Healthcare

Over the past 10 years I’ve spent time listening to discussions on Healthcare, from the annual discussion at the office about “How much” our insurance costs are going to go up at work, to the seemingly never ending debate about how to provide better healthcare to our country as a whole. I recognize the complexity of the issue, we are quite literally debating people’s lives. How they are to live, and how we treat them when they are not well.

A bit about my family and the why I’m so passionate about this subject. I’ve been married for 17 years, to my wife Jennifer. I found out 20 years ago on a “Spring Break” type trip to Destin, FL that she was a Type 1 Diabetic. That occasion of finding out, was by having to get a cab to take her to the Emergency Room, when the rest of our friends were too drunk to drive, or even really notice that my best friend had been puking for 12 straight hours. We walked in, and she was quite literally as white as a ghost. She walked up to the counter and told the nurse she was a diabetic, and that her sugars were completely out of control. What followed was a whirlwind for me, calling her mom, her getting placed in the ICU, me spending the night on cramped chairs in the ICU waiting room after realizing somewhere in the excitement I lost my wallet. I spent an extra three days in Destin that week, and honestly we’ve never returned, the memories are just that bad.

With the passage of The Affordable Care Act in 2010, I felt for the first time that my family at last had a safety net to ensure that I could afford to keep my wife alive if (god forbid) I ever lost my job, or work stopped providing healthcare, or …. The requirement that companies provide equal and same price coverage to customer’s with Preexisting conditions is of paramount importance to me and my family.

For those of that are on the fence – please think about the millions of families like mine, that the loss of coverage for preexisting conditions could truly devastate. If you decide to get off the fence, call your congress person, your senators, the White House.

If you don’t know who they are (Congress Person, Senators) and how to get a hold of them, a simple click will give you the information you need.
5Calls.Org

Thank you for reading and supporting.

— Mike

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PowerBi – Date Hierarchy

So I’ve been using PowerBi quite a bit lately to build visualization tools, and I’ve noticed while the Drill Down Feature is very helpful, the date hierarchies by default do not always work the way I think they should.

A Quick Example

Basic Column Chart with two Years Displayed

Drilling Into a Year

As you can see, we get the 4 columns of 2016, with a very small Q1, rising through until Q4 is by far the largest value.

This works exactly as I would expect it to, however when I expand down a level my results don’t show as I would expect.

As you can see when I just expand down a level, the data displays 4 quarters again. This time, however, the Q1 number outpaces the Q4 number by a fairly substantial margin. Why is this?

Well the native grouping sees the values of Q1 across multiple years as being part of the same category. Yikes! That’s probably not what you really want to show. You probably need to show Q1 – 2016, Q2 – 2016 etc.

So how to do that?

First I took my Date Table (If you don’t have one, here’s a good starting post on Date Tables) and created a second table using the “Reference” ability in PowerBI. From there I grouped everything down by Year & Quarter.

Next I added a column that included a string representation of the Quarter and Year.

Once I have my quarter and year table completed, I returned to my visual, where instead of using the normal date hierarchy I added the Quarterly drill down. I proceeded to do the same thing with the Month and Year until the Drill downs performed the way they were expected to behave.

Here’s the final chart, with the drill through expanded to the Quarters to show what the result looked like.

Hope this helps someone with their Date Hierarchy grouping issues. If someone else solved this another way, I’d love to hear about it!

Mike

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Transitioning from OLTP to BI

I’m relatively new to the BI world, having spent much of the past 10 years Architecting back end OLTP systems, doing some Business logic in C#, along with other infrastructure.    My role has been evolving to where much of the OLTP architecture has moved to someone else’s plate, and I’ve been asked to help our leadership gain a better grasp of the data inside our business.   I’ve still retained leadership of our Infrastructure, so I still get to play with Active Directory, Server Configs, DNS but the day to day on that side is handled entirely by my team, with me just providing guidance as to where I’d like to go.

