Interview with Andre Melancia

I had a great time talking to Andre during the SQL Saturday #824 in Kraków. The interview was performed during one of the breaks during this event.

Andre is na independent Developer/DBA/Consultant. He has been Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) focusing on SQL Server, Azure and IoT. He has over 17 years’ fun developing information and multimedia systems, DBA, project and IT management. He is from Portugal and he plays a vital role in the IT Pro Portugal, PowerShell Portugal and IoT Portugal communities organiser.

He actively volunteering, organising, speaking or just participating at community meetings and events like SQLSaturdays, SQLBits, SQLRelay, Maker Faire Lisbon, Arduino/Genuino Day LISBON, Global Azure Bootcamp LISBON, etc.

He is a proud uncle and food devouring expert, with dangerous рuϧϧy cat as companion. Go to http://Andy.PT and you’ll know the same as the NSA…


Transcript of the interview

DOMINIKA: Could you please introduce yourself?
André Melancia
: Okay, so my name is André Melancia, I’m Microsoft Certificated Trainer, I do a little bit consulting in multiple areas like SQL Server, stuff like machine learning, everything to do with AI, IoT, a lot of stuff in the clouds.

DOMINIKA: Why do you like to data?
André Melancia
: One of the things that I have worked from one time was as a developer. Being a developer you have to understand how to do computer programs etc. But computer programs are nothing without information. Actually, information is much more important than the computer programs themselves. For instance, if you have an application and for some reason you lose source code, you lose the application,  that’s perfectly okay, you can do another application. But if you lose your information, if you lose your data. You are going to lose a lot of money. So that’s very important.

DOMINIKA: Why did you start programming at all?
André Melancia
: I started programming very young. Maybe 6, 7 years old. In ZX Spectrum, so it was very easy, it was just Basic, so I wanted to learn. First of all I just wanted to play games. But then I figured out that it was possible to do programming and to actually allow for us to do  things which the normal games didn’t do. So it was a fun experience. Then I started in normal PC Computer and I started to program things and it was really funny. Then in the university obviously you also have a lot of subjects of programming. So that continued.

DOMINIKA: What is the best in teaching and speaking in conferences. What do you enjoy the most?
André Melancia
: I like do consulting before doing speaking. But also I do a lot training for Microsoft Official Courses and other courses as well. Speaking at conferences, I really like to do that as well. It’s something that, I go to few conferences and it’s always very fun. A lot of people are there, ask me a difficult question which you don’t expect. Sometimes you know the answer, sometimes don’t. If you don’t know the answer, that’s super interesting for me, because I’m going to find that answer and learn some more in the future That’s one of the ways you learn. For instance, someone said if you want to learn a new technologies or anything new, one thing you can do is to say that in a week time I need to teach this to someone else. Either on a training or in a conference and you have to learn in by yourself. So you have to learn  but also explain it to someone else how to do that. That’s actually one of the ways that I talked about ways and somethings that I talked about the conferences and training when I learnt about them. Not just to present about them, because I know them but also because I would need to know well enough, the technology to know well enough, to actually explain it to someone else.

DOMINIKA: Do you like cloud technologies?

André Melancia: I like cloud technologies, I am always in the clouds for different reasons! I think it is not going to be the future as it is the actually the present. A lot of people are not still using the clouds because some people are actually afraid that if they put stuff in the clouds they might loose their jobs. I don’t think it’s true because you still need your job to actually handle all the technology but instead of having that in your own on-premises you actually have that in the cloud. It makes perfect sense at current time because you have the abilities you have not got before. So one of them is you know – to deploy virtual machines or whatever the service is in an automatic way. So you don’t have to install the services which is very boring. You need to press next, next, next… and wait for things to being installed which is boring. If you can just press a button and go away to send emails and suddenly everything is there for you to work with. I think that’s much better solution and in terms of pricing, if you also consider pricing, because those machines are shared by many people it is also much easier in terms of pricing.

There is one downside which is the security part. People actually consider that the security is bad and you have to consider that those are normal machines, they are somewhere in the cloud so you can have VPN’s, you can have many different types of ways you can access these machines and these services in a secure way.

