ASF 021: Guy in a Cube interview (part 1)

ASF 021: Guy in a Cube interview (part 1)


Guy in a Cube is all about helping you master business analytics on the Microsoft Business analytics stack to allow you to drive business growth.
They are just two guys that do the work.
Adam & Patrick look at how to leverage Microsoft Business Analytics to allow you to gain knowledge that is needed to shape the data your business cares about. This includes Power BI, Reporting Services, Analysis Services and Excel. If you work with our business analytics products or services, be sure to subscribe and join in the discussion with their weekly content on YouTube channel.
Adam Saxton and Patrick LeBlanc are Microsoft employees.

This talk has taken place during SQLBits 2019 in Manchester (UK) on 28th February 2019 (Thursday).
Interviewers: Prathy Kamasani (T), Kamil Nowinski (T).

Do you want to know why actually YouTube?
What tool Adam does use for post-production?
Why the very first movies were like “awful”?
Who has been scared to death and why?
What were the circumstances of joining Patrick to the team and what’s fun fact related to his name?
And finally: how did the YOOO become a hallmark – get know the entire story about it.

Audio version

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Kamil Nowinski: Thank you guys for accepting the invitation for this podcast Ask SQL Family. So the first question is very hard. What is your name and where do you live?

Patrick LeBlanc: Patrick LeBlanc and I live in Atlanta, Georgia.

Adam Saxton: Ask him what LeBlanc means.

PL: The white.


PL: En français, en français. It means ‘the white’.

KN: What do you both do for a living?

AS: I’m Adam Saxton by the way.

PL: So, Patrick LaBlanc, I live in Atlanta, Georgia and I’m a Program Manager on the Power BI CAT team. What’s your name?

AS: I’m Adam.

PL: What’s your last name?

KN: Full name.

AS: Awesome Sauce.

PL: Awesome Sauce.

AS: Saxton. And I live in Houston, Texas.

PL: Go Texas.

AS: And I’m a PM on the Power BI CAT team.

Prathy Kamasani: And he has an awesome house…

AS: We have an awesome house. And I’ve got an awesome studio in my house for the video stuff.

KN: I’ve seen that there will be one question about it.

AS: It’s bigger than some people’s houses, so…

PL: I like it, I’ve been there. I like it.

PK: I think next time in Texas…

AS: Swing by, we’ll do a video.

PL: I like it.

KN: Everything is so big in Texas?

AS: Everything is bigger in Texas.

KN: Really? Bigger than other parts of the USA?

PL: (Whispering) No it’s not.

AS: It is.

PL: I grew up in Texas, no it’s not.

AS: He was born in Houston.

PL: I was born in Houston, Texas.

AS: His whole family is there.

PL: Everyone but me. I have. 7 of us. And I’m the only kid that doesn’t live there.

AS: He says he’s coming over to Houston to visit me, but really, he’s visiting his family. And I just happened to be there.

PK: I visit Houston at least once or twice a year.

PL: We talked about this.

PK: Most of my family are there.

KN: So you both are working for Microsoft, yeah?

AS: Yes.

KN: So what is your role basically? What are you doing on a daily basis?

PL: I like the way you explain it.

AS: So our team, the Power BI CAT team, because everyone says: ‘What’s the CAT team?’ I’m like, we are a team of elite ninjas that drop in and get shit done.

KN: Get shit done, nice explanation.

AS: So we help customer deployments, pre-sales, escalations, so if someone escalates to like Satya Nadella (Microsoft CEO) or Scott Guthrie and it’s Power BI-related, it comes to our team. We get it done.

KN: Nice.

PL: We fix stuff.

AS: We basically get to play with all the cool stuff, do road map discussions, we present, we travel the world, we get to… We have inputs into the engineering team to effect change in the product based on customer feedback. It’s very exciting.

KN: So if you have a very good idea, we go to you, yeah?

AS: No, you go to

KN: But if it’s a really good idea…

PK: Yeah, if it’s a very good idea, you can obviously go And I think it’s more likely if you are having an issue…

AS: That’s when you call support. So if you are a big customer and you’re trying to get something done and deployed, and work on some cool projects and that’s usually when we get involved. We deal with enterprise, big customer… I don’t know, name a customer.

PL: Name someone who’s big…

PK: The client where I am working? My client is a big customer for…

AS: Can you say the name?

PK: BP. British Petroleum.

PL: Yeah, It’s a big customer.

AS: We’ve got show cases. Like at the Gartner Conference last year. So, Adobe and Rockwell where they did customer session on Power BI, of their deployments at the Gartner Conference, so those are some of our customers as well.

PK: Basically you’re in the cool team.

AS: The struggle with our team also, and I had this issue when I was in support for 10 years as well. And it was the same thing where nobody calls support or calls our team when they’re like ‘Man, Power BI is just awesome’. That doesn’t happen. They call us when something bad is going on. We see all the bad stuff. We get it fixed and help.

KN: Exactly, but that means you can improve something. You know what you need to improve.

AS: But it also means we get depressed. I’m like ‘Oh my gosh, Power BI is just not…’ and then we go back with the community, we do stuff at conferences that brings our hopes back up, because we know that there are people out there that love it and are doing awesome things. Our customers are doing awesome things with it too. It’s just they call us when they’re hitting a struggle of some kind. And we’ve got take care of it.

PK: Actually I wanted to ask this question later, but we are talking about the team, that’s why I want to ask. So when you are in a CAT team, you deal with pretty much everything related to Power BI, right? So how do you keep up with all that happening?

AS: He watches my round-up videos.

PL: I actually just joined the team back in November. And I was like ‘Holy smokes, this is gonna be a lot of stuff’. But there’re guys on the team that are really good at specific things. So we have one guy, like embedding and security, so you know a lot about these things, when it starts to get into the weeds…

AS: We’re a team.

PL: You just say ‘Hey, Adam, I’m trying to figure this out, I need your help’. So it would be great to know 500 level on everything. You just can’t, right? So there’s a data flow guys, a security guy, embedding guy. I can but I’m not a normal person, right? Like a superhuman.

