Raw Data By P3 Adaptive
Escher’s Lazy River w/Chris HaasListen Now:
Hello friends! Today on RawData, P3 Adaptive’s very own Chris Haas relays not only his Data origin story but also shares with us how he came to join the P3 team. Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water, along comes Escher’s waterfall to send you around again.
In his role as ad hoc data therapist, Chris has the unique opportunity to see our clients grow and learn to ask the right questions. His insight: The journey of discovery along the way transforms both the business and the user as they learn that true value may not necessarily be found by having a single answer.
Also in this episode, Rob and Chris redefine the phrase “fast fail” transforming it into rapid discovery and development. Chris explains that clients should never be afraid of rapid-fire development as speed is more important in open development to learn what works, is relevant, and should be explored further.
References in this episode:
Rob Collie (00:00:00): Hello, friends. Today's guest is Chris Haas, a solution architect here at P3. When you hear the word architect in a technical sense, you start thinking of ones and zeros, and lots of high, fancy technology, intricate data structures. Well, if you do, I think that's pretty much the norm. That's the expectation. The word architect conjures technology. And Chris definitely does know his way around the technical stack. That's for sure. But I think you'll notice that he knows better. He knows that the technology is not the star, it's the human beings, and their problems, and solving those problems. That's the real point of everything that we're doing.
Now, like a lot of people who've been on this show, Chris took one of those accidental zigzag paths to where he is today. He didn't start in data. He didn't start in IT. And like a lot of people, sort of got onboarded onto this highway via the Excel on-ramp.
What's crazy though, is that even compared to so many other people we've talked to, and so many people on our team, is that after he got on that on-ramp, he discovered that he really, really had a knack for even the scarier, more intimidating corners of the data stack. And when you have that kind of mastery, it allows you, ironically, counterintuitively, to not over-engineer solutions. You listen, you ask questions, and then you take the most direct route to solving their problems.
We talk about his time working for the shadowy powers of the ice cream industrial complex. We talk about how that whole fail fast cliche should really be renamed try new things and measure quickly. We also talk about Chris's home brewing hobby, which has gotten a little bit too sophisticated to even call a hobby. And also, how recently his two worlds collided in a big way when he did some work for a microbrewery client of ours. We also talked about how sadly and humorously, I once sold Chris. Yes, I sold him, and we still got him back.
Anyway, as you plot the course of your own career, regardless of how technical you intend that to be, I highly recommend emulating the style of Chris and not getting swept up in the tech for tech's sake. And with that final reminder in the books, let's get into it.
Announcer (00:02:21): Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention, please?
Announcer (00:02:25): This is the Raw Data by P3 Adaptive podcast, with your host, Rob Collie. Find out what the experts at P3 Adaptive can do for your business. Just go to P3adaptive.com. Raw data by P3 Adaptive is data with the human element.
Rob Collie (00:02:46): Welcome to the show. Chris Haas, how are you today?
Chris Haas (00:02:51): I am Excellent, Rob. How are you?
Rob Collie (00:02:53): You have this Death Star microphone in front of you. Is it designed to look like a Death Star?
Chris Haas (00:02:57): I think it's more so the old school broadcast radio, just letting that deep voice just swarm the senses.
Rob Collie (00:03:05): I see. Okay. Yeah. And they just decided to make it look like a Death Star, just for kicks. Or it's actually more like a Darth Vader. It's Darth Microphone.
Chris Haas (00:03:13): Darth Mic. I like it.
Rob Collie (00:03:14): To follow the Sith naming scheme, it would have to be Darth Audius, or something like that, right? That would be the name of your microphone.
Chris Haas (00:03:21): Have I told you the story of Darth Audius?
Rob Collie (00:03:23): Yeah. Is it possible to learn this podcasting skill? Not from a Jedi. So, we've now said all of the good lines from all the prequels combined. There you go.
Chris Haas (00:03:36): There were good ones? I thought we were just in the mediocre section.
Rob Collie (00:03:39): I don't know. I mean, what's his name? Ian McDiarmid that plays Palpatine. I mean, there are certain people in those movies that are just doing their absolute best to swim upstream against the overall current of bad. If you just focus on the emperor, he's actually pretty awesome the whole way through.
Chris Haas (00:03:56): That is fair.
Rob Collie (00:03:57): He emerges unscathed, you know?
Chris Haas (00:04:01): I do remember being really excited when those movies came out. I admit I was probably 10-14, so the fact that I had horrible taste in production quality is hopefully excusable. But yeah, looking back, yikes.
Rob Collie (00:04:19): Anyway, there's plenty of skewing of the prequels available on the internet. I don't think we have really anything unique to add.
Chris Haas (00:04:28): That and not enough time to get it all in.
Rob Collie (00:04:31): That's right. That's right. So, Chris, obviously, I'm going to ask you some questions that I know the answers to, but why don't you tell me what your job title is here at P3, and what that means.
Chris Haas (00:04:42): Sure. So, I'm a solution architect here at P3 Adaptive. And whenever I meet people, I just tell them that my job's really to just listen, and ask questions, and get a sense of where you are on your data journey, where you want to get to, and try to find the best way to get you there.
Rob Collie (00:04:58): Data therapist. We've had that term on the show before, I think, but it keeps coming up. Tell me about your childhood of your business.
Chris Haas (00:05:07): I love it. You know, I'm not quite sure I'm qualified to go by data therapist. Just the BS in chemical engineering, but no advanced degrees, so...
Rob Collie (00:05:14): Do your database administrators abuse you?
Chris Haas (00:05:18): There is no wrong answer, but the answer should be yes.
Rob Collie (00:05:21): Yeah. And it doesn't matter who you are, right? If you're talking to IT, it's like, well, oh, tell me where the business hurt you.
Chris Haas (00:05:29): In my heart.
Rob Collie (00:05:32): All right. Okay. I like that human-centric take on what the role means. Because you know, people hear the word architect. I mean, I immediately start to see the A Beautiful Mind equations, or even better, the lampoon of that scene from the Hangover, right? Like at Microsoft, the architects, back when I was there, they might as well have been the world's leading mathematicians. They would've been like the people in Good Will Hunting, type of thing. People-centric. I prefer it.
Chris Haas (00:05:58): The other image that it conjures up for me is the wise men in Bartholomew Cubbins, the 500 hats in Dr. Seuss, the old men with the long beards and there are crazy cats following them, and just these esoteric beings, that there's way too much knowledge in there, but it almost seems unapproachable. And I find the other thing that people think of when they hear architect is, oh gosh, this is expensive. And it's like, no, it doesn't have to be. We can find the right solution for you. I don't want to go in with a pattern of, it has to be this way. It's whatever works for you is the right way to do it.
Rob Collie (00:06:34): That is really the essence of why our company came to exist. The realization that projects didn't have to be so expensive anymore as software made strides. Okay, well, if it's not so expensive, then that's the end of the consulting industry, right? If the consulting industry can only charge 5-10% for a project that it used to, so goes the narrow thinking, then that's the end of consulting. But on the flip side, that reduced price point opens the door to everyone. All the projects can now be done, and there's no end of projects. So yeah, it doesn't have to be expensive, not with this new uptempo way, anyway.
Chris Haas (00:07:12): For sure. That, and it also, it allows for projects to keep growing on themselves, where once we start getting answers to the questions we're asking of our business, we typically start asking better questions. And those are the kind of questions that a pivot table in Excel just can't solve, but Power BI can. And so, having someone that can help guide a person on that data journey and say, no, we can measure that, and actually, what if we measured something else that is really what drives your business? Let's find a way to measure that, and monitor that, and set things in place in your business to ensure that that metric is growing the way you want. That's where the value is in business intelligence.
Rob Collie (00:07:56): Yeah. You've got to get to people's intent. Just like the thing that I've been saying in classes for the better part of 10 years, human beings don't know what they need until they see what they've asked for. There's a little bit of an opportunity to almost jump ahead in that story, just a little bit. Especially once you've had your hands in so many different data projects and work with so many different people, you start to get a little bit better at reading between the lines. They say they want this bar chart, but you're immediately thinking, okay, why do they want this bar chart? And then you start to realize, or sometimes anyway, not always. Sometimes you realize, oh, you know what? Maybe it's still a bar chart, but I think the metrics should be a little different based on what I'm hearing.
