T-SQL Tuesday #57 – SQL Family and Tripping the Light Fantastique
Jeffrey Verheul (b|t) is hosting this month’s T-SQL Tuesday blog party. (Hey Jeff, what’s up?) If you are not familiar with T-SQL Tuesday, well it was started by Adam Machanic (b|t) five years ago and invites a different blogger to host a topic and various bloggers choose to participate when the subject so moves them. This month’s topic is regarding SQL Family and Community. I have blogged numerous times about SQL Family and if you never experienced the awesomeness that is SQL Family in person, find me and I will give you a #SQLHug and show you just how awesome of a phenomenon this truly is.
Personally, I have been gainfully employed in the IT field for almost twenty years and have been hacking (yes that is the correct term not the one bastardized by the media and laymen) since the Christmas of 1982 when I got a Timex Sinclair 1000. During this lifetime, I have never experienced the phenomenon that is SQL Family, ever. Let the weight of that statement sink in for a moment. In other words, having met all sorts of IT professionals over the years at many conferences, user groups and meetings, no one community has struck me dumbfounded and with wonderment like that of the SQL Community. It is unparalleled in my opinion.
(Ed please get to the point and stop skipping the light fandango)
In The Beginning
Several years ago, I was severely burnt out. I had started back to college to possibly change careers. (yeah it was that bad) I hated what I did for a living. I cannot stress how much I hated what I was doing for a living. At that point, my good friend and fellow DBA Brent Kraus (t) invited me to a user group meeting with the Tampa SQL User Group. “Free pizza,” he said and we could meet a couple of guys and get a better job. I said how do you know and he said “hey Jorge Segarra (b|t) sat in that same chair and got out of dodge and now he is a SQL rock star now making it rain with groupies to boot.” The story may not have gone exactly that way, but hey it’s called dramatic license for a reason. If the day Buddy Holly died was the day that the music died, then this was the day that the music was reborn like a phoenix rising out of the ashes that was my career. (This story is getting good…even I want to pay attention now and trust me I was bored with it up until this section)
The meeting was horrible, there was a speaker on a speaker phone. I do not remember who it was or what he spoke about but it was pretty bad mainly because of bad phone connection and a language barrier. I met a few people and I remember thinking “this blows!” Then Pam Shaw (b|t) gave me a free book for a being a first time attendee. Remember, I had a bad attitude about my career so this reflection had nothing to do with Pam or her user group. I remember on the drive home thinking hey free pizza and a free book (and don’t forget the SQL tchotchkes), maybe I will go back next month.
Enter Brent again…as he said hey they do this crazy, free training thing and you get to meet a lot of SQL people and we are sure to find a better job there. So we ride over one Saturday morning to Orlando. I liken this to the moment I heard my first Beatles record. I was hooked, an addiction was formed. I met so many people and I could name drop all day but there is one key figure that I met that day….Karla Landrum (b|t). She was welcoming and passionate about the community. Karla is definitely the mother of this SQL family. Actually she is more of a foster-mother, she takes in the strays feeds them some good food, acclimates them to the environment and then challenges them to succeed. Like any good Mom, she doesn’t take no for an answer. Within a year from that moment she had talked (coerced, dragged me kicking and screaming, or tricked? You pick!) me into speaking for the first time. I had a supreme fear of public speaking. How did she talk me into this? I wanted to run like Forrest, but I didn’t even drove through a flash flood that day to not let her down.
During that year, I became active in the user group, became a SQL community promoter on twitter, and attended a few SQL Saturdays. Suddenly I didn’t hate my career as much, oh do not get me wrong the job I had sucked but I was not ready to jump ship on my career just yet. What happened to Brent? Oh yeah, he got a better SQL DBA job. Mission accomplished.
That first time was horrible, I scripted the whole thing and barely looked up from my trembling body. They gave me an award for the funniest presentation. These people are nuts, I do not think they saw the same presentation that I did. Afterward, several people told me how awesome it was and that they were happy to see me presenting. Wait?!?! What?!?!? It was horrible. These people are my brothers and sisters in the SQL Family. They were loving and encouraging when I needed it. I am sure that they knew it was horrible but they had been there too. I am not going to call them out but I do try to pay it forward with every new speaker that I meet or see or even here about. I want to be that same awesome brother that tells you about dating and girls and how to…wait I digress, sorry.