As the person that architected most of the data we have on premise, that catalogs our customers, our clients, our vendors it seems somewhat logical that this be my new role.   I have to admit the transition is hard, that OLTP system is “my baby”, and releasing control over it’s internals over the past year has been a long journey for me personally.

That being said – it’s been a fun journey to start playing with BI tools, figuring out visualizations, starting to learn DAX,  Actually using SSIS to retrieve data and pull it together into single systems.    Along with the conversion, I’ve begun creating a DataWarehouse (Esque) storage location using Azure Sql DB’s. I wouldn’t call this a full scale DataWarehouse, as I’m aggragating data up using Stored Procedures and SSIS to then move it to the Azure Sql DB (Not Azure Sql DW), but it’s certainly teaching me alot about different options for Schematizing Aggragations, rather then using Normal Form for OLTP that I’ve built for so many years.

So – I’m curious – If you had to pick a BI conference to go to this year, what would it be, and why?

Mike

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Home – A Poem

I don’t do this very often anymore, but I was moved to write a poem a few weeks ago, sometimes it’s the best way to get thoughts that are jumbling around in my head out.

I used to always memorialize poems in a blog type format, something I went away from years ago, but I’m trying to be a bit more active in my blogging life this year, so this is an easy way to do it.

 

Home

Home is in the quiet of the deep woods, the ancient trees bigger around then three of me, their brightly colored leaves falling in a slow stately shower.

Home is in the stillness and cold of winter.  The thick blanket of snow covering everything for miles, turning once grey bleakness into a dazzle of reflected light, the white wash encompassing and cleaning the world.

Home is in the newness of spring, as the woods let go the breath they held all winter, their branches soaking up the steady rains and those all too brief moments of gleaming sunshine reflecting off the distance lake.

Home is in the heat of summer, standing on the shale beach, listening to the waves crash .. crash .. crash against the stone endlessly.  Feeling the still cold water swallow you down sucking the breath from you as you dive deep.

Most of all, my memories of home are the people, places and events that cause me to carry with me an indelible mark  reminding me that I’ll always have someplace to go back to, that time touches lightly and moves at a pace its very own.

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Lessons I’m slowly Learning

Around 2 years ago I wrote a post about things that I need to learn.   That post focused not on technical skills, but soft skills.   As I’ve progressed through my career, technical skills have always come fairly easily to me.   Getting outside of the technical skills and into a “softer” career focus has always been a challenge.

Today I had a conversation with another Co-Worker, she much like me, is a Type D personality (Disc Profile Assessment), she has a leaning towards the DI, while I have a DC.   This places us often at odds but she said some things to me today that I wanted to acknowledge.

She acknowledged my attempts over the past year to become “softer”, “more approachable”.  These have been long standing goals for me, and to hear that from a peer meant a lot to me, especially from someone whom I’ve butted heads with MANY times over the years.

I have miles to go until I reach my goal, but today I felt accomplished in that someone recognized how hard I’ve been working at softening the approach I take with people.  Listening before I speak, and really thinking first of the customer’s needs, rather then what fits best for the overall strategy of the company.

And now back to my regularly scheduled technical reading, rather then writing these odd blog posts.

— Mike

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Turning 40

I wrote this the day after I turned 40.   I forgot to publish it, but was coming in to write some thoughts about Summit 15, and decided that it was worth posting after I reviewed the comments — so here it is.


Yesterday I turned 40. As I do every year, I look back over the past year and think about my successes and failures. Where I was strong and where I need to develop myself further. This introspection is one of the ways that I strive to make myself better each and every year.

