feel like a broken record that we're always having to do model optimization. It's not...And I tell people, even in press presentations I do. I'm like nine times out of 10. Your issue is the model. When it comes to performance, it's because of the model. And not because necessarily the amount of data you have, but just the structure of the data and the fact that either the one table with all the columns or you're doing just some funky table stuff.
Adam Saxton (01:34:32): You're not sticking to just a [inaudible 01:34:34], right? Maybe you've got some transactional database and you just pulled all of it in the way it was. And you've gone to the ninth normal form and I'm like, all right, this is not going to perform. The other thing that's interesting and because of the customers we work with, we're working with larger sets of data. And usually when we go to do presentations on performance and we're giving best practices and stuff and someone will raise their hand and be like, I'm not doing any of that and my stuff is fine. I'm like, sure.
Adam Saxton (01:35:06): If you're doing like a million rows of data, you're never going to hit. I shouldn't say never, but you're not going to be as impacted on this. When you start getting to scale though, this becomes a massive problem. Now that being said, though, I've had some models where they had the one table and 300, some odd columns, they had about 8 million rows in the data. And this thing was just slow. It was because they didn't break out the dimensions.
Adam Saxton (01:35:29): They're trying to do a slicer with six unique values that was coming off of an 8 million row table. And I'm like, all right, come on, let's get a little real here. So typically it's either, it comes down to one of two things, either one, it's the model that needs to be optimized or two, it's that customer that wants to slap 120 visuals on the canvas and wonders why. And all of the docs, if you look at performance analyzer, all of the docs is like sub-second, like 30 milliseconds. It's fast. It's not your model.
Adam Saxton (01:35:58): It's the number of visuals that you had. And you're just trying to create a page native report in a Power BI report. And you don't understand the product and the tool that will help you be successful in what you're trying tell from a data perspective. In general, I would say the common theme at almost every customer is not taking the time to understand the story that you want to tell with your data and then figuring out how to do that both from a model structure, as well as your report structure, to communicate that story in an effective way. That's the theme. And nobody wants to. And part of it is it takes time to do that and everyone just we're all under deadlines. I got to get this out by next Friday so I'm just going to do what I can to throw it out the door. And then you know how it goes. It hits the fan and then they're calling Support. They're calling the CAT team like, Hey, we need to fix this.
Rob Collie (01:36:49): I think this comes back to like, again, just the overwhelming past success of SQL and of things like reporting services. And I just over and over again, I see large IT departments just look at Power BI and go, look, the new reporting services.
Adam Saxton (01:37:04): Yeah.
Rob Collie (01:37:04): And I'm like, no.
Adam Saxton (01:37:06): I want a Power BI report. And I want to just have this giant table with a bunch of columns and millions of rows. Wait, why isn't this performing? I'm like, that's not, we don't use Power BI for that.
Rob Collie (01:37:17): Even if it was performing, it's like, so missing the most valuable things that you can do with these tools, that mindset precludes you from ever discovering them.
Adam Saxton (01:37:27): And it's like the old, when I was in Support for reporting services where they're like, we've got this 300 page report that we got to print out. And I'm like, do they ever really read that?
Rob Collie (01:37:35): No.
Adam Saxton (01:37:36): They look at the first page and that's it. Nobody looks at that
Rob Collie (01:37:39): And then they export it to Excel.
Adam Saxton (01:37:41): Yes.
Rob Collie (01:37:41): Believe it.
Adam Saxton (01:37:43): And they complain because the color in Excel didn't match the color in the table in reporting services because it doesn't align to the color palette of that was a server down issue.
Rob Collie (01:37:54): Yeah.
Adam Saxton (01:37:55): That was not the right blue.
Rob Collie (01:37:56): One of them uses CMYK color scheme, right?
Adam Saxton (01:38:00): Yes. And Excel didn't use the same color palette. And so it looked purple when it was blue in their report. Can we make it bluer?
Rob Collie (01:38:07): Purple? You're going to get purple and you're going to like it.
Adam Saxton (01:38:09): Yes. That's just the people they need to take time and really understand. And it is just that sometimes they just don't get that time to do it or the business isn't helping them to grow in that area either.
Rob Collie (01:38:24): All right, here we go. Last technical question.
Adam Saxton (01:38:26): All right.
Rob Collie (01:38:26): Not even really technical.
Adam Saxton (01:38:27): Yeah, sure.
Rob Collie (01:38:28): When the dust settles, what do you think the number one sort of impact or usage case is going to be for composite models? I debated asking this as composite models, high end niche feature or guardrail to guardrail world beater. This is more nuanced.
Adam Saxton (01:38:44): Yeah.
Rob Collie (01:38:44): It's where is it going to be most impactful?
