Hope Foley - P3 Adaptive
11.17.20

Hope Foley

Data & AI Cloud Solutions Architect-Microsoft

Listen Now:

It’s a not so technical discussion with tech guru and Microsoft Cloud Solutions Architect Hope Foley!  We talk a lot about Microsoft, and a little about Star Wars.

Episode Timeline:

  • 1:25 – Meeting Hope
  • 4:15 – The Darth Vader connection
  • 6:45 – Three Letter acronyms <CSA, AIR, FP&A, LOL> and Hope’s field work in the Education vertical
  • 12:50 – The Satya Era at Microsoft, how his keynotes are vastly different than other CEO’s, and the culture at Microsoft
  • 17:55 – Rob’s tenure at Microsoft wasn’t all unicorns and rainbows, and he gives some details
  • 36:15 – How does Google rank as a cloud solution versus Azure or AWS or anything else?
  • 39:05 – The Innovator’s Dilemma, data privacy and the sinister naming of Google’s phone
  • 46:50 – More discussion on the Education space leads to a nifty Dax puzzle.  And you will be entering…The Monologue Zone

Rob Collie (00:00): Welcome to Raw Data, Episode 9, if you can believe it. Already up to our ninth episode. Today we welcome Hope Foley, a Cloud Solutions Architect at Microsoft. What is a cloud solutions architect, or CSA for short? Well, technically it's part of the sales organization at Microsoft, and technically is a good word because it is the technical component of the sales team. In other words, Hope is the tech guru for many, many, many different customers. In an average day, she juggles many different problems, many different even domains, not to mention the entire cloud stack from Microsoft. She's very much in the trenches every day. Obviously, we talk a lot about Microsoft, but we don't get too technical, so hopefully you enjoy this one. All right, let's get after it.

Announcer (01:01): Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention, please?

Announcer (01:06): 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 (01:24): Welcome to the show, Hope Foley. How are you doing today?

Hope Foley (01:27): I'm good. I'm good. How are you?

Rob Collie (01:29): Oh, we're doing great. There's really nothing going on in the world right now. Nothing to distract us at all.

Hope Foley (01:36): Yeah.

Rob Collie (01:36): I mean, it'll be so comforting just to talk about tech for a little while, won't it?

Hope Foley (01:39): Yeah.

Rob Collie (01:39): Yeah.

Hope Foley (01:41): I have no idea what's going on. Yeah. I've actually been staying off social media a little bit to save my sanity some, so yeah.

Rob Collie (01:50): Yeah. I think that's a solid plan. I can't find fault with that. Well, first of all, just tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you do these days? What's your background? Things like that, so people can get to know you just a little bit.

Hope Foley (02:03): Yeah. My name is Hope Foley. Yeah, I've been at Microsoft now. I just had my five year anniversary.

Rob Collie (02:11): Oh, congratulations.

Hope Foley (02:11): So, yeah. I don't know what milestone that is as far as Microsoftee's go, but yeah, I made it. Stock, that's always nice. Yeah. I've been at Microsoft for five years, focus on data and AI. I'm a cloud solution architect now. They did a rename, rebranding, like they like to do. I used to be a TSP, Technical Pre-sales I always joke I'm the nerd they take to meetings to keep the sales folks honest. Prior to that, I was at Blue Granite focused on BI. Then prior to that, I was a DBA Consultant for seven years.

Rob Collie (02:47): You know Tom?

Hope Foley (02:48): Of course. Yeah.

Rob Collie (02:48): The two of you have crossed paths multiple times. You were both part of that primordial SQL Twitter community that I first joined in like 2009, and Tom and I talked about on our first podcast.

Thomas LaRock (03:01): I think the last time I saw Hope, we were at the Detroit airport after a red eye from PASS Summit.

Hope Foley (03:11): From PASS summit, possibly. Yeah.

Thomas LaRock (03:13): I think that was five years ago and you then just were just about to join Microsoft.

Hope Foley (03:18): Yeah. That was one of my last summits for a little while, but then they opened the doors back up to us. Yeah. I remember one of my first SQL Saturdays was Nashville. You were there. Yeah.

Thomas LaRock (03:28): Yes.

Hope Foley (03:28): The speaker dinner was at Kevin Klein's house.

Thomas LaRock (03:31): Yep. Yeah, Rob, that community that you talked about, it's interesting how many paths have crossed over the years.

Rob Collie (03:42): Yeah, completely. Five years ago is when I moved to Indy. About the time Hope was joining Microsoft is the time I was moving here. Chris Finland, on a previous podcast, is the person who introduced us, introduced Hope and I, so that's kind of cool. The web, it's just, the world is so small. This community, it's huge, but it's also close knit.

Hope Foley (04:04): Yeah. I always loved... I was always appreciative of, yeah, PASS got me out there and speaking, and I've met tons of people, friends all over the world from doing those events and everything.

Rob Collie (04:16): In your Twitter profile, are you still wearing a Vader mask?

Hope Foley (04:20): I am, yeah. I keep that one. I don't know why. There was...

Rob Collie (04:25): Because it's awesome!

Hope Foley (04:26): It is awesome. Yeah. My big mask is over there. I collect Darth Vader things. Like I said, I'm not breaking any stereotypes here today, but yeah. What are you going to do? So, yeah.

Thomas LaRock (04:38): Why Darth Vader?

Hope Foley (04:40): It started as a joke back when I was at PTI. I used to manage a team and we were going into a meeting where I was going to go up head to head, and fight for the team to get whatever they wanted. I was like, "I need you to play the Imperial March. You be the guy carrying the boom box in my entourage, playing the Imperial March as I walk into this meeting," and it grew from there. I started collecting Darth Vader things and I was always more of a Star Wars kind of a gal growing up. I have an office full of Darth Vader things. The Twitter thing was, he was like, "Oh, your follower count's going to just go through the roof if you change your Twitter picture." Didn't exactly, but it made me a giggle.

Rob Collie (05:26): I think it's a keeper. I think you got to stick with that. I don't think most people understand or believe that it's actually you under the mask.

Hope Foley (05:34): It totally is. Yeah. They surprised me with a mask one day and I'm like, "Yeah. Okay. I'm going to roll with it." It was fun. Who doesn't love Darth Vader? Yeah.