Successes

  • Strong and deeper friendships. While this isn’t something I struggle with, letting people in and trusting them to see my real thoughts and feelings is not something that I do naturally, or easily. Taking the time this year to really let a few select people know me better is something that I’d like to highlight. Even through ups and downs in those friendships, getting to know a person better, and letting them know you better is always a positive in my book.
  • Career Change. This is something that I struggle with, and in some ways this year I took a step backwards professionally, and was forced to adjust my expectations on the next steps in my career, and how long my goals might take me to achieve. It’s not that I’ve given up on getting there, the route just isn’t going to be as direct as I’d like it to be. My career has evolved as the company has grown, while data is still my passion, I’ve grown to the point where I can no longer do everything that needs to be done. Learning to trust other people, and rely on their good decision making, while ensuring that there is support for them when they don’t know the right direction is something I’ve worked hard on during the past 12 months.
  • Peachtree Road Race #4. I completed my fourth annual Peachtree Road race. My time was significantly worse then in previous years as I took no time to actually train for the event. Even without training I completed the 6.2 miles in just under a hour and a half. To help me push for next year I’ve begun organizing the next run as a “team” event at work. That way we can have a group of people run together to push (and pull) one another to the finish line. I’m really looking forward to next year.

Failures

  • Personal health. Each year I talk about making this a priority, and for a short time I try, but I always seem to “fall off the wagon”. Whether it’s work, friends or just personal disinterest that derails me I seem to last about 3 months, before I fall off the wagon, and start back into the “bad” habits I’ve had for the past 5 years.
  • Personal Finances. This is something that we’ve always struggled with as a family. We want to make sure our children have everything they want, sometimes at the expense of making wise financial decisions.

Personal Goals – 2015 / 2016

  • I have a friend that says “Live strong, and love fiercely” on a regular basis. I need to be better at this. Remember that tomorrow won’t come if you don’t have a secure grip on today, and that no matter how dark a cloud is at any given moment, your mindset is the ultimate controller on how you will interpret events, and the actions of the people around you.
  • Run a 10k + or – 10% of a hour. Finish it strong. Do the damn thing.
  • Continue to have the courage to express my opinion. Back my opinion with research and facts before espousing it.
  • More discipline in finances.

Ultimately I believe my 39th year was successful, the company I work for made the Inc 5000 for the fastest growing privately held companies this year, and the challenges that being a fast growing company bring are above and beyond that which working for a smaller company did. Those challenges are interesting, and will continue to drive me forward for the months and years to come.

Mike

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Burnout – Pushing Through, or Going Around?

Lately the extremely fast pace of work has been pushing me hard. Over the past 3 years our business has tripled, from 30 million to a run rate of over 105 million. We’ve gone from an IT department of 2, to an IT department of 7, and growing. That growth has come at the expense of a great many things, work life balance, consistency in direction, and most importantly the ability to feel as if I’m planning ahead.

As an IT professional one of the things that gives me great satisfaction is the planning and execution of a project, that finishes on time and with the planned result. Lately I’ve felt very much that although I plan out projects, the end result is either not what is desired (partially my fault for over-estimating the impacts), or the project keeps getting put on the back burner for other projects that have different strategic goals.

I keep pushing, knowing that eventually things will slow down and we can go back and remove the “duct tape” from everything that we’ve patched together to make it work to support the huge growth, but holding that duct tape together is tiring, and the growth doesn’t seem to be slowing.

So – how do I deal with the threat of burnout?
I push through. I find the small victories, the little joys that make it worth while.

As a business leader, sometimes its the simple pleasure of solving a problem for a co-worker, helping someone that reports to me solve a problem, or helping them understand that “this to shall pass” is a very true saying. Acknowledging how I have to grow, and the changes in the definition of success for my new role is how I need to stave off burnout, how I need to measure myself against the yardstick of success.

While work will take as much time as I offer it, I’ve also learned that I need to take some time for me. Separate from the identity I have at work, and separate from the “dad” identity I have at home. Yes, this is somewhat heretical, but taking a hour or so a day 3 – 4 times a week is a minimal amount of time. Most of those hours are spent at the YMCA, where I have rediscovered my love of swimming, with a side of running, and an occasional weight workout.

Staving off burnout is about all of these things, and I need to remember this whenever burnout threatens. So should you. Remember – when things are hard at work, and you have a a million shifting priorities, look at what you’ve accomplished, either through your work, or your team’s work and celebrate the wins. Then take a moment and celebrate you, with something that you love that doesn’t involve work.

— Mike

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