This is the next blog in the continuing series of interviews with top-echelon and renowned professionals. In this blog, I interview Lynn Langit: Renowned Developer, Visionary Executive, Best-selling Author, Top International Solutions Architect, Microsoft Redmond.
What inspires someone from Fargo, North Dakota to dream of becoming a United Nations translator? Love of words, of course. A self-described language geek, Lynn is fascinated by languages and semantics. She understands that life rarely travels in a straight line, and her own career reflects this winding path. Lynn moved from a degree in linguistics to become a business executive, and then launched her own software development, training and consulting company. She's done production work with all versions of .NET, BizTalk, K2.Net, SharePoint, SQL Server, Analysis Services, InfoPath, MOM, and Active Directory, and holds an array of certifications, including MCT, MCSD, MCITP, MCSE, MCDBA and MSF. Lynn is also the author of Foundations of SQL Server 2005 Business Intelligence from Apress. She gets her biggest on-the-job buzz from developing architecture - translating business needs into technical solutions that provide real value and opportunities. In her spare time, Lynn gives back to the community by supporting children's education. Her current projects include work with the Mona Foundation (Redmond, Washington) and SmartCare (Lusaka, Zambia). Lynn's blog is at http://blogs.msdn.com/SoCalDevGal and she has a weekly series on MSDN (syndicated on MSDN Channel 9) -- geekSpeak.
To listen to the interview, click on this MP3 file link
Interview Time Index (MM:SS) and Topic
What triggered your interest in technology?
"....From an educational background I studied languages and linguistics. In my professional career, I was first a business person and had some businesses in the computer area. As I worked in this area I found I had more and more interest in the inner workings of both hardware and software...."
What two key lessons can you share from each of your prior roles?
"....the combination of practicality and imagination...."
Lynn comments on the biggest obstacles in her career and how she overcame them.
How would you describe your top innovative achievements in terms of the problems you were trying to solve, your solutions, and the impact it has today and into the future?
"....One of the things that I was really excited about in joining Microsoft is what I call 'intrapreneuring'....to be able to contribute through the power of the corporation to the areas of society that I thought that I could make an impact....I spend about 25% of my time around the issue of women in technology. I do that by working with Microsoft on a global program called DigiGirlz, a series of annual events that are hosted to showcase possible careers in technology for high school-aged girls........Another area of interest is furthering the state of languages and tools...I have found that there are a lot of concepts and methodologies in linguistics that don't appear to be available in computer languages and tools...."
You talked about DigiGirlz; didn't you just come from a conference? Can you comment further?
"....My ultimate goal with DigiGirlz is to provide more of a pipeline of technical women from which companies like Microsoft and other technical companies can hire, because especially in the developer's side, we don't even have pipelines...."
How does your background as a linguist factor in your current work?
"....I am really a translator....I'm translating to different audiences so I must tailor my presentation so those audiences can understand and then I'm translating technology - it is a double layer of translation...."
What would be your top tips for doing presentations?
"....You must know the technology and the best way to know that is through implementation....Know your audience....Competition - talk to people who work in competing technologies so that you can understand what they expect and then adjust....Don't expect that you are going to deliver the information in the same format for all the various audiences (that also goes for online)....Practice...."
What tip can you provide from your prior production work and your certifications?
"....The lesson from a Microsoft platform specifically is that if you are implementing on Microsoft, make sure you know what we have to offer...."
Lynn discusses finding resources before doing an implementation.
"....What we are trying to do is be very agile in the way we are providing the information and a trend we are seeing, particularly in the US, is the desire to consume information in a shorter format. I'm interested in feedback from people who listen to this interview to see if we are hitting the target....Another trend is multi-tasking...."
What lesson can you share from your writing experiences?
"....Have a good outline....Have a hierarchical progression to learning....Write in a clear manner....Consider that a lot of your audience will have English as a second language...."
Tell us more about the Mona Foundation (Redmond, Washington) and SmartCare (Lusaka, Zambia).
