Turn Left at the Interface


Although I’ve had a busy couple of weeks with work and racing, learning programming is going well and I can see why people enjoy using it.

I’ve had a couple of ideas for using Python in the workplace and while the examples I’m currently working with are all relatively text / parameter based they’re not very end user friendly.

This got me thinking about how would I create a user friendly front end for the application, a quick search (and the brief distraction of Hadoop) I found the answer. Django, Django’s primary goal is to ease the creation of complex, database-driven websites, the python language is used throughout so everything is on the same track.

After a couple of hours following a couple on tutorials I can see Django been the perfect choice for creating a web front end for the application, its great as you can see the new site almost instantly.


Snakes on a Computer

I’ve started to teach myself Python as it looks like a good fit for the Business Intelligence world. Even more as Microsoft will now be supporting Python in the future releases of SQL server.

A week in and I’ve read the following books.

Learn Python in a day and master it well and the similarly titled, Learn python in one day and learn it well. Both cover the majority of the language and include a few code samples here and there. These books (along with my existing knowledge) helped me to understand what Python could be used for and I can’t wait to start building useful programs with it.

I’ve moved onto Learn Python the Hard Way this is a book (free online) that teaches by getting you to code (pretty much every page has some code) this is great as you learn to type the syntax and make your own mistakes, also it allows you to tweak the code a little bit to see what difference the changes would make.

The plan is to create a Python script that will modify the contents of an excel / csv file to format the telephone numbers so that the leading 0’s are included, and to add a couple of columns to the start of the file and populate these with certain details (shouldn’t be too hard)

Once the background script is done ideally I’d like to create a front end for the program, something that will make it easier for the end user.

So far so good..

5 is the magic number

My new position has seen me moving to a new company within a different industry, and a new city in an environment where my skills are thriving and improving pretty much everyday.

Was making the move the correct choice? (In a word, yes.) while in my previous position I was the go to report developer, which I really enjoyed but there is more to been a Business Intelligence Developer than just creating SSRS reports.  Luckily we have a great reporting solution already, this allows me to use and improve my skills in SSIS, SQL, learning the new systems, and improving my interpersonal skills.

This is because the majority of campaigns are linked to different customers who liaise with customer services and IT and to ensure everything runs smoothly, there are many different aspects to setting up a campaign so keeping an eye on all areas is a bit of a challenge (a good one though) a great team and a bit of project management helps things run a lot smoother.

One day I can be setting up a solution to download and load new data using SSIS and the next I can be creating a report in SSRS, with a bit of testing in between.

Everyday is different, and thats good.

Now where did I put my kindle…..

I love it when a plan comes together!

Over the past week or so I’ve been looking at creating a simple to use SFTP procedure for downloading certain files. While the theory was pretty simple getting (take file from here, place it here). SSIS and the SFTP application to work together was where the challenge was.

I’ve​ used SSIS and FTPs in the past but never together (who doesn’t like a challenge) a little help from a colleague and a bit from Google I was on my way. Now even with all the above help there’s always something missing, the problem this time was a missing space in the script file that caused the FTP process to fail, once this problem was fixed I was happy and feeling triumphant!!!

A similar situation happened when I was altering the process to pull data from a server, everything is the same apart from a bit of text in the script file basically needs flipping around. This was the only bit of code that needed changing yet the process still wouldn’t work the script ran fine (as you can test it manually) so it must of been the FTP process, after tracing steps I found the culprit an incorrect link to the log file. After fixing the link, yet again the feeling of success was welcomed yet again.



Episode 4

After a year in the bike shop applying for pretty much every IT support position in the local area, I was handed a job specification by my brother. He worked for the company as had my dad before him, so hopefully continuing the family tradition would help.

I tweaked my CV and hand delivered it the next day (I still remember it like it was yesterday) After a week or so I got the call I’d been waiting for. A 2 stage interview first, with some of my future colleeges and if lucky a second interview with the IT manager. Even though I came across a little nervous and panicked I was lucky to be offered the job. 

I arrived for my first day suited and booted, introduced to my own desk ,computer and the all important help desk phone, before I knew it I was fixing broken printers and transfering data between old and new laptops. As the months rolled by I was learning new skills almost daily, SharePoint administrator, server backups and I had created a documentation system that allowed me to keep track of the laptops I was updating.

