Category Archives: Career Advice
Today I was thinking about the SQL PASS Summit which begins next Tuesday and I just realized that I have yet to announce that I was chosen to speak for the very first time at the Summit. I am so humbled and excited at this opportunity. I cannot begin to thank the program committee, PASS headquarters, and the SQL community enough for everything they have done for me in the past few years. At this point in my career, I truly feel that my career has exploded thanks to my involvement with SQL PASS.
Rob Volk (b|t) and I had this idea to do a humorous session where we play Laurel and Hardy depicting the interactions between junior and senior DBAs. It should be a good time for all. Our session is Wednesday at 3pm, come by and say hi. Enjoy!
For years when someone has mentioned something really intriguing I would of course respond with oh yeah I am adding that to my bucket list, or things you want to do before you die. Well a few weeks ago, I finally decided to actually compile a list just to more or less set some goals in life long-term that I would like to accomplish. I have done many parts of these items, such as sleep in every state in the country, but I am going to reset the list and move forward from this day forth. Enjoy!
- Go to Idaho and declare it to be “My own private Idaho” to everyone I encounter, no exceptions.
- Spend at least one night in every single state in the Union.
- Visit the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Grand Central Station, watch the ball drop in Times Square, grab the bull’s balls on Wall Street, dance on the Big keyboard at FAO Schwartz. Sing New York, New York at a karaoke bar, laugh at people falling while they ice skate in Rockefeller plaza. Take a cab and tell him he’s going the wrong way, and jog through Central Park.
- Have a beer and a dog at every Major League Baseball stadium.
- Watch when the Braves win the World Series from the stands.
- Watch when the Gators win the National Championship from the stands.
- Take a selfie on the top of a mountain that I hiked.
- Visit every port of call in the Caribbean.
- Have a place that when I walk in they yell “Ed” because it’s a place where everybody knows your name!
- Take a Mediterranean cruise.
- Sing “We Are the Boys of Florida” and the Alma Mater from the top of my lungs at every SEC stadium.
- Take an Alaskan cruise.
- Dress up like Gene Simmons from Kiss in full regalia and go grocery shopping.
- Attend the European SQL Bits conference.
- Attend a SQL Saturday on four different continents.
- Pack our bags and drive with no destination in mind stopping in random places.
- Take a vacation along route 66.
- Parasail into some blue water source.
- Zipline down a mountain.
- Visit Oklahoma and sing “Surry with the Fringe on Top” to everyone you encounter, no exceptions.
- Take a selfie in front of Mt Rushmore, the Grand Canyon, Buckingham Palace, Eiffel Tower, Musee du Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, the Great Pyramid of Giza, Stone Henge, the Colisseum, and the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
- Ride the Cable Cars in San Francisco and sing the Rice A Roni song. Visit the Golden Gate Bridge and tell everyone not to jump.
- Sing along with the Opera in Sydney.
- Go to Carnivale in Rio de Janeiro.
- Go cage diving in South Africa with a great white.
- Visit the Alamo and run across the field yelling “I remembered the Alamo!”
- See the northern lights.
- Learn to scuba dive.
- Tour Europe from a train.
- Eat chocolate in Switzerland.
- Ride in a sleeper car on Amtrak across the country and occasionally sing the Gambler in the dining car.
- Spend days getting lost in Italian and French art museums.
- Ride in a gondola in Venice.
- Find all the David statues in Florence and take a picture with his junk.
- Walk in Caesar’s footsteps and constantly shout out “Et tu Brute!”
- Take a European vacation and drive around the circle yelling “Parliament House, Big Ben”
- Visit a beach on five different continents.
- Take a polar plunge.
- Get over my fear of ice skating.
- Bungee jump and yell “she pushed me, please stop this ride”
- Ride in a hot air balloon.
- Make a difference in someone’s life.
- Experience a sunset and sunrise on four different oceans.
- Visit the volcanoes in Hawaii and calling it Hav-a-ee the whole time.
- Visit at least five Castles.
- Go to the real comic con in California.
- Having dinner with SQL Server friends in their neck of the woods.
- Steal someone’s bacon.
- Write a new bucket list because you cannot die if you still have items on your list.
My daughter started at the University of South Florida this week and a story she told me last night made me sad, very sad. Her roommate is a bright young lady who has chosen to major in engineering. With my strong feelings for the Women in Technology group within our SQL Server community, this made me very happy to hear about her desire to enter a STEM profession. However, after two days of classes, I was told that she has already been harassed and ridiculed for her choice of major in the predominately male classes. At this point I really do not know the specifics nor does that matter. The fact remains that there was enough of a problem that she told my daughter about it. That makes me angry.
