Saturday, October 6, 2012

Kimball University

Just as a young quarterback would be thrilled to meet Peyton Manning or a young cook would jump at the chance to meet Paula Dean, I enjoyed that experience this week in the context of my vocation.  I sat at the feet of Margy Ross and Ralph Kimball.  When you mention these names amongst non-data warehousing professionals, you are often met with confused looks.  However, those in the data warehousing arena know these individuals as some of the most brilliant minds when it comes to modeling data. 

Margy Ross spent the first two days polishing our skills on some of the more basic pieces of dimensional modeling.  She is a very professional yet light-hearted lady with a true talent for teaching these concepts.  I was blessed to learn that I had a few things wrong regarding some concepts that I thought I understand.  Some of those have even come out in this blog; the corrections for which I'll save for a future post.

Ralph Kimball spent days three and four going over some advanced concepts with regards to dimensional modeling (and a bit of ETL).  He is just as light-hearted, having the ability to explain very complex data warehousing concepts with humor inserted where appropriate.  I spent a fair portion of the class laughing, and I still smile as I remember their humor.  This was not a dry class, as some would expect (for those who enjoy data warehousing, that is).  Both Margy and Ralph are brilliant minds who have the humility to (1) impart some of their knowledge to serious data warehousing students in an interesting way and (2) answer concise questions that apply to your specific organization in a one-on-one setting (assuming you can catch them after class).  Here were some of my personal highlights...

1.) Ralph signed my copy of The Data Warehouse Toolkit by writing "Brian, keep to the grain.  Ralph Kimball".

2.) I've had a design conundrum at work regarding a many-to-many problem related to this post.  I asked him about it after class and he affirmed my suggested solution.

3.) Ralph began his first class on day three by explaining the way in which a data warehouse developer will begin asking a user what needs to exist in that user's data warehouse (which does not involve asking the question in that exact way).  As a part of that conversation, Ralph made an example out of yours truly, as though I were a successful account manager looking to implement a data warehouse. Of course he was painting a fictitious scenario to make his point but it was still a cool moment.

I would highly recommend the Dimensionsal Modeling In Depth course to anybody interested in the data warehousing arena.  I'm not affiliated with the Kimball Group in any way (other than being a fan) so I will not profit by anybody taking the course.  I recommend it because it is simply that good.

Image courtesy of smokedsalmon /

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