And I love that particular type of discovery. I also like watching the people we're working with watching their muscles get stronger. They start to develop that same skill. It doesn't take too many rounds of that with them before they start to do it themselves. On round three or four of this, they go, you know, I think we want something like... oh, no, no, no, right? This is what we really want, isn't it? And they catch themselves. That kind of growth is just really, I love that stuff. Chef's kiss.
Chris Haas (00:09:05): That's truly what I live for. And you're right, where I would say, earlier on in my consulting career, I wanted to just teleport people right to that end point and say, well, this is what you want and why. But there is value in the journey, and in letting them come along and see you walk them with it and then letting them walk it themselves. That's where you know they've hit that same data nirvana, and to rob them of that experience just wouldn't be fair. That is part of the experience.
Rob Collie (00:09:32): That's really cool. I like that take as well. Watching other people that you're working with develop confidence in a domain where they previously felt very uncertain. It's like this arcane, mystical ivory tower stuff that would require the architects with the beards that you were talking about. If they start to go, oh, you know what, I can do this.
You never really want to be in the business of just defining yourself, or anything really, for that matter, as the negation of something else. But when that something else has been the default, the defacto for so long, the status quo, it's still really useful. And that kind of confidence that we're talking about that you see developing over time, it's so validating for yourself. It's so spiritually uplifting, even.
That kind of confidence is something that the old way of consulting kind of went out of its way to discourage. In the old world, you needed your client to constantly be paranoid and on edge, and like they're not really sure. You've got to keep mystifying them over and over and over again, so that you can own them. What a... It's so gross.
Chris Haas (00:10:38): For sure. Yeah. I learned at a previous job that it was okay to fail fast, and fail often, and then just fail again, and that was okay. And to take that same approach with the clients, let's calculate this. Is that a better thing to measure? Oh no, it's not. Okay. Well, you know what, that's okay. Second strike that DAX measure. But we got to flush it out. We got to have a conversation and say, you know what, that's not going to fit our needs. But it didn't take three weeks of emails back and forth to land a new column into a table that we didn't need. When everything is able to react and iterate faster, it's okay to have that failure first mentality, because it's only going to get better.
Rob Collie (00:11:20): In a way, like we were just talking about before, you got to get one step deeper into the intent of something, right? The whole fail fast thing, for a while there, that was really chic. And then there was the inevitable backlash. People saying, well, why let it fail at all? We don't need a culture of accepting failure, now, do we? And so, the original naming of something oftentimes infects it in a way. And so, what it really is, is try new things and find out rapidly.
Chris Haas (00:11:49): Ooh, I like that.
Rob Collie (00:11:49): That's the real gist behind fail fast, right? Because, guess what? You try new things, find out rapidly, very often they're successful. So, it's an equal mix of succeed fast and fail fast, but you've got to measure it quickly, got to get feedback quickly. The fast part is more important, and the openness that it might not work, those are the crucial parts of the mindset. And you know what, even when we're doing this, it turns out we don't really fail that often, right? Most of the ideas turn out to be pretty good, you know?
Chris Haas (00:12:22): They tend to be better than the average bear, for sure.
Rob Collie (00:12:24): It's better than a coin flip. I've always wanted an opportunity on the show to talk about that fail fast controversy, that for long bitterly divided Silicon Valley. I'm glad that we finally reached a moment of peace and healing, and we're not in Silicon Valley, so it doesn't matter.
Chris Haas (00:12:42): Check that one off. And Rob, what else do we need to talk about with me as your data therapist? What else ails you?
Rob Collie (00:12:47): Well, you know, I do need to kind of exorcize a demon, which is, Chris, I think, without sugarcoating it at all, I think you're the only human being that I've ever had a part in selling. I've never sold another human being, other than you. You're the... I need to atone for this sin.
Chris Haas (00:13:04): Well, to be fair, while yes, you did sell me down the river, it was, in fact, one of those lazy rivers with a current that just kind of goes around and then eventually comes right back to where it started.
Rob Collie (00:13:15): So, are lazy rivers actually like a violation of the perpetual motion machine law? If I just keep moving, I keep coming back to where I started. How does that work?
Chris Haas (00:13:24): As you say that I'm already envisioning some sort of MC Escher.
Rob Collie (00:13:28): Yeah, yeah. It's an Escher. Yeah. There better not being the elevation change in that lazy river.
Chris Haas (00:13:33): There sure will, and then it comes out of the plane and into your face.
Rob Collie (00:13:38): I don't know how that would work. Very, very, very dangerous lazy river. The Escher lazy river.
Chris Haas (00:13:45): We're jumping ahead in the zigzagging story, but I mean, that's a fabulous chapter in it, where, gosh, I'm probably that same not special snowflake that you've had on your show before. So just find and replace other people's names with mine, where, gosh, I just kept tinkering with Excel, learned something new with each project, forced myself to learn something new, started reading the blog and said, oh, wow, this stuff is pretty cool. And I can actually say that I've never learned how to use SUMIF in Excel, because the first time that I learned about SUMIF was in the blog that talked about calculate, and how that was better than SUMIF, and so I remember thinking at the time, in my best Forrest Gump voice, oh, well, one less thing. So, didn't have to worry about SUMIF. Never did.
Rob Collie (00:14:34): All right. So, you're right, we're jumping around a lot. Let's stick with where you are in your story. What were you doing? What was your job? What were you up to when you first discovered Power Pivot?
Chris Haas (00:14:43): Sure. So, that would've been working for an ice cream factory. And so, I was with Ben and Jerry's and Breyer's.
Rob Collie (00:14:51): Wait, these are the same company?
Chris Haas (00:14:53): Oh, yeah. I mean, there's only like six companies in the world, and that's one of them.
Rob Collie (00:14:58): Oh man.
Chris Haas (00:14:59): Yeah.
Rob Collie (00:15:00): I had no idea.
Chris Haas (00:15:01): It was great though, because in the same day that Ben and Jerry's joined the mothership was also when SlimFast did. So, they did bring balance to the force.
Rob Collie (00:15:10): Yes, yes. And then the chosen one brought us aspartame.
Chris Haas (00:15:16): Yes. And there was much rejoicing.
Rob Collie (00:15:21): Speaking of aspartame, by the way, artificial sugars. My grandfather used to walk around, and he called Diet Coke poison Coke. And this is one of those guys, this is not the grandfather that's been on the show. It's the other one that sadly has passed on. This is the guy that was like, internet smart without an internet. There was no internet for him. And he still knew all these crazy things. Like, he knew that aspartame was borderline poison, right? He used to talk about how he'd get really itchy when he was drinking aspartame.
Well, years later, I've been having trouble getting to sleep sometimes, because I have these very, very specific, intense little itch spots that appear like on the forehead or on my neck. They're just so crazy. And I've recently discovered that, if I've been drinking my half fake sugar, Stevia Gatorade close to bedtime, that's the reason. So, I'm pulling back a memory that's from like 40 years ago, or 35 years ago going, and he's saving me, from 35 years ago, from these itches, from something that he figured out. Anyway.
Chris Haas (00:16:25): That is wild.
Rob Collie (00:16:26): That's a long sojourn off of another branching, lazy river. We're back to the original lazy river, though. So, you were working for an ice cream factory, a conglomerate. Big Cream is what they call it.
Chris Haas (00:16:37): Sure. Big Cream, lots of data. Crazy. You know, Excel just couldn't handle it. There was copy paste values, using macros. It was just everything that is just the hallmark of, there's got to be a better way.
Rob Collie (00:16:52): What was your official job title at Big Cream?
Chris Haas (00:16:55): That would've been either a process engineer or a project engineer, maybe a reliability engineer. It kind of depended on what went wrong that day. So, they just knew that, hey, Chris has that analytical mindset. He can ask questions. He could probably help us solve the problem.
Rob Collie (00:17:12): All right. And so Excel, macros, liberal copy paste. No SUMIF, though.
Chris Haas (00:17:19): No SUMIF. Nope, just drag down. And so it worked, but it only kind of worked. And then I made something, and it was awesome, and then I was in charge of maintaining it. And then I got less excited to build more things and have to maintain them, and that's what started the internet searches and saying, hey, what else is out there? And yeah, learned about Power Query and Power Pivot. And gosh, it was truly life changing. I remember reading the back of your book, and there was someone on there that said, I took the day off after I read this book to just tinker. And I said, that's crazy. And I precisely did that same thing.
Rob Collie (00:18:00): You're going to be trying things. You're going to be, want to be in the laboratory.
