As the capital of North Carolina, I knew Raleigh would be an exciting place. The Raleigh Historic District is place full of beautiful architecture and fascinating stories. This “Oak City” is (of course) home to NC State University as well as Shaw University, the first historically black university in the American South. Raleigh is a 1/3 of the Research Triangle and is home to numerous cultural, educational, and historic sites. The Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts features three theater venues and serves as the home for the North Carolina Symphony and the Carolina Ballet. The North Carolina Museum of Art was the first state art museum in the country. If you are more into sports, Raleigh is home to the Carolina Hurricanes, a hockey league that was moved here in 1997.
Meet the Roots to this SQL Tree
Kevin Feasel is the current chapter leader for the Triangle SQL Server User Group as of October 2015.
When did you begin your professional career? My post-graduate career began as a web developer working for the State of Ohio in 2007.
What’s a normal week at work like for you? My job involves running a predictive analytics team which follows three M's: machine learning, microservices, and making servers fall over. Rephrasing that last sentence ever so slightly, the purpose of our team is to analyze our data, look for interesting correlations and trends, and build models which help drive business decisions. This team is a back office team, so we build and expose microservices to other product teams at the company, letting them integrate our predictions into their product offerings. And when you're training tens of thousands of neural nets in a go, it turns out you can peg a SQL Server's CPU at 100% for, oh, the better part of a week straight.
The average week is pretty interesting, and includes literature review, back-end-stack development in a bunch of languages (T-SQL, R, Python, C#, and sometimes even a bit of F#), and at least one unreasonable request of our DBA team.
What was your first IT or computer project that added value? (For example, something that was not a part of school assignment or a learning project) My first valuable project was a website that tracked minor league statistics for Atlanta Braves organizational players. This was several years before sites like Baseball Reference tracked minor leaguers, and at the time, the only valuable place to get minor league stats was Baseball America. Those stats were pretty limited, though, so I built a site to scrape, expand beyond the "standard" stats (at the time, that was limited to batting average, slugging percentage, and on-base percentage for batters), and analyze those stats. The site would let you see how players performed over the course of the season and calculated a number of then-advanced stats. I even generated (using gnuplot) graphs for each player, showing trends over the course of the season. There was some C++ code, a bit of Bash scripting, and a website built on Django. It was a lot of fun at the time, even if I kept having to fix a finicky web scraper and wake up early on Sundays to run updates.
What sort of career do you think you’d pursue today if you hadn’t chose IT? I probably would have ended up an economist–that was my graduate degree, so it's not too much of a leap.
When did you come to the area? I moved down to Durham, North Carolina in July of 2013. I'd lived in Columbus, Ohio for most of my life and wanted to go someplace without nearly as much winter. The joke I like to use is that, like most Ohioans, I started to drive down to Florida, but said, "Meh, good enough" when I got to the Triangle.
What caused you to decide to help as a volunteer leader? I'd gotten into the SQL Server community shortly before moving down to Durham, but it really took off when I moved. At that time, I worked from home (and was that company's sole North Carolinian), so getting into user groups gave me a chance to meet people in the area. Not too long after moving down, I agitated about getting a SQL Saturday in the Triangle area (there having not been one since 2010) and the then-chapter leader basically said, "Sounds great; go do it."
What is the IT community like in your town? The Research Triangle Park area is full of smart people doing interesting things. The three major universities in the area (Duke, NC State, and UNC Chapel Hill) create jobs in fields like biotech, and the area has been known for analytics (especially SAS, whose headquarters is in Cary).
What do you enjoy doing in the area? When I have time (sadly, less often than I'd like), I enjoy getting out on the bike trails. The Neuse River trail is my favorite: 34 miles of fairly flat, quiet terrain punctuated with the Neuse River dam at the trailhead.
What do you recommend visitors to your town do on their own #sqlvacation? In Durham, go see the Bulls, check out Duke Gardens, and take a day trip to Eno River Park. In Raleigh, go visit the museums downtown (which are usually free on Saturday). No matter where you are, get chicken and waffles.
Enter the #SQLVacation 2017 Contest!
Have you set your vacation plans for the summer? If so, share them with the #SQLFamily community and on social media using the hashtag #SQLVacation for a chance to win an awesome apron and ThinkGeek gift card! Visit the SQL Vacation page for more contest details.
Contest ends July 29th, and you don't want to miss it. Happy Summer!