Jen Stirrup

Jen Stirrupshadow

Jen Stirrup

Data Head Stats:
  • SQL Server MVP
  • Based in London
  • Focuses on BI and data visualization
  • Blog: Jen’s BI Blog
  • Where are you from, and what kind of company do you work for?
  • I am from Scotland originally, so I particularly like the SQLKilt community fun that SQLPass informally arranges every year! I run a Data Warehousing and Business Intelligence consultancy called Copper Blue, which I run jointly with Allan Mitchell, who is another SQL Server MVP based in the UK. Our focus is on end-to-end solutions, in getting the right data to the right people at the right time. We’re a small team right now, but we’re growing. Exciting times!
  • What’s decorating your office and/or desk right now?
  • I’ve got pictures by Degas, of his dancer series. My favourites are Dancers in Blue and Two Dancers on a Stage. I love the warmth of the light in the pictures. My focus is on data visualisation, and I have a keen interest in art too.
  • What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced with SQL Server this year? What made it such a roadblock, and how did you eventually turn it from a problem to a solution?
  • The biggest challenge this year has been delivering projects with a self-service component whilst ensuring that the underlying data is clean and maintained well. The biggest roadblock was convincing users of the need for PowerPivot in mashing the data together, since they were accustomed to a proliferation of Excel spreadsheets. This meant thereby shifting their ingrained mind-set away from their existing practices, to having dedicated PowerPivot models to provision their self-service needs. The solution was simply to go ahead and built a simple model in PowerPivot, and move forward from there, taking the users along with me as I went. The key was to demonstrate the cleansed data, mashed up from different sources, and display the data as a unified display. This users saw their data, cleansed and managed, on the same report at the same time; this was extremely effective in showing them the power of the solution, and ensured business buy-in to deliver the ultimate solution.
  • When did you discover your love for technology?
  • I’ve had a love for technology since I was 8 years old and programmed on my ZX81 computer. I was also inspired by my great-uncle, who worked as a spy cryptographer to crack codes in WWII, using the famous Enigma machines. He taught me that math and computers were wonderful tools for creativity as well as logical thinking, which opened up new worlds for me. The word “education” comes from the Latin “to lead out,” and it is important to give hope to our children for a better life for them via education. Particularly, in the sphere of encouraging women into IT roles, it is important to show girls that computers and math allow creativity. Inspiring others with our passion for technology is something that we can all try to do, in our own little way.
  • Who’s your current favorite database blogger?
  • My favourite database blogger is Mark Broadbent because he writes very well and explains difficult concepts very clearly. He also has a dash of humour in his blog, which I always enjoy.
  • Any thoughts on Denali, from how it looks in its latest release to its sticking-with-the-mountain-theme name?
  • Denali brings a new focus on the business users, and the issues that they face in getting their hands on the data. I am a huge fan of the work that’s taken place to enhance the business user experience. For example, PowerPivot has been enhanced by the addition of KPIs, hierarchies and diagram views, and enhanced relationship creation. I love the new concept of self-service as epitomized by Project Crescent. I think that Denali helps to puts business data into the hands of the business, which is a big paradigm shift.
  • What’s the geekiest thing you’ve ever done? (Or at least will admit to!)
  • The geekiest thing I’ve ever done—wow! I suspect the geekiest thing I’ve done is my postgraduate Masters degree in Artificial Intelligence. By choosing this subject, I permanently joined the ranks of the bona-fide geeks, where I feel most at home.
Data Heads

Data Heads
There are a lot of us lean, mean, data-analyzing machines out there in the real and virtual worlds, and it’s easy for interesting colleagues to get lost in the shuffle. With that in mind, we’ve launched Data Heads, a series of profiles of some of the most intriguing database professionals out there.