Chris Haas (00:18:03): Seeing that on the back of the book gave me the permission that, no, this is really important. You should be flexing this. And so, I took the day off, I worked a little bit on work stuff with it, and then I just kind of worked on some of my own stuff with it. And I just said, I just want to get better at this with whatever data I can find.
And I actually turned to Fiverr. It was a website out there. It's kind of in that whole gig network and gig mentality. And so, I just put it out there like, hey, I'm pretty good in Excel and I can make whatever you need. And requests started coming in. I said, oh, I don't quite know how to do this just yet, but I can learn it, and I'm going to learn it on a real data set, and not just demo sanitized data.
And just kept doing that, and seeing the same kinds of questions that businesses and companies were asking. I mean, all slightly different, but I mean, at the end of the day, companies in business to serve shareholders, to make money, to do good in the world, and the things that they're measuring are all based on driving those. And so, seeing that pattern over and over and different ways to help people attack those same problems, you're right, it did give me the confidence to say, I can do this, and I'm actually kind of good at it, and turns out there's a whole markets and job type of just doing this. I didn't know that business intelligence was a thing, but here I am doing that, and just absolutely loving it.
Rob Collie (00:19:33): During that Fiverr era, I envision that this part of the movie, there's a montage. It's like a Rocky training montage. You're logging into Fiverr, and there's some formulas, and you know...
Chris Haas (00:19:46): Yep. It was great. When I probably got my second or third paycheck from it, at this point I had amassed maybe $300, and my wife says, "Great, what are you going to do with it?" And I said, "Well, buy a laptop, so that I'm not using my work laptop to do this. I just don't feel good about it." But yeah, started that way, and just pulled myself up.
Rob Collie (00:20:05): That's bootstrapping, folks.
Chris Haas (00:20:06): Absolutely.
Rob Collie (00:20:07): Let's just go back for a moment there. This something that we've never actually, I don't think, explicitly mentioned on this show before. We talk about it a lot in classes, this idea, and it's a truth, it's not an idea, that when you're the person in the work group who's good at Excel, there's actually this perverse disincentive against building anything new and valuable, because if you build a spreadsheet that the business starts to find valuable, and they start to actually use it and rely on it, it does exactly the thing that you set out to build. It's a success. That means you now get to carry this around like a ball and chain forever, clapped to your ankle, because the amount of manual effort it takes just to keep it up to date with the latest data is tremendous in traditional Excel.
And heaven help you when the people who are consuming this start to actually get curious, and start to get just a little bit ambitious about the questions that they formulate, and those questions are just a little bit different than what you've built. And you know it's possible to break it out by that extra variable. You know it is, but you also know that long dark road much better than they do. So, there's a counter-incentive to success in traditional Excel.
And if there happens to be anyone listening to this who manages some people, and some of them are good at traditional Excel, ask yourself if those people have seemingly become less effective at their jobs over time. When you first hired them and they were really kind of fresh, were they more productive back then? This is not an illusion. They do become less productive over time, because the total tax they carry of their past successes starts to weigh them down, and eventually that's all they can do, and they can't do anything more. That means it's time for Power BI.
Chris Haas (00:21:57): That is the solution.
Rob Collie (00:21:58): Yes, There's many times for power BI, but that is one of them.
Chris Haas (00:22:01): Sure. I mean, what you just described, that's just technical debt, and it's just ever, ever increasing. And without a way to reduce that technical debt, or to offload it elsewhere, you're right, one person can only do so much. But Power BI gives you that ability to remove that technical debt, or to engulf it into a larger enterprise team, where it can be more solidly maintained, but still built in just that grassroots scenario that says, hey, this is a value. I'm going to try something new. I'm going to figure out fast, did this work or not? Oh, it did. Oh, yes, it did. Yeah. Hey, I need some help with this. This is something big.
Rob Collie (00:22:42): This isn't necessarily super rare, but you jumped straight over the SUMIF array formula type of world. Were you a VLOOKUP and pivot person?
Chris Haas (00:22:53): Oh, for sure.
Rob Collie (00:22:54): That's a solid demographic there. And so, you jumped from that into DAX, and fast forward a long decade-ish, you're way better at DAX than the person whose book you were reading back then. You've learned a bunch of other things. You discover it, actually, I think, that you had...
Chris Haas (00:23:14): A penchant.
Rob Collie (00:23:15): A pen chant? Like if I hold the pen in front of me...
Chris Haas (00:23:20): And then you chant, yeah. Like the...
Rob Collie (00:23:21): Pen chant. Yeah. Okay. You had a latent talent for things all up and down the IT stack. And that's a little atypical for the Excel person hopping the fence into Power BI. Certainly not my story. I didn't go from being good at Excel to being good at DAX, even to being good at M. It was a relatively short trip for me. And I certainly didn't continue and jump into Azure and SQL and Data Factory, and all these sort sorts of things, which you need to be at least conversationally fluent in all of these things in order to do your job as solution architect.
Chris Haas (00:24:02): Sure. I think it was really same skill as when I was just in Excel, and I was starting a new project and I said, I don't know what new thing I'm going to learn in Excel, but I will learn something new as I take this on. And maybe it was radio spinner buttons, or something. But I just always went in saying, I don't think I can solve it with just my given toolset. So, always looking to expand that toolset, and always just asking questions.
And so, you're right. I didn't know SQL, but I was starting to find that with M, if I could do it faster in SQL, there was probably a better way. And so, I just started talking to the people in the company, that would stomach my questions, and ask them SQL, and just reading online, and always just looking to find better ways to do things. I've always enjoyed spending discretionary energy on learning this stuff, and never really noticing the time going by as I've learned it.
Rob Collie (00:25:01): Yeah, that's definitely not me. I go into projects thinking, oh, I better be able to solve this with the stuff I already know. It's completely different, you know? And then stubbornly refusing. And it's only, only, only when I absolutely hit the wall that I'll consider just a little, incremental little tippy toe off of the existing platform.
Like the other day, oh man, it was an epic moment. I used add columns in DAX for the first time ever. I mean, I've seen it all over the place, but I'm like, damn it. It's a problem, by the way, that the places where you need it... We're not going to get into the details of when you need it. The places you need it are so difficult to solve any other way, and I have been in those situations so many times. I have memories back to like 2012 where I now retroactively understand, really, what I was really hoping for was add columns, which didn't exist back then.
It shows you like how far I have to go. I have to totally face plant. For a gross metaphor, it's kind of like back in college. I had friends who would drink too much, they'd realize it, and they would go and just intentionally throw up and feel better. And that wasn't me. I would fight it, for like three, four, five hours, right? Just be in miserable pain, and then still have to throw up, you know? So I mean, that's my learning style in a nutshell.
Chris Haas (00:26:24): Swallow the frog, Rob. Got to swallow the frog.
Rob Collie (00:26:27): Yeah, yeah. And then chuck it back up. All right. So, that's cool, right? I discovered that on my journey from Excel to DAX, basically kind of discovered that there was this better universe next door, but that first step for you was the beginning of this dimension-hopping, look how many universes there.
Chris Haas (00:26:45): I have noticed many other doors, and I can say that I've opened a lot of them. I haven't set up shop in many of them. A lot have just been kind of passing through and saying, oh, that's a thing. I don't have that same amount of discretionary energy to become an expert in there, but I'm going to find someone that is, and I'm going to remember that person's name. And now, let's go into the next door.
By doing that, I've been able to see how many different technologies can come together to make the right solution. We talked about before, the right solution doesn't have to be expensive. It just has to work for what you're trying to accomplish. And sometimes it's dead simple. And sometimes we know that it can be dead simple for 6-12 months before we need to figure out what that next step needs to be. I've had a lot of success in approaching problems from that standpoint.
Rob Collie (00:27:36): We talk a lot about, at least I do, about a faucets-first mentality. People are thirsty. Let's not go talking about plumbing. Let's get them something to drink. And if you need to run a hose to the faucet, rather than engineering some gleaming, shimmering pipeline, run the hose. And then you can step back and look at it and say, how long is this going to last like this? Sometimes it's perfectly fine, like all you ever needed was a hose. It's okay, right?
