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Interview with Mikey Bronowski & Jess Pomfret - Organisers of Southampton Data Platform and Cloud User Group

Blue, white, yellow and red Southampton Data Platform and Cloud logo

Lauren James

Spectrum IT sponsor a range of technology user groups across Hampshire. The purpose, to bring together IT professionals keen to share best practice and engage in discussion about technology and the future of their profession.

Southampton Data Platform and Cloud (@SotonDataCloud) has been running since 2010 (originally Southampton SQL Server User Group). In that time we have had many speakers both local and international present high-quality sessions on a range of SQL Server and data platform topics.

Here Spectrum IT enters a Q&A session with Mikey Bronowski (@MikeyBronowski) & Jess Pomfret (@jpomfret) to find out how they got involved in SQL and running the Southampton Data Platform and Cloud User Group.


How did your career start out?

Jess: I was looking for any IT job after studying in America, I ended up getting a job as a Database Administrator (that I’m not certain I was qualified for). I learnt a lot at that company and found that I really enjoyed working with databases and writing PowerShell code to automate any repetitive tasks.

Mikey: While still at the uni I joined a small company as a SQL programmer and from there my main interest were the databases. Two years later I became a DBA and I am still working with the databases today.


What is your current job role? What is a typical workday like?

J: Currently work as a Data Platform Architect for Data Masterminds. It’s a great job and one of the reasons is there isn’t really a typical workday. Depending on which client needs help that day it could be anything from writing automation processes to performance tuning.

M: Since early this year I am a Data Platform Architect at datamasterminds.io. This is a consulting role, so I usually have a few calls with customers and work on planned activities. At DMMs we don’t work alone, but rather as a team, so we always have something interesting to do.


What tech tools / gadgets make your job easier and why?

J: One gadget I got recently that I love is a StreamDeck, this is an external panel of buttons that you can program to do almost anything. From muting\unmuting on teams calls to running PowerShell scripts – it can all be done at the press of a button.

M: Multiple monitors are live savers – I have 4 screens at the moment and use them all 😊 I also like my wireless/multidevice Logi keyboard and mouse so I can easily switch between laptops using the same set of peripherals.


What aspects of your role do you enjoy the most and what would you change or improve?

J: I have a lot of flexibility in my current role, there is always client projects to be working on but we also are given the freedom to spend time working on things we want to work on, and on learning and improving our skillset.

M: A consultant role is a different type from what I used to do. It can be challenging and refreshing when switching between customers. It is a fully home-based role which helps a lot with life-work balance. So far nothing to complain about


How do you stay up to date with industry trends?

J: Mostly from Twitter, I follow a lot of industry experts that are always sharing blogs and links to post. I also try and attend a few conferences each year, both in person and virtual.

M: Since my main domain is Microsoft Data Platform I follow people who worked with that technology on Twitter (#SQLFamily) or LinkedIn. There is a lot of knowledge shared. For more technical and deeper discussions I pop into the Slack channel https://dbatools.io/slack/

It also helps to be an MVP and an MCT with early access to some Microsoft product releases.


How did you get involved with Spectrum IT?

J: Spectrum were kind enough to sponsor our Southampton user group.

M: I was introduced by previous group leaders Steph and John Martin when I took over the organisation. Since then Spectrum IT supports our user group so we have a place to meet and pizza to keep us awake and focused.


Could you elaborate on what Southampton Data Platform and Cloud is and the core purpose of the group?

J: This user group is a way for data professionals to come together once per month and learn and network. We usually enjoy one or two sessions per month, but then also have a chance to chat over pizza and catch up with what over data folks in the Hampshire area are up to.

M: The SotonDataCloud is a place for people who want to learn something new (outside their daily routine) and meet with other people that share the same fascination with data and technology.


How are you involved with the User Group?

J: I attend most months and have presented in the past too. Also happy to help Mikey out when he needs some assistance.

M: I am the main organiser of the user group and that involves finding new speakers, setting up all the social media channels and running the event. In short 😊 I would not have done it all without the wonderful people who help me every single month: Jess, Lauren and Magda. Thank you all 😊


How do you come up with speakers/topics for your talks? What advice would you give to beginners?

J: Everyone has something they can teach. Even if others are already presenting on a certain topic, there are many ways to present similar information and that might resonate better with different people.

M: For the user group, we have sessionize.com CFP set up and advertised, so people can submit their talks. As for ideas for my own sessions, I pick something I want to learn or something that helped me at work and then while learning I make a session draft. Once it is done I submit it for various events and when accepted I get the motivation to work on a final version.


Who would you recommend in the IT community? Who has influenced you?

J: I was encouraged to start speaking by Allen White and Erin Stellato but a lot of people have helped me along the way.Special shoutouts to Chrissy LeMaire, the creator of dbatools, she helped me with my first pull request to the dbatools module – that was the start of my community contributions. Also to Rob Sewell, he’s given me plenty of guidance and support over the years.

M: There are many great people in the IT community. For the Microsoft technologies, I can suggest looking up an MVP in the category one is most interested in https://mvp.microsoft.com/en-us/MvpSearch

See what they do, and from there follow the events they speak at, and the products they create. If I need to pinpoint one specific area it would be the whole group behind the dbatools.io.


What is your next goal?

J: Carry on speaking and giving back to the community. I’d like to speak at PSConfEU in Prague next year. Also creating additional content to get people into using dbatools and dbachecks.

M: Keep speaking at the events, hopefully at SQL Bits next year in Wales. As well, as attract more people to the user group who would like to start speaking about data and technology.


What advice would you give to people trying to get into the industry?

J: Find something you enjoy and start learning and playing about. There are loads of opportunities in the SQL and PowerShell communities to attend meetups and free conferences to kick start the learning.

M: I would suggest following Twitter, Slack, and MVPs – to see what people are working on. Maybe try contributing to some open-source projects and learn this way and get your name out there. If one thinks about writing a blog or running a vlog, just start and don’t worry about style. Start writing and sharing. A good place to give inspiration is tsqltuesday.com . If you want to start speaking locate your local event aka.ms/datacommunity or check out these events that help new speakers datagrillen.com/dataminutes & newstarsofdata.com


What do you do in your spare time? Hobbies etc?

J: I enjoy cycling and CrossFit to keep in shape. I also really love travelling the world with my wife and experiencing new cultures and foods.

M: We love family trips to the New Forest or the seaside. When out and about I freeze time with my camera (https://bronowski.it/photo/).


What plans are there for Southampton Data Platform and Cloud in the future?

J: Continue to grow the member base and provide great content and networking opportunities.

Also encourage members to share their stories and content with lightening talks and mentoring opportunities so they can integrate further into the community.

M: The user group was about networking, of course, the last two years were challenging for physical events. The in-person meetings resumed earlier this year, and we are running in a hybrid mode until January 2023. After that we will change the formula, however, that’s not set in stone yet. Hopefully, we can invite more speakers to Southampton and revive in-person meetings as people are starting to mingle again.


To see what upcoming events Southampton Data Platform and Cloud are running, visit their meetup page here