Learning some DAX

I’ve not done much BI work in my career, other than simple aggregates in reports. I’ve wanted to tackle projects, but I’ve rarely had a chance to spend time in this area at work.

Recently I had a bit of time and decided to look at some Power BI courses.  At Pluralsight, when searching Power BI, I got a learning path that showed a number of courses from different authors. In the intermediate track, the first course was from Eugene Meidinger.

2019-12-09 13_40_32-Microsoft Power BI for Analysts Path _ Pluralsight

I met Eugene last year at SQL Saturday Pittsburgh and decided to give his course on Getting Started with DAX Formulas in Power BI, Power Pivot, and SSAS. Not quite what I wanted, but since I was curious about DAX, I decided to give it a try.

Understanding DAX

The intro is interesting. Eugene makes a good case for why DAX is important in the Microsoft stack. I tend to agree as I see this being incorporated into many products, including Excel. I’ve felt somewhat out of touch in that I haven’t known much about it and how it works. Even when I flip through our Stairway series, I’m somewhat skimming and haven’t really understood what it means.

I think Eugene does a good job of trying to explain DAX as different than, but similar to Excel. Thinking of this as an expression language, rather than a query language, isn’t something I’ve considered. Maybe I’ve heard this, but it didn’t stick.

He also lets me know this isn’t easy, which is what I’ve thought. I’ve seen Bill Pearson and Reza Rad talk some DAX, and it wasn’t quite clear to me. It felt clear when they were speaking, but not later. I’m hoping Gene teaches me a bit more in my office rather than in a 1 hour session.

Going Through the Overview

I went through the first few modules, which give you an overview and basic understanding. Eugene tries to explain the differences between DAX and SQL, which is a good way to approach the problem. Many of us are familiar with SQL, so this is helpful.

The third module starts to get into data governance and where you use DAX with your data. This is interesting, and it’s a good look at what type of organization you deal with for data. How is your data managed, which is something that most companies don’t really have a good, or consistent, data governance strategy.

One good thing is that Eugene explains  the different places where DAX is supported for queries. That’s good since I’ve been thinking of DAX as the Power BI language, but it’s not. It can be used in Excel with PowerPivot.

The fourth module is the one where we start to understand column storage and the value this gives us. Still no DAX, but it’s a good module for analysts and relation people.

In getting through 4 modules, no real technical stuff that’s helped me, but it’s given me a little better baseline.

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