AS: I was doing a memory dump yesterday on Power BI desktop. And then I ran an XPERF to find the memory allocation error, it was good stuff.

PK: I know, when you guys did that, when you showed us at the London Power BI Meetup, I was like ‘wow!’.

AS: Truthfully, so the round-up videos I do, those actually really help me to stay up to date, because it forces me to read the blogs. Especially the update blogs that we put out and then like what other folks are doing in the community. And there was some time where I had to miss, I think I missed like two or three round-up videos, and I felt lost, I’m like I don’t know what’s going on with Power BI now. So it’s like the round-up videos actually really helped me to stay up to date.

PL: And believe me or not, the stuff that you guys do, we read that stuff. And I learned, I do learn a lot from the stuff that people outside of Microsoft do. I learned a lot of stuff internally, but the blog posts, videos and all sorts of stuff… We read that stuff, we watch that stuff. A lot of my videos come from that. I mean, I modify a little bit, and I shout people out, I’m like ‘Oh, I was working with such and such’.

AS: We reach out to folks too.

PK: I personally, like whenever I get tagged, that’s like… People can say ‘what’s happening?’. I was just like ‘I’m just happy, because I was tagged!’.

KN: Yeah, that kind of things happen.

PK: I’m just happy. People can just see it on my face. Actually, I wanted to ask a question…

AS: So you say you’re happy, and they’re like ‘Why are you so happy? Guy in a Cube? What?!’ It’s a whole different discussion.

PL: It’s two of them by the way! And they’re both in a cube together. What are doing in this cube, I don’t know.


PL: You got the wrong person on the microphone.

KN: So guys, are you working remotely, from your houses or how?

PL: I work in a cube.

AS: Seriously, actually when I moved down to Houston, I actually thought about buying a cubicle for my office, because of the whole Guy in a Cube thing. Because I was actually in a cube at the Las Colinas office in Dallas/Fort Worth, that’s where it all started. But I’m like ‘No, get done with the cube’. It’s a cube in spirit, but yeah, we work remotely.

PL: Both work remotely. I work in a basement.

AS: I work upstairs.


AS: We both have couches there, and we sometimes have to sleep on.

PL: Yeah, I have a couch, I have my desk and my whiteboard and everything. What you see in the video, that’s where I work. That’s exactly where I work.

AS: Yeah, where I’m at is my office. I have a long commute, I have to go up like a flight of stairs. He’s gonna go down a flight of stairs.

KN: Both of you, do you have appropriate silence in your studio?

PL: Mostly.

AS: Mine is pretty quiet just cause I’m out in an area that’s like out in the middle of nowhere. So the neighbourhood is very quiet where I live now. When I was in a rental home before, we just moved into the house I’m in about a year ago. So before that I was in a rental home in the Houston area while we were looking for a house. And there happened to be a major road right behind the house. That was painful. It was like every 5 seconds, I had to stop. So horrible. So I started getting up at like 4 am, cause there was no traffic.

KN: That’s why you’re so sleepy in some videos.

AS: If you could see the outtakes on those videos, every other word was like… I was just… Oh.

KN: But seriously, I’m thinking about your daughters for example.

AS: Yeah, they’re at school. I will tell them I’m about to record videos, and they get all pissy at me, because now they know they have to go to their room and be quiet. The other problem I have though is where my house is, so like the main family room area and then the stairs that go up to my office, and it’s like a megaphone. So anything that happens in that family room is just blasted upstairs. So I’m like ‘you guys have to disperse’. So that’s why I like when school’s in session, because they’re not at home. Also on Saturdays, my daughter has horse riding lessons. My wife will take her to horseback riding lessons, it gives me good 2-3 hours, and she does that, so I can record the videos while they’re gone. My older daughter just stays in her room anyway.

PL: I don’t have these problems. Because in Georgia, unlike Texas and Louisiana, you’ve got basements. Until my basement is finished, it’s two other storeys above it. My kids are floor above me. So the middle floor is where my wife is, but she’s never there. And the kids are way up, so nobody ever comes there.

AS: Unless the lawn guy comes.

PL: Unless the lawn guy comes. But besides that, I just close the door and nobody comes down. I’m just down there by myself.

AS: Nobody likes Patrick.

PL: Nobody likes me.

PK: Your children are…

PL: 18 and 14. One’s graduating this year.

AS: Lucky man.

PL: Yes, one more. 4 more years.

KN: So when we’re talking about the videos, how long does it take you to record 15 minutes of?

PK: Actually before that I want to ask a question. Why YouTube?

AS: Why not?

PK: Well, of course…

KN: They have any alternatives?

PK: No, no. Why did you go for… Why did you think of recording and putting it there?

AS: As opposed to what…?

PK: …like blogging? Generally, I love the concept of YouTube. I totally love it. But I just want to understand why did you start.

AS: I’ll answer the question with the question, which you should never do, but it will lead into the discussion. If you have a problem and you’re trying to figure out how to do something, where do you go to ask the question?

PK: Forums…?

AS: Most people go to YouTube. It’s the number 2 search engine in the world, next to Google. And also Google’s gonna surface all the YouTube videos also, so that’s where the audience is.


AS: That’s why I went to YouTube. I started doing blogging way before I did the video stuff. Originally, when I started doing the video, I was embedding the videos in the blog, so I had the blog with the video. Then I just dropped the blog and I only do the video. But I did look originally at doing like Channel 9. Again, it was an audience thing. The numbers aren’t there as compared to YouTube. So YouTube’s got the platform and that’s where I went.

PK: I was more like thinking, because you are quite geeky about the older stuff. So is it that’s why you went for the videos? Because you already liked photography, or is it because you saw the platform?

AS: I knew nothing about video or photography, I didn’t know anything about exposure, aperture, ISO levels, none of that before I started doing all of this. I just learned.

KN: But you got some course, I remember our discussion last year.