Adam Saxton (01:38:46): Marco Russa has called it the holy grail of BI. I will be honest. It scares me going back to what I said, people aren't taking the time to structure their data and understand the story that they want to tell. We've got this model out there, this big model, that's maybe the finance model and I've got my Excel spreadsheet. I want to bring them right next to it. And augment it little bit. That part I'm fine with. That doesn't necessarily scare me.
Adam Saxton (01:39:11): But now I've got this giant finance model. I've got this giant HR model, and now I want to bring in an Excel spreadsheet and I want to do direct query to my SQL server to bring in some other data as well. And that's where I'm starting to wonder. First off, it's the direct query over the live Power BI data set, which is really what we're talking about here is, it's enabling but I would also say it's very new to the point where I don't necessarily have best practices for it yet to understand what those performance implications are.
Adam Saxton (01:39:41): So the thing I'm telling people is yes, it is a very cool feature. It does enable some great things. Walk, do not run. Be mindful about what you're doing and what you're connecting to and how you're trying to relate that data. And the thing I just tell customers in general, I'm like, you've got to have a clean model. If you don't, Power BI is just one of those things where if your model is not clean, it's going to show you your ugly baby really fast. And that's when you start getting frustration, things aren't going to work very well. And you start calling us and complaining and I'm like, look, it's not a good data model.
Adam Saxton (01:40:18): We've got all this stuff. And every time we have this conversation, I'm like, it's just not... One customer I wrote an eight-page writeup of recommendations for why your model, why you have an ugly baby. I should have titled the Word doc that way, but I was more professional with it. That was in May and I'm still arguing with them over it today. And I'm like, why do you even call me? I don't even understand that. But yes, I understand you think your people are really good and I'm sure they have amazing skills in certain areas. But I'm telling you, this is how the product works. And these are the changes you need to make for this to be performant and then combine that with this composite model feature of direct query over Power BI data sets. And you're just amplifying the problem.
Adam Saxton (01:41:01): I think that's the biggest concern. And then the key is going to be is how changes could be made with that technology to make it more forgiving in those scenarios and making it smarter, to be able to optimize on the fly to accommodate that. That's really going to be the key and it's too early to even know. It's public preview. People are just getting their hands on it. We don't necessarily know what the best practices are yet. It's new. I don't have a magic answer for you on that one.
Rob Collie (01:41:28): I appreciate that. I didn't know what you were going to say. That's why I asked the question, but at the same time, I'm like I can recognize the wisdom and the authenticity of what you just said. That is probably the only right answer.
Adam Saxton (01:41:40): Yeah. It's not rocket science. It's garbage in, garbage out. It's the old saying, right? it's if you're not taking that time to really make it pristine and I've only come across a few models that I would even say or like that.
Rob Collie (01:41:52): Pristine is tough.
Adam Saxton (01:41:54): Yes. They do exist.
Rob Collie (01:41:56): Even when you really know what you're doing, the hard realities of life drive you in some interesting directions.
Adam Saxton (01:42:02): One thing you mentioned before though, talking about the business. The business persona, that person being the person that's modeling that more, the places where I've seen those pristine models is they understand the business.
Rob Collie (01:42:14): Yeah.
Adam Saxton (01:42:15): And they understand like I don't need all this other garbage, right?
Rob Collie (01:42:18): Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Adam Saxton (01:42:18): This is the problem I'm trying to answer. This is how I can do it. And this is how I can be smarter about it maybe with some pre aggregations or summarizing over here and not needing the actual detail row. Or if I do need those detail rows, there are ways we can handle that to make that more, I don't need it right up front. That's where I've seen success.
Rob Collie (01:42:37): Yeah. Those are tremendous amount of over-engineering in the IT driven mindset.
Adam Saxton (01:42:42): Yes.
Rob Collie (01:42:43): I have a fight starter that I can use in certain situations like in a past conference or something like that. I can start a fight in a conference really quickly by saying, 90% of slowly changing dimensions implemented in the world were unnecessary.
Adam Saxton (01:42:56): Yes.
Rob Collie (01:42:57): It's like, how do you data warehouse? I'm like, see.
Adam Saxton (01:43:01): Yeah.
Rob Collie (01:43:02): We talk about faucets over plumbing. you can build plumbing all day long if you never have to worry about faucets and pipes running everywhere that no one ever needs a drink.
Adam Saxton (01:43:12): Yes.
Rob Collie (01:43:13): Yeah. I agree. The business is capable again with the right people, these unicorns.
Adam Saxton (01:43:19): I fully believe IT could do it too, if they actively really worked with the business to understand that before they just try and go engineer it. I'm coming from that IT central admin type persona of where I just want to start building it, right?
Rob Collie (01:43:32): Yeah.
