This weekend was full of a range of emotions for me. Grab a beverage and I’ll tell you all about it….
On the Friday I had arranged to take my 70-451 exam at lunchtime at a test center just outside Birmingham which would provide me with a nice jaunt down the M5, or so I thought.
Drove to the test center, took and passed the exam and all was well with the world. I was pretty happy. Unfortunately there were quite a lot of roadworks on the M5 and driving down to Devon with a bad back on a Friday afternoon probably wasn’t the wisest decision I could have made.
As it tuns out my journey faired a lot better than some of the other presenters who decided to travel down later in the day.
The arrival / venue
I never told anyone this at the event, but I managed to get lost oops oh well! Eventually found the hotal and parked across the road which was really convenient. At this point I’m sore but glad to be here.
The hotel itself was OK, the staff were pleasant and courteous – you can’t ask for much more than that and it was in a pretty good location for those travelling in being not too far from the bus and train stations.
I’m going to skip ahead a bit here and then double back later in a Tarrantino style edit so stick with me. After the speaker meal (stick with me) I mentioned I didn’t have my pass so was ushered downstairs to where the event was taking place. Jonathan, Annette and the team had managed to attain 4 fair sized rooms plus two other rooms for use as a speaker room and an exhibition hall for the event itself. It was a hive of activity these volunteers, organisers and sponsors put in a lot more hours than regular attendees would realise.
The social bit
It’s become a bit of a tradition to have a speakers meal before events now and we all headed down to a Spannish tapas establishment where I spent a very pleasant meal sat between Denny Cherry (Blog|Twitter) and Mark Broadbent (Blog|Twitter) with Mr and Mrs (to be) Dave Morrison opposite. I should point out that Dave’s fiance isn’t going to take his first name as well – that would be too confusing!
It was great to catch up with so many of the #SQLFamily, I’ve ended up committing to speaking at a few more events as well as pulling in a few favours and booking others to speak at my user group.
There were a full range of conversations with various people from bewildered looking first timers unsure of what to expect from a community event to a really deep chat with Thomas Kejser (Blog | Twitter) on the future of SSD and how it could change our whole perception of performance tuning with SQL Server.
I made a conscious decision not go to many of the sessions during the day because I was getting quite a bit of pain from my back and didn’t think it would be fair on people if I needed to stand up and walk around whilst someone else was trying to present! I really do regret this decision as there are so many talented people in the UK and Jonathan, Annette and the team made a great job of creating an interesting and varied programme.
There was one session that I did sit in on and that was Thomas’s session on compression – for those that missed it he has blogged about it and you can read it here – http://blog.kejser.org/2013/03/11/quantifying-the-cost-of-compression/
Thank you’s – Sponsors
Due to syndication rules, I can’t really speak about the companies which were there as it’s similar to product placement. Suffice to say there were companies there providing blazingly fast IO subsystems, training providers, more traditional software vendors and a few consultancy firms.
Your support was appreciated as without your sponsorship events like this would not be possible.
Thank you’s – Organisers
A big thank you has to go out to the organising team headed up by “Mr and Mrs Father Jack” aka Jonathan and Annette Allen who run the SQL SouthWest user group. Jonathan, Annette and the team really put a lot of effort into organising this event, which is especially impressive when you consider that they are also working on other projects such as SQL Relay.
You can gain a little bit of insight into their lives with the “New Year Aspirations” interviews I conducted with them back in January: Jonathan, Annette
Thank you’s – Volunteers
Being a volunteer is a very selfless task and can be very hard work, so I’d like to thank all the volunteers and let them know that we all really appreciated their part in the days proceedings. Especially my room monitor who didn’t seem to mind that I went a few minutes over!
That brings me on neatly to my session…
My session – “Natural Born Killers, performance issues to avoid”
I was very humbled to be billed alongside several MVP’s, MCM’s, MCA’s and authors. As this was my first ever SQL Saturday I was a little unsure exactly what to expect.