AS: First upload was December 2014 and then February 2016, so it was more than a year later, I only had like 400 subscribers and all the number were flat. I get no comments, no engagement, no nothing. So I was like ‘Alright, we’ve got to fix this. We’ve got to do something’. There was a YouTube certified guy that I followed, and he did a course where he brought in 20 creators. You had to pay for it, but they brought us all in and every week we met on Zoom and whatnot and we had a discussion with the guy, we talked about different topics, and then we had homework and I had to review a ton of channels, to the point where my recommended videos on YouTube were like make-up videos, which, I will tell you, if you wanna learn about lighting, go watch make-up videos. And then also usually the make-up YouTube personalities, they will have behind the scenes, like how they record stuff, so you can actually see their setups. What lights kits they use and all that. So it was actually really helpful to watch this. I watched a ton of YouTube now. I’m always watching. Because I’m always dissecting what people are doing, like how are they editing, what kind of shots they’re using, how’s the light placement, what’s the colour grading on it. I pick everything apart when I watch. I watch a ton of different YouTube channels. He does not. Patrick does not. Patrick, what’s our editing process?

PL: I set up my camera, and I put on my mic, and I turn on Camtasia, and I record. And then I upload it to OneDrive.

PK: And then what happens?

AS: And, then it magically shows up on YouTube.

PL: I’ll give you an example. Marco was in Atlanta a couple of weeks ago. So I say: ‘Marco, let’s record a video together’ and it was something he did, and he was like ‘Yeah, let’s do it’. So I’m at the Microsoft office where I have my stuff, we set up, we recorded the video. Before I left the Microsoft office, I uploaded all of our audio files and video files, and we use a screen capture, upload it there. This was a Tuesdays night. My videos come out on Wednesday. That morning I get to… So I get a text from Adam around 6.30-7am, it was early. Video’s uploaded. And I know, this is how it happens. This did not surprise me at all. I was like ‘Oh, cool’. So it’s there and I can see it, but it doesn’t release until 11.

AS: It (videos) drops at 10:05 am Central time.

PL: So I get to the office, and I go ‘Marco, you have to look at this’. And I show him, he goes ‘It’s done already?’ I was like ‘That’s just how it works’. I upload it, and something happens overnight and it shows up. “This is amazing, really amazing”. I do this stuff and it just shows up. So the editing process happens by me uploading, then it just magically appears on YouTube. It’s magic. I don’t know what happens between there.

PK: So what tool do you use for editing?

AS: I use Adobe Premiere and After Effects for the actual editing. We use Camtasia to capture the screen record, but I do no editing in Camtasia at all.

KN: Yeah, it’s an awful application. I tried to work with that and…

AS: It’s better now than it used to be. When I started doing it, they only had a 32-bit version, they didn’t have 64-bit. And I started getting fancier with my stuff. So I end up in Camtasia with like 17 layers, and it would just crash on me.

KN: 17?

PL: He’s really picky. He’s really, really picky. Really picky.

AS: There’s 6 layers by default.

PL: Shopping for a new camera, cause my autofocus and all this… He’s like ‘you gotta get a new camera’. I was like ‘I’ll get one’.

AS: He finally bought a light. That did wonders. That did magical wonders.

KN: Basically Adam is the technical guy.

AS: I’m the tech guy.

PL: Adam is the director, the producer, the editor and…

KN: You are the actor basically.

PL: I am the actor.


AS: He’s the entertainer in chief. No, Patrick does a lot, I mean we talk our ideas, we collaborate a lot.

PL: We talk every day.

AS: Patrick is the demo master. Seriously, he will whip together a demo, he will spend… I’m like, ‘I got to think about this demo’, he’s like ‘Let me go play with it’. Next morning he’s like ‘Man, I’ve only got like two hours of sleep, but I got this demo working’.

PL: So the first SQLBits that I was supposed to come to, I remember this. And something happened, there was an accident in London, somebody ran into me. It was not a good thing, and my wife was like ‘You cannot go to London’. The whole family was coming, I’m like ‘But I’ve got to go, I’m doing a pre-con, I’m doing a full-day workshop’. And I had spent like months building this stuff out, and so I go ‘oof’, so I email them and it was like ‘Can you find a replacement?’, I go ‘Of course I can’. I got a guy, I know a guy, right? So I called Adam and I was like ‘Can you go?’ and he’s like ‘Of course I can go, I’m going to Bits, yes, of course I can go’. So he goes to Bits, and he comes back, he goes ‘Dude!’.

AS: That was the most magical thing ever. I’m like ‘Dude, that stuff was just laid out and I just opened it up and I’m like ‘I can do this, this is great’. I’ve got nothing to do’.

PL: What I did was, because there’s 8 modules or something like that. So there’s a step by step, PBIX files. If you come in in the middle of the day, you just open the .pbix, and you catch up…

KN: Even I could do that.

AS: Cause I get worried because normally people, it’s a week before, and I’m like ‘Yeah, I didn’t actually do anything yet, can you…?’ I just opened it up, oh my gosh, dude. That was amazing.

PL: I don’t edit, though. No editing.

AS: But he’ll do the demos.

PK: We wanted to ask this question later, but as we’re talking about… it’s going with the flow. So whenever you are in a session or in a video, there’s a lot of humor. How do you do it? Do you talk to each other before or it just happens?

KN: How do you prepare for that?

AS: We don’t.

PL: You know, we’re high level.

AS: We’ll say like bullet points, like ‘OK, we’ll touch on this, this and this, and that’s it’. We don’t talk about how we’re gonna do it. Like the actual interactions we have, that’s all on the fly.

PL: It’s just natural.

AS: We just gel like that. This is why I brought him on the Guy in the Cube.

PL: I think if we practice, it messes stuff up.

AS: So today was a good example when we were recording with Alberto, cause I do a little more, I think about how I’m gonna edit stuff, so I’m like ‘We’re gonna do a cool thing in this video’. I’m not gonna say what it is, you got to watch it. It’s gonna come out in a few weeks, I don’t know when this is dropping, but it will be out in March ( icon-video-camera  Using DAX to format a list of values in Power BI Desktop). So I had this thing in my head, I’m trying to describe how it is and Patrick is just sitting there like ‘I don’t do it this way’. So like ‘Wait, what do you want me to say?’ I’m like ‘Just say that!’.