Adam Saxton (01:43:32): Let's just get it done and then you put that out there and it's not what they need, and or it just doesn't perform.
Rob Collie (01:43:38): I actually I'm going to politely disagree. I don't think that IT could ever pull it off. But not for the reasons that you might suspect. It's just the fact that there's not enough time. There's just not enough IT people. There's plenty of business people.
Adam Saxton (01:43:51): No, I would agree with that.
Rob Collie (01:43:52): Just the ratio alone is unfair.
Adam Saxton (01:43:55): I think that's why we're seeing a shift also when we talk about the self-service versus the central IT. It's one thing Mark Ragera likes to talk about is central at the core, but soft on the outside. Enable the self-service. Enable those business folks to get what they need to be done because they've got the numbers. They can do it. And it's hard for central IT groups to find that balance or to find a way to even enable that where people aren't just going to go rogue and get the data that they need to get the job done.
Rob Collie (01:44:26): Yeah, agreed. I think a top down driven one version of the truth is inflicted on the business.
Adam Saxton (01:44:34): Yes.
Rob Collie (01:44:35): And it doesn't work. However, a bottom up sort of meritocracy, you find the one that actually works the best and then you make it. You bless it at that point, right?
Adam Saxton (01:44:45): Yes.
Rob Collie (01:44:45): That is awesome.
Adam Saxton (01:44:47): Yes.
Rob Collie (01:44:48): I think there's probably still, in my opinion, too much of the mindset of we're going to top down it.
Adam Saxton (01:44:55): Mm-hmm (affirmative). Because that's the old school, right?
Rob Collie (01:44:58): It is.
Adam Saxton (01:44:58): That's how it's always been done.
Rob Collie (01:44:59): It is, yeah.
Adam Saxton (01:44:59): And the thing I've seen in organizations is that culture shift is hard and trying to get people to agree to it and, or move it. And I love some of the customers I work with because they have people there that are very forward thinking and like, yes, we want to change. We want to shift. We want to do it this way. We know we've always done it this way. Let's move over here and try it a different way. And those are really fun to work with. The ones where you've got that person in and they're like, no, we can't do that. We can't open this up to everyone. That's insane. I'm like, okay, it's not going to be successful.
Rob Collie (01:45:40): Did you ever hear what Max Planck said about scientific revolutions?
Adam Saxton (01:45:44): I did not.
Rob Collie (01:45:44): It's chilling and it's awesome. He said, there's all this talk about the scientific method and the scientific community. It's this meritocracy of ideas and it's proof driven and all of that. And that's how science moves forward, is by constantly testing itself. He said, no, it's not what actually happens at all. What happens is, is that that new ideas do emerge. They are better, but they do not gain traction at all until the old school dies. It requires that clean slate.
Adam Saxton (01:46:15): The change of regime, yes.
Rob Collie (01:46:18): And it's just so cynical and yet you can recognize it.
Adam Saxton (01:46:22): And I've seen that. Even on different organizations I've worked with and even in Microsoft, you get some of the leadership changes and that's when things happen.
Rob Collie (01:46:31): People don't need to die. They just need to leave.
Adam Saxton (01:46:33): No.
Rob Collie (01:46:33): They need to retire or something.
Adam Saxton (01:46:34): I know.
Rob Collie (01:46:35): It does require some degree. And even that person who leaves and goes somewhere else, oftentimes they find themselves with a fresh perspective.
Adam Saxton (01:46:43): Yes.
Rob Collie (01:46:43): And they're no longer trapped by their former reputation.
Adam Saxton (01:46:46): Yeah.
Rob Collie (01:46:47): But as long as they stayed there, the change that was required, wasn't going to happen.
Adam Saxton (01:46:53): Yes.
Rob Collie (01:46:54): No matter how much evidence.
Adam Saxton (01:46:56): Yes, I've seen that time and time again.
Rob Collie (01:46:59): Man, this has been a blast.
Adam Saxton (01:47:01): Yeah.
Rob Collie (01:47:01): In hindsight, I'm sad we waited this long to do it.
Adam Saxton (01:47:03): Yes.
Rob Collie (01:47:05): I really appreciate you taking the time. I know all you have is two jobs now.
Adam Saxton (01:47:09): I only have two jobs, yeah. But I've got plenty of time.
Rob Collie (01:47:11): Even if we didn't put the podcast live, it was worth it.
Adam Saxton (01:47:14): I look forward to the day where we can just go get a beer and hang out.
Thomas LaRock. (01:47:17): Or some Yager
Rob Collie (01:47:18): Yager, that's that's where it gets fun.
Rob Collie (01:47:21): Dude, so much fun. Thank you so much.
Rob Collie (01:47:23): Yeah, no worries.
Rob Collie (01:47:24): Bye, Adam.
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