Buck Woody, one of Microsoft’s pioneers in the data science, business intelligence and analytics space, was in Ireland recently for the 2017 SQL Saturday Dublin. Following the event, he spoke to TalentHub about programming and the current climate for developers and nurturing IT talent, especially through continual education and upskilling.
Based in Florida in the US, Woody currently works in the Machine Learning and Data Science Team at Microsoft.
With a career spanning more than 30 years in the fields of business intelligence, data science and database architecture, ‘big data’, analytics, SQL, design, IT infrastructure and security, he is renowned for his pioneering work in the area of databases. He also spends a lot of time on the move with Microsoft and lecturing and speaking at various events across the globe.
Crucially, Woody was part of the Microsoft team that pioneered Windows Azure, and this appears to be one of the defining moments in a fruitful career that has witnessed many technological transitions. Educating people and sharing knowledge is a major part of his work at Microsoft.
While in Dublin for SQL Saturday, for instance, Woody hosted a ‘deep-dive’ training day for technical professionals who work with Microsoft R using SQL Server Data. The goal of such events as SQL Saturday, is to help upskill an already thriving talent pool in Ireland’s knowledge economy.
At the event, Woody offered guidance and real-world examples on topics such as Cortana Intelligence Suite, while he also covered topics such as data transfer and storage.
Right now at Microsoft, Woody is working in the areas of artificial intelligence (AI) and research.
He also sits on the Data Science Board at University of Washington where he teaches students on database design. A powerful advocate for self-learning, he says this stems back to his passion for being in public libraries to absorb new information through reading – even from a young age. “I was one of those kids who was always at the library,” he says.
Keen to highlight the continual webinars and on-demand courses that are on offer for developers and programmers, Woody likens the internet to a “Library of Alexandria” or a ‘Tower of Babel”, a powerhouse of knowledge.
All that is required is the will to learn new things and continually upskill, he argues.Looking to the next generation of IT professionals, Woody points to the many opportunities, especially in areas such as data and security. Areas that he personally finds particularly exciting include AI, robotics and augmented reality, plus the whole realm of image recognition software.
Despite the rapid pace of technological advancements, however, he says that developers need to be “grounded” in the fundamentals before they leap into areas such as AI.He says there will always be a need for people who are versed in database development and he believes that people should be proficient in at least one programming language.
It all goes back to knowing the foundations, he says.
“Logics, maths, specifically linear algebra, and statistics those are the things I would look at first, basic and early. Then, I would say learn a data tool and a visualisation tool. R, SQL, Python – if nothing else – Excel, Power BI.
“Understanding how to display, manipulate and interpret data is fundamental to any kind of IT job,” he affirms.
Finally, reflecting on the SQL Saturday Dublin event, Woody says and he says the entire tech area is just “amazing” in Dublin, a city he has visited a few times.
For those who wish to learn more about Woody’s insights into data science and business intelligence, you can also check out his professional blog here. Woody is the author of numerous books on machine learning technologies. He has also written books such as Cloud Computing, 3rd Age of Computing and Be the Next Microsoft Employee.
Author: Lorraine Fretwell
Lorraine has partnered with some of the biggest names in the UK & Ireland, delivering key talent for the most challenging roles. She has built and developed large teams in several agencies and has a proven track record at finding the unfindable, when presented with the quirkiest of job briefs.