Rob Collie (05:44): To show you how nerdy it gets in my family, my father, for a number of years would come home every day and put the change from his pocket in a jar, and eventually went and turned it in. It was hundreds and hundreds of dollars at that point. He could buy the full length, full detail Vader outfit. I mean, it is super hyper realistic. This is a man. This is my dad. He has the realistic lightsaber and everything. You just wouldn't expect that from the previous generation, would you?

Hope Foley (06:18): Yeah, I won't do any spoilers, but there were some things that happened in some of the recent ones, people being killed, that wrecked me way more than I imagined they would. I'm not going to... I'm not naming any names, but there was a time where I was completely wrecked. I was like, "They can't do it. They can't do this."

Rob Collie (06:36): Well, whatever you do, don't tell me who Luke's Skywalker's father is. I haven't gotten to that part yet.

Hope Foley (06:44): Yeah.

Rob Collie (06:45): Okay. CSA. If you work at Microsoft in the field in particular, you have to have a three letter acronym as your title. That's just the rule. If you work in Redmond, you can have two letters in your acronym, but out in the field, you got to have three. That's how we distinguish between the two camps. Yes?

Hope Foley (07:03): Possibly. I never noticed that. Yeah.

Rob Collie (07:06): It's the extra letter. Yeah.

Hope Foley (07:08): Yeah. I felt very Microsofty one day. I was like, I think I just set a full sentence in that three letter acronyms. Yeah. That's very Microsoft. That's next level Microsofty.

Rob Collie (07:19): Yeah. That's when the music plays and the confetti falls from the ceiling, and they come in and they tell you the real secrets of the origins of Microsoft.

Hope Foley (07:27): Yeah. They play the Bill Gates dancing video. Yeah.

Rob Collie (07:30): That's right. Yeah. Cloud Solutions Architect?

Hope Foley (07:33): Cloud Solutions Architect. Yep.

Rob Collie (07:35): All right. Microsoft has also recently, semi-recently anyway, reorganized around industries in the field. You're focused primarily now on the education vertical. Is that true?

Hope Foley (07:49): I am. Yep. I've been focused... yeah, prior to that, I was in commercial, but now I focus on education, so yeah. It's been interesting and fun.

Rob Collie (07:59): From a perspective of Microsoft's customers, what kind of organizations are you responsible for?

Hope Foley (08:05): I talk to a lot of universities, definitely a lot of universities, what they call "academic med centers". If the hospital is tied to a university, they get the education. They get the discounting potentially on their software and such. Academic med centers, higher education, also K12, and then some random museums and such thrown in.

Rob Collie (08:28): Ooh, interesting. Museums. That's kind of cool. A friend of ours and future podcast guest is running a startup now. It's an internet of things, monitoring company for museums, for preservation, for conservation purposes, monitor humidity, light, things like that.

Hope Foley (08:47): Oh, yeah, cool.

Rob Collie (08:47): We should connect you.

Hope Foley (08:48): Oh, yeah. Your people will talk to my people.

Rob Collie (08:52): Which is like, it's going to be me talking to you. We can call it people. Also, that was really interesting, the academic med centers. You get some stealth healthcare exposure still.

Hope Foley (09:06): I was surprised when I moved over to education. I was like, oh these... They have their different acronyms, too. I had to learn some new acronyms, but yeah, I was getting back into healthcare a lot with these academic med centers, or I would be talking to... I remember I was a young eager beaver on a new team, ready to impress the new boss. They were like, "We would you to go to the AIRs conference." I was like, "What is that?" It's Academic Institution Research. I was like, oh gosh, I need a jacket with patches on the sleeves or something?

Hope Foley (09:40): I don't know. I looked it up. They were the bean counters. They were the accounting type folks that run the business of a university. I was like, "Oh, I know those guys." I talked a lot of Power BI at that conference, but I was like, "Oh, it sounds fancy." I figure somebody somewhere got upset at the research guys, looking down their nose at the people in the accounting parts of the university, so they came up with a fancy title. My theory totally, and it may be not valid, but that's my theory.

Rob Collie (10:09): It's not falsifiable, so we just know that it's just true until otherwise right? It reminds me of my experience going to my first FPNA conference, financial planning and analysis. I'm like, what is that? The person who asked me to go to the conference, I said, "Okay, fine, but you're going to have to help me build the demos, because I don't know what FPNA is." By the time we were done building demos together, I stood back and looked at them, and I said, I get, "That's it?" He goes, "Yeah." I'm like, "I already had these demos. This is just data. This is the BI mission." It's crazy that it's got this... It's neat to hear you tell that story. There's so many different names, but when you really get down to it, just data.

Hope Foley (10:49): Yeah. I'm always a little bit, probably undiagnosed ADD talking to different types of people. I talk to the Smithsonian and those hard-core research guys measuring tree widths out in the wilderness. Some days it's like, ah, I'm just talking to the regular folks trying to make sense of data. I get to talk to a lot of different kind of folks, so it's fun and interesting.

Rob Collie (11:14): You said Undiagnosed ADD. I don't know if it's undiagnosed.

Hope Foley (11:20): Yeah. Maybe we can diagnose.

Rob Collie (11:21): Do we really need a formal write-up? I'm assuming that this means lots and lots, and lots of Azure.

Hope Foley (11:28): Definitely. It seems like they were a little slow. I don't know. Healthcare was a little slow, scared to move to Azure, but then it seems like COVID kicked... "Oh, we got to be in the cloud right now. We were on the fence before, but now we're totally on board. We got to do this now."

Rob Collie (11:48): Hurry up and wait, and then hurry.

Hope Foley (11:51): Yeah.

Thomas LaRock (11:51): I want to make sure I have your title correct. Is it Cloud Solution Architect or Cloud Solutions Architect?

Hope Foley (11:58): I would say I do more than one, so yeah, solutions.

Thomas LaRock (12:03): There's more than one cloud solution?

Hope Foley (12:04): Yeah.

Thomas LaRock (12:05): Okay, but wouldn't your cloud solution just always be Azure?

Hope Foley (12:10): Well, yeah. I mean, it's a large world of Azure out there, so yeah. Don't label me, man. I don't know, but I totally help with more than just one solution yeah, so I'm going with solutions.