Other times, you run the hose, and you work that way for a little while, and that helps you understand exactly the type of pipe that you need, and then at that point, once you're confident in what you exactly need, even running the actual, heavyweight plumbing is a lot less expensive than the one that you have to conjure first, before you've ever gotten the faucet. Because if you're going to build some plumbing now, without ever seeing a faucet, that plumbing better be able to handle every possible faucet in every possible location. And so, you over, over, over-engineer the hell out of it, and everyone dies of thirst while you're building this thing. But you know, as long as you're racking up those billable hours, right?
Chris Haas (00:28:41): But that just works the one time, versus, hey, you ran this faucet, and I am no longer thirsty in the kitchen. Kind of thirsty upstairs. Can you help me get a faucet?
Rob Collie (00:28:49): That's right. That's right.
Chris Haas (00:28:50): Let's do it.
Rob Collie (00:28:51): I read an interview one time with the surviving members of Led Zeppelin, talking about John Bonham, the drummer. The thing one of them said about John Bonham that stuck with me, and I don't have any musical talent. I don't even... You know what this means, but I still, the spirit of it was still clear to me. They said, I don't know that we ever could have done the music that we did without Bonham's thrift.
Now, when people talk about drummers, Bonham is talked about as this master. In that sense, in the simpleton way that they talk about it, he's probably the one that could drum the fastest, right? He's probably the one that can hit the most...
Chris Haas (00:29:25): Beats per minutes.
Rob Collie (00:29:25): Yeah, you know, like whatever, right? Instead, here's his former partners in crime talking about his thrift. And I used to interview people at Microsoft, and one of the questions I would ask, a simulation, a scenario of designing a kitchen for someone who's in a wheelchair. And there was a corner of that question that we always ended up wandering into, whether the candidate did it or I nudged them. One of the things that they have to solve for is the transportation, the carrying of items around the kitchen.
And as soon as that problem comes up, four out of five candidates, next thing you know, I'd be looking at this system on the whiteboard. I'd be looking at this system of tracks and ropes and hooks, and tracks suspended from the ceiling and everything. The right answer in that situation is usually something along the lines of, how about a basket that's on the chair, or a tray that's attached to the chair. The simple, you know?
Chris Haas (00:29:25): Yeah, right.
Rob Collie (00:30:20): Not only is it less expensive, it's actually better. I'd be looking at them after a while going, so you see how these tracks, they crisscross? Yeah. I'm like, how's that work? There'd be situations where people would be designing counters with sinks in them that would roll out. It would slide out, rather than allowing you to roll under it with your knees. And I'd be like, so, how's the plumbing work here? Is this telescoping pipes? It turned out, they probably could have used hoses, easily. But no one ever did. The over-engineers were always telescoping pipes. But yeah, even at Microsoft, interviewing candidates that had made it through multiple layers of screening before they made it to campus, four out of five candidates were dastardly over engineering everything.
Chris Haas (00:31:06): I'm glad to hear that they've moved away from the why are manhole covers round question, then.
Rob Collie (00:31:10): Yeah. That one got too well socialized. I even got asked that question in my 1996 interviews at Microsoft. And I already knew the answer. I mean, the guy that was asking me that just hadn't put the effort into it, didn't take it seriously. So, I reasoned my way through that in front of him and did an expert job.
Chris Haas (00:31:26): So I have to say, the easiest job interview I had was three questions. It was, okay, so you passed Rob's test. Do you have a criminal background? No. Okay. Where can we send the laptop? Because you're going to work for us.
Rob Collie (00:31:41): The first time we did criminal background checks at our company, I was the only person that came back with anything. And it was some sort of unpaid red light camera ticket from a city in Ohio that I don't recall ever being in. And I'm like, what? Who borrowed my car? Apparently I just need to avoid Stowe, Ohio, because they will arrest me at the city line.
Chris Haas (00:32:06): Probably your Indiana plates were just a beacon.
Rob Collie (00:32:09): They're going to take me on that perp walk. That was your second interview with us, wasn't it?
Chris Haas (00:32:09): It was.
Rob Collie (00:32:09): Are comfortable talking about this as part of...
Chris Haas (00:32:18): Oh, no, I've been waiting for it. Yeah.
Rob Collie (00:32:21): All right. I struggled to decide whether this is better if you start to tell the story, or if I start to tell the story.
Chris Haas (00:32:27): Sure. I got it. So, I remember I met with a couple of people from the Power Pivot Pro team back in San Jose. It was like a past business analysts summit.
Rob Collie (00:32:38): Oh, yeah.
Chris Haas (00:32:38): And that was my first realm into, oh, people do this for a living. This could just be my job. And I remember, I was just kind of like that creepy hanger on, just hanging out with the P3 team, saying, hey, guys, what are we doing next? Because this is really cool. I want to work here. I always remember just setting goals, just absurdly high. I'm going to work at P3. Don't know how. Going to work there.
And kept in touch with the team after that, and eventually got an email saying, hey, we want you to take the interview... Dot, dot, dot. Gosh, I was up for many nights on that sucker. It was a lot of fun. And I remember, I got an email saying, hey, Rob wants to schedule a phone call with you. I was actually in the hospital with my wife. We were about to have our first son. Everything looked stable, and so I snuck out for 30 minutes to talk to Rob, and he says...
Rob Collie (00:33:33): My shame deepens now.
Chris Haas (00:33:36): He said, you're great. We don't have enough to keep you happy full time, so you should talk to my friend Tom, and then exit stage right. I talked to Tom, and that became the easiest job interview ever, where the three questions were, so, you passed Rob's test? You're not too weird, are you? And, okay, where should we send the laptop? And that was the litmus.
Rob Collie (00:33:59): The Tom we're talking about is not the podcast co-host, who's not here today. Even though we're talking about his conference, the past BA conference. His ears are burning now. I hope he's happy.
Chris Haas (00:34:11): He should be.
Rob Collie (00:34:12): Yeah. So, that Tom, he has this thing that he calls the Texas test. If I had to drive across the state of Texas with this person in the passenger seat, would I enjoy the experience, or would I hate it? That's the not too weird test, is the...
Chris Haas (00:34:25): That's a good litmus. I like that. Because you're going to learn a lot about that person across Texas, for sure.
Rob Collie (00:34:33): Yeah. And you know, we damn near instantly regretted that decision. So, you know what the process was behind the scenes, but for the listenership, at that point in time, this would have probably been... Well, you know when your first child was born, so you can tell me, like what was it?
Chris Haas (00:34:48): This was October, 2016.
Rob Collie (00:34:50): So, everyone at the company that was here, we were all still on complete 1099 status. We didn't have any FTEs. We didn't start the FTE thing until early '17, benefits and all that kind of stuff. And so, the bootstrapping business model phase that we were in was connecting people with work. We were more of a matchmaker, in a way. We were a little bit more holistically together than that, but the core economics of what was going on was that we were almost a Fiverr in a way, right? Except that we ensured a very, very, very high level of quality of anyone on the team.
Now, even Kellan, who we might as well consider co-founder of the company, even though he joined just a little before then, Kellan was in the same boat. Kellan was doing 1099 work. But here's the problem we had back then, quote-unquote "problem." The problem we had was that we were actually able to find talented people faster than we could find work for them. And think about how weird that is, because PowerPivotPro.com was borderline center of the universe back then for this stuff. If you were going to look to hire someone, our name would keep coming up over and over and over again. So, what that really tells you is that the world wasn't ready for all of this.
And so, we were like, so what do we do now with this in our current situation? We become... We thought, we can become a little bit of a headhunting agency for people who need to hire. So, this experiment lasted two or three people that went this way. And so, we got our headhunting fee for you. This is the joke about selling you, right?
Chris Haas (00:36:30): 30 pieces of silver, Rob. I love that.
Rob Collie (00:36:31): Yeah, I know. But it was more like two. And it wasn't four months later, when we were just sitting there holding our head in our hands, because the demand went through the roof, and we had a reservoir of people that we'd identified as being awesome. We didn't have a really strong flow, and we emptied the reservoir, and all this work, and we went full time, and I'm like, oh no. Anyway, this is that fail fast thing, right? Be willing to try new things and then find out quickly. Well, we did.
Chris Haas (00:37:05): But you know what? It all worked out perfectly.
Rob Collie (00:37:08): So, yeah, you had various reasons. We call it gravity.
Chris Haas (00:37:11): Sure.
Rob Collie (00:37:12): On the MC Escher lazy river. We're going to need to have that drawn up at some point, the Escher lazy river. You just get teleported back to the top.
Chris Haas (00:37:22): I'm just glad that I finally get a unique word on my list. Get the Escher in there for lazy river.
