Category Archives: Career Advice
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!
This past weekend was SQL Saturday 192 in Tampa. Being my home user group event always makes this event special, however this was the first time I spoke at my home SQL Saturday and that made it an event that I will always cherish. In addition, this year, I took in a full day pre-con training on Friday with Buck Woody (b | t) and quite frankly it changed my life. How many times can you say that about a SQL training, let alone a $99 training?
I know what you’re thinking, believe me I do. How can a one day training change your life? I have spoken at two SQL Saturdays prior to this event and a couple of times at a couple of user group meetings so to say that I was a speaking novice would be an accurate term in my eyes anyway. In addition, I have had no formal training in public speaking except for the semester speech class that I nervously tried to avoid and almost vomited every time I stood up in front of the class.
This journey began in 2011 as I resolved myself in Andy Warren’s Professional Development Plan session at the Tampa BI SQL Saturday. I wanted to conquer this fear of public speaking and give back to the community. It seemed pretty simple. I had no idea how hard it would be and with my fight or flight instincts many times I wanted to just run away, but I did not want to embarrass myself in this community and that held me accountable.
After taking Buck’s class entitled “Creating Your Best Technical Presentation: A Speaker Workshop,” I now feel that I have the skills necessary to put together a decent presentation and deliver it without embarrassing myself. The presentation this past Saturday went well considering that I did not rewrite it, I also did not want to run or vomit and those are great things in my book. Now I have to go back and rewrite my presentation with the skills that I have learned. If you ever get the opportunity to take this class at a local SQL Saturday near you, do it!
Being methodical and logical as I am, I have set forth a plan to achieve my Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate as noted earlier in my goals for 2013. Having not found much in the way of preparation material as noted in this post , I decided to rent the 70-462 Training Kit from Amazon and transpose some of the objectives there to fit the 70-457 and 70-458 since I am taking the upgrade exams the materials for the regular exams should suffice in preparation.
Now I have outlined a calendar below and the hard dates to hold me accountable to the task especially since the book has to be returned in June. Let the journey begin!
|70-462 Training Kit – 70-457 Objectives|
|Install and Configure|
|Install SQL Server & related services||1||2||1/20/2013|
|Implement a migration strategy||4||1||1/27/2013|
|Configure additional SQL server components||3||1||1/27/2013|
|Manage SQL Server agent||11||1||2/3/2013|
|Maintain Instances and Databases|
|Manage and configure databases||3||3||2/10/2013|
|Configure SQL Server Instances||2||1||2/17/2013|
|Implement a SQL Server clustered instance||8||1||2/24/2013|
|Manage SQL Server instances||2||2||3/3/2013|
|Optimize and Troubleshoot|
|Identify and resolve concurrency problems||10||2||3/10/2013|
|Collect and analyze troubleshooting data||9||1-6||3/17/2013|
|Audit SQL Server instances||6||3||3/24/2013|
|70-462 Training Kit – 70-458 Objectives|
|Configure and maintain a backup strategy||11||2||3/31/2013|
Implement and maintain indexes
|Import and Export Data||4||2||4/21/2013|
|Manage logins and server roles||5||1||4/28/2013|
|Manage database permissions||6||1||5/5/2013|
|Manage users and database roles||5||2||5/12/2013|
|Implement High Availability|
|Implement database mirroring||7||1||6/2/2013|
At the start of the new year, I began a lifestyle change (not a diet) to follow the Paleo lifestyle from recommendations from NerdFitness.com. If you are unaware the paleo lifestyle is to basically eat like the cavemen. You essentially eat meat, nuts, fruits and vegetables that would have been available to the cavemen and remove dairy, grains and sugars from your diet. I removed cokes (cherry pepsi to be precise) from my daily routine a couple of years ago and drink flavored water. Before this move, I eat a good portion of this diet previously only with added grains and enough dairy and cheese to choke a Wisconsinite.
Nine days into this lifestyle change and I have never felt better in my life, however It did take a couple of days to feel better and get adjusted. Now, I am rarely hungry in the late morning, afternoons, and late nights when I would usually run to snacks which is where my additional weight generally came from. Late night bowls of cereal, afternoon sweets, raiding cubicle candy jars, and mid morning energy bars were all within my realm of daily consumption because I never felt full. I was always hungry an hour or two after good size meals. I noticed this week that those feelings are all but gone.