Thomas LaRock (12:27): Solutions. Okay. I could deal with that. Cloud Solutions Architect. How often is your cloud solution, say, Google?

Hope Foley (12:36): Not very often, unless it's doing internet searches for other things I guess.

Thomas LaRock (12:42): That's fair because that's what I find is most people aren't using Google clouds for anything either.

Hope Foley (12:46): No.

Thomas LaRock (12:46): It's either Azure or AWS. I wanted to drill into... I was trying to figure out how long you've been at Microsoft. Was Satya in charge already when you got there?

Hope Foley (12:56): He was. Yeah.

Thomas LaRock (12:57): Okay.

Hope Foley (12:57): I want to say he was maybe a year, year and a half-ish in role.

Thomas LaRock (13:01): I wanted to ask you about the transformation that you've seen even in those five years, because it was still a different company when he took over, but he was really the Azure guy, I thought. He was really driving a lot of that. Talk to me about what Azure has done for Microsoft in the past five years.

Hope Foley (13:20): Yeah. I mean they definitely shifted focus. It was all Azure, Azure, Azure. Well, not all the way. SQL definitely still had a lot of love. I was actually called the Data Platform Architect back then, so if the SQL questions came up, they would usually come my way. I feel like Microsoft has paid my bills for longer than I've even been at Microsoft. I was still consulting in Microsoft Technologies, so I've paid a lot of attention over the years, definitely, to the direction they're going. Yeah, I mean the Satya years, it was still him trying to make his point, but it's always been Azure focused since I've been on. I was actually a little surprised they hired me because I had very little Azure experience.

Hope Foley (14:07): I was a Data Platform MVP back then, but I wasn't necessarily very Azure savvy. I'm glad they did. I really love the way he's changed the culture. I still saw some things like a little bit of that stack rankingness that used to go on, that I used to hear a lot about. That's been ripped out, but those kind of things linger with the people that are involved. I'm totally on board Kool-Aid wise. I just love hearing him speak. He was talking about the learn-it-all mentality. We're not know-it-alls, and if you want to be cool, we might not be the guys for you, but we may help others look cool. I really dig his approach and his leadership has been really, really good. I am completely biased, of course.

Thomas LaRock (15:00): For me, Satya, I think might be one of the best CEOs out there delivering keynotes today. The reason I say that is, so I attend a lot of different events in my role, back in the before times, when you used to go to events.

Hope Foley (15:18): I miss that.

Thomas LaRock (15:19): Most CEOs spend a portion of their time on stage giving free advertising to a competitor. They go out of their way to make a disparaging comment about a competing product or service or company. Larry Ellison, big example of that. So does Andy Jassy for AWS, because he'll say things about Larry and Oracle, and so on and so forth, but Satya, in his keynotes, you never hear him ever reference another company or product or service. He doesn't make broad misleading statements, like you hear. He doesn't say, "We're the only company that offers this. Nobody else does even have it."

Thomas LaRock (16:00): You don't really have to do a lot of fact checking for Satya and his message is so positive. It's always an effort to be positive, and forward-looking and future-thinking. I could listen to that content all day, and I think it starts with him and it trickles down from there. That's my feeling of this new... when people talk about the new Microsoft, that's what I see as an outsider. I believe it trickles and the people that are there now embody all of that as well.

Hope Foley (16:32): Yeah. I totally agree. But I almost feel like he's not gamifying being a good company. They just recently announced... like a lot of companies, they talk and do a lot of lip service to diversity and things, and we just published our numbers. Or even the COVID dates of, "Oh, we're not going back until X," and then you'd see the other guys that are, "Oh, well, we're not going back until this." I'm really glad that they're starting to make being just good humans, almost at a corporate level, a thing that is gaining traction.

Hope Foley (17:09): I think Microsoft definitely has a good part of that with Satya's leadership, that they keep announcing really good incentives and directions of saving the planet, and all of this stuff. I'm definitely biased. They pay my bills, but all of that feels really good to be in a company that's making... I forget what they call it. Have you guys seen that? There's a new list of corporates, goodhearted companies, one of those and we were number one, so yeah.

Rob Collie (17:42): Social consciousness or citizen corporations.

Hope Foley (17:46): Yeah.

Rob Collie (17:46): Something like that.

Hope Foley (17:48): Something like that, yeah, some list, but we were number one. But those data people make their lists, too, so yeah.

Rob Collie (17:55): Well, I mean, that's definitely a contrast to some of the company when I used to work there, especially in the late ‘90s, early 2000s. I mean, I remember us sitting around as employees, during the antitrust trial, as we saw how we were behaving, our executives were behaving in that antitrust trial, we had that moment like, "Are we the bad guys? I think we're the bad guys." We actually reached the point where we were rooting against ourselves. We were rooting to be broken up. We were just like, yeah, we deserve it. Plus, we think the office division will outperform if we split up and we're in the office division, so bring it on.

Hope Foley (18:30): Yeah. They break up the ship, we'll be fine. We'll swing.

Rob Collie (18:33): Yeah, we'll be fine.

Hope Foley (18:34): We'll swim. Yeah.

Rob Collie (18:36): The Windows org in particular back in those days was just savage. They were so mean to each other. That was how they managed, was just kick down, kick down, kick down. It was gross. You mentioned stack rank. A lot of listeners won't know what that means. Some obviously will, but not everyone. Oh, yeah. I used to be, as a middle manager at Microsoft, for a while I was the instrument of application of the stack rank. If we had gotten rid of stack rank back in those days, I would've decided to continue to be a manager at Microsoft, but my last few years at Microsoft, I just swore it all off. I said, I can't do this anymore.

Rob Collie (19:22): I can't be the one applying this stack ranking thing, so I'm just going to go be an individual contributor and take on big projects, but that turned out to not be very satisfying for me, making that switch to IC because now I wasn't as involved in the bigger decisions as I wanted to be. It was just a really... Okay, stack ranking. This is what it is. Every six months was review time, and if you had five people on your team, you had to rank those five people from one to end. Then the worst part was, is that then you get together with the other managers at your level, in this awful Battle Royale meeting called the stack rank meeting. Now you've got 30 people.