Rob Collie (00:37:27): Escher, yeah. All right. Well, I don't know. Escher might not even qualify, because it's a proper name, and my vocabulary corpus dataset might not contain it, unless Escher has also been like turned to a noun or something.
Chris Haas (00:37:41): Rob, do you doubt my powers in M to adjust your model to get Escher in there?
Rob Collie (00:37:46): I do not doubt. However, wait 'til you see what I have done to that. Oh, the spaghetti mess that I've made of that power query. You know, Ed gave me a great start, and then I'm like, oh I can take this. And I can butcher this real nice. He gave me the version with individual speech sections, so every time someone talks in the transcript, they get one row with everything they said in paragraph form, and then a word count. I'm like, sweet. I can take that, and I can chop up that sentence, the paragraph, on every space, and then unpivot the output, and then, oh. It gets really gross before and after that, though. Yeah, I would love to have you develop me a spreadsheet of additional terms that are considered legal, and we give them some sort of dummy rarity score in the English language. It doesn't matter.
Chris Haas (00:38:38): Clearly, it must be based off the Scrabble score, with at least one triple word in play.
Rob Collie (00:38:43): I've been playing a lot of Scrabble, mostly against my in-laws. Scrabble Go, one of the most effective predatory apps you can install on a mobile device, it turns out.
Chris Haas (00:38:54): Why did they need my precise location and IP address?
Rob Collie (00:38:57): Yeah. It's just so neat watching them... and gross, watching them mess around with the incentives and the rewards and the game, just to sort of figure out. You just watch them experimenting on you. They're just conducting this experiment. Well, they've become addicted to this, and you've paid one ticket for two years to get into this particular kind of game. We're going to raise the price to two every now and then, like in this A/B sense, and see if you'll still pay it. Oh, you sinister. Oh, nasty. Yes. I'll pay two tickets.
Chris Haas (00:39:26): But just this one time.
Rob Collie (00:39:28): Yeah.
Chris Haas (00:39:29): I was in college, and I signed up for some sort of study like that, and I had to play this game where you were an air traffic controller of sorts, and come to find out after I took this, that the score was completely arbitrary that was assigned to you after you played, and then they would ask you questions on how well you thought you did, and how well you perform in certain situations, and what makes you frustrated. And then you'd play the game again, and they would just give you a totally different score that time, and just do that over and over. And I just remember thinking like, no, I did better that time, but with a worse score. I'm going to redouble my efforts, and then it got a modicum better, and oh my gosh, I do so well in all of these situations. And yeah, it's crazy.
Rob Collie (00:40:16): That sort of experiment can do lasting harm to an individual, right? I remember reading somewhere a long time ago about a game designer talking about there's an ethics to game design. According to this one principle designer, who of course has been completely sidelined since then, or at least has had to change his ways, because every game in the world now operates the way he says that they shouldn't. Which is, rewarding just dumb, repetitive effort really starts to habituate people to expect this in their lives, and it's actually an addiction that makes their real life a lot harder. And instead, we need to be designing games that actually reward the things in life that actually work. But you know, it's really hard to design game games like that. You've got to be a genius like this one designer, and even this genius designed games, or cult favorites, as opposed to commercial favorites. Scrabble Go is making probably like $100,000 a minute.
Chris Haas (00:41:13): Grind mentality. It's easy, and it doesn't matter that I did it a hundred times, because it was easy each of those times, so I don't mind.
Rob Collie (00:41:19): Yeah. Yeah. So, we were talking backstage before the show, and we started to talk about it a little bit front stage, too. The people-centric thing. You have, I think, a very specific crystallized philosophy about this stuff, that's very much similar to mine. It's people first. Lay that out for us.
Chris Haas (00:41:36): You know, I was working with the clients, and I said, what's most important to you? And they said, well, this year our goal is to increase revenue. I said, great, awesome. What does that mean? How are we going to do that? And they said, well, with our company, we have membership. And so. There's membership dues, that's revenue, but also just spend from our members.
And so I said, so really, you're looking to have members there more frequently and spending more per visit. And they said, well, yeah, that makes sense. I said, perfect, because if I'm there three times a week instead of two, and I spend more on average each time, your revenue goes up. And they said, yeah. I said, okay, so now we're starting to tease apart that difference between a lagging metric and a leading metric, because that revenue is lagging. I can't really just push a button to say, more revenue, because if I could, I'd give you that button, and everyone would just keep pushing it.
So we started to tease out, okay, what's going to make someone want to come by more frequently, or to want to spend more on average? And they said, well, you know, we really want to start to curate that member experience. We want people to really feel welcome here. I said, perfect. So, let's take a look at your data. And it was very much a different flavor of Contoso retail database.
And so I said, okay, I've worked with this before, but we're not just selling bikes here. But let's look at someone's favorite things that they buy, and let's use that to, hey, we know they're going to be showing up here. Let's just have it ready for them when they just show up, and that favorite thing is just on display. Or if they're about to sit down at the restaurant and say, you know what? I know this is your favorite bottle of wine. This is an appetizer that we find pairs exceedingly well with it.
And so, it was almost taking like an Amazon recommendation approach, but not in a creepy sense, but just in the, how can I make my members feel more special, that they want to be here, because that's the experience that they're going for? Was able to work with that company and get them to try to make every decision about how does that improve the member's experience, and what should we be measuring to ensure that that member is having a good experience? Because by taking care of all of those leading metrics, the lagging metrics will take care of themselves.
Rob Collie (00:43:54): This reminds me of one of the things that Adam Harstad brought up on one of his appearances on the show. The map is not the territory. The data is the map. And we talk about using data for... A lot of marketing in the world just goes straight for the throat and says, make more money from your data. Well, you don't, unless you're selling that data, right? Selling it to other people, right? Which, you know, is some people's business model. But most of the time though, there's no way to just turn data into money. The data is the map. It's the key, the decoder ring, in a way, to the real world problem. So if you're doing it right, you're much, much, much closer in the conversation to the actual business problem than you are to , well, what's the schema of this table, and what's your ETL process look like, and... Ugh.
Chris Haas (00:44:46): And that's where the people part comes in, because it's, what's important to your business? What do you want to be successful in? How do you see yourself getting there? Then we'll start talking about what data we have that can help us get there. But it's all about people, and it's understanding what they want to be successful in, and it's asking those questions.
Rob Collie (00:45:07): Do you remember the old days when Microsoft had a tagline?
Chris Haas (00:45:11): It's not bingo, was it?
Rob Collie (00:45:12): No, it's definitely not bingo. Microsoft's old tagline, and I don't know when it was retired. It was definitely in place when I was there, when I first got there in '96. But their tagline used to be, where do you want to go today? I don't know if that tagline was ahead of its time. It actually probably was not ahead of its time. Both you and I came on the scene after spreadsheets had conquered the business world. The PC's primary first killer app for business was the spreadsheet. And by 1996, the time I joined the Microsoft team, that conquest was well over.
I love looking back at some of the old ads for the IBM PCs, these Charlie Chaplin themed IBM PCs. Ads that I used to see, like I was alive for those. And those ads, invariably showing charts and graphs, they're doing this very abstract rendering of business and how it's going to improve your business. It's a PC ad, but it's really a spreadsheet ad, and this is the spreadsheet box that you're going to buy, right?
You can sort of think about this in terms of almost like Industrial Revolutions. Apparently we're in the middle of the fourth Industrial Revolution right now? I don't know if you know, I don't know if you missed the second and the third. I certainly did. But certainly, there was a gold rush type of era, when the PC and spreadsheets sort of first came to the forefront, and we missed that. We weren't part of the business world at that time. We don't know what that was like.
Chris Haas (00:46:44): We are still picking up those pieces, though.
Rob Collie (00:46:46): I think we're experiencing something on that order of magnitude today. The new wave of tools, Power BI is a great example of it. Not the only such tool. But this new wave of tools are as big of a leap from that spreadsheet era as the spreadsheet era was over the adding machine. But because they're all PCs, it's all still software, they're from the same companies and everything, it's not nearly as acknowledged. When you go from not using computers to using computers, everyone notices the difference. But when you go from using computers to using them with new tools in a different way, it's still kind of, you don't necessarily notice the sign post when you crossed into that other universe, you know? But that is exactly what's happening right now.
