6 strange things I do as a data architect

It is healthy to have a good work life balance in our lives. I try to leave my work in the office as much as possible. Schedules and deadlines can make that challenging. There are those times in the shower when the perfect solution for a work problem pops into your head. It’s just going to happen.

It’s those involuntarily moments that show we may try to separate work life from home life, but they are never totally isolated. There are also those off the clock times when data modeling comes into my mind, and I solve a problem with a database design. Here are some of my favorite data architect mind wanderings that you might find entertaining.

  1. Reverse engineering my grocery receipt
    I love grocery receipts. They are getting longer and more detailed. There is so much data on that little slip of paper. Beyond the expected grocery item detail, there are discounts, coupons, store loyalty rewards, my shopping history to date and much more. I love building the store’s data model in my mind from the receipt and thinking of how I would improve the design to make me happier.
  2. Knowing that the database gives me coupons at check-out
    The cash register coupon printer is like a Vegas slot machine. This is especially true at my drug store where my toothpaste and shaving cream purchase spawns a 4 foot register receipt of coupons and cash back rewards. Jackpot! Customer loyalty cards are a very visible and rewarding consequence of allowing a retailer to keep tabs on my purchases. It is especially rewarding to know that data warehousing and customer centric databases are the backbone of this technology. Yes, data is king at the cash register.
  3. Fix a phone app’s data so that it works properly
    Apps are proliferating like rabbits. It’s nice to see that a single person or group of techie friends can launch an app that meets a need in handheld computing. I seem to always hone into the missing or non-functioning features of the app. It’s the same old story. They wanted to make money fast and could not spare the time to understand their data. I can see the missing relationships and attributes as I work my way through the app. Database design on the run caught up with them in the end.
  4. Debug the data deficiencies of your bank’s on-line banking
    On-line banking is a life saver. I love depositing my checks by snapping a pic on my phone. I am frustrated with data inconsistencies that make it from the mainframe into the handheld app world. The islands of data are exposed with multiple logins when I pass into a different account. Above all, I hate the password rules that do not allow special characters. It’s time to update those databases and connect them.
  5. Modeling TV sitcoms
    I know this is a strange one, but I find it fascinating. Sitcoms make good fodder for data modeling. First, they have a pretty diverse set of characters and story lines. Secondly, they follow a distinct tried and true formula. Data modeling is about patterns and reuse. The sitcom is a good exercise to keep my mind busy. Plus, it gives me something interesting to do since I already know how it’s going to end based on the modeling pattern.
  6. Separate M&Ms and Skittles by color
    OK I know I am not alone out there in organizing my candy before I eat them. This is most likely more an attribute of an analytical mind than it is of a data modeler’s mind. Let’s face it. It is about finding commonalities based on attributes and organizing them into entities. Yeah, it is somewhat of a reach, but I do so love doing it.

Tom Bilcze

I am presenting at Data Modeling Zone 2014 in Portland, Oregon. I hope that you will join me in my sessions: Is your data model a work of art? and Relationship versatility and the data modeler #DMzone

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One Comment
  1. I am right there with you on organizing my candy by color. Especially when the different colors have distinct flavors, I like to have them aligned instead of mixed. =) Have a good time at DMZ!

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