Jan Mulkens

Jan Mulkens Speaking Mentor
  • Location: Belgium (UTC +1)
  • Expertise: Applied Machine Learning with SQL Server and Azure ML Services, Power BI, Database DevOps (SQL Server), Data Integration with SSIS, Data Warehousing, Storytelling.
  • Contact: Twitter | LinkedIn

Short version:

  • Active in IT since 2010 having covered a lot of the current Microsoft Data/BI/AI Stack
  • From nervous newbie speaker in 2014 to experienced international speaker in 2017
  • Grew from attendee to blogger to speaker to User Group founder
  • Willing to provide help on all topics but most comfortable in SQL Server, Power BI, Applied Machine Learning (Azure ML & SQL Server ML Services).
  • When not able to help you, I’ll find someone for you who can help you.
  • Contact me at any time with any question

Long version:

Back in July of 2010, I was working in a call center as a sales advisor. I didn’t have a college degree due to personal circumstances at the time, but i did have a healthy dose of curiousity. In response to an internal opening, I started working with the existing reports in excel that company had. Over the course of a couple of months, I slowly started automating them while learning and experimenting with the back-end, SQL Server 2005. Finally in April of 2011, I was asked to join the IT team full time. And when I say IT team, i mean the IT Manager and me.

Fast forward to July 2014, where I joined one of the largest consultancy firms in Belgium as a Microsoft Business Intelligence Consultant. Since then, I’ve learned a lot, from working with customers to teaching and coaching new starters. But also technical skills like optimising queries for performance, setting up a data warehouse end to end, working with relevant Azure offerings and automating everything possible.

What was perhaps the largest change for me, came when I started diving into Data Science and the related offerings by Microsoft,  which at the time was only Azure Machine Learning Studio. I quickly learned the basics through online courses, including Microsoft’s Professional Program for Data Science, and was able to apply these principles when SQL Server 2016 came out with R Services. Throughout this all I had unknowingly positioned myself in such a way that in january of 2017 I was asked to pick up the secondary role of Competence Center Lead for Microsoft Advanced Analytics. Basically meaning I need to ensure everyone in our business unit has access to the necessary knowledge to serve current and future customers for offerings in this space.

Throughout this crazy personal journey I’ve been giving presentations since the end of 2014. Sharing what i’ve learned at user groups and conferences, has so far been an absolute joy. The feeling you get when someone comes up to you afterwards and talks about the new insights they got through your talk is almost addictive. It also enabled me to get new insights myself by talking with a very diverse audience, each with different use cases. And it helped me to learn more about the international community around SQL Server and what other people are doing at their employers and customers. Being quickly integrated into the speaker community where you can learn even more and help even more people is one of the surprising side effects of speaking.

However, as an employee for a consultancy firm and not being my own boss, this doesn’t come easy or cheaply. I’ve been paying for my own travel expenses to speak at 15 events in 2017 and as of february 2018 I’m already accepted at 10 events for 2018 with 11 more currently pending a decision.

So one of my goals, apart from helping you out, is ensuring that you’re in a position to someday offer others help with writing an abstract or creating a presentation. Or perhaps you might one day help a user group or even start your own user group!

Meagan Longoria

  • Location: Denver, CO, USA (UTC-7)
  • Expertise: Business intelligence/analytics and data viz on the Microsoft Data Platform, distilling complex concepts into useful nuggets of information
  • Contact: Twitter|LinkedIn

When I graduated from college (undergrad), I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I landed a job with a large healthcare IT company where new college graduates were hired, trained, and then placed in various parts of the business. I ended up in the financial reporting group, providing analytics and reporting to company executives and the finance department. That was where I learned that I love working with data and teaching people how to access their data and make sense of it.

In 2012, I attended the SQL Rally Dallas conference and met Bill Graziano, another data professional who lived in Kansas City (where I lived at the time). As we were chatting, I told him I wanted to get more involved with the local SQL community. Bill told me I was welcome to help organize the next Kansas City SQL Saturday, so I joined the planning committee. SQL Saturday has an open call for speakers. I watched as the deadline to submit approached, and I noticed that the submitted abstracts were all focused on DBA and data integration topics. On the last evening that the call for speakers was open, I decided to submit a talk on data visualization in Reporting Services (SSRS). In August of 2012, I gave my SSRS talk. I was nervous, but I very much enjoyed the experience. A supportive community member sat in my session and gave me a few tips and encouragement afterward, and that started the beginning of my addiction to speaking.

From there, I began traveling to speak at other SQL Saturdays and conferences, speaking at several dozen conferences and user groups over the subsequent years. At first, I was just excited to share my knowledge about topics that interested me. Once I got more comfortable, I enjoyed learning from my audience as well. I am continually inspired and enlightened by the other speakers I have met along the way. It takes courage to put yourself out there, but I believe the rewards are well worth it. I have made friends, gained job opportunities, visit new cities, and learned a lot about myself, speaking, and the Microsoft Data Platform. In 2016, I earned the Microsoft MVP award for my community contributions, including speaking at conferences.

You can find a list of my speaking engagements and some presentation materials on my website.

While I know there is always room for improvement in my speaking and presentation skills, I’ve racked up a bit of knowledge and experience over the years and would love to help someone else get started or improve.