Rob Collie (20:06): There's six managers, five direct reports. The direct reports of course are not in this meeting. We literally put 30 sticky notes on the table with names on them and argue for essentially days on end about how to rearrange them in order from best to worst. Then the people near the bottom get absolutely nothing in terms of financial bonus, raise, stock, all that stuff. Now, if you happen to have built a good team, if you happen to have been a management culture that drew... that people just wanted to work for you, you would end up just absolutely just destroying people that were doing good jobs.

Rob Collie (20:52): There was no absolute scale of good performance. I would coach people on how to get better year over year, and they would. They would go and they would improve. They would improve sometimes very significantly, but everyone else was under the same pressure and they would also improve significantly. A year later, I would be telling the same person, "Yeah, sorry. You made a lot of progress, but it's not going to mean anything." It was just so sickening. It was just such a sickening thing to do. Four or five years of that was enough.

Hope Foley (21:21): Yeah.

Rob Collie (21:23): I'm really glad to hear that that's... I mean, I understand why they did it. How do you trust that everyone is holding a high bar if everyone can set the bar themselves, every manager? Well, that's a different kind of problem, but this system was set up... The original system was set up to make the difficulty, the awfulness happen at exactly my level, with exactly the people that I cared about. It's like, okay, I'll let someone else deal with that. I'm opting out.

Hope Foley (21:50): Yeah. That would be heart breaking. Yeah, I used to manage a team and I would go mama bear on them. It's like picking your... "Okay, well, two of my children have to..." No way.

Rob Collie (22:03): Yeah, Twice a year, you'd be forced to essentially do a heel turn and completely shock them, and tell them, "I've cared about you. I've done all these things and we've worked together. I've encouraged you, but today, today I have to tell you that you weren't good enough."

Hope Foley (22:23): Kick you off the island. Yeah, that stinks. I'm glad that that is no more. I mean, Microsoft is such a big animal. Sometimes it takes a little while for all of that to weed out.

Rob Collie (22:36): Oh, big time. Big time. The other thing that I've noticed about the Satya regime is Tom mentioned that he doesn't talk about competitors during keynotes. Now, Tom, did you mean he doesn't say bad things, or just that he doesn't say anything about them during keynotes?

Thomas LaRock (22:52): I am specifically referring to Ignite. I saw him do a couple for Build Online. You would expect him to mention AWS and he doesn't mention AWS, and he doesn't mention any product from AWS. He just focuses and says, "This is what we're building. This is why, and this is what we believe in here." He lets the demo and the tech, and the user stories speak for themself. He doesn't take any time from that keynote to call out a competing product or service. None that I can remember.

Hope Foley (23:27): Yeah. Now that I think about it, I never really thought of it that way, but yeah. I don't think I've ever... yeah.

Thomas LaRock (23:32): If you go to Reinvent, if you watch the Reinvent keynote at the end of the month, the three week Reinvent thing that they're trying to pull off, whatever, it's silly. But if you listen to Andy Jassy... I've actually written blog posts because I was so mad. I did a fact check, and I've done it twice now, for Andy Jassy keynotes, because when he gets on stage and he says, "We have 14 database services available and nobody else has more than half of that," I'm like, excuse me. I look at the list that he has and I go, okay, well, if you're going to have that as a list, if that's your set, if I go to Azure, I can count that right now, they offer eight, and eight is more than half of 14.

Thomas LaRock (24:14): I've done these fact checks for Jassy. He just constantly does that, that little slide that in. It's not quite a lie, but it's really not true. Or it was true 18 months ago and you haven't updated your talking points, and it frustrates me because it's not accurate. The converse of that, obviously, for me, is Satya, who doesn't do that. He doesn't sit there and say, "Hey, look, we're better. We have more regions," or something like that. He just doesn't do that. Again, he focuses on the services, the customer experience and why they believe that what they're building is going to make for a better tomorrow. It's such a positive message that he sends out.

Hope Foley (25:00): Just don't have AI in the drinking game of the keynotes.

Thomas LaRock (25:04): Oh, my god, If I have to hear him say Edge-

Hope Foley (25:06): Edge.

Thomas LaRock (25:07): ... yeah, "I'm living on the Edge." Edge, Edge, Edge, Edge, Edge.

Hope Foley (25:10): Is Edge the new buzzword? Is it overtaking AI?

Thomas LaRock (25:16): Edge, Edge...

Hope Foley (25:16): Edge.

Thomas LaRock (25:16): And SQL. If you're going to have SQL on the Edge, everything's on the Edge-

Hope Foley (25:19): We're all on Edge.

Thomas LaRock (25:20): ... that

Rob Collie (25:21): Now we have the Aerosmith song in our head. "It's SQL on the Edge."

Hope Foley (25:27): Yeah. No.

Rob Collie (25:29): You can auto tune that, right, Luke? Make that sound better?

Hope Foley (25:32): Yeah, make him sound like Cher or something. Yeah.

Rob Collie (25:35): I'm asking a lot of software, even modern software that was powered by AI.

Hope Foley (25:41): Yes. No.

Rob Collie (25:42): Cha-ching.

Hope Foley (25:45): Yeah.

Rob Collie (25:46): Along the same line, one of the things I've been noticing, again, during the Satya regime, is the willingness and the acceptance of reality. Even though he might not talk about these competitors and keynotes, the acceptance that customers are going to have competitive tools. They're going to have adopted... even for historical reasons. They might not have even gone out of their way in any way to choose something over the Microsoft offering, but just because of the way that they grew up, they ended up with "best of breed" systems, which is just a euphemism for, "We were disorganized. We grew up in chaos, and so we have a hodgepodge of systems," but that's just reality everywhere right?

Rob Collie (26:29): Under the Bill and Steve regime, for example, Linux wasn't even tolerated as something that was allowed to exist. The only way that those two could imagine a path forward, at least for a while there... I'm sure that they wised up eventually, but for a while there, all their behavior indicated that the only acceptable outcome was the extermination of Linux, the extermination of open source. It's like, okay. It's like, that hope is not a strategy thing. Oh, I used your name. Hope is a good strategy thinker, but hope is not a strategy. These are true statements.

Hope Foley (27:07): We had to get to the hope puns eventually, right?

Rob Collie (27:08): We did. People who follow you on social media, they don't know that you have sisters named Faith Foley, Joy Foley and Grace Foley, do they?

Hope Foley (27:20): I liked the Wanda you came up with, Wanda Foley. Yeah.