My session was billed last, whether this was because they saved the best till last (doubtful – see my comments about the highly esteemed counterparts above) or they though everyone would have gone home by then (much more plausible).
I was actually very pleasently surprised by the turnout. As this session is a summary of a number of core performance issue topics and I knew that some of these topics were being covered in other sessions throughout the day I thought there would be me and the room monitor watching the rugby on the big screen. The reality was very different with just a couple of empty seats at the front.
From my perspective things seemed to go pretty well, I haven’t recived the feedback yet, so whether that feeling was reciproated is under dispute.
What I can say that I did manage to get some audience participation going and there seemed to be some genuine enthusiasm and I could see a few lightbulbs going off. Add in some random sweet throwing to people who answered questions correctly and I was very happy.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to stick around for the raffle and wrap up and had to shoot off atraight after my session, but not before I was asked to pose for a photo which was a little strange! If I ever receive a copy I’ll update the post with a picture.
It was a really enjoyable time and I would recommend that everyone does try to support the community by goingto these kinds of events. You may even want to try your hand at presenting…
If you’re interested in speaking or have just started speaking why not check out the indepth interview I did with Kevin Kline (Blog | Twitter) on presenting.
If this has whet your appetite for finding out more about community events, this post of mine lists all the events based in the UK for March 2013.
If you are living elsewhere in the world why not check out http://www.sqlsaturday.com/events.aspx to see if there is a SQL Saturday event taking place near you.
Tuesday, March 5th, 2013
Last weekend some friends of mine (Jason Strate (blog | @stratesql), Tracy McKibben (blog | @RealSQLGuy)) jumped into a lake as part of a charity fundraiser. They even gave the event a hashtag: #SQLPlunge
But that’s not why I am writing this today.
Throughout the year I will see members of the SQL Community give. They give their time. They give money. They give themselves. They just give. Our community seems to have that common thread, we are givers.
But that’s not why I am writing this today.
This morning I woke up and realized that when I have left this world I want to be remembered for how much I was able to help others. I don’t want to be remembered as the person who treated, or spoiled, himself first. The word ‘Ubuntu’ comes to mind here. It’s a concept that essentially says ‘I am because we are”.
That’s what I want to write about: Our community of data professionals. Ubuntu. I am because we are.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu offered a definition in the 1999 book No Future Without Forgiveness:
“A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, based from a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.”
Tutu has been credited with offering additional context on Ubuntu in 2008:
“Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole World. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.”
When people tell me how successful I have been in my life I need to stop and understand it is because of the success of others. I am not drinking from a well that I dug for myself. The well was dug for me so that I may drink.
That is why I feel the need to dig, too.
And that is why I want you to start digging.
I was sent an email recently from Lara Rubbelke (@SQLGal). In that email she mentioned the idea of “SQares”. Similar to how “Sqoop” got it’s name (“SQL” + “Hadoop”), SQares is the result of “SQL” + “Cares” = “SQares”.
We already use the #SQLFamily hashtag to describe our sense of Community. I think Lara is on to something with SQares. I’d like to see folks use the #SQares hashtag for events similar to the Polar Plunge.
I recognize that not everyone likes to go out of their way to talk about their charitable donations. That’s fine. I would ask that when you see others being charitable feel free to promote that hashtag a bit. I’d like to raise awareness for the amount of giving that we see throughout the year. And charity doesn’t mean donations or fundraisers, it can be as simple as volunteering your time at a SQL Saturday, or the PASS Summit, or even a local school helping kids learn about computers and data.
Maybe after we spend some time pointing it out then the idea of giving back to others won’t be so uncommon.
To me this is what #SQLFamily is all about. I think some folks feel it means just folks that touch SQL Server. To me it means a group of data professionals that help one another whenever possible.
I am honored to be a part of this group. I am honored to serve this group.
I am because we are.
is a post from: SQLRockstar - Thomas LaRock
The post SQares appeared first on SQLRockstar - Thomas LaRock.
Tuesday, March 5th, 2013
Continued investment in your professional development for career growth is hard. It’s also essential to being a successful Data Professional.