KN: I’ve heard this story yesterday, during the Power BI Manchester meeting. I basically wanted to ask this question. When did you join the team?

PL: I don’t even remember now.

KN: What is the story basically?

PL: I don’t remember when I joined.

AS: The story of how he joined. I started in 2014, after about 2.5 years is when I asked him to come onboard, but before that he just started getting into Power BI. We had known each other beforehand, but I wouldn’t say we were like good friends or anything like that. We’d gone drinking one or two times at PASS Summit or something like that. Then he just started calling me and just asking me questions about Power BI. I’m like ‘Cool, what’s up?’ He was asking good questions, and we were talking about it and then I got to the point when we were like talking every morning for like 30-45 minutes.

PL: Every morning.

AS: Every morning. That was like our normal routine at that point, which we still do today.

PL: More now.

AS: Our wives have come up to like our offices like ‘Are you on the phone? Hi Patrick, Hi Adam.’ Our families know each other. And then, after a while it was just like ‘Dude, you should do the Guy in a Cube videos with me’. He was like ‘No. No.’

PL: I need people. I need the audience, I feed off the audience. So it’s not natural to me to sit in front of the camera and do the video, because I need you, guys. You know, the audience.

AS: He’s much better with the audience.

PL: I feed off of your facial expressions and your body movements, I see people get restless, it’s time for a joke, it’s time for an excursion, it’s time for a story, you know. Cause by just sitting there by myself was kinda like ‘Who am I talking to?’

AS: So what he’s gotta do. I’ve gotten there too, like my wife watched one of the videos, and she knew what was going on that day, she saw the video, and she’s like ‘You faked that, didn’t you?’ I’m like ‘Oh yes.’ She’s like ‘Cause you sound like you were just normally like cheerful’. ‘Oh yes’. So we gotta get Patrick, cause I edit Partick’s videos and I can tell because we talk all the time, so I know what’s going on in his life, he knows what’s going on in mine and I’m just like ‘Patrick maybe shouldn’t record today’. You just wait a day. Grab a beer and then…

PK: Nice.

AS: We refer to each as our second wife. Someone asked me ‘Which one’s the wife?’ I’m like ‘Depends on the day’.

PL: I don’t know how he does… I can’t keep the energy level. I can have a bad day and go present in front of a hundred of people, and you never know I’m having a bad day. If I have to record a video, he will know I’m not having a good day. If you watch the videos, you can tell.

AS: Some people I don’t think they pay that close attention, they may not know. Some of them you definitely can notice. Some of them it’s not as obvious, but like I know.

PL: And if I don’t like the topic too much too.

AS: He never likes the video. He says this every time, he’s just ‘Oh, man, it’s just not good’. Like whatever.

PK: But that’s how you can get better.

AS: We don’t scrap that video either.

PL: He won’t. And some of them are like ‘We should just not do this’.

AS: Yes, please, don’t do this.

PL: Yeah, but after I upload it, it’s out of my hands.

AS: But then you call me after, it feels like ‘Man, that looked good’. We can cut it sometimes.


KN: Tell me how you learned this ‘Yooo’. That was funny.

PL: That’s kind of, there’s a whole story.

AS: It’s a two-part story. So Patrick’s starts to do it and I have the same issue, and like honestly, I think it was maybe a year ago when we started getting comfortable with actually watching the videos ourselves. So we go back and watch older ones and I’m like ‘I can’t watch this, it’s awful’. We’re like Mr. robot (like a robot) and no personality, and like… So Patrick’s doing this and I’m like ‘Alright, Patrick. I brought you on because you’re like… your charisma, you’re just a naturally funny guy, you entertain, I wanted the energy. That’s part of the reason why I brought you on’. And I’m like ‘Patrick doesn’t show up until half way. We’ve got to fix this’. He’s like ‘Alright, what do I do?’ Alright, so here’s the trick I’ve learned on the video stuff. Get to the point where you’re really embarrassed and it’s silly and you think this is stupid, right? The minute you get to that level, you’re like doing something, ‘No, this is stupid’, you want to pull back, and I’m like ‘Don’t pull back’. That’s right where you wanna be, and it comes across on the camera great. And he’s like ‘Alright, I may just do it. OK, I’ll figure it out’. He’s like ‘Alright, I got it.’ I’m like ‘Where, what did you do?’ He’s like ‘Just watch the video’. So I watched the video and I just fell out of my… I was crying. Called my wife, I’m like ‘Crystal, Come here, watch this’. She’s like ‘Oh, my gosh’.

PL: My daughter actually came up with the whole idea. My daughter was like ‘Dad, what do you say to your friends?’ What did you guys say when you were younger? And she was like ‘Cause you are old. You’re born in the 1900s, dad. And I’m born in 2000s, right?’ And I go ‘We say ‘yo’‘. She’s like ‘Say that’. I’m like ‘say ‘yo’‘? ‘You make it fun’. ‘OK, so I’ll say ‘yo’‘.

AS: And then it just became a thing. We start all of our presentations with the ‘yo’. We do it like this, say it like you need it, ‘dude, just do it randomly’, I’m like ‘no, I start everything with the ‘yo’, it’s a brand thing. It’s a brand.

KN: Yes, it is, it’s a recognizable brand basically right now.

PL: The funniest thing with the ‘yo’ for me was I was walking in Seattle, after we started doing it. I was walking on the street, I think it was at the PASS Summit. Oh no, was that the first… it was called Data Insight Summit. And I was walking down the street and this guy was on the other side of the street, it was a group of them, they were like ‘Yoooo’. I was like ‘what’s this?’