Rob Collie (27:24): Oh, that's right! I did have a fourth one, Wanda Foley. I was wondering what the fourth one was. Yeah, and the reason people don't know this about you is because it's not true-

Hope Foley (27:35): It's totally not true.

Rob Collie (27:36): ... but it should be. It would be a lot cooler if it was.

Hope Foley (27:40): Oh, yeah. I'd have a lot more reasons to be mad at Mom if she did do that. Yeah. No.

Rob Collie (27:47): Wanda Foley. Aw, man. I'm so glad you remembered that. I couldn't come up with that.

Hope Foley (27:49): Yeah. I stumbled into... Yeah, I married into that one, too. Yeah, I didn't...

Rob Collie (27:54): Yeah, I was going to say sisters-in-law, but that was going to make the joke a little too... That was the only way that it could really happen, right?

Hope Foley (28:02): Yeah. Tom's going to fact check this later.

Thomas LaRock (28:04): It's what I do.

Hope Foley (28:05): None of this works out. None.

Rob Collie (28:07): "It turns out she has zero sisters-in-law named anything like that, Rob."

Hope Foley (28:11): Yeah.

Thomas LaRock (28:11): This is what I do.

Hope Foley (28:11): It's Sheila.

Rob Collie (28:14): "It's time for you to go sell AWS now, Rob."

Hope Foley (28:17): [inaudible 00:28:17]

Rob Collie (28:19): Couple years ago, I took a tour, a deliberate tour of all of the different Azure services because it's almost like, if you're loosely familiar with this stuff, you expect Azure to mean something, but it's really just an umbrella for a myriad of different services. If it's Microsoft cloud service, good chance it's labeled Azure.

Hope Foley (28:41): Yeah.

Rob Collie (28:43): Oh, my gosh. I learned so much just on that one tour. There were lots of different things, but there were two themes that emerged in my tour. One of them was, oh, my gosh. Look at all these Linux offerings! Holy cow! This is not the Microsoft I know, all these Linux offerings. But then I also started to see another set of services that, if you start lining them up, this one over here sounds like that Azure service, but it's not Linux. It's more of a Windows thing. "Then I go, oh, that is the Microsoft that I know.

Rob Collie (29:14): Oh, okay. That's more like it." We're going to give you the Linux thing, but then we're going to look at it and go, "Oh, that's not good enough. There's a million ways that could be improved if it wasn't being developed in the open source of methodology. If we were thinking more in our enterprise corporate methodology, we come up with some better ways to work these things, and so we'll start building a better alternative." The cynic in me, the longtime Microsoft cynic is looking at this going, "Oh, this is that old joke. Diplomacy is the art of saying "nice doggy" until you can find a rock.

Hope Foley (29:49): What?

Rob Collie (29:49): Right? The Linux services were the nice doggy, and then quietly in the background, they were developing the rock, these non-Linux alternatives. Even me, the dyed in the wool cynic about these sorts of things, I think I've come around this. I don't think that Microsoft really cares. I think if you want to use Linux on Azure, Microsoft is super, super duper happy to have you do that. I was still overlaying the old regime onto the new one, going like, it's not possible that this could actually be real. This is a ruse.

Hope Foley (30:24): I feel like a lot of people lost a bet somewhere when they started going down that road. Yeah.

Rob Collie (30:29): Well, I would've been the guy that took the bet and said, no, Microsoft won't do it. Then when they did it, I would say, I'm still not paying up because we have to see if they actually mean it, but I think now enough time is past. They mean it.

Hope Foley (30:42): They totally mean it. Linux, open source. There's all kinds of... yeah. People, they'll see my eye device and like, "Oh, you got an eye..." I'm like, "We make all kinds of stuff for these things. It's a whole new Microsoft. What are you talking about?" My first foray into Linux was painful. Just being a Windows gal forever with SQL server, I didn't know a... it's still foreign, foreign, foreign stuff to me tech wise, but yeah. But I appreciate we're doing it. It just opens up more doors for our stuff, I think. It makes sense.

Rob Collie (31:13): Do you agree with that characterization, that in addition to many, many other things, there's two parallel tracks of services? There's a bunch of Linux services and then there's a number of Windows based services that are parallels, that are almost like... they're not almost, they actually are alternatives to those Linux services?

Hope Foley (31:32): Are you feeling Power BI on a Mac kind of lows or something?

Rob Collie (31:37): No. I just think it's interesting to see that... you don't expect to go look at a product offering and start seeing pairs of offerings in that list that are basically described as the same thing, and then try to figure out, oh, okay. This one's Windows based, this one's... and this one over here... It's Windows based and it's Microsoft engineered by Microsoft engineers, as opposed to a Linux distribution thing. That's the core of the difference. I asked you if you agreed with that characterization.

Rob Collie (32:08): The follow up question relies on you saying yes to the first one, but in the situations... and I'm genuinely curious about this. In the situations where there are two services that fill the same niche, one of the Linux and the Windows based, what percentage of the time do you see customers opting for one or the other?

Hope Foley (32:28): Gosh, yeah. I feel like that's most of my job is, "Okay, well we can skin this cat the six different ways in Azure. Let me help you navigate your budget, your skillset, your workload, what it looks like, what you're trying to do." It seems like a lot of the technologies will borrow from each other. If there's a good idea in one, they'll steal it for the other one, of course, so it makes it confusing. I feel like that's a good part of my job, but I don't know. I feel like it's always a... can you get through a conversation without saying "it depends"?

Hope Foley (33:05): It depends. It depends all the time on certain things, and it might just be the ego of the guy in the room. You've probably seen these, "I'm the new CE such and such, and I'm coming in to make my stamp on this, and whatever you had before, we're ripping that stuff out and we're going to put in the new thing. You guys are going to learn this in your free time." It could be technology choices that absolutely have nothing to do with anything. It maybe should be. Oh, gosh. It depends. Yeah.

Rob Collie (33:38): I'm flabbergasted. I'm flabbergasted that technology decisions would ever be made for anything other than pure tech evaluation reasons. I just...

Hope Foley (33:47): Sure.

Rob Collie (33:47): Whew!

Hope Foley (33:48): Yeah.

Thomas LaRock (33:48): Shocking. I'm shocked.