I am thinking the next time that I go back to campus, I will do my best to encourage this young lady with some personal stories of strong, courageous women in technology that I know. Until then I told my daughter to encourage her and to let her know that I am rooting for her and to not give up because our STEM professions need her, our society needs her, and we need her.
Wow, I just realized this morning that an entire month has passed since I last blogged. Surprisingly, much has happened yet I could barely find time to blog. That isn’t necessarily true, but it sounds better than I’ve been lazy for the last 30 days.
So let’s do a rundown real quick of the last month. I spoke at the very first SQL Saturday in beautiful Cocoa Beach, Florida and had an amazing time catching up with old friends and meeting new ones. I completed my dizzying full-time college schedule with resounding success in my first semester back to the glorious University of Florida in pursuit of a Business Administration degree. Last but not least, Rob Volk (b | t) and I were selected to present our Lightning Talk for the PASS Summit in Charlotte, North Carolina. That is an extremely humbling and terribly exciting feeling. Our session, titled “DBAs in Toyland: Here’s Another Fine Mess You’ve Gotten Me Into!” is going to be a lot of fun to present as Rob and I are thoroughly enjoying the process of putting it together. Enjoy!
What motivates you? Every time I think about work and motivation, I am reminded of the quote from Office Space:
Peter Gibbons: The thing is, Bob, it’s not that I’m lazy, it’s that I just don’t care.
Bob Porter: Don’t… don’t care?
Peter Gibbons: It’s a problem of motivation, all right? Now if I work my ass off and Initech ships a few extra units, I don’t see another dime, so where’s the motivation? And here’s something else, Bob: I have eight different bosses right now.
Bob Slydell: I beg your pardon?
Peter Gibbons: Eight bosses.
Bob Slydell: Eight?
Peter Gibbons: Eight, Bob. So that means that when I make a mistake, I have eight different people coming by to tell me about it. That’s my only real motivation is not to be hassled, that and the fear of losing my job. But you know, Bob, that will only make someone work just hard enough not to get fired.
I see this all the time. When I started at my current position and I worked hard on projects, everyone said: “Why bother, it’s not going to get you anywhere.” After working here for two years, I am starting to understand that logic sadly enough. However, It goes against how I was raised.
In addition, money is the ultimate motivator, but not the only motivation. For me it is growth, I am not out to break the bank. But, I do want to be acknowledged with regular raises. I personally need something to work for, a goal whether it be financial or a clear path for potential growth. Currently I have reached a glass ceiling, there is nowhere to go and without raises, I must rely on personal motivation. Yet, everyone around me is performing less and less due to the lack of motivation. It is difficult not to become Peter Gibbons. Maybe it is time to move on? However, I must fight to remain motivated.
We had a meeting this morning where our Director talked about initiatives and people bringing forth new ideas to help streamline our department. Therefore, soon I will be bringing forth a new initiative to eliminate Oracle altogether and replace it with SQL Server. It will ultimately be denied because of the cost involved with the conversion but they will have to discuss it and think about it. Take that Oracle, SQL Server Global Domination plan is gaining traction.
When I saw this month’s subject, I lunged forward and began to write dropping everything else that I was working on. Why? Any chance to incorporate SQL Server with the Beatles is worth the time and effort. After all, they are the greatest band of all time and if you disagree then you are just going to have to live with being wrong, right?
Many moons ago, well it was actually 1997, I had written some applications in Visual Basic: yes, the old and horribly slow one, you know the one. But then I discovered Delphi (Object Pascal for the kiddies) and wrote amazing some amazing applications. I even wrote a few games back then just to prove to myself that I could, they were not horribly great but I felt accomplished and I often wonder where those floppies are so that I could play them again. Programming was my passion and it felt so amazing to create something from scratch, my own creation, my own Frankenstein: “It’s Alive!”
From there a company noticed some of my freeware applications and offered to move me to Virginia and teach me to write business applications in Progress 4GL for Unix and Windows. Wait, you are going to train me, mentor me, and pay me double my current salary. I’m in. Progress was an amazing product with a very well written SQL-compliant RDBMS that rivaled Sybase, Informix and Oracle only without the marketing hype. Their claim back then was that they were in over 60% of the Fortune 500. The problem was that with their Value Added Reseller structure, many vendors would repackage their database as their own (as was allowed if they paid enough for the rights to distribute the product), so many of those companies had no idea that their database was “Powered by Progress.”