You’ve got a lot of competing priorities, we all do, it goes with the territory of being good at what you do. Managing the demands and responsibilities of your job can consume a great amount of time, leaving little for everything else that’s important to you. Professional development and career growth can all too easily become a luxurious afterthought.
So when you do get time to focus on your professional development it’s vital that you maximize the return on your investment.
Let’s Hit The Gym
Push Past Your Limits
Keeping fit is a hobby of mine and I enjoy training several times a week. It’s quite common knowledge that regularly working out is good for your health, much like regular investment in professional development is good for your career.
Anyone who has ever worked out will tell you that when you start a new fitness programme you will often see quick and dramatic results.
This happens because the new stimulus to the body is a shock to the norm. It’s something that you are not used to doing and so the body has to adapt to cope with the new stress.
The more significant the shock to the system, the greater the reaction to adapt.
Unfortunately this dramatic growth period is often short lived. The body is very efficient at adapting and so as many a gym goer will attest to, results and ultimately progress can quickly plateau.
If you continue to just show up to the gym and go through the motions, you’re not going to make much progress.
The same is true of your professional development. Sticking to your preferred subject, reading the next chapter in that book or taking the next logical step, is comfortable. It may well be a small step in the right direction but you’re not really challenging yourself and the growth you experience will reflect this.
In order to break free from a plateau and promote new growth, the body needs to be challenged.
Breaking Out of Your Comfort Zone for Career Growth
You need to step outside of your comfort zone, to challenge yourself, in order to really grow.
By stepping outside of your comfort zone you:
- Accelerate your growth
- Amplify your growth
- Broaden your experience
- Increase your versatility
- Challenge yourself
Taking on Your Own Challenge
What could you do to step outside of your comfort zone to expose yourself to increased career growth potential?
I bet when you think about it there are opportunities right there for the taking close by.
- Maybe the development team are working on a project that you can stretch yourself and get involved with.
- Perhaps your manager has a requirement to deploy an inventory system for your SQL Server infrastructure and maybe you could use PowerShell for the job.
- Fancy trying your hand at presenting? Why not start with a brown bag lunch session at your office or smaller slot at your local User Group.
- Thinking about getting a SQL Certification? Why not really push yourself by shooting for the MCM.
- Is your company looking into alternative Database Technology? Maybe you could volunteer to learn and evaluate them, become the company expert.
- Who said anything about SQL Server? I bet brushing up on those project management skills could come in handy.
Which mountain will you climb?
Once you start brain storming ideas, you’ll soon discover that you are spoilt for choice.
As Data Professionals we really do have an abundance of opportunity for career growth and development. In the words of Thomas LaRock, “It’s a wonderful time to be in technology”.
Should you find that when you’re considering your own development options, the thought of pursuing a particular path gives you a sense of apprehension or nerve’s, then you’ve found exactly the right choice for you!
Stepping outside of your comfort zone is NOT easy and that’s the point. By taking on a more challenging venture you will significantly increase the return on your growth and development.
What could you do to step outside of your comfort zone? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments.
Friday, March 1st, 2013
Unless you’ve entered “100th blog post” into your favourite search engine and clicked on pot luck (or whatever it is) you’ll know that I pretty much always blog about SQL Server. Not this time!
Today, I thought I would share a little bit about me and my blogging experiences. I’ll probably do an update post at 200 and compare what has happened.
Why do I do it?
Why I blog is a very good question, I wrote something on it a little time back, you can read about it here if you’re interested.
What motivated me?
There seems to be something in me that wants to help others and give something back. For years I played the trumpet and wanted to be a brass teacher, I used to be in the cubs and then scouts and went on to become an assistant Scout leader for a while.
It seemed innevitable that once I was settled in a career in SQL Server that something like this would raise it’s head again.
How did I get started?
Blogging was becoming more and more popular and it started seeping though into search engine results for problems that I was experiencing. At that point I started to follow a couple of people including some chap called Brent Ozar.