It is also a good idea to eat a good breakfast and a big lunch followed up with a light dinner to provide the necessary energy for the day. I also walk daily and try to do cardio two to three times a week but those are outside of the meal plan as I have done those in the past and did not see significant and permanent weight reduction.
A typical day’s menu for me:
2 eggs scrambled with mushrooms, banana peppers, and jalapeno
Dinner (Lunch for non-Southerners)
Chicken or red meat with a hearty serving of vegetables (baked chicken breast with broccoli and cauliflower)
Half the portion of what I had for dinner.
Bowl of fruit or coconut milk ice cream (surprised that this tasted like regular ice cream)
In 2012, I made a resolution to begin presenting at the local level. That sounds like a normal enough resolution for most, however being an introvert standing in front of people is quite terrifying. After attending many user group meetings and SQL Saturdays, I decided that since I have met many of these speakers and they are not much different from me, I should be able to stand up and do that too!
In the past, when called upon to speak in public or in front of a group my fight or flight instinct would kick in and generally I would want to run with every fiber of my being. Sometimes, I did run shamefully. Interviews are no different in many cases therefore it is safe to assume that I do not interview well. In the past, I have probably missed out on some good job opportunities simply because they thought I was an idiot based solely upon my presentation skills. It is because of this that I resolved to improve upon the skill.
Sounds good, huh? Make a resolution and then you do it, right? Easy as pie.
Not so fast, my friend. I still wanted to run Forrest run! Karla Landrum (b|t), the SQL Community Evangelist for SQL PASS, realized what was going on and she gently nudged me along to speak at the Pensacola SQL Saturday last summer. This is not unusual as historically I have been talked into doing stuff by women (and I probably should not have put that out there, so now you know).
That day in Pensacola, my fight or flight instinct kicked in again all morning long, but now I was on the hook and I did not want to disappoint Karla. Plus many of my colleagues knew I was speaking. Quite honestly this held me accountable for I did not want to ruin my reputation in the SQL community before I really even had one. My resolve that day held firm and I spoke quite nervously. But I did not run. I climbed the proverbial mountain and planted my flag upon its peak.
Since that time I have spoken at SQL Saturday Orlando and a user group meeting. It is getting easier with each event, but I still need to resolve myself to get better each time. Maybe one day I can speak at the PASS Summit? I will resolve myself to accomplish that goal and now you can hold me accountable. Enjoy!
Today I thought I would set forth a course of action in order to accomplish my goal of passing the 70-457 (and eventually 70-458) in order to achieve the Microsoft Certified Solutions Architect (how hard is it not to say Systems Administrator). I know what you are thinking, experience is the best trainer, but I like to be well prepared before I spend money to take an exam.
Sadly, Microsoft’s page for this exam has no content as far as a book, training, or even practice tests available for either exam. I understand that I could use the limited materials for exams 70-461, 462 and 463, but those are all assuming that you do not have an MCTS. I would like to limit my preparation to only what I need to pass the exam. I was able to find one book on Amazon, but I am not sure of the series. I have never used one of these books before. I think I will rent the 70-462 book from Amazon and that will force me to finish it by June.
Now in order to accomplish this goal I need to set aside at least four hours a week in preparation with book learning and using my 2012 Developer license at home. That will be tough, but now I have told you so I am now accountable. Please let me know if you have any tips for studying for this exam, I would appreciate your input. Enjoy!
Yesterday I posted my personal development plan for 2013. After reading a few other similar blogs by colleagues yesterday, one haunting thought stayed with me all night that I couldn’t quite put my finger on until this morning. My goals were lofty, but they were no more so than last year. That would not be stepping out of my comfort zone. There was really no challenge in the list when compared to 2012, where there were some serious steps on the ledge for me.
How do I resolve this? Not sure at this point, but I have some ideas so this may evolve over the next week. The first idea I had would be to upgrade my SQL Server 2008 MCTS to the new MCSA 2012 (Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate). This would consist of two exams, 70-457 and 70-458, both aptly titled ‘Transition Your MCTS on SQL Server 2008 to MCSA SQL Server 2012, Part 1 and 2.’ I waited for all of the dust to settle with the new certifications before I pursued moving forward in my personal growth as it does not appear that I am anywhere ready to tackle the MCM, thus I have made it a five-year goal. This would put me on that path and force me to commit to the preparation needed to pass these exams. Now that I have talked this out with you here I think I will add these to the list! Enjoy!