My Trip to SQL Saturday Atlanta (BI Edition): Part 1 

February 23, 2024

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend SQL Saturday Atlanta (BI edition), a free annual event for data professionals and enthusiasts held in Alpharetta Georgia. I spoke at this conference a year ago, and I was glad to have one of my abstracts selected so I could return this year.  

SQL Saturdays are a great opportunity for me to volunteer and give back to the community with my experience, but also for me to learn from others. New speakers are encouraged, and the Data Speaker Community is a worldwide family of friends where everyone is welcomed. Keep your eye on https://sqlsaturday.com/ for events near you or calls for speaker submissions. Most speakers you see there are happy to help new speakers so if you you’d like to try sharing your experience, simply contact someone – like me, for example.  

SQL Saturday

My session discussed how my data engineering practice at Imaginet uses SQL database projects in Visual Studio to manage database objects. Using these projects allows us to keep the schema of our databases in source code repositories and be able to have higher levels of code quality and confidence in making changes and deploying them reliably to development, test, and production environments. Using database projects supports refactoring operations to rename columns and tables, without data loss. We also discussed various cross-database referencing scenarios these projects support. I have another session that speaks about the programming concepts of coupling and cohesion and the potential pitfalls of cross-database references – they are a “code-smell”, often a sign of poor data architecture, in my opinion. 

SQL Database projects are a great way to implement DevOps practices such as Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) in your agile practice because they support the automation of database deployments.  

My slides and sample code for this session are here: https://github.com/xhead/SqlSaturdayATL-2024/ 

To start my day, I attended Shabnam Watson’s presentation where she introduced the Lakehouse concepts of Microsoft Fabric. I met her at PASS Summit several years ago, and whenever I see she is presenting, I try to catch her sessions; she has never failed to be informative and insightful. I highly recommend her sessions! 

I attended a session presented by John Kerski where he demonstrated how he builds tests for his semantic models (formerly known as Power BI Datasets), and how to execute those tests dynamically and record their results to track quality. He talked about tests to verify table and column names (to avoid changes to the model that could break dependencies like reports). He also talked about data validation checks for columns and measures to check for known values or catching when something has broken, and values are all null or invalid or not within an expected range (sanity checks). This session generated many ideas that I can bring back to my team.  

SQL Saturday

Some of my clients are implementing their data solutions in Azure Databricks, so I was interested in Joshua Higginbotham’s session on implementing ETL patterns in Databricks. He showed his patterns and practices for initial ingestion of data sources (typically files into a “bronze” table in Delta Lake), including how he does some metadatadriven ETL. His implementation is similar to the one that we at Imaginet use. However, I want to inspect his code more closely because there may be a way to use his ideas to improve our patterns

At the end of the day, I thoroughly enjoyed a session presented by Stephanie Bruno and Stacey Rudoyv, two powerhouses in the Microsoft Fabric space. The afternoon doldrums were kept at bay because Stacey regularly passed out chocolate and candy whenever the name Sandeep Pawar came up – he has a great website called https://fabric.guru/ that will be a good learning resource for me and my team. Stephanie and Stacey showed Semantic Link, a python library specifically built for Fabric.  

After the day was done, I had the best steamed dumplings at Thoom’s Kitchen in Alpharetta, and the shrimp pad Thai was also outstanding. I’m looking forward to next year’s SQL Saturday event so I can return and try something else on their menu.  

SQL Saturday

Come back next week for part 2 of my SQL Saturday experience. I will be discussing what I learned about Microsoft Fabric and sharing further insights from my time at this enlightening conference. Make sure to subscribe to our blog to stay updated on more technology tips, tricks, and information. 

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