Chris Haas (00:47:29): I have seen people experience that sign post. It doesn't happen often, but when working with a client and, I like to call it DAX on the fly, and they would just start saying, well, what if we could measure it this way? What if it was only that piece? And I'm just guiding the conversation. Uh huh. Yep. Furiously typing DAX at the time. That measure comes up on the screen. You mean like this, with that graph? Oh my gosh. I've been thinking about that for six months. That was an eight-minute conversation. I said, let's keep playing with this. What about this? I never even thought that one was possible either. And to just have those conversations, and just start to tiptoe into the impossible and bring them along for the ride. That's where, you're right, power BI is here to stay, and that's where it plays, and that's where it excels.
Rob Collie (00:48:18): Triple word bonus score for using excels at the end, there. Are there other examples like this? Do you have other stories of the impact on people from your days of wielding data?
Chris Haas (00:48:27): You know, Rob, you were asking me, what's just one of the coolest things that you've solved with DAX? And honestly, it's less so what I've solved, it's changing how I solve it. And you had mentioned that you have probably gone the longest of anyone who can write DAX before you used add columns.
Rob Collie (00:48:47): I've got to win something.
Chris Haas (00:48:49): Truly. And that's probably the first one that I reach for, because I've come to approach a problem as not what's the number I'm trying to get to, but it's more so, if I could have anything in the world to add up, what would that look like? And so, I try to figure out how to solve the second to last step. That becomes my main goal. And usually, that's going to be some sort of a table. And so, I'll start making tables, and I'll change the tables, and I'll make them bigger, I'll make them smaller, until I get to that table. Because then at the end, it's just the SUMX or accounts of that.
And that's actually how we teach our advanced Power BI class. There's some awesome patterns in there, but it's more so the methodology of, how can I solve anything? And I can solve it if I can just get to that right table, and figuring out what that table looks like, and using all of those that seem like really scary functions, but it's all just about getting to that second to last step, because the last step is really easy.
Rob Collie (00:49:57): So, you're one of these people whose DAX formulas, and it looks like a paragraph. It's like a Word doc.
Chris Haas (00:50:03): The day I found out that a variable could be a table, oh my gosh, it changed my world. It changed it for the better, and comments became much more copious in my code. And really, DAX then became just a step by step language, where I'd say, I'm going to do this first, and then I'm going to use that in the next piece. It doesn't have to be a variable, but it does, because then future Chris can look at what past Chris did and say, oh yeah, you built this to do that, and then you add this piece to it. And so, just that methodical approach.
Rob Collie (00:50:36): I love the variable thing.
Chris Haas (00:50:37): Yeah.
Rob Collie (00:50:38): What I don't like is the long formulas that have a million levels of nesting in them, and it's all table functions and add columns the way down. Those are the ones that, if I were joining the DAX story today, I would just search around the internet, I saw formulas like that, I would bail. I would not have gotten on board. I'm a high priest of this stuff. I would've gone. No. Not me.
So, I think the Ridge high traffic internet blog on this stuff has, not all of it, not every post, but the internet now resembles our advanced DAX class much more than it resembles our foundations DAX class. And it's almost like this moat. I'm concerned of how many really cool, awesome people are bouncing off of that wall that isn't necessary. But I love variables. Oh my God, do I love variables.
I was a kid, a five-year-old in kindergarten, and they would give you something you had to cut out, like a shape you had to cut out. And the first thing I would do would be to lop big pieces of the paper off, just to get them out of the way.
Chris Haas (00:50:38): Don't need them.
Rob Collie (00:51:46): Right? It turns out, in terms of like how long it takes you to cut out the shape, that was a terrible strategy, because I was making all these extra cuts. But there was something so satisfying, of that big chunk of paper I just cut off, I'm never going to have to worry about it again. It is gone. A really almost irrational comfort side of me enjoys variables, and uses them, even for, believe it or not, even for tables, man.
Chris Haas (00:52:09): That is your data safe space, Rob. It's good. You should stay there.
Rob Collie (00:52:13): It is. There's another line in Fight Club. You know, no matter what happened, I just knew that I had that sofa problem handled.
Chris Haas (00:52:20): One less thing.
Rob Collie (00:52:21): That's right. I like that. You know, I can understand it. And you really got to take a look at the wicked Wordigami DAX.
Chris Haas (00:52:29): Oh, really? Oh, do tell.
Rob Collie (00:52:30): I mean, for me.
Chris Haas (00:52:31): Well, I'm excited.
Rob Collie (00:52:32): For me, it's wicked by my standards. For you, it'll be like, oh, so amateur.
Chris Haas (00:52:36): High priest DAX is still wicked DAX.
Rob Collie (00:52:38): Identifying whether a word had been used in the podcast to date, unique words to date, and is this one of those words? And there might even be a little bit of use of the EXCEPT function.
Chris Haas (00:52:51): That sounds fancy. I love it. And just hearing of a problem like this, and the first question I want to ask is, gosh, how would I do it in Excel? Nope. Not even touching that one in Excel. This is firmly in that realm of the new tools.
Rob Collie (00:53:05): That's right. That's right. Just right off the bat, splitting 60 transcript files on each word while throwing out all the cruft, like the timestamps and everything that are on every single line. Like, oh my God, if you were a really good C programmer or C++ programmer, you could spend a good day-plus writing the code to ingest these things and handle it properly. Or you can be a relative hack at Power Query.
Chris Haas (00:53:34): But it sounds like you got that hose to the faucet and got some water out the door.
Rob Collie (00:53:39): Yeah. I had some help. Ed ran a very crucial segment of that hose for me.
Chris Haas (00:53:44): It is cool though, playing with all of these new tools, just up and down the Azure stack, and just understanding how they can approach a problem from a different mindset to solve it at scale exceedingly fast. One of my colleagues in a previous life shared a pet project with me that, it was a function that he would upload a video file to, and the final result of that was a bar chart of the number of words that existed in that video file. And he showed me kind of the steps that went into it and high level detail. Let's split that file into half a second, and as many of those half second files as we need, and then a bunch of little Azure beings and sentients just spawned and then ran OCR on top of every single frame in that half a second, and then picked out different words and wrote them to CSV, and that got ingested into Power BI, and bam, visual was created.
And so, to just think like, how would you solve it if it was an eight minute video? And it's like, well, you can't. You're right. You could run that C# code on it eventually, but to just think about, well, what if I just had to solve this tiny little problem? And then what if I just had a billion of those tiny little problems and I just turn the Azure up to 11, and it just does it?
Rob Collie (00:55:06): I was a computer science major in college, which is ironic, because I never really took to it. I was more interested in my philosophy double major than the comp side of it. But we tended, as academics at the time, to think highly of the kids... Let's call kids, because we were, who performed well in these abstract classes. I loved the algorithms class. Loved the graph theory. It's the only graduate level course I took, was on algorithmic graph theory. This has never been useful to me, not once, but it was good brain candy, you know?
But in hindsight, looking back, and I even forget this guy's name. He was pretty quiet. He was a cool person. I liked him, but he was quiet. And we learned that the fastest sorting algorithms for sorting a list operate in N log N time, where N is the length of the list, Okay? And you know, there's quick sort, and there's merge sort, these different algorithms that both operate in N log N. And I learned both of them, in an abstract sense. Never once coded them. I mean, that would, why would I do that?
But this guy, completely unbidden by anyone, wrote a merge sort routine that recursively shelled out all of the individual merge routines and forked them into new processes on the mainframe, the Sun workstation mainframes at the engineering school. And because he was able to subdivide it out like that, even though the computer was still performing N log N work steps, he was utilizing so much unused CPU by splitting the merge sort that it was basically running in N, linear of time.
And I remember this even being just mentioned briefly that he was doing this, and it's years later that I realized, that person is the genius comp sci student. Wherever he is now, I don't even remember his name. If I remembered it, I'd look him up. That person went on to become a monster at whatever he put his mind to.
And at the time it was just sort of a novelty, as far as I was concerned. Like, who would ever lower themselves to the level of actually writing the code on the Unix system? I was so misguided. He was the champ. He was the comp sci champ, and we didn't know it at the time, but now we do. So, decomposing, half second groups, right? And then shelling it out to a million Azure processes that are essentially just sitting there idle otherwise.
Chris Haas (00:57:24): You just turn them on when you need them, and you turn them off when you don't.
Rob Collie (00:57:28): It's almost too easy. It's over too quickly.