However, if you consider stuff like Office365 and you know, stuff like emails and all that’s, the fact it is in the cloud, for instance if you consider spam or if you consider VM in Azure that might be attacked by someone else because there are teams – I mean not just Microsoft – but everyone else who does cloud services, they actually have very big teams to make sure that any people that are doing attacks, or sending spam, or something else that those things are minimized. So that is you as a person do not feel to do any work by yourself, because someone is centrally handling this for you.

So that benefits actually solves a lot of problems. If you have ever tried to have stuff like any email server that you host yourself on-premises that’s going to be terrible because  currently you will have 80 or 90% of spam.

So either you pay a lot of money to get a proper software to handle that and this still does not solve the problem, or you can just get a cloud service which is easier in terms of security – because the security is actually better in the cloud than in on-premises and it actually let’s you be free and not to worry about this kind of problems, because it is now someone’s else problem.  Someone else computer but also in terms of this security – you know spam issues and all of that become someone’s else problem because you are paying for a service that includes solving, well, most of these problems.

DOMINIKA: What was the biggest audience you have talked to?

André Melancia: That is the difficult one. So I think possibly during PASS Summit, I think like 350 people, maybe even more. I am not sure about the exact number. Also in Kiev there was maybe 200 people, so still a very big number. And the answer is maybe 100 people each time some like that. I like to speak for audiences which are very big. And people when do public speaking they think: “O, if it is a lot of people it is very scary!” It is actually the other way around. If you have an audience and on some events I have had audiences like 5-10 people that is actually much scarier. Because it is so less people they might actually e tempted to ask questions which you don’t know. That is actually scary. That is still ok because it is still a good learning experience to actually have smaller audiences. It gets more personal. People ask me more questions. They are more to ask questions and it is a good learning experience, because some of the questions might actually be very interesting and that person might ask you a question. If there are 300 people they are not. It is positive in lot of ways. The bigger audiences I found easier, less scarier to talk to.

DOMINIKA: What was the biggest conference you have attended?

André Melancia: PASS Summit is probably the biggest one. I have spoken on most of the biggest ones like PASS Summit or SQL Bits or SQLDay as well two years ago. Data Platform Summit in India I think. Those are the  biggest in terms of the SQL Server. One of the others I spoke at which was also very big in terms of the overall numbers was JS Talks in Sofia, Bulgaria. So that is also very big, you know. A lot of conferences here in Poland, also on Ukraine, Bulgaria are usually very big and have a lot of attendees. I know that SQLDay had 800 two years ago and maybe a 1000 last year. That’s a lot of people.

DOMINIKA: Do you have any fun stories from conferences or lectures?

André Melancia: Well, some of them I cannot talk about 😊. Yes, I possibly do, let me think about this. Yes, there was a situation which was strange. That was in Kiev maybe two years ago. I was presenting for about 200 people. My computer for some reason frozen. I know why this happened. I was doing a demo and the demo was only considering normal characters from A to Z, just simple characters. In Ukraine they use Cyrillic alphabet and I actually suggested that someone from the audience give me the name. I usually do that. I was trying to write that in Cyrillic alphabet. At the end the person came to my computer and did that in Cyrillic and I thought it is ok. Then I started the demo. The problem is the software I wrote to do the demo it was a very simple software and it wasn’t tested for all situations. I always assumed that everything is using normal  latin letters. The problem it that the  Cyrillic letters are different types of characters that requires Unicode so they require two characters per letter. Actually two bytes per letter. I was just using one. That actually failed. It brought up an error in SQL Server that I have never seen before. I could never reproduce it again even I tried to reproduce it again. It crashed my computer. It had blue or green screen which is bad. A lot of people were looking at me and then I had a very big problem to solve. Initially the computer froze and I tried to put it to work again. The it had the green screen and I had to start it again and it would not start. I had a very strange problem. Fortunately Uwe who was one of the speakers, he gave me his computer, because I was taking to long time to get mine to work and I just used cloud services like I think it was One Drive so I pick up the presentation but not the original one but the previous one and I continued to present normally. It took me 10 minutes while the computer was not working and I had to improvise and ask questions just while waiting for the computer to work. This is also something you need to expect in a presentation.