AS: So it’s funny, whenever we reach out to someone like on teams or whatever, we always start it off with ‘yo’. I was actually talking to my manager the other day, he was like ‘Hey, do you have 2 minutes’. I’m like ‘Yea, what’s up?’ And he’s like, he calls me on the phone and he’s like ‘Are you alright?’ I’m like ‘Yeah, fine, why?’ He’s like ‘You didn’t say ‘yo’?’ And I’m like ‘Oh, no, it’s alright, sorry, I didn’t even think about it’. I was like in the middle of five things and he’s just like ‘I just wanna make sure that you’re not… That you’re OK, like do you need anything?’ So I was like alright, when your manager starts… That’s a thing. And then the funniest thing for me was… I went to a user group thing in Houston and this nice old lady, southern bell kinda thing, she’s just like (in his best southern accent) ‘Oh my Lord, that other gentleman you do the videos with. I just started watching his video, and he did the scream and just jumped out of my monitor and scared me to death. But bless his heart, you just keep doing it’.

PK: That’s so touching. It’s so beautiful. When I heard that first ever I was like ‘wow, that’s so sweet’.

PL: It catches you off guard, though.

KN: I’m very happy that that was recorded.

AS: The other reason why I loved it, and I knew this was gonna do it for Patrick and does it for both of us now. And does it for our sessions that we present live as well, with the audience. Because we do it… for Patrick, what helped is he does the ‘yo’, it gets the energy level up. And now he’s carrying it through the rest of video. And then in the sessions, we start it off with the ‘yo’ and everyone’s awake and we are like ‘Alright, let’s do this’. So everyone’s mind is now in it.

PL: These guys are bananas.

KN: It changes the approach completely, you know what you’re doing in the next few minutes or hours.

AS: You gotta have a thing.

PK: It’s a great way of branding and bringing the… It’s a nice icebreaker.

PL: It is a good icebreaker.

AS: From a branding perspective there’s a great book out there called ‘Primal Branding’. The book talks about there’s like 7-8 components of the brand, one of them is rituals. You have to have rituals of a brand. So like Nikes and Apples, they all have their thing that you can identify with. And so for Guy in a Cube the ‘yo’ is a ritual thing, the way we end our videos is a ritual thing. We’re consistent on a lot of those things.

PL: Head over to my laptop.

AS: The video today, we didn’t do that with Alberto, and I’m just like ‘Wow, time out’ and he was like ‘What?!’, and I’m like ‘You didn’t do your thing! That’s a ritual for you, people expect it’. He’s just like ‘Oh, you’re right’. So little things like that. We do it repetitively, cause people expect it. The minute you don’t do it, like my manager, I didn’t do the ‘yo’ and he’s like ‘What’s up, man? You’re alright?’

PL: It was so funny. At the end Adam says ‘Or smash it if you so desire’. So I tried to do that in one of the videos and it didn’t work.

AS: And then in the video it’s typical Patrick ‘Alright, Adam, just cut that out’.

PL: Just cut that out.

AS: No crap, I’m gonna cut that out.

PK: I know the answer for this, but just for the audience. It is your thing, right? It’s not like a Microsoft thing? It’s your thing.

AS: We obviously have support from… Everyone knows we’re doing it. Even when I first started doing it, I ended up being in Redmond just for a trip to visit with a Product Team. It was right when James Philips came onboard, and I actually set up a one on one with him, I think I had a hundred subscribers at that point, so I had no audience. And I just went to, I was like “Hey, just FYI [For Your Information] I started this YouTube thing, it’s called Guy in a Cube, I’m doing Power BI videos where I’m teaching people things and help them with support stuff”. And I originally thought Marketing would shut us down because we’re not necessarily… We just pick up our own topics, no-one tells us what to do. Sometimes like Marketing or Engineering team will come to us and say ‘Hey, can you do a video on this?’ And then we’ll do that, we’ll put that on the Power BI YouTube channel, not on the Guy in a Cube channel, it will brand all of that Power BI, and then…

PL: We usually don’t say the ‘yo’.

AS: Yeah, we’re PMs on the Power BI team as opposed to just Guy in a Cube. Everyone’s cool.

PL: It’s fun too.

KN: Is this a secret why you added this label for some time, ‘Microsoft employee’, in your videos? Do you have to?

AS: We have to. It’s a Microsoft policy, a social policy. You have to identify that you are a Microsoft employee. Although most people don’t notice it, it’s in every video. Cause people would be like ‘You work for Microsoft?’ I’m like ‘In the video’.

PL: Obviously you’re not watching the videos.

AS: And also like on the Twitter handle Guy in a Cube it says Adam and Patrick at Microsoft Power BI team. So we identify that we are Microsoft employees, we have to. It’s company policy.

KN: OK. So while we’re talking about the videos… So the next question, basically I asked this several minutes ago. How long does it take you to record 15 minutes of video?

PL: You know, it takes me longer to put the demo together than to actually record the video. To record the video it takes me 10, sometimes, it depends on the topic, but average about 15 minutes. Then he cleans it up, I don’t know what happens after that. But no more than 20 minutes to record the video.

KN: So the preparation for the demo takes more time?

PL: Sometimes the demos like… I just did one on Tooltips on Perf Tuning, it took a little bit. It probably took me 4-5 hours to build out the demo, because I had to create two different reports, set up DAX Studio, and I actually walk through the whole video.

AS: We validate everything before we actually record it.

PL: And then I’ll email someone, then wait for them to reply back or…

AS: Cause we want to make sure we know some of the questions, so we’re trying to anticipate them. This is how it works, this is…

PL: We’ll talk to each other. I’ll say ‘Oh man, do this’ and then Adam will say ‘Oh, you should do that, or don’t do that, say this’. And sometimes I listen, sometimes I don’t. And then like, we have one, like the last one I did, I wanted to have it like…

AS: That’s when he’s not being the wife.

PK: Like a good wife. Sometimes you listen and sometimes you don’t.

PL: Cause I wanted to have like Power BI and DAX Studio right next to each other. So when I open the report, you could actually…

AS: I told them, I was like ‘Alright, so do it this way, like you’re gonna open up DAX, you’ll do it the way you’re gonna show it first, right, and then stop, and just re-record the part, the other side of the screen that you want and then I’ll put them together, right? So just only talk over one of them, and then just redo the other part, and I’ll do the magic.

PL: So that video took about two hours to record because it was eight takes trying to do that. And I just was like…

AS: He gave up.

PL: Forget it. I didn’t say that, I said something else. And I just said I was just gonna record the video the way I wanted to record it.

