Journey to PowerPivotPro: Reid Havens

Buckle in folks, this is going to be a long and engaging article. As we enter 2018, I realized that I’m approaching the one-year anniversary of my first blog post here at PowerPivotPro! So many things have happened since then. I’ve traveled across the US as a BI Trainer, co-developed with some of the world’s biggest companies, and a few months ago was given the position of EDITOR here at P3. Given all that’s happened I thought it appropriate to take a step back, reflect, and share my story of how I got here.

You see, when I was first hired here at P3 and shared my story with others, I was told that someday I NEEDED to blog about it. While I’m not one to toot my own horn, I’ve been told my career path was very non-typical (to say the least)! So here I am today, finally ready to share that journey with you, our readers. Because here at P3 we want to be more than just bloggers, we want to give a personality and face behind the articles you read. In fact, my goal is for this post to be the first of MANY! With the hopes that our core authors will all eventually get the opportunity to share their stories with you. So, sit back, enjoy your coffee, and learn a little more about how I got here.

road sign thumb 6 Journey to PowerPivotPro: Reid HavensStepping back into my way back machine, let’s travel back to the early 2000’s! Young me was in high school, and eager to work in the tech industry. By the way, you’re not getting any photos of me from then…let’s just say frosted tips was a BAD lifestyle choice… Anyways, I threw myself into computer hardware, and even got an A+ Certification by 16. However, I got disillusioned by the monotony of software coding and COMPLETELY changed directions after High School.

Instead, I invested in Psychology for my B.A. Thinking psychology was the career path for me. Turns out it’s really REALLY hard to get a soft skills job in 2009 WITHOUT EXPERIENCE. Worst. Time. Ever… to enter the job market…yeah. So instead, I ended up working as a behavioral instructor with autistic children for about four years, random right? During my time there I invested in a Master’s Degree in Organizational Development, hoping to get a leg up in the business industry.

After graduating, and after probably spending a few hundred hours sending my resume to (I swear!) nearly every analytics company that existed in the greater Northwest, I got a response back from MICROSOFT. They wanted to fly me down to Texas for an interview for an Account Manager Position. Not only was this the FIRST time I’d ever been flown to an interview, it was MICROSOFT! Needless to say, I was thrilled! However, even though my interviewers LOVED my personality, and even thought I’d be a great fit with the culture there…I didn’t have enough technical skills. Yup, that’s right, I didn’t get the job.

Not all was lost though! I got one bit of sage wisdom from an interviewer down there. Go back and get a technical certification in something. So, I did! Some thorough research into growing industries, and data showed me that analytics and business intelligence was one of the fastest growing fields. So, I began looking for certifications related to that. I eventually applied for a business intelligence & database certification to be exact, at Bellevue College.

loves data thumb 2 Journey to PowerPivotPro: Reid HavensLet me tell you, I threw my body and mind into that certification, and by god did I come out the other end with flying colors. In fact, my capstone professor even wrote me a glowing recommendation. She stated that I was one of the top three students she ever had (trust me, this plays out later). So here I am, with a freshly printed certification, and bright eyed and bushy tailed for a new job opportunity. Of course, I did what any job applicant does, check all the online job websites for postings in the area.

You know where this is going though right? I very quickly exhausted EVERY SINGLE job posting in the area, and NO bites. A couple nibbles…but no bites. Do I give up though? Hell no! Fresh out of online job postings, I instead began googling analytics and business intelligence companies in my area. That’s right, I cold emailed about 30 companies that looked like they could use someone like me. Finally, after a few dozen emails with NO reply, one responded!

video training p3 thumb Journey to PowerPivotPro: Reid HavensThey brought me in for an interview, an interview that lasted FOUR HOURS! I got the hint that the interviewer (company owner) really liked me, and he told me he wanted to bring me on board. I was given a learning role, where I’d get hands on training and resources to quickly ramp up to a deployable consultant. Now I want to point out RIGHT NOW, that until I got hired here, I hadn’t used Excel or PowerPivot AT ALL. Like zero, nil, zilch, none. So I’m learning completely on the fly, and quickly learn all I can from YouTube videos and Googling blog posts. Now at this time, almost every time I Googled a PowerPivot question, PowerPivotPro and Rob’s posts would show up!

So I convinced my boss to buy Rob’s video training for me, and I threw myself headfirst into the content. I quickly absorbed everything in those videos…taking copious amounts of notes along the way. But I wanted more! I craved DAX and Data Modeling like a fat kid craves candy. So what do I do? I go back to Bellevue College and take a class on PowerPivot. Now low and behold…my capstone professor from my certification was teaching this class (told you this would come back).

Almost IMMEDIATELY I realized I knew all the material being taught already, I even helped out the instructor a few times when she got stuck! Fast forward about two weeks after the class finished, I get an email from her. In this email she said that due to multiple projects and responsibilities, she wouldn’t have time to teach the class next quarter, and asked if I would like to step in! Yes, you read that right. Let me pause right now, and remind you that I’ve been using PowerPivot for only A FEW MONTHS! Yet I’ve somehow been given the opportunity to teach it at a college…

The idea of teaching TERRIFIED me. However, I knew that having instructor on my resume would give me a huge boost, so I swallowed my fear and said yes. Now, before the class even started, I spent an INSANE amount of hours learning and improving the class material. I memorized it, practiced what I’d say, added content, etc… All in hopes I wouldn’t be a nervous wreck come class day. While it did prepare me for class, it did very little to dispel my fears. Come the day of the class, I was sweating bullets by the time class started…

By the time that first class ended I was positive it went HORRIBLY. On the drive home I was even thinking how I’d write a resignation email, after this class was done. I’d thank them for the opportunity, but that I wouldn’t want to do another class after this. THANKFULLY each class at Bellevue College includes an instructor evaluation on day one. The evaluations included a one to five scale review of various aspects of the class, plus written feedback. The feedback is typically released back to the instructor the next day, so I went to bed that night dreading what the results would be.

teacher thumb 5 Journey to PowerPivotPro: Reid HavensBy the time I opened the email the next morning with my evaluation results, I was still convinced that it would be terrible. To my surprise, the reviews were almost all fours and fives…OUT OF FIVE. I honestly had to re-read the evaluation multiple times, not believing how good those reviews were. Not only were my fears hyperbolic, they apparently really LOVED the class. I later found out that I received one of the highest marks for a first-time instructor ever!

Since that day I’ve come to LOVE teaching, and honestly, it’s now the most rewarding thing I do. If you’d asked me even a year before this, would you ever teach? My answer honestly would have been HELL NO! Funny sometimes how life throws you random opportunities, especially one’s you end up being really good at!

So the entire time I’m working as an analyst and teaching, I’m also attending a local Excel Meetup Group. At one point shortly after I start teaching at Bellevue college, Rob does a remote presentation during one of the monthly meetups. After the presentation there’s a general Q&A section at the end. Of course me being me, I ask for the mic. I tell Rob that I don’t have a question, but just that I wanted to thank him for the blog, and the online course he made, because it literally helped me get a job as an instructor.

Rob mentioned how AWESOME that was, and that’s why he loved doing the blog. He mentioned a few other words of affirmation, and then I handed the mic off to the next person. Nothing else came of it that night, but this moment, this exact moment, was the start of the next phase of my career. I’d just lit a spark in the room that day, I just didn’t know it yet!

P3 Ladder thumb 5 Journey to PowerPivotPro: Reid HavensFast forward another six months or so. I noticed one day that there was a job posting on the PowerPivotPro website, asking for Principal Consultant applications. Now at this point I hadn’t personally met ANYONE from P3, and in my mind, they were the Jedi Masters of the BI world. So I ALMOST didn’t even apply, but a voice in the back of my head kept telling me…DO IT! So I applied, and even got a response back from Rob, containing a DAX test.

Let me tell you right now, that test is HARD. For my skills at that time, capitol H A R D. I went through a few iterations with Rob, and FINALLY got to an acceptable answer. Never mind you, a few grey hairs from how much thinking that test required. Unfortunately, because it took a few attempts, Rob was hesitant to hire me out right. Not all was lost though! I once again found myself doing something no one else had done (at that point).

Rob told me that every other test taker either A) Ninja’d the right answer their first go, or B) Completely failed! Until I came along, NO ONE had ever stumbled their way success like I did. Which is why I didn’t get a NO, instead I was told he wanted to think about my situation a bit. Still a damn good result from an application I almost DIDN’T submit, and an overall win in my book. This is now the second spark I’ve lit without knowing it! These sparks would collide in the most wondrous way later that fall.

rocket ship thumb 1 Journey to PowerPivotPro: Reid HavensLet’s hop in the Delorean, and shoot forward another two months. I’m at one of the monthly Excel User Groups I regularly attend, with a presentation being given by a local principal consultant for PowerPivotPro. Being the extraverted networker I am, I go up and talk with him. As we’re talking I mention who I am, that I teach, etc… All of a sudden he asks me if I was that same person from last year’s meetup. The one where I told Rob about how the blog and training helped get me teaching position.

Apparently he was there, heard my story, and was AMAZED by it. He’d been wondering who I was ever since. He’d also shared that story with a few other people since then, as an example of the quality and successRob’s video training can provide people. So we schedule some time to get some coffee later that week. About half way through having coffee I realize these questions seem very interview like, and that it seems like he’s vetting me as a potential hire. I mention that I’d applied earlier that year with Rob, and explained Rob’s interesting scenario with me. He told me to send over the test I’d given to Rob, and that we’d go from there.

All the pieces then fell into place! The coffee talk went very well and I’d given off a fantastic impression, so they now had a personality to put to the DAX test I’d submitted. That was now enough to convince Rob bring me on as a Principal Consultant. It was like a series of fortunate events, all leading to an amazing career opportunity. The rest as they say, is history. It’s been a rocket ship of a roller coaster ever since.

teacher with screen no tie thumb 2 Journey to PowerPivotPro: Reid HavensThat was about a year and a half ago now. Since then that rocket ship hasn’t slowed down one bit! Pretty quickly after getting hired, I voiced an interest in writing for the blog, and sent my draft to Rob. His feedback was overwhelminglypositive, even including a few colorful words I probably shouldn’t write in this post. Turned out I had a knack for writing, that was very inline with the P3 style! That article can be found here. Before I knew it, I was churning out a post or so a month, and quickly became a core blog contributor.

2017 was a year with so many amazing events happening. I’ve traveled all over the country giving training’s under the P3 name, which has been so rewarding. My writing style, contributions, and continued interest in the blog eventually landed me an offer to become the editor of the blog here at P3. I took the offer without missing a beat, and have taken on that role in full stride.

The opportunities didn’t stop there! Because of my experience at Bellevue College I had a colleague from Microsoft recommend me as potential course developer at the University of Washington. So in general, you may have noticed that I’m often a yes person. I take opportunities when they come my way, even if it’s scary or hard. Same thing applies here. I took on the job to develop a data visualization course for UW, knowing full well it might bury me with work. Needless to say, it did. It was a ROUGH six months of development. But I stuck with it, and produced some awesome content.

Part of the course development required me to record about 15 HOURS of online content for the university. This was a very new experience for me! I’m the first to say I really HATE photos or videos of me, ESPECIALLY hearing my own voice. So I wasn’t sure how the recordings would go. Oddly enough, almost everyone involved in the recordings asked if I’d done it before, because apparently I appeared very relaxed on camera. So thankfully it seemed like I was a natural, and that my personality translated well on camera.

thinking thumb 2 Journey to PowerPivotPro: Reid HavensOn top of everything else, I’ve even been nominated for an MVP Status at MICROSOFT this year…so fingers crossed! Looking back, I’m AMAZED at how much progress I’ve made in the last four years. It’s been such a mixture of opportunities, tenacity, and perseverance that has brought me here. I’ll be the first to say how grateful I am to have had these opportunities.

I’m INCREDIBLY exited to see what 2018 has in store. If 2017 was any indication, this year will continue to blast through the atmosphere with opportunities. I want to also take this moment to point out what an amazing company, and team PowerPivotPro is. Besides the opportunity for travel and blog writing, the sheer amount of brains and knowledge within our company is amazing. At the touch of a keyboard, any one of our consultants can reach out and ask each other questions. This has proven invaluable for learning. Here at P3 it feels like mixture of colleagues and family, not just having to help each other, but wanting to.

With that being said, that wraps up most of my journey through today. It’s been such an incredible ride, and with some truly incredible people. I’m here with you readers for the long haul. So expect many many more posts from us, and me. Thanks for sticking through with this post as I shared my story, and I’ll see you in my next article. wlEmoticon smile 2 Journey to PowerPivotPro: Reid Havens

It takes a special kind of mindset to “bend” data (and software!) to the human will.  As this article demonstrates, we at PowerPivotPro can twist Power BI into a pretzel if that’s what an organization needs. (A robust, trustworthy, industrial-strength pretzel of course).

The data-oriented challenges facing your business require BOTH a nimble toolset like Power BI AND a nimble mindset to go with it. And as Val Kilmer / Doc Holladay once said, we’re your huckleberry.

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