Rob Collie (33:49): Obviously, I'm not the least bit flabbergasted. I am non-gasted.

Hope Foley (33:56): Yeah. I feel like some of the account teams that I work with, "Well, he's a new, and he's a this kind of guy. Well, we'll just wait for the next one to come around and..." because you can't... I mean, I love Microsoft. I don't know that I'm a zealot that I would pick our technology when it wouldn't make sense, but some people, they have their hammer, and by god, they're going to use it.

Rob Collie (34:20): Yep, indeed. I always tell people, I'm not a Microsoft zealot. Being there taught me an artificial cynicism and probably my default, in some ways, might be like, ugh. Yet, over and over again, the thing is-

Hope Foley (34:38): Microsoft hurt you.

Thomas LaRock (34:40): Yeah.

Rob Collie (34:41): Yeah. Show me on the doll... Show me on this doll where did Microsoft hurt you?

Thomas LaRock (34:45): Show me on the Palmer doll.

Rob Collie (34:48): I'll be pointing to every place on the doll.

Hope Foley (34:51): [inaudible 00:34:51]-

Rob Collie (34:52): We need a bigger doll.

Hope Foley (34:54): We need a bigger doll.

Rob Collie (34:55): We need more resolution you know?

Hope Foley (34:59): Yeah.

Rob Collie (35:00): But the best way to say it is, and I've said it before, is that Microsoft doesn't pay me anymore, but I have to make decisions. Our company has to make decisions in its own best interest, and we're free to choose any platform we want. We really are. We could switch to AWS tomorrow. We could switch to Tableau tomorrow. We have people that are flexible enough to do that, but those tools aren't as good. This is where I'm going to be non Satya-like. Out in the marketplace your choices are a series of trade-offs and alternatives to each other.

Rob Collie (35:32): Microsoft just flat out has the best tools. No doubt about it. I like people to hear the other side of it, the cynicism and stuff. It helps them understand the authenticity of the statement, that I'm not in it for patriotism. We're in this because it really is the best. I actually am more bullish on Microsoft's future right now. I think you could assemble a room of 20 tech related people at random and I would bet that I'd be the most bullish on Microsoft's future out of the 20 time and time again.

Hope Foley (36:06): We do cool stuff. We do make some cool stuff. Sometimes less cool than others, or sometimes this cool thing doesn't talk to that cool thing, or it takes a while to make them talk, but yeah, we do. We definitely do cool stuff.

Thomas LaRock (36:18): I touched upon it earlier. I was teasing you about Google. In the space where I work, I really only see two cloud providers. There's Azure and AWS. I tip my cap to Alibaba, but I don't use them, but I know they're immensely popular. But there's always somebody who's like, "Yeah, but Google cloud, this, that and the other." I look and I say, Google will never be a threat to either AWS or Azure. You talk about how Azure builds cool stuff. I could tell you, so does Google builds cool stuff, but you know what else Google does? They kill stuff, sometimes quickly and unexpectedly.

Thomas LaRock (36:56): They have built a reputation right now that they are just as likely to build something cool as they are likely to shut something cool down. If you have an enterprise, you are not going to choose Google Cloud as your provider, knowing in the back of your mind, whatever you're building could be killed in a minute. Whereas Azure and Microsoft's history is they might deprecate something, it's going to last a while. If they have customers on it and it's still viable, you can ride that ship for a while. That, to me, it will be the biggest reason why at the end, there's only going to be AWS and Azure. All these other ones are, they're just toys that are just going to go away.

Hope Foley (37:38): Yeah. I was actually having somebody at Google try to make eyes at me in a employment sense. Yeah, they were like, well, they're investing in this for a couple years. Then I'm like, well, what happens after two years if this doesn't work? Thank you for the cup of coffee. I'm pretty good. I mean, I just can't imagine, Rob, if you guys decided to... You'd have to start all over. I like building on the info I learned on doing all these other things over the years. It would be crazy for me to just totally switch to a whole new somebody, something. Microsoft hasn't hurt me. Yeah.

Thomas LaRock (38:26): Not yet.

Hope Foley (38:26): Not yet. God, yeah.

Rob Collie (38:29): Oh, they will. They will.

Hope Foley (38:29): Dun, dun, dun.

Thomas LaRock (38:33): You know what? You're going to hear the Imperial March being played coming towards you.

Hope Foley (38:35): Oh, god, yeah. Yeah. No, no, no. Here's hoping.

Rob Collie (38:42): In our history as a company, It's, again, ironic. This isn't actually powered by the cynicism or anything like that. It's just based on my personality in a way. You can describe our company as a Microsoft partner. That is a complete succinct description. That's what we are. We're a Microsoft partner, but we have not leaned into the Microsoft relationship hardly at all in our history, in terms of acquiring business. The vast majority of our business has come to us through our website, and now through digital means, and this year we have started to actually work closely and cooperate with Microsoft, with people such as yourself, Hope.

Rob Collie (39:17): I mean, people within your role anyway. TSP, CSA, tomato, tomato. If we had built our business that way from the beginning, through the Microsoft relationship, then of course, the switching cost would've been immense, but up until now, really, we could have switched. It wouldn't have been that bad. All we'd do is change tools. What people view us as is a solution to a problem, and the tool... by definition. When it's going right, the software is not the star. It's the people involved that are doing good thinking and the tools are facilitating that. But it just turns out that the software, it doesn't make you a star. We vote with our wallet, which is the most authentic and high integrity way you can do it.

Hope Foley (40:02): Sure.

Rob Collie (40:03): The Google thing. I wonder how much of that Google killing things off is an example of the innovator's dilemma. You've got a core central business that's this massive cash cow, and you start off thinking, okay, we'll add this other thing over here, this other thing over here, and there won't be a problem, but five minutes later, you're starting to run into conflicts between those, like one of them's undermining the other one. If you fire up your email marketing system, like exact target or par dot or whatever, and you send out a bunch of emails with pictures in them, if you send those emails to Gmail accounts, they render perfectly in Gmail.