AS: It came out good.

PL: 18 minutes. That video is amazing. Because the way he did it… Oh, it’s amazing. You gotta watch.

AS: Cause he had the full DAX. He had both of them. They were visible on the screen at the same time, so I just took both segments individually and blew them up side by side, and then put slower/faster underneath so you can see what the difference was.

PL: Yeah, it’s good, I’ll show you before we pack. It’s amazing. ( icon-video-camera Power BI Tooltips and report performance)

PK: Do you have any plans of doing a video about how you edit?

AS: I actually have a plan for a whole series. I have it mapped out, I’ve been like wanting to do it.

PK: Like a behind the screens.

AS: It takes so much time to do because we do four videos a week now, and you know, there’s other life stuff going on that it’s…

PL: Four videos. That wasn’t my idea. I was doing one video…

AS: So first two weeks of January, we only had our normal three videos, and I call him and I’m like ‘We’re going to four videos’. He’s like ‘What?!’

PL: Because I’m used to doing just one video a week.

AS: Alright, we’re doing four week, man, and he’s like ‘Alright, what’s the other one?’ And I’m like ‘We’re gonna do two-minute Tuesdays, you’ll just stay on Wednesday, and then mine will go to Thursday’. He’s like ‘Okay’ and I’m like ‘look, just either one of us, we’re just bounce for whatever we got’. And it’s been working.

PL: They’re easy, the two minute ones are so easy.

AS: It’s been working now. Originally I was thinking I always had this fear originally, and I think a lot of people do, whether they’re blogging or video or whatever. It’s that fear of like ‘I’m gonna start doing this, but like I’m gonna run out of ideas’. And I hit that originally when I started doing this, but I got past it. You got to push past it, and then, with the two-minute Tuesday I had that same thing creeped into me for like a split-second, I’m like ‘Oh my gosh, we’re gonna fail at this’. And he was saying things like ‘Dude, are we gonna figure this?’. And now we have like a list of like 20 of them, like a backlog, this is not a problem now.

PK: But how do you balance it, you both have families and a day job, and all these things. There is no such thing as balance, but how do you do it?

PL: You know, honestly, the only thing that disturbs work in Guy in a Cube is family. That’s the only thing that takes precedence, right? My little girl or my wife. ‘Hey Dad, I need’. Everything stops. Right? But if they don’t need, if nobody’s complaining, you know, that I’m down there on the Saturday recording videos, we’ll record videos, you know. But if they say ‘Hey, we’re going to go do this’. Completely stop everything and go do what they want to do. Otherwise, you know, because most of the time I’m home, you know, or my wife’s out shopping, the kids are with their friends and usually I’m by myself at home, so why not record a video instead of watching TV, when I settle down on my couch watching football, or whatever it is, I might record videos. Instead of bingeing Breaking Bad or something else.

AS: Game of Thrones.

PL: Let me go record a video.

AS: You did Sopranos for a little while.

PL: Yeah, did Sopranos, right.

KN: Who is a fan of Game of Thrones?

PL: Ohhhh…. Mmmm..

AS: I can list off the dragons.

PL: So all the stuff that… Instead of just lying around, enjoying yourself, not that I don’t enjoy doing the videos, I really do. I just say ‘You know what, let me do this first and whatever time’s left I’ll go’.

AS: Here’s the thing I found when I was in support I hit this, and then I carry it through with The Guy in a Cube stuff as well. People ask me ‘So in support you had Support Engineer, then you can get up to this title of Escalation Engineer, right?’ You’re in the Escalation team, you’re in the next level and people would ask me like ‘How do I get to Escalation Engineer?’ And I’m like ‘What are you doing besides the casework?’ ‘No, that’s what I do’. I’m like… ‘You got to do a little more than that. Like how are you standing out, how are you… Like what are you doing outside?’ ‘I don’t have time for that, I’m just working cases’. And I’m like ‘OK, well what do you do when you first get into the office?’ ‘Why? I work on cases’. And I’m like ‘Why don’t you carve out a half hour to work on like a blog post or something like that, right?’ ‘Well, no, I got to work on my case.’ I’m like ‘They can wait a half hour, it’s not going to be the end of the world, right? You just manage your time’. And then they’re also like ‘Why do I need to do extra things?’. I’m like ‘Okay, well what were you doing Saturday morning?’

PL: Sleeping.

AS: ‘Well, you know, I had to watch the game’. And I’m like ‘Okay, well, then that was the choice that you made’. Which is perfectly fine if that’s what you want to do and that makes you happy, go for it. But if you want to get ahead or you got to do these things to do that, then like… So for an example. We came out here for SQLBits, my wife’s coming up on Sunday, we’re going to spend a few days in Scotland next week. We still have videos that have to go out. So what do I have to do? I told him, I’m like ‘Dude, the Friday before I’m leaving, you have to have three videos in the folder before I leave’. Saturday morning I recorded four videos and then the rest of Saturday and Sunday I had to edit eight videos.

PL: And I’ve got an extra video.

AS: …by the end of Sunday, so that Monday morning I was flying out to England. And so now this whole week and things are dropping, people are like ‘Oh my gosh, you just…’ We were walking and Patrick’s like ‘Holy crap, our video just dropped’. I’m like ‘Yeah, it’s all scheduled’. So like this weekend, next week that’s all done already, but I had to spend 16 hours on Saturday and 16 hours on Sunday, and my wife understands. Like we did, I fit in family stuff in there too, and we just make it work. I normally am up at 5 am every morning, even on the weekends.

KN: 5 am even on the weekend? Wow.

AS: Yeah, got to get stuff done.

KN: I need to learn something from you. I’m trying to wake up at 5:30 or 6am.

AS: I have an amazing body clock. I haven’t used an alarm in like 20 years. Even here, so like coming out here it’s different, you know, coming over to England from the US, I had to power through it, I sleep through it, I go to bed at like 8:30/9:00 in the morning. The next morning, yesterday morning up at 5:00 am. In the clock. Ready to go.

KN: So we know that you are speaking a lot, yeah? Among a lot of different conferences, around the world basically.

AS: We don’t speak at all the ones we get asked us to speak.

PL: No way, no how.

AS: I actually spoke a lot last year. I had a strong talk with my wife and a strong talk with my manager where we said ‘Yeah, we got to back that off a little bit’. It was too much. I agree, it was too much. So we changed that.

KN: How much was too much?

AS: Pretty much the whole month of September and October I was gone.

PL: It was insane.

AS: It was 8 week period that included three trips to Europe.

PK: Last year?

AS: Yeah, last September and October.

PL: It was crazy.

AS: It was between Denmark, Netherlands and then Spain. And those were… So I came back to the US in-between those. Because I was at other conferences in the US, because it was Ignite, so it started with Denmark Power BI World Tour, then it was Ignite, then…

PL: Was there a SQL Saturday BI in there?

AS: There was SQL Saturday Atlanta. And then Ignite, so I flew from Atlanta to Ignite in Orlando, and then from Orlando to Netherlands for Techorama, and I was back for like four days. Then I flew to Madrid for SQL Saturday Madrid. It was crazy.

PK: I remember, this was wild. How could you do it?

AS: And then I was back from that, and then where did I go? I went somewhere else after that.

PK: Like Mexico, Brazil?

PL: We went to Uruguay. It’s just too much. Honestly, I like to do more, but… You don’t have time.

AS: We get asked to do a lot of stuff, and we want to do it, we love doing it. We just don’t…

PK: It’s not easy. What was your best trip?

AS: Uruguay was pretty fun. It was such a small group, that was their first SQL Saturday. It probably wasn’t the right thing to do from a business and impact perspective. It was an incredible trip and the guys down there that organized it, they took care of us. They were with us the whole time translating and it was great. What else? Like SQL Saturday Holland and DataMinds Connect, those guys took care of me. He does not do as much international stuff.

PL: I’m a domestic kind of guy.

AS: We’ve had a good time everywhere we go. Ignite was fun. Cause they buy out Universal Studios for the night, so that was fun.

KN: Do you have any photos?

AS: Yes, I do actually. My older daughter loves Harry Potter, and she was mad at me. She found out I was going to Universal, and she’s like ‘You can’t go’. And I’m like ‘I have to go. I’m speaking at the thing. They’re making me go. I’ve got to go’

PL: You didn’t have to go.

AS: And, so I’m there and of course then I’m sending her pictures ‘Hey look, here’s me with the dragon’. And she loves dragons, and she’s like… I remember her face. So we’re actually… because I’m going to Orlando again in a couple of weeks for the Gartner conference. And, so I said ‘I’m sorry, I’ve got to go back to Orlando again’. And they’re like ‘Nooo’. So actually I’m taking the family, we’re gonna go a few days before we go to Universal Studios. Because I was like ‘There’s gonna be a trip to some park, I know that’. And they were like… My wife was not happy, and we were like ‘No, we’re going’.

PK: Next time when you’re in the UK, I live right next to Warner Bros studios. You’re more than welcome to come and see.

AS: Next time I come to London I will do that.

PL: We want to go to Warner Brothers studio.

AS: We have fun at every single one.

PL: Everywhere we go. Bits last year was fun, the party was amazing.

AS: (SQL)Bits party is always the best. I brought the family to (SQL)Bits, because it was in London, so they… That was their first time out of the country, so we did that. And then they came to the party too, and I told them ‘Is this alright? Because I’m bringing my kids’. ‘No, no. It’s great. They’ll have a good time’. They loved it. My wife was actually mad though, because they did a tourist thing with the 9 and 3/4 thing where you got to pay like… it was like 40 quid or something like that to take a picture. And then they had the same set up at the Bits party where you can… She’s like, ‘son of a…’ like… ‘I could have just done it right here’. And you could have done it with Harry Potter.

Guy in a Cube Unplugged. 21st February 2018 in London at CodeNode

PL: And I’m not just saying that because she’s sitting here, but the user group last year…

AS: The user group last year. That was the best user group I’ve ever been to.

PL: Next level user group. I’m just saying that cause she’s sitting over here.

AS: Seriously, I still talk about that user group. The facility was amazing, the lighting was great, I got some epic bureau. I got a picture that I haven’t sent to Prathy about a year.

PL: They ran out of pizza last year.

AS: They did run out of pizza.

PL: But somebody took us to get steak. I’m not saying that cause she’s sitting here next to me.

AS: What I loved the best was cause we were getting ready and I was joking around, she’s like ‘Do you need anything?’ I’m like ‘Beer would be good’. ‘Boom, here you go’.


All Power BI guru together. 21st of February 2018 in London at CodeNode

Patrick LeBlanc at London Power User Group

PL: So I’m not saying anything cause she’s just sitting here but that was one of the best user groups.

AS: And the room was packed.

PK: Yeah, it was like 300-ish people. It was silly. I mean I enjoyed it. The way you guys started and the way you’re talking was just like… I don’t know how many people like you…

AS: So that’s an example of like… We don’t really talk to each other. I didn’t necessarily know what he was gonna do, he didn’t know what I was gonna do.

PL: We just knew we were gonna do some demos. It’s like ‘wait, who’s gonna go first?’

PK: I think it’s obviously whatever we see on the screen, it’s like… We can see there’s a lot of natural talent. It’s great. We enjoy it.

Steak dinner, London.

KN: I still remember our dinner after the event.

PL: It was great, the steak was amazing.

AS: I didn’t know where we were going. We went downstairs somewhere, underneath the road…

PL: Somebody took my coat and then we sat down. Oh, so good…

KN: We know that you have this amazing flow during a session. Do you prepare yourself for a speech?

PL: For the sessions that we do?

AS: It depends. Some of it depends on where like some of the stuff we’ve done, we’ve done before. For that, we don’t really prepare much. We know what we’re gonna do. Some of it we’ll maybe do a little update and touch-ups because of new features and things of that nature. If it’s not new, we’ll spend more time on it. But not to the level that I know some people do where they have to rehearse it. We don’t do it.