My years with the product were amazing learning to write code that would run in Unix, compile and run in Windows and then eventually would become used inside of tags of HTML to deliver data to the web was ground breaking at the time. I was sure that this was the future, so much so that I became a consultant for the company traveling the globe for two years helping clients with installation, troubleshooting and training. I drank the kool-aid. I was pretty sure that with a little marketing they would sink the Oracle juggernaut.
At one company I even administered a SQL Server 6.5 and 7.0 boxes because they had vendor software that required it and I was the database guy for Progress. I remember thinking how SQL Server was so miniscule compared to Progress. I remember thinking that they will never make it in this sector. Well I was wrong about the Xbox, too.
Enter early 2004, I had just successfully completed a fulfilling project and was looking for my next contract opportunity. The well was dry, there were no opportunities for Progress. I had a home and a small children and my family did not want to move. The road had ended that day. I had to take a job as a systems administrator to make ends meet. The dream was over. In the words of the Beatles….
The wild and windy night, that the rain washed away
Has left a pool of tears crying for the day
Why leave me standing here? Let me know the way
Then in 2008, I started a position that was part programmer and part SQL Server DBA. Prior to this, I contemplated going back to school and leaving the IT field. But as the Beatles would say…
And still they lead me back to the long winding road
You left me standing here a long, long time ago
Don’t leave me waiting here lead me to your door
The dream had come full circle, I found my new passion: SQL Server. It really was my old passion in disguise: DATA! Hopefully this technology will be the one for many years to come, what do you think?
For me I am not sure that I am at that point. I love being a presenter, I love going to the speaker dinners for SQL Saturday events, I love meeting other speakers and talking about presenting, but in all honesty I am not sure that I am in love with presenting. But I am getting there. Presenting still terrifies the hell out of me, but it is a fear that I set out to conquer last year as a goal in my personal development plan.
For a long time, if an activity involved a public speaking component I avoided it like the plague. Seriously. I am not kidding here. I coached Dixie Youth baseball and Pop Warner football and every year I had to give a first practice speech. I would spend a couple of sleepless nights and I would vomit several times before muttering something from my note cards and then quickly move on to begin the practice. The last few years I stopped doing it all together and went around to the parents individually and this worked much better for me. Crisis averted. Problem put back on the shelf for a later date.
After several SQL Saturdays, I started to think that I could do this again. Some time ago, I was a consultant that also provided week-long training courses in addition to programming and DBA work in Progress 4GL RDBMS, but all of the material that I presented was created by a team (similar to a Microsoft training course) of professionals. Whenever I got nervous in those courses, I could always go back into the material as it had notes on the slides. It was fool-proof, and after doing them over and over I was a pro at it. But after not doing this for twelve years, the fear took over again.
After presenting a lightning talk in Pensacola, a couple of user group meetings and a few SQL Saturdays, the fight or flight reflex has lessened and the vomiting is non-existent. I can do this, I am doing this, and I will conquer this. I can proudly say that I brushed the fear back and now think that I am getting better at this. I am starting to love presenting, it has a foothold in the depth of my being. What about you?
Every day at lunch I walk around the perimeter of the work compound in the fresh sunshine. I have done this for over three months now. Today, however, I went in the reverse direction and everything appeared different. Obviously, it was the same compound with all of the same buildings and the same roads. But when you approach it from a different prospective, your view is altered. Today I saw things from a different light and it appeared as a new shining vista, fresh and renewed.
Work is the same dynamic, some times we need simply to walk in a different direction to get a new perspective. Sit with your developers and see how they see the data. Find out what problems they are having from their point of view. Look at your environment from a different perspective and maybe you will find a new shining vista too. Enjoy!
To be blunt, I am horrid in interviews. You and I can have a nice conversation normally, but call it an interview and I am a blundering idiot. Nerves. Anxiety. Judgement. If it wasn’t so sad it would make a great farcical comedy. Oh I have gotten better over the years, but at almost every stop someone took a chance on me and later commented that they were glad they did because I totally blew the interview. It would drive me mad to think about all of the lost opportunities over the years but everything happens for a reason.
In many of my positions we have wondered how some people got their jobs and it almost always boiled down to the fact that they interviewed well for it was obvious that it was not their skill. Which begs the question, does the interview even work anymore?
Many people have told me that it is a good indicator of personality and seeing if the person will mesh well with the team. That smacks of prejudice to me. If your team is like a fraternity house, who will show you that personality in the interview process? How will you know if you have a Blutarsky or a Dorfman or even a Chip Diller (sorry could not resist a Kevin Bacon Animal House reference). Enjoy!