Brent wrote a series of posts on How to start a blog. I mulled it over for a while, quite a while, and then some. Eventually I decided that I should give it a go. If you are thinking about blogging then do have a read. I found it a big help and probably wouldn’t have taken the plunge without it.
Has it proved popular?
To be honest I have no idea, what is good is people saying I really enjoyed that post on X or I didn’t know that about Y thanks. Feedback means a lot, not just to me but every blogger. It can be hard creating content and wondering if anybody is gaining anything from it.
If you find something useful, then please leave a comment and/or share it with others though social media. Far too many bloggers stop writing great content because they think that nobody cares!
Due to the fact I syndicate my blog in a few places I don’t have a complete picture of the number of people that read content that I create (another reason why comments are so important). What I can share with you are some of the metrics from my site via Google Analytics.
As you can see from the number of visits, things have picked up over time. Hopefully that’s some encouragement for people just starting out.
It’s hard to tell from the image above just how many visitors my blog has received. I included this just so you knew it wasn’t all me hitting F5 !
To my surprise, I seem to have had visits from readers all over the world.
You might be able to tell from the shading that the top 3 locations are the U.S., the U.K. and India.
The image below shows the top 10:
Well, that’s it for my 100th post. I hope you’ve enjoyed it!
I’d love to hear back from you on your experiences of blogging or if this has inspired you to start your own blog.
If you want to contact me about a SQL Server problem or blogging a little less publicly than leaving a comment, you can always Contact Me using the Menu at the top of my website, or the page list at the bottom.
Here’s to another 100 blog posts!
Tuesday, February 19th, 2013
I don’t! There’s no such thing as multitasking. At least, not how most of us think about it……
Being successful as a Data Professional is hard. When you’re good at what you do, you are in demand.
If you’re like most data professionals then there’s always something else that needs doing. In fact, should you ever find yourself with nothing to do, then well, you’re doing it wrong.
There’s only so much time that you have available to work with and so you need to make sure you spend it wisely (See: The Best Database Administrators Automate Everything).
This means ensuring that you focus your time and energy on what is most important. For me personally, this is determined by the achievable value of completing a given task and it’s priority.
So You Think You’re Good at Multitasking
Well I’m sorry but you are not. In fact, none of us are. Ironically those of us that think we’re good at multitasking are apparently the worst at it (Beware Employees Who Boast About Multitasking).
Being a Data Professional is hard
Multitasking is a misnomer, people can’t actually do more than one task at a time. What most of us consider to be multitasking is in fact task-switching, the act of switching back and forth from one task to the next. Task-switching is expensive and you could be loosing as much as 40% of your productivity in the process.
I encourage you to stop believing the multitasking myth and to instead invest your energy in organising your task workflow so that you can dedicate uninterrupted time to focus on a single given task, preferably from start to finish (or at least up to the point where you personally cannot move it further forward).
If you can do this you will avoid the associated costs(time and focus) of task switching and increase your overall effectiveness.
Workload Management For The Data Professional
To ensure that you are investing your time and energy in the right place, you must use a system.
I don’t care how high your IQ is or how awesome that photographic memory is. One day, they will let you down. Use a system, it’s simple and more reliable.
It doesn’t really matter which system you decide to choose, so long as you do use one. Often it’s a matter of personal preference and in time you will identify which approaches work best for you, perhaps even a combination of several.
There are entire publications written on the subject of time/task management and productivity techniques, the most popular being Getting Things Done(GTD). Personally I find it to be a bit overkill and too restrictive for my tastes, which is why I like the more lightweight model put forward in Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy.
The Eat That Frog System
Eat That Frog – by Brian Tracy
The essential theme of the book (Eat That Frog) is that you should always eat your biggest and ugliest frog first. In other words complete the work that you want to do the least first, as the things that you procrastinate on and avoid doing are almost always your most important tasks.
Frogs aside, the book outlines a simple and effective task management system that I have adopted myself and tweaked to my specific needs. If you are not already using a system of your own, then I would highly recommend that you give this one a try.
Quite simply, it requires that you first split your tasks into categories. A through to D.
A – