August 5, 2015 — Go inside PASS Summit 2015 session in this Q&A series with our presenters. In this interview, Mark Vaillancourt takes us inside his General Session, “A Bigger Boat: Data Visualization Lessons from the Movie Theater”.

Q: Who is your favorite super-hero, and which SQL Server or BI super-power do you hope your session will give attendees?

Mark: I would have to pick Professor Xavier of the X-Men: his ability to see the truth in people's minds and cut through the false picture they try to present. I am hoping my attendees will learn how to use powers of Data Visualization to help find and show the truth in their data rather than the fantasy that might be more convenient.

Q: What’s your origin story? How did you become interested in working with data, and how did you take that initial interest to the expert level?

Mark: I was working at a regional Theater in IT and part of my job was pulling lists for the fundraising folks. I just kept pushing forward and ended up getting into consulting around SQL Server, mostly with Reporting Services, initially. That led me to BI.

Q: What’s your favorite data solution’s secret power—the biggest strength that most people don’t really know about or use to full advantage?

Mark: My favorite is actually not much of a secret. I love how easy it is becoming to get work done in the BI space. The new Power BI is a great example of that. BI does not have to be hard. There are some situations and problems that are, but there are great applications for simplicity.

Q: What about data’s biggest kryptonite or nemesis--the biggest mistake you see data professionals make?

Mark: I see people get really caught up in how to build something, how to make it work, and sometimes forget to ask if that is the right thing to build. Building the wrong solution really, really well is still building the wrong solution.

Q: What still excites you or trips you up in the real world when working with SQL Server or BI?

Mark: I am excited by the fact that I will never stop learning. Things change so fast and opportunities come up that I never would have dreamed. For people interested in stretching themselves and learning new skills, this is an amazing time to be a data professional.

Q: What do you see as the next step after attending your session?

Mark: I would love to see people take the new Power BI for a spin and act on what they learned in my session. For me, there is huge satisfaction in helping to show someone how to do something themselves that makes their lives easier.

Check out our other Q&As with PASS Summit 2015 speakers.