It was at this point that I wanted to speak again, and again. All the world’s a stage and I wanted to get better, to be as good as they were, to teach and give back. I was learning SQL Server like never before because I was teaching it to others. I was now in love with my career again. Not the obligatory kiss your grandmother love, but the super smart, nerdy librarian looking girl who likes you because you aced Calculus passion making out in the reference section next to the map rack. Yeah you know what I am talking about.
All everyone talked about once you get inside the SQL Family is the SQL PASS Summit in Seattle. Like any good addict, I had to try this drug. Have you ever had that moment when you said to yourself “wow these nerds are my people, they get me!” That first year was my moment. Like any good Amway presentation, I wanted what they were selling. I met so many people…authors, bloggers, crazy people (yeah I bet two or three names came to your mind when I said that and yes that is who I was talking about), DBAs, developers, and rock stars of the SQL community. They all had one thing in common: SQL Family. At no point did I ever feel not welcome or like an outsider even with my First Timer badge on. If there was a funny story that they all knew someone was more than willing to bring me up to speed on how that one guy did that one thing that one time and it was epic. Yeah you know who you are and what you did that one time. Dude!
At that first Summit, I met several DBAs from Atlanta. I kept running into them everywhere I went around Seattle. They invited me to sit with them at the Chapter Lunch. I was home. These people were my people. One problem though…I lived in Tampa. (This is a foreshadowing moment, keep that in mind here)
In 2013, I decided that in order to take my career to the next level, I needed to move to Atlanta where the DBA jobs were flowing like wine and after 42 years in Florida a change of scenery would be good. Most people think leaving Florida was a Paradise Lost, but being a tourist is the greatest part of Florida at this point in my life as I grew up on the sunshine, beaches, and Disney. Been there, done that, and got the t-shirt. However, I felt at home with the Atlanta group and they had become really, really good friends over the last couple of years. You see I was 42 years old with hundreds of friends or as I like to call them wonderful acquaintances. You know the kind, the ones that will go to a birthday party for a mutual friend and be happy to see you and hand you a beer from the cooler. But if you need someone to help you move, all of these friends that you have seem to be busy. My life was full of these friends. I had a couple of really good friends, do not get me wrong especially if you are one of them are you thinking to yourself what the hell dude!
However, with the SQL Family, those friendships always seem to be so much stronger. This was the impetus for me moving to Atlanta. Those friends there seemed to be the kind of friends that would help you move (and they did come 2014). Did you remember the foreshadowing moment? Good, you were paying attention. After moving to Atlanta, I began traveling across the country spreading my wings speaking in Nashville, Las Vegas, Louisville and I will hit Birmingham, Orlando (where it all began) and possibly Charleston before the year is done. All of that is on my own dime. Why? SQL Family. I love visiting different family members and spending time with them and sharing my love of SQL Server and SQLKaraoke with them. I look forward to breaking bread and sharing a pint with them sharing stories and dancing like a mad man. The social aspect of SQL Family is unparalleled as well.
I am now a Data Services Consultant, working for a dear friend from the SQL Family. She brought me on board here where there are about a hundred brilliant consultants including several other SQL Family members. I love my career, and I love my SQL Family and now I love my job. Thanks, Julie (b|t).
So after reading this and if you have met me in person, have you figured out which family member I am? I am that crazy uncle that everyone has who sings everywhere and is so much fun to be around (at least in my opinion lol).
Mi familia está loca! (For Jorge)
P.S. Did you get the title reference and all the tie-ins? Tripping the light fantastic means to dance about with the music and being in the SQL Family makes me want to sing and dance every day. Milton (tie-in) and Shakespeare (tie-in) spoke of such phenomenon and Paul McCartney of the Beatles (tie-in) had an album entitled Tripping the Live Fantastic. Tarantino (our greatest living director) used the line as I did in “Inglorious Basterds” for the final tie-in. Those were chosen because of my love of those things and my ability to wax poetic about my passions. Long Live the SQL Family! Oh, I almost forgot the “skipping the light fandango” tie-in (glad I proofread this before submitting it) but that’s a line from “A Whiter Shade of Pale” by Procul Harum. So now you have my passion for poetry, movies, music and SQL Server, all that in one blog post for the low, low price of $19.95…but wait, there’s more….stay tuned next time.