Chasing my goal had started to pay off.
Episode 4.1

The department was split into two sections (infrastructure and development, been helpdesk support I was mainly infrastructure)

Unfortunately one of the site’s was closing and all staff would be moved to the other, a number of developers decided not to make the move. As I’m always looking to improve my skills I approached the IT manager and asked if I could make the jump to the development side,  a couple of days later it was decided I’d become a support developer to the remaining developers while also helping with the helpdesk.

A few courses later (SQL,SSRS,SSIS and SSAS) and a couple of years I was really enjoying the challenge of improving the reports throughout the company and producing some new ones of my own. The company had gone through the process of implementing a new CRM system, where I helped with a bit of administration work. My biggest contribution came with the development of a new reporting suite that would allow CRM users to access all relevant reports and dashboards with minimal effort. The reports and CRM were a great success and appreciated by all users

The analysts of the company spent a considerable amount of time each month creating a dashboard/report file in excel by extracting data from the database. The idea to replace this with a streamlined report was originally created by one of the directors who shortly after left the company, so with the help of the analysists and the sales team manager I began building a SSRS report that would pull all the needed information from different data sources and create a properly formatted PDF document that could be produced instantly and could be shared to directors, sales team and other members of staff throughout the company.  This was another great project and something I really enjoyed working on.

About 6 months later Microsoft released POWERBI, which looked amazing! It allowed dashboards and reports to be created from pretty much any data source imaginable, the reports would be dynamic and react to the end users needs instantly, myself and a couple of the team started to look at POWERBI as the next step in the companies reporting suite and began building example reports using existing SQL queries or SSAS cubes, the majority of access to the reports could be controlled via Microsoft active directory and could be accessed almost anywhere with an internet connection.

Although I was looking forward to getting more involved in the new world of POWERBI I was offered a new challenge and opportunity so never continued the creation of the new POWERBI reporting suite.

More to follow…

Part 3

So 2 years later I had done a HND in business computing was mine!! Finally I could pursue a career in IT, after all how hard could it be?

I had the qualification, but one area I was lacking was experience (can’t get experience without the job, but can’t get a job without experience) While applying for IT helpdesk positions I had the idea of delivering my CV to a few local school to see if they needed any volunteers for the summer months.

Luckily the high school I attended called me up for a brief interview and I was offered a summer position in the IT department at the school, this was great and I couldn’t wait to start. The team was brilliant and I really enjoyed helping out the staff and making sure all systems were ready for the following school year.

Unfortunately the new school year soon came around and I was no longer needed at the school, although I did now have some all important IT experience.

Not wanting to be out of work and a keen cyclist I started working in a local bike shop while I continued my pursuit of a career in IT.

Chapter Two

Although the world of cabinet construction meant the majority of days were the same with little changes here and there. I knew that this career wasn’t for me early on but saw it as a good opportunity to move into the drawing office and to get involved in the CAD side of construction, unfortunately this position never appeared.

I’m not sure when the idea came to me but I had decided on the following 3 options.

  1. Stay in a job I didn’t enjoy with little prospects
  2. Join the RAF, something I’d thought about since school
  3. Return to college and pursue a career in IT

I browsed the local colleges website and found an IT course that fit the bill for me (As a mature student I basically had free choice over which course I wanted to do.) A few days before the course was due to start I received an phone call saying the course wasn’t running and I had been offered a position on a similar but harder IT course.

HND Business Computing

I remember my first proper assignment (Speccing a new computer room for a school) The assignment seemed pretty simple, but having not been in a classroom for over 5 years it was a steep learning curve. The 3 pages I returned wasn’t appreciated by the lecturer and guided me to improving my answer and handing in a decent paper. The next year was quite a struggle for me, I had underestimated how difficult the course would be.

I spent the majority of the first summer holiday rewriting a few of my assignments so I could return for the second year (safe to say I made it back) the second year the course focused on the more practical side of IT (SQL database and web design) The second year of the course went a lot smoother for me SQL didn’t really interest me either way assignments passed, friends made, college finished.