Chris Haas (00:57:31): And it is crazy to think that, no, I don't need to have all of this stuff, and I don't have to plan to have enough because I don't get more budget for another six years. It's, no, I just need it when I do, and how that completely changes the game of what your architecture needs to look like, and being open to those ways to solve that problem faster. It's been really cool to help show clients that, oh, no, there's a faster, easier way to do this, and it's not scary, and we all can manage it and make it better.
Rob Collie (00:58:02): There's an interesting twist. We can do this or not. This is optional. But we could, if you want. We could talk about beer. You're into beer, aren't you?
Chris Haas (00:58:11): Sure am. I used to work for Big Fizzy Beer.
Rob Collie (00:58:14): Big Fizzy Beer. Okay. All right.
Chris Haas (00:58:16): Way back when. I've been a home brewer for quite a while. I've always enjoyed just tinkering in the chemistry of beer, and understanding the process and seeing, hey, can I make it better by doing this? Could I measure that to see if I was actually good in making that change? I've always been interested in tinkering with beer and understanding it as a process, and it's a lot like cooking, and I love cooking too. And so, to see various things come together that are within your control, and then some that are largely I out of your control, and how that makes something amazing at the end is really fascinating to me.
Rob Collie (00:58:51): It goes back to that try new things and find out quickly thin. So, when you're home brewing, there is a delay though, right? You go and do your stuff, and then you have to just wait.
Chris Haas (00:59:00): It's a four week delay. You have to have already made beer to enjoy making beer, because then at least you can have that first beer while you're making the second one.
Rob Collie (00:59:09): I see.
Chris Haas (00:59:10): So, there's definitely some investment up front until it becomes self-sustaining.
Rob Collie (00:59:15): Do you find that that four week delay, in a way, is... I mean, this is one of the things that happens with BI in the past, is that the information only comes out on a monthly interval in the old days, and so it got this reputation as being the rear view mirror, like it's too late to make any changes. And of course now, we do those same sorts of things. Sometimes people are getting daily routine, or a daily rhythm, or even sub daily. Now it's much more of a windshield. But do you find that that four week lag limits your ability to react?
Chris Haas (00:59:46): You know, it definitely does. And then it really, it got me thinking, how can I get data faster and more rapidly, and get some of that more in-process data? And it turns out that there's a market for that. And sure enough, there's ways to get data writing to a spreadsheet in OneDrive that Power BI is picking up that streaming data set, and yeah, I'm watching my fermentation temperatures in real time.
Rob Collie (01:00:12): And as you watch the temperatures, if you reach the point where it's like you can see the Matrix. You're like, I can taste this one. This one's a little bit more malty than I expected, but it's delicious.
Chris Haas (01:00:21): You know, I usually look at it to say, okay, Chris, you really can't mess up the last step, because this beer is as good as it's going to be, so just bring it home. Just bring it home.
Rob Collie (01:00:32): You give yourself your own little pep talk. You're in the locker room. Okay, boys.
Chris Haas (01:00:36): Do not spill it on the floor this time.
Rob Collie (01:00:38): This one's not over yet. Yeah. Okay. So, is your favorite beer of all time, which is always, there's no such thing. But if there was a fictional favorite beer of all time, is it one that you made, or is it one that you bought?
Chris Haas (01:00:52): Ooh. You know, I made it once where I set out for a certain color, a certain bitterness, just a certain feel about it, and I hit it. And so I called that beer By the Numbers. And then, six months later I said, I'm going to make By the Numbers again. And I think I did. Maybe that was just some rose colored glasses and thinking about the other one, but it was two not bad beers in a row that were directionally accurate, and that was pretty cool, to just start from an empty whiteboard and a dream.
Rob Collie (01:01:25): A empty whiteboard, a dream and a beer. Yeah.
Chris Haas (01:01:28): Precisely.
Rob Collie (01:01:29): Yeah. All right. So, this hobby has recently managed to intersect in a most spectacular fashion. You got to do some work and visit, physically visit a micro brewery.
Chris Haas (01:01:41): A micro brewery, yeah. It was just a couple of weeks ago. And you know, it was fabulous. I'm sitting with the brewers, and yes, they had fabulous beards, so I just felt right at home with where I should be. I said, these are my people. And we started talking data and I said, what's important to you? What's going to help you succeed? What are some of the issues you're having? Let's see if we can find that data to help solve those problems.
And they're showing me their data, and wow, yeah, it's lots of reports, and oh yeah, this is gross and it's manual. And I say, no, this is good. This is good. I've done this before, but it's always been with sterile bank data or TPS reports counted by month. And like, no, we're talking the number of gallons of beer that are getting shipped out on an hourly basis. This is my kind of data. I can handle this.
And so, they kept just throwing technical terms out, and I kept nodding, and yep, okay. And they said, wait a minute, do you... I'm like, oh yeah, I've been brewing for 12 years. They said, this guy knows data and he knows beer? This is awesome. How did we get this guy? I guess I drew the right straw.
Rob Collie (01:02:53): Did you ever see Strange Brew?
Chris Haas (01:02:54): I haven't. Tell me.
Rob Collie (01:02:56): Well, I mean, you need to see Strange Brew. There's a scene at the end, it's these two Canadian brothers that just love beer. Just love it, love it, love it. Like, they drink it for breakfast.
Chris Haas (01:03:04): Oh, take off, you hosier?
Rob Collie (01:03:06): Yeah, that's right. That's the movie, right?
Chris Haas (01:03:07): Got it. Yes.
Rob Collie (01:03:08): They give it to their dog, and everything. And at the end, they sort of come into possession of a semi-truck full of beer, and one of them like, oh, okay, I'll drive. The other one's like, you like you can't drive this, this is a 10 speed. You've never driven a truck before. He's like, yeah, I won't crash this, eh. This is a beer truck. Yeah. You, this data, this is just the usual thing. Don't worry. This is beer data.
Chris Haas (01:03:32): This is beer data. This serves a higher purpose.
Rob Collie (01:03:35): Nothing's more delicious. And that brewery is actually, was started by friends of Austin, one of our earliest principles here at P3, who's gone on. He's been on the podcast, Austin has. He went on to co-found Conserve. And this brewery, High Wire, I mean, they are going gangbusters. I met these guys at Austin's wedding, years ago. I mean, how many micro breweries are there, right? There's a jillion of them.
Chris Haas (01:03:59): There's more every day.
Rob Collie (01:04:01): There's there's 1.1 micro breweries per citizen of drinking age in the United States. That's a real number. You can look it up, and it's not true. And so, you just say, oh yeah, okay, great. You're joining that micro brewery revolution. Fantastic. Good luck, right? Now they're based in North Carolina, and they're on the shelves here in Indianapolis, and it's like, oh my God, they're really doing it. It's doing great.
Chris Haas (01:04:26): They're looking to get bigger. And yeah, I mean, they do awesome. And I think now they're going to have some fabulous reports to just help them just make their business better, in all sense of the word.
Rob Collie (01:04:38): I've had some private text conversations behind the scenes where your praises have been sung, by them, and then by me.
Chris Haas (01:04:45): I am happy I had the chance to delight them, because they were truly delightful, and got to say, I believe in what they're doing, but when someone is passionate about doing better, that's the kind of energy I just latch onto, and I just want to magnify that energy.
Rob Collie (01:05:00): And clearly they've got a pretty special culture there, and I'm not talking about the culture they put in the beer. Whoa. In order to have grown that fast and that far, there's got to be some very special things going on there. There's so many examples of people getting into the business of their hobby, and then it not going well, because it's no longer a hobby, and plus, they want to view it as a hobby. But this is a passion for them. But they also turned out to be pretty good at some of the other things. When those two coincide, you get some very, very, very positive results.
Chris Haas (01:05:33): I've seen that same thing here, Rob, where if you just the size of P3 Adaptive from this point last year, or two years ago, to where it is now, I mean, it's grown. It's crazy, but it hasn't been unchecked growth. There's been the right amount of focus on what P3 wants to do and who it wants to be a part of the team to help get it there. There's definitely a sense of E compass to get to that final North Star of what P3 thinks is success.
Rob Collie (01:06:04): That's cool to hear. Obviously, that's what we're shooting for. To hear other people say it on the team, it's certainly rewarding.
Chris Haas (01:06:10): Seeing a company double in size is awesome. Seeing them double without sacrificing any quality is really hard to do. I've seen that here.
