Are you a BI Developer? How did you end up in this profession? I remember how I did. From the moment I hit the professional job market out of college, I kept on gravitating towards reporting. Well, I moved toward reporting as I understood it, which was Excel. That is right, Microsoft's wonderfully malleable data grid display tool. Put data wherever you want it, add some grid lines and color, and while you're at it, throw in some formulas. I mean, it was beautiful; it made me valuable to my superiors and the power of IF logic began to plague my thought process. Those were fun days.

Then as time moved on and people knew that I was an Excel jockey, requests started getting more complex and I found myself creating more involved spreadsheets that had to be maintained on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. This led me to learning VBA code and then the power of macros came to light for me. No more repetitive work. A click of a button and magically all of the repetitive functions happened on their own. This new trick up my sleeve made me feel slick and pretty darn smart. I mean, I was automating Excel. How cool is that?

So, of course, this obsession with Excel grew and now as a consultant, I started getting sold into projects where my main objective was to automate Excel reporting. I got really good at this and really enjoyed the work. But let's be honest, how many large companies will require this skillset. Large established organizations have expensive data management solutions with Business Intelligence tools in place. Not automated Excel solutions.

As I soon was to learn, my organized and ordered thought process would lead me to my first "true" BI development tool. I put true in quotes, because I believe Excel is a BI Tool, as much as many others will beg to differ.

I was called upon to start at a client using a BI Tool to automate standard reports. A whole new skillset started to be born within me. All of my understanding of the "IF" thought process, fancy functions, how to make data look pretty, and the ordering behind VBA coding translated perfectly into this new realm of using BI Tools to develop automated reports. Of course, it started off light by creating your standard list, crosstab and chart reports. My main focus was to consolidate and rebuild reports that were originally built in an older version of the tool. This was good. It was my first introduction to a BI Tool. And don't get me wrong, I was scared. This was new territory to me. I mean, what was this tool that was designed to replace Excel jockeys like me?

It was exciting all at the same time though. I felt like a kid in a candy store and a young adult away at college learning his way on his own, all at once. It was easy to see, this was the way. The way I needed to focus my professional attention from now on. From this point forward, I would focus on becoming a BI developer.

After getting down the basics; prompts, custom functions, drilling, etc., I focused my efforts on understanding the data that fed the reports. This was a whole new challenge for me. I never really had to care much about the database before. But in order to continue my progression into this new profession of mine, I had to get intimate with the back-end data. The next natural progression was to understand the semantic layer. I started learning about dimensional data modeling and metadata. The backward thought process of a BI Developer had begun. I realized I no longer needed to provide just reports; I needed to architect and develop end-to-end reporting solutions.

So till this day, I thank Excel for illuminating my organized and highly ordered thought process that intrigued me to go down this path of becoming a BI Developer. Without my accomplishments in Excel, I would not have been asked to work on a BI project in the first place. Now when people laugh at Excel, I always defend it. Since I credit it for the professional I am today. So I ask once again, are you a BI Developer? Does your story sound familiar?