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  • Mara Pereira

My views on Power BI core skills


I'm going to start this post by saying that it will be a bit different from the posts I've written before. Today, I will be sharing with you my ideas around core Power BI skills, and how I see them changing in the future.


I'm very interested in learning about your experiences and your opinions around this topic as well, so please share your thoughts on the comments below. All points of view are valuable!




If you work with Power BI already, you probably agree with me when I say that over the years, the product has grown so much that it's almost impossible to keep up to date with all the new features! And, not just that, it's becoming increasingly more difficult to be good at every aspect of it.


I've been thinking about this for a while now, so I decided to come up with the concept of the Power BI Skills Triangle.


"What is the Power BI Skills Triangle?" you might be asking... And that's a very good question!

So, as I mentioned before, Power BI is becoming this huge product, with so many different components, the possibilities are almost endless. From data modelling, to data visualisation, to data governance, to machine learning, to embedding... you name it!




But one thing I noticed over the years is that, because Power BI grew so much, people started to "specialise" in one of 3 core areas: Data Modelling, Data Visualisation and Governance & Admin.


Enter the Power BI Skills Triangle!




In my triangle, I divided the Power BI core skills in 3 main categories: Data Modelling, Data Visualisation and Governance & Admin. In other words, we can say that Data Modelling is the Backend, Data Visualisation is the Frontend, and Governance & Admin is the glue that brings everything together.


Each one of the core skills is represented as a corner of the triangle above. As I mentioned before, this is just an idea I have based on my experience working with Power BI, so it's completely normal if you have a different view on this.


There are some aspects I deliberately didn't include here, such as the Machine Learning or Text Analytics capabilities. In my opinion, they would naturally fall into the "Data Modelling" corner, as this is, most of the times, done at the data modelling stage of a project.



So, what's this triangle for anyway?


Let's take a real life example. Let's talk about my experience, and how I see myself in that triangle.


I positioned myself on the Data Visualisation corner as this is definitely the area I'm most comfortable with.


But, you guessed it... Even though I consider myself pretty good when it comes to transforming data into insights, I'm not as good with Data Modelling, or Admin & Governance.


And this is where I think the triangle gets really interesting.


From my experience, most people will position themselves in one of these 3 corners. Not surprisingly, they will probably say they are not as good in the other two categories.


If you're really good with Data Visualisation, you know how to tell a good story with data, you know how to transform data into insights to help the business make better data driven decisions, you know what's the right visualisation to use for a specific use case, you know how to display the information so it answers your business users questions in a user friendly way... In summary, you're very good at taking data and transforming it into beautiful and useful insights. On the other hand, what I noticed is that this person will probably not be that comfortable when it comes to Data Modelling and Governance & Admin.


The same thing goes with Data Modelling, if you're more into the data modelling part of things, you're probably very good with Power Query, DAX and M. You know how to make any data model have a very good performance. You know exactly when to use Import mode vs Direct Query, you love composite models... But yes, you guessed it again! This person is usually less comfortable when it comes to Data Visualisation, in other words, transforming that data model into actionable insights. And that's ok, this is why we have people on the Data Visualisation corner. In the end, we all need each other!


And lastly, the Governance & Admin corner. People that are more focused on this usually know the Admin Portal from inside out. They manage the tenant, they define the policies that answer questions such as "Who can create workspaces? What reports are there in our tenant? How many workspaces do we have? What's the usage metrics for those workspaces?". You're usually on top everything that is happening in your Power BI tenant, you constantly check the usage metrics, and you ensure that Power BI is being used in the right way. You can also manage the Gateway Cluster, even though sometimes this is centrally managed by IT.


So you can probably spot the pattern here. If I ask you to position yourself in the triangle, which corner(s) would you choose?


You might even choose two of the corners, but you probably won't be positioning yourself in all 3.


If you're extremely good at all 3 core skills... well, you are definitely a Power BI Unicorn! Don't get me wrong when I say this, unicorns are lovely but... they are very hard to find.



Having this, what I think is that Power BI will only grow bigger.

More capabilities, more features... all the juicy stuff we love!


This means that it will become even harder to be very good at all 3 core skills. People will start specialising more and more in one or two of the skills, Power BI unicorns will become even more rare...


Today, I still don't see the separation of these 3 roles very much, everything is usually aggregated into one: the Power BI Developer. But I believe the future will look a bit different.

We will start seeing more and more Data Visualisation Specialists, Data Modellers, Power BI Administrators... And I truly believe this is a very good thing!


Trying to fit everything into one single role/person is becoming very very hard. So having multiple people responsible for different parts of the reporting process/platform is definitely the way to go. This way, each one of those individuals can focus on what they do best, they can focus on their "corner".

Of course you still need to know a bit about everything (and you should, never forget the growth mindset!), but you will probably add more value if you're not trying to be the master of all the Power BI corners...




I also wanted to introduce you to another concept (not invented by me this time 😅):

The T-Shaped person.



What is a T-Shaped person?

"A T-shaped person has deep knowledge/skills in one area and a broad base of general supporting knowledge/skills."

The T-Shaped Person: Building Deep Expertise AND a Wide Knowledge Base (collegeinfogeek.com)


Why are we talking about this "T-Shaped person" concept?

I want to make sure that you understand that, even though you can specialise in one of the 3 corners of the Power BI Skills Triangle, you should still know enough about all the other corners to be truly successful. Becoming a master of Data Modelling without understand what you can do in terms of data visualisation is probably not a very good strategy.



From: The T-Shaped Person: Building Deep Expertise AND a Wide Knowledge Base (collegeinfogeek.com)



What does the T-Shaped concept has to do with the Power BI Skills Triangle?

Well, if you look at the T-Shape image, you can see that vertically we have the "In Depth Knowledge" and horizontally we have the "Basic Knowledge Skills".

The true value is in combining both the basic knowledge skills with the in-depth knowledge, or, in simplistic words, be the "Jack of many trades, master of (at least) one".


This will give you the skills you need to understand and communicate effectively with specialists from different fields, and for this specific case of Power BI, this will have a very positive impact in the effective collaboration between the Data Modeller, the Data Visualisation specialist and the Power BI Admin.


So, in summary, I think that becoming really good at one of the Power BI Triangle corners will be hugely beneficial in the future, but, you should try to avoid becoming too specialised. Technology is constantly evolving, so you should always try to have that "Basic Knowledge Skills" under your belt.


You can also use this triangle to check your own knowledge. You can use it as an incentive to get better at the "corners" you're not so comfortable with, gaining that Basic Knowledge that will for sure have a huge impact on your development as a data professional.

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