When something stops working, like a computer, you should have a second computer or something prepared to handle that. I didn’t so I was actually trying to explain what the demo do but remotely. Then I got this computer from Uwe but again has a problem. His computer is a German computer where all the letters are in the different place. So I had a lot of trouble to find the correct letters in the computer. But in the end the session turned out to be OK so I was really happy that Uwe lent me his computer. I managed to finish the session in time like normally although one of the demos obviously didn’t work because of that. I think people were still happy with that. I managed to improvise some crazy jokes. It happens. I think that is one of the strangest situations but at the end of it I actually felt happy  because it turned to be ok.

Now you have VM’s in the cloud and stuff like that you need to set up to make sure that if something fails you are immediately ready to star the next computer that is connected to the cloud in that specific address and you are ready to continue presenting without any delays.

DOMINIKA: Do you like to travel?

André Melancia: Well, it depends. I have been travelling a lot. I am not sure how many countries, but maybe 40 or 50 countries already. I enjoy going to the places but don’t enjoy the travel itself. Getting up to the airplane… I had a lot of nights sleeping at the airports because the flights are very early or something like that. Obviously no one likes to sleep at the airport. I don’t mind doing that because if you have a flight at 6 o’clock in the morning that you don’t want to take some sleep to 4 am and than take some taxi to get to the airport because you are going to be in stress that you are going to  arrive late. You are not going to sleep that night. So it is better to go to the airport and save some money on the hotel. Maybe you can go to one or two more events for that money you save that way. So I actually don’t mind sleeping at the airports. You never get to sleep. You just stay there trying to  do something with your computer or just trying to rest as much as you can because sleeping is difficult in most cases.

I do enjoy going to places and see a lot of things. Here in Poland I have been to few places. I have been to Warsaw and here to Krakow. This is the second time. Wroclaw two years ago. It is always a very interesting to visit all of these things. I have seen a lot of countries mostly in Europe. You always are going to see a new things.

Someone said that for instance when you see people are racists the solution for that problem is to actually travel and see different things and different countries and different people. See different customs and how they do things . You will learn that this is something normal and you stop being racist and not talk “This is them, this is us” because this is exactly the same. Travelling actually helps you a lot.

DOMINIKA: How do you find Kraków? Do you like it?

André Melancia: I have been here two years ago. I enjoyed it very much last time. I went to see the Wawel Castle. This year I am hoping to see a lot of other things as well. I am staying here on Monday to do some sightseeing as well. I always enjoy then I come to Poland. People are very nice.

You mentioned about funny things about conferences. That was actually a funny experience I had here in Poland the first time I came here. It was actually when I came to SQL Saturday in Kraków two years ago. I arrived in Warsaw in the airport and I stayed there for one night in Modlin. This is the second airport in Warsaw. The next day I had to go to Warsaw and then to come here by train. That was my plan. The problem is that no one there spoke English. Which  you know – it happens. This is the population that is a bit older. If it is a new population than I know they understand English. This is also problem in Portugal and other countries. If people are younger they speak English. If they are older you have a problem.

But here everyone was very nice. I said I want to get a but to Varsovia and I tried to tell the signs like “bus” and “Varsovia”  and people were very nice. They told me “look, you go here, this is number 2”. They used their fingers to tell me “this is the number of the bus. You go here and wait”. I was not able to understand anything they were saying and in the same time I could understand the gestures so people were very nice.

As soon as I get into Warsaw funny thing happened. I leaved the bus and my first option was to see the castle. I think it is a presidential castle. I wanted to see that but I had no idea where I was because in that time there was no euro-roaming so I had no option to use my phone. I decided to ask a policeman how could I get into the castle. They did not understand English. I tried French and few other languages but they did not understand. But they found someone by walkie-talkie and suddenly I was surrounded by 10 policeman all around me. I was actually getting scared because I was not sure what was happening . None of them was talking in English or other languages I understand, only in Polish. Suddenly one of them said “OK, I speak English, what do you want”. I told him that I want to go to the castle. They explained me where it is and I thanked them and I go there. People were very nice and the policemen were very nice, too. I understand that they brought all the policemen together so they probably could rob all other banks 😊during that time! Burt they were actually helping me to find the directions. People were so nice because even if they don’t understand the language they will do the best   trying to help me to get to all the places and you will not see this in many countries!

I really enjoyed to come to Poland there and ten to Kraków because of these situations as well.

DOMINIKA: Thank you!

André Melancia: Thank you very much! Amazing interview! Thank you for doing this! Hopefully you will be able to interview more people and more often!

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