PL: So slides. I hate slides.

AS: I’ll throw some slides on that.

PL: I’ll kind of put some stuff together.

AS: He’s the demo guy.

PL: I hate slides. We have a session tomorrow.

AS: He’s great. I told you, he’s the demo master.

PL: We have an intimate, a new one.

AS: We have a whole lot of stuff.

PL: We have this new one called Intimate with Desktop.

AS: We need to sit down and talk about that. Because I’m not so sure what we’re doing there.

PL: All the demos, it’s great, it’s phenomenal, and it’s not your typical… You know, it’s just different things.

AS: We’re showing things.

PL: The people may not have used.

AS: And maybe not even know about.

PL: You may not even know about it. You may not even know that it’s there. There’s not one slide, there’s a ‘Hey, this is us’ and ‘Ask questions’. And then all the .pbix files are on OneDrive somewhere, we’ll give you a link. Check them out. Now there’s a new one that we do on paginated reports. I did spend some time, putting some slides together, haven’t given it to him yet. They’re awful.

AS: We’re doing a keynote tomorrow. We actually need to spend some time a little bit on that. We wanna make sure that’s a little more… We’ll get it sorted.

PL: So not a lot of preparation unless it’s something we’re doing new. And then most of the time…

AS: But even then, it’s not like… We don’t do like rehearsing timings. We don’t do any of that.

PL: Somebody will put it together and go ‘Okay, this is where you’re gonna talk, this is where you’re gonna talk’.

AS: Cause the other thing like we know, like timings, like we know our timings. And we know that we can stretch it or pull it back. We know how to do that. So we don’t worry about that. We never worry about that.

PK: I think when you know the content it’s kind of… It makes it easy.

PL: But then it’s like I know when to interject almost intuitively. When to say… Or I almost can feel when Adam wants to say something, cause I’ll slow down and I’ll go ‘You’ve got something to say? You want to add something?’

AS: We just know each other. It’s a natural thing.

PK: I did presentations with other people, it’s not easy.

PL: It’s not easy, it is not easy. I refused to present with other people. I refuse. I’ve been asked a couple of times. I think the last time was a couple of PASS Summits ago.

AS: I’ve had to it before and then also they start doing what we do, and it’s like ‘No’.

PL: I’m just not doing it. I’ll just present by myself. No, I’m sorry. I’ll say ‘No, no, thank you’. ‘Well, you can’t come to the conference’. ‘That’s fine. I go to enough.’ I’ll record some videos at home.

AS: I think that’s part of why The Guy in a Cube works. Because of the natural flow.

PK: So Patrick, it’s a question to you. You are a great presenter, I’m sure you know that.

AS: Don’t tell him that! Cause there was time where his head was so big he had to walk sideways into the room.

PL: I gotta get serious.

PK: Who do you look up to?

PL: To be honest. This is true and I’m not gonna say that, because he’s sitting in the room. Adam. I really, really do look up to Adam. Adam’s been… So I was in Sales at Microsoft and it was… I’m not gonna say this. It wasn’t that great, right? The role, because I’m like this. If they invited me in to talk to your company, and I’m with this guy. This is not knocking Microsoft, right? And the guys selling them Data Lake, and I go ‘oh, they don’t need Data Lake… you just need a SQL Server’. ‘You need Azure SQL Database, the smallest one’. And I’m like ‘Oh my God, I gotta…’ And then they’ll come back ‘Patrick, you just cost me, you know, a million dollars’ I’m like ‘Yeah, but it’s the right thing to do for the customer’. Every morning I was like ‘Oh God, I gotta go and talk to these people and I gotta listen to this’. ‘It’s OK, dude. We’re gonna get you out of that job’. I say ‘Okay’. Then I started doing Guy in a Cube. People say a lot of stuff about Patrick, he’s not technical enough, he’s not… ‘Don’t worry, dude, don’t worry about it’. Right? In the end. Made it happen.

AS: It wasn’t me. I mean, he was doing the work.

PK: We all can see it in the videos and everything.

PL: Even on the team I don’t feel like I belong, but he goes ‘Don’t worry about it’. Just keep doing what you’re doing. So there’s other people, right? So honestly one of my biggest idols is President Obama, right? I’m a black man, and he was the first brown president, right? And for other little brown boys, who are facing a lot of challenges… In America, he’s a role model because it’s not who he was as a president or what he did as a president. He became the president, right? I don’t care what he did or how bad he did or how good he did. He became, so now I can say ‘Wow, it’s possible’ for young brown men, too. And Will Smith. I’m just kidding. Adam had a story about it.

AS: It has been multiple occasions where he… Last night it happened, where it was just like: ‘Has anyone told you, you look like Will Smith?’ I’m like ‘Oh, here we go’.

PL: No, I was just kidding. Because you gotta think about, when we work together, Adam or I go ‘Man, how to do this’. And he goes ‘Hang on a second’. And he will send me a link. So he’s not like ‘I’m not gonna tell you how to do this, go figure this shit out yourself’. So sorry, beep that out. Go figure it out. Cause he knows I’m gonna figure it out. I may have some questions, you know, but…


Useful links

Guy in a Cube: WebSite | YouTube | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Snapchat
Adam Saxton – Twitter
Patrick LeBlanc – Twitter
Products: Microsoft Power BI | Ideas
Events: SQLBits Website & Twitter | TechoramaPower BI World Tour
Community: London Power BI User Group | Meetup

Recommended book: Patrick Hanlon – Primalbranding: Create Zealots for Your Brand, Your Company, and Your Future

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Kamil Nowinski
Kamil Nowinski 200 posts

Blogger, speaker. Data Platform MVP, MCSE. Senior Data Engineer & data geek. Member of Data Community Poland, co-organizer of SQLDay, Happy husband & father.

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  1. Michał Pawlikowski
    June 23, 13:13 Reply

    I’m still catching up.. And I regret not listening to it before. You’ve made my day! 😀 I’m still smiling 😉

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      June 23, 14:57 Reply

      Oh yeah… that interview was exceptional for many reasons! 🙂 Thanks for listening, Michał.

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