Rob Collie (01:06:21): Yeah. It feels, and this is weird for me to say, right, because I'm the one that believed this was possible from the beginning. But now, seeing it, and seeing the ways that it's happened, it's like I have this new sense of how unlikely and impossible it was. The feeling I'm having about this is like a new emotion that doesn't have a name. But the Germans, of course, have a name for it. We've joked about it in another podcast. You write a long paragraph describing the feeling. They take the spaces out, and there's the German word for this feeling.
Chris Haas (01:06:57): Right up there with grief bacon.
Rob Collie (01:06:59): What?
Chris Haas (01:07:00): Oh, there's a German word. I can't pronounce it. It translates directly to grief bacon. It's the emotion of having a sense of sadness that can only be satisfied by eating, and using food as a comfort to help to combat that emotion.
Rob Collie (01:07:17): Wow. See? You know, the Germans have got this figured out. Just, every word is a compound word.
Chris Haas (01:07:25): Much easier that way.
Rob Collie (01:07:26): You know, beer truck is one word, but it's bierwagen.
Chris Haas (01:07:34): I am glad, though, that the Germans did not write the DAX language. That may have been tricky.
Rob Collie (01:07:38): That is definitely true. Did we ever say the name of the brewery? I don't think I did, did I? It's called High Wire brewing, right? Out of Asheville, North Carolina, which apparently is a hotbed of micro brewing.
Chris Haas (01:07:50): There's probably one every block.
Rob Collie (01:07:53): I didn't know. In the time that you were there, did you happen to experience the gas station called the Brew Pump?
Chris Haas (01:08:01): I did not. I did see a giant red double-decker coffee bus, but I did not see the Brew Pump.
Rob Collie (01:08:08): So, the Brew Pump is a gas station, but you go inside and there's taps. It's got a beer garden out back, and they have food trucks that come in there every now and then. The Brew Pump is owned by and the brainchild of relatives of mine that also live in Asheville. And that's the first time I encountered High Wire in sort of the real world, outside of like, meeting them at Austin's wedding, was that my cousins on Facebook posted pictures of a bunch of old T-shirts that they had, and a bunch of them were High Wire Brewing t-shirts. I'm like, oh my God.
Chris Haas (01:08:41): I know them!
Rob Collie (01:08:42): Yep. Is there some sort of prefix that's in between micro and macro? When you're a micro brewery, but your beer is appearing on shelves hundreds and hundreds of miles away, states away, does someone eventually for your micro?
Chris Haas (01:08:56): I think it's half a million barrels per year is the threshold.
Rob Collie (01:09:00): Okay. I have no idea if that's a lot or not. I mean, it sounds... I mean, I certainly couldn't drink it.
Chris Haas (01:09:04): So, that would be one million kegs, a keg being a half barrel.
Rob Collie (01:09:08): There's a lot of room to be micro. A million kegs. Even at my strongest, I could not handle more than...
Chris Haas (01:09:15): Five, six, maybe, tops.
Rob Collie (01:09:17): Yeah. Even my younger days. Especially not today's beers. Geez.
Chris Haas (01:09:21): They are definitely meant to be consumed with friends. And in these COVID times, that is getting tough to do, for sure.
Rob Collie (01:09:26): My son just went to college, and within about three hours had discovered Natural Light.
Chris Haas (01:09:31): It took him that long?
Rob Collie (01:09:33): It's like it's issued to you as you come in the door, like, here's your welcome kit. Yeah. But I mean, when you really need to drink 15 beers in a night, what else could you do other than something like Natural Light, you know? So, as a beer guy, I have to ask your opinion on something. I'm not really a beer guy. I've had, in the last month, three beers, okay? So, what are your thoughts on lactose in beer?
Chris Haas (01:09:57): I have had a few milk stouts with a little bit of lactose in it, and it does add to that body. In that case, it was great. To be honest, that was a bourbon barrel aged beer that we made 50 gallons of milk stout, and it just turned out, chef's kiss.
Rob Collie (01:10:16): You made 50 gallons?
Chris Haas (01:10:17): Collectively. I'm in a home brewers group, and we own quite a few barrels collectively.
Rob Collie (01:10:23): I see. It's like the merge sort, right?
Chris Haas (01:10:23): Exactly.
Rob Collie (01:10:25): You just farm it out to all this unused capacity.
Chris Haas (01:10:28): Yeah. It's Azure, just in beer sense. It works.
Rob Collie (01:10:31): Yeah. Beer brewed in the cloud. Yeah. Is that what hazy IPAs are?
Chris Haas (01:10:37): Precisely. I'm not a big fan of all of these flavored beers, and just kind of chasing that experience. I've talked to some of the brewers that make them, and it's really hard to do well. It's easy to do and hit the gimmick, but to still be able to taste the beer and say, oh yeah, I get that note, but it's not just the one trick pony. And so, that can show off the skills of a brewer that can still elicit that response, but be unapologetically a beer at the same time.
Rob Collie (01:11:10): Well, I was alive at a very seismic moment in the United States when Sugar Smacks, the cereal, got rebranded as Honey Smacks. And I didn't want them anymore, because I didn't like honey, you know? And my mom's like, no, no, no, you don't have no idea. It's just... No, they're still, they're the same. But that was it for me. Sugar Smacks I liked, and Honey Smacks, I refused, okay?
So, I wonder about this whole lactose thing, right? I had a beer the other night that had lactose in it, and I'm like, I am drinking a milkshake with booze in it. Milkshake in a can. Now, maybe that's not a bad thing. A boozy milkshake in a can. Maybe this is the whole reason humans existed, was to invent this. But I'm sitting here going like, this is not beer. This is Kool-Aid. So, I'm just wondering if lactose is the sneaky Honey Smacks trick of like, beer with sugar, you know? Sugar beer is what we should really call it, and then everyone would walk away from it, right? If you make it lactose.
Chris Haas (01:12:07): The reason is, they tried using aspartame, and the focus groups just said no.
Rob Collie (01:12:13): Everybody got itchy. Yeah. And the thing is, I didn't actually develop this itchiness problem until very recently. You have to reach a certain lifetime consumption of these products before, even if you have this allergy, before it begins. Folks, if you're laying in bed at night with this incredible itch that migrate one pixel of your skin, but super, super intense, in various places, it lights up every 30 seconds, cut out the fake sugar, folks.
Chris Haas (01:12:37): Aspartame consumption lifetime to date. I can already see the DAX. I love it.
Rob Collie (01:12:42): What's weird is that this other one is Stevia that's getting me. Stevia is getting me. And it's a completely different formulation than the aspartame that was getting my grandfather. But it's just something about the chemical nature of tastes like sugar, but is not metabolizable. Is that a word? Probably not. We'll find out. The model knows all.
Chris Haas (01:13:00): Run it through Wordigami.
Rob Collie (01:13:01): Yeah, that's right. Well, it's just a one click refresh now. After someone goes and makes the transcripts, of course. There is a human component in this workflow. But it's like merge sort. You just farm it out.
Chris Haas (01:13:12): Just distribute it.
Rob Collie (01:13:13): It just comes back, yeah. Anyway, yeah, if you're ever experiencing this, folks, maybe lay off the artificial sugar.
Chris Haas (01:13:18): Simple is best. Yeah. The Germans had it right. Beer was four ingredients. Easy to keep it that way.
Rob Collie (01:13:23): And sugar.
Chris Haas (01:13:25): And sugar.
Rob Collie (01:13:25): After it's done brewing. Put it in afterwards, so that it stays in there.
Chris Haas (01:13:31): My biggest try something and then recalibrate, learn fast was, oh, I'm going to make a chocolate stout. Didn't realize you just use cocoa nibs. I just melted a chocolate bar.
Rob Collie (01:13:42): Hot damn!
Chris Haas (01:13:43): Just right into the pot.
Rob Collie (01:13:45): That's right. Straight for the throat.
Chris Haas (01:13:47): Poured it into the fermentor. I said, uh-oh, I don't think we were supposed to do it that way.
Rob Collie (01:13:54): Even worse. It was a Snickers, with the wrapper. All right. Hey, Chris, really happy that the lazy river brought you back around here, and then onto the show.
Chris Haas (01:14:06): This has been the best river ever. Rob, thank you so much. I've had a blast.
Rob Collie (01:14:10): Thanks for listening to the Raw Data by P3 Adaptive podcast. Let the experts at P3 Adaptive help your business. Just go to P3Adaptive.com. Have a data day.
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