Rob Collie (40:42): They look beautiful in Gmail. You send them to people on Exchange, O-365, and Outlook says, "We've prevented download of pictures, blah, blah, blah, to protect your privacy," and you get a garbled, hot mess of an email. It looks terrible, but one of those is protecting your privacy and one of them isn't. Gmail, by downloading those pictures, is telling the marketing system that you opened it, that you read it, and that's why Outlook blocks it. Google's roots is as a lead gen business, an advertising business. Gmail, of course, is not going to protect you against that. You can see two, three steps later... I'm not going to connect the dots directly, but two, three steps later, that mindset and that strategy can run into a problem with a corporate focused cloud system.

Rob Collie (41:33): Which one's going to win? The one that we're betting on for the future or the one that's generating a billion dollars a second today? Let me think about that. You tend to get trapped by your own success. Microsoft was trapped by its own success with Windows for a while. They've reinvented a new... or they've morphed, not a full reinvention. They've morphed into a new identity that is far more durable, far more robust, but Google, they've got this giant ship, it's the Titanic. It's either going to float or it's going to sink, and I can't imagine that it's nearly as easy for them to innovate as it is for Microsoft.

Hope Foley (42:14): The data privacy and, I mean, their whole business model is at odds with them being protective of your data, but yeah, it's an interesting point of, if you've got to follow the money, where is the money coming from and all of that?

Rob Collie (42:29): Here's something pretty sinister. I've actually, on our previous podcast, we were joking about how we... I was being talked into Google being a really good thing. The guests on that podcast were explaining, and I was like, "Oh man, Google sounds like a really, really good group based on this description." Do you know what a tracking pixel is? It's literally a one pixel image, that's what it came from, that gets downloaded. It's really fast to download and it doesn't impact. It's just a white pixel on a white background, so you don't even see it.

Rob Collie (42:55): But in the course of downloading it, that's how you know that someone opened the mail or looked at that webpage or whatever. It's a tracking pixel. What did Google call their phone? The Pixel. Somewhere, there's this sinister, smoke-filled room and people are laughing, going, "Yes, we will call our phone the Pixel. They will carry our tracking pixel everywhere they go. They will carry it into the grocery store. They will carry it here. They will carry it here, and the joke will be right there under their nose. No one will ever know it."

Hope Foley (43:23): Yeah, that's an interesting... I've wondered sometimes on the Microsoft naming. How are these meetings happening? That one's a little more sinister sounding, than the ones I've pictured at the Microsoft naming meetings.

Rob Collie (43:40): I've been in the Microsoft naming meetings. They are nothing to be proud of.

Hope Foley (43:47): Death cage matches? I don't know. I don't know what I'm picturing.

Rob Collie (43:49): Not even that. When we were going to name DAX, DAX didn't have a name yet. We are going to have the meeting about DAX. What are we going to call DAX? I was going to argue that we shouldn't call it anything. We should just call it Excel Extended or Excel++, or something like that, because that's the audience we were trying to reach. Amir came into the meeting and sat down. The first thing he said was, "Well, it doesn't matter what we call it. There's going to be an X in it."

Hope Foley (44:11): What?

Rob Collie (44:18): Data Analysis Expressions was born. One time on Excel when we were redoing all the charting features in Excel 2007, we hired this expensive naming firm and outsourced a bunch of name generation to them. One of the names that came back for the new charting features was Charty Pants. We were all sitting around going, "Oh, my gosh, we are such in the wrong business. We could be sitting around eating Cheetos."

Hope Foley (44:48): Charty Pants. I might have been okay with that one. That one's... yeah. I don't know. I always pictured an Asian guy with a long beard on a mountain somewhere coming up with the names. Not so much. Yeah.

Rob Collie (45:02): That's not where you get Charty Pants.

Hope Foley (45:03): Gosh, how many times have I heard the SQL community folks get really, really, really up at arms about the naming and, "Why didn't they have somebody in tech in the conversation? We already have a thing called a "this"." They get a little fired up about the naming, but what are you going to do?

Thomas LaRock (45:27): Does it have a space in it?

Hope Foley (45:27): Do you capitalize it and a space?

Thomas LaRock (45:29): Does it start with power?

Hope Foley (45:31): How do you pronounce it? Yeah.

Rob Collie (45:33): My first big project at Microsoft Windows installer, the MSI technology, the setup technology, it was insisted that Windows installer, the "I" in installer be lower case. We weren't allowed to capitalize the "I", and then Power Pivot when it came out, it was one word. Then later it was two words.

Hope Foley (45:52): That's what Matthew Roche said. It was so metal, it had to get the space. Is that... I feel like he's the one that said that. Yeah.

Rob Collie (45:58): No, I think it was that PowerView without a space was already trademarked by Bushnell, the binoculars company, so they had to put a space between, and then they put a space in Power Pivot to make it compatible. These are the important things.

Hope Foley (46:13): Yeah. Global warming, or does it have a space or not? Yeah.

Rob Collie (46:18): I mean, you've got to be at a really high pay grade to be making those sorts of decisions. I would always just get informed.

Hope Foley (46:26): Yeah. I always have to say to customers, "They don't ask me my opinion on naming. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. Sorry. So sorry."

Rob Collie (46:34): Well, the other thing is, is that half the time, something really awesome, just amazing, a world beater will come out with just the most boring corporate name ever. You're just like, "Oh, come on folks. We could have sizzled this up just a little bit." I think that's gotten a little better over time. Is there any theme to needs in the education space? I mean, in some sense, these organizations are large organizations. They're not all that different on one level. They're not all that different from enterprises in general. People hear education, they immediately are going to be like, "Why does a kindergartner need Azure?" That's the first thing that pops into people's heads. And do kindergartners need Azure?

Hope Foley (47:18): Sometimes.

Rob Collie (47:19): They do.

Hope Foley (47:19): It depends.

Rob Collie (47:20): They do.

Hope Foley (47:20): Yeah. No. I talked to some teachers that are actually teach... I mean, they're just trying to make sure that these kids can get jobs. I actually was helping with a precision agriculture class talking about technology and things, and I'm trying to make Cal references where I wouldn't normally put them, so that was fun and interesting. But yeah, I mean, they definitely do. It can definitely help. Just think about when I was in high school, the guy that was supporting the technology was, they grabbed the guy that knew... they're the last person in the room. They grabbed the guy that helps with the technology.