"....The Mona Foundation is a non-profit organization that was founded by a former Microsoft employee who now works at a partner....Her name is Mahnaz Javid....Mona was an actual person, who was hanged at 17 in Iran for her religious beliefs. That was actually the catalyst for Mahnaz to start this foundation, which provides support to educational institutions around the world....Mahnaz's vision and dream was that through education, particularly education of women and children, that this type of horrible oppression could be mitigated....If anyone is interested it is http://www.monafoundation.org/....
SmartCare is an electronic medical records application that is built on .NET and uses touchscreen and Smart Cards for data storage. It is the vision of a US doctor, Mark Shields and is being implemented in Zambia and being accepted as the national standard. It is now being developed in Ethiopia and South Africa...."
What IT best practices can you share from your blog and geekSpeak?
"....Create baselines....Security....Technology is about people...."
Can you share your experiences as a practicing SQL Server BI architect?
"....Around BI, the first thing to be aware of is: what it actually is, why you would care about it and what it consists of...."
How do you make a business case for implementing Business Intelligence?
"....It's all about concepts....You have to take the time to understand data warehousing concepts which are: you must understand what you are doing when you are clicking through the interface, and in what format the data should be structured so that you can get a good result...."
Can you remind the audience about your two books?
"....'Smart Business Intelligence Solutions with Microsoft® SQL Server® 2008' (MS Press this year) and my previous book 'Foundations of SQL Server 2005 Business Intelligence' (Apress)....The current book builds on the previous book so I would definitely recommend the current book...."
Please share your best practices and lessons learned in your many years of experience implementing BI solutions in the real world and in advising students in the classroom.
"....One of the areas that people constantly underestimate is data quality....You have to have high quality data going into your data warehousing, your business intelligence solution, in order to get high quality results....The other thing is to be inclusive, find all your data sources and identify what they are....A second point is to make the taxonomy natural. While you are taking time to clean up the data, capture the actual way people who are going to be using these reports speak....These are two very important areas that I don't see implemented consistently very well...."
Describe your current work and what you hope to achieve?
"....It's been really exciting how I've been able to support Women in Technology initiatives....DigiGirlz is very near and dear to my heart....I see what happens in schools around girls and science and technology and math education. My biggest dream is to somehow make a little dent in this and make it possible for more young girls to enter careers in technology...."
Do you have a link where our audience can go to pick up some of your resources?
"....I post everything on my blog: http://blogs.msdn.com/SoCalDevGal/...."
What are the best job resources for IT professionals?
"....I think that the best jobs never get advertised....The best way to find out what's going on is to talk to people directly. Technology professionals have a great opportunity through user groups....Conferences....Talk to professionals...."
What are your added suggestions for managing the economic challenges?
"....Know from whatever vendor you work with what's free. For example, SQL Express Server 2008 now includes reporting services....Make really great use of all those connections that you are getting through the user groups or through the conferences, etc. because people are your greatest resource. Utilize the people you know in a time-efficient manner for those people...."
How do you manage change?
"....I'm fortunate in that I embrace change....Whether you like change, especially in the US, change in technology is what it's about....One of the challenges is that there is so much changing so fast that it's important that you focus and eliminate certain things. You just can't know everything and it's much better to be deep in a couple of technologies rather than a generalist across all technologies because being deep is more highly valued...."
Can you make some predictions for the future, their implications, and how business executives and IT professionals can best prepare?
"....the Cloud...(but depends where you are)....Attention...(matters in all ways that we deliver content)....Use of special media is a huge trend...(social media cannot be ignored)....."
What do you see as the top challenges facing us today and how do you propose they be solved?
"....In the US in particular, the economy....Take advantage of the free stuff, take advantage of the micro content....Constantly pay attention to what's new....Pay attention to the trends, pay attention to education, have and use your social networks.....be flexible...."
Please provide your views on the IFIP IP3 program on professionalizing the profession. [http://www.IPThree.org]
"....I am a huge proponent of this....Having a professional methodology and a lifecycle methodology is so important...."
Do you have any further comments to share?
"....I get better through feedback so I welcome any feedback whether you agree or disagree with anything that I've said....or any comments or tips that you might have....We improve by working together. The best way to give me feedback is through my blog: http://blogs.msdn.com/SoCalDevGal/....and I do answer...."