Hope Foley (47:58): It can definitely help people stretch their skills further without having a giant corporation of nerds to put all the parts together. But yeah, I mean, education, a lot of times it's focused on the student outcomes. I'm sitting here staring at icons for a COVID dashboard. It's like everybody's trying to figure out their metrics on staying safe and different things, so it's a lot of the same things, but it can be different. A lot of times, they're all worried about student outcomes and those kind of things. It can be a little more rewarding a little bit, than just trying to help somebody sell another widget of some kind or something.

Rob Collie (48:43): One of your colleagues about a year ago, emailed me just out the blue and asked me one of the more entertaining DAX questions I've ever received, which was-

Hope Foley (48:50): This ought to be good.

Rob Collie (48:51): ... yeah, it's pretty cool, and you know what? I bet in the next six months, you're going to come back to me and say, "Okay, what was that DAX pattern?" Because you can really imagine it being used in a lot of places. The idea was this. Let's say we were looking at a particular school and their test scores, because we're concerned about outcomes. We're measuring via test scores and there's all kinds of criticisms of this revolution in education. We can just treat it as a data problem for a moment and just set all that other... "should we". The "should we" we can set aside, but this is talk about the how. You can display the results, the average test score for the school. No problem.

Rob Collie (49:24): You're not giving away any individual's personally identifiable test score that way. Then you can drill down to the grade level. Again, you're not giving anything away, but sooner or later you keep drilling down. Now you get to an individual classroom and maybe some classes might be small. For some reason, you might have a four student class. Just in terms of privacy laws, at that moment, when you get down to that level, you can't display the average at that granular level because you're getting too close to identifying the score of an individual.

Rob Collie (50:00): But you know what else you need to do, is that once you get down to that level, you also, let's say you've got half a dozen eighth grade classes at a school. Or fifth grade classes, that's a better analogy because you still have the individual classrooms. You got a half a dozen fifth grade classes and one of them has three people in it, so you can't display its score. Well, now you also have to be careful about displaying the fifth grade overall average because if you're displaying the average scores for all of the other classrooms and the subtotal for all of the fifth grade, now you can back into the number-

Hope Foley (50:35): Wow.

Rob Collie (50:35): ... for that small class. In that moment, you have to suppress the number that's... you have to suppress the... in the report, you have to replace it with an asterisk, and you have to run randomly pick one of the other classes and suppress its number as well, because you still want to display the fifth grade overall. You don't want to suppress that one, but also, you can't be super random because when you refresh the report, if it's the one that you're suppressing, the random one keeps hopping around. Now, you've got it again. You randomly pick one, but it's the same one.

Rob Collie (51:08): Can't it be done in DAX? I was like, "Oh, god." It's like Seinfeld with the roommate switch. It can't be done. I'm sure that it's not DAX that was going to run super, super efficiently because it has to do a lot, but I got it. I got it. We got that data suppression done in DAX for the low, low price of $1 million.

Hope Foley (51:26): That would be... yeah.

Rob Collie (51:30): Or free. You can choose between $1 million or free. I'll hook you up with that pattern.

Hope Foley (51:35): I have heard them. Well, if you get down to a certain level, you have to do suppression, but I haven't heard... I haven't gotten into the weeds. That would be some hairy DAX. I feel like there's an index or something in there somewhere.

Rob Collie (51:47): It's hairy DAX. It's a particular subspecies of DAX. As opposed to the smooth belly DAX, this is the hairy DAX.

Hope Foley (51:53): Yeah. There is a fancy DAX, too.

Rob Collie (51:55): Fancy DAXs. Oh, yeah, the pinky extended, as you type on the keyboard? Yeah.

Hope Foley (51:59): Yeah.

Rob Collie (52:00): In Excel there's certain formulas that you can write. Instead of pressing enter after writing the formula, if you do control, shift, enter, it changes the behavior. They're called array formulas. This is like DAX. You just keep the pinky off of the keyboard, extended, and you get different results.

Hope Foley (52:16): I feel like Tom is killing you in his head. "If I have to hear about DAX one more time..." Yeah.

Rob Collie (52:21): Tom Loves DAX.

Thomas LaRock (52:23): Yeah. I do love DAX. It's just, I just... always amazed that all the little... it's not like in Easter, all the little things that are inside all these products, and a guy Rob, who helped build them or has learned them over the years. It ties back to what you and Wayne were talking about last week, the stuff he taught the finance team at Microsoft that nobody else in the world... It's all these little things that you come across. It amuses me.

Rob Collie (52:48): The subtitle of this podcast is Data With a Human Element. If you think about the example I just talked about, regardless of the DAX, I love that example because it is. It is this blending between the real life human needs, the real life needs of humanity explicitly built for this. The competitive software that this Microsoft employee was up against, I forget what one it was, has a built in feature for precisely this. This is a feature that they specifically engineered into the product, and probably because they ran into an education scenario and they needed it, and so they went back to the engineering team and added it.

Rob Collie (53:23): Microsoft could still do that, and they might at some point. They absolutely might. Even without thinking about it, the language that they developed, DAX, was so complete that we could go and generate a solution to this that no one ever thought about or no one ever intended. To me, that is a mark of beauty. When I talk about, we don't change tools because there isn't anything better? None of the other tools have that capability that I just talked about. They just don't.

Rob Collie (53:55): If someone didn't think of it, it's not in there, but in the Microsoft platform, that's one of the things that they're really, really, really good at is thinking of it as a platform. You hear people complain about DAX is too hard. Well, it is hard. It does require you to learn something new, but there's other systems that require you to learn a little less, that are also dead ends. There's a million dead ends in those products five minutes later. There's no dead ends typically in a Microsoft product. Really, there's no comparison. You need the one that's going to address every little last mile of your unique little human problems. End of sermon.

Hope Foley (54:36): Drop the mic. Yeah.

Rob Collie (54:38): We've talked about adding some sort of sound effect that was like, "We're now entering the monologues zone." I will say this. It's been a great conversation. I'm really, really glad we did this. Hope, I'm thrilled that you were able to make it.

Thomas LaRock (54:54): Yes. Thank you, Hope.

Hope Foley (54:56): Appreciate you having me.

Announcer (54:56): Thanks for listening to the Raw Data by P3 podcast. Find out what the experts at P3 can do for your business. Go to powerpivotpro.com. Interested in becoming a guest on the show. Email Luke P., L-U-K-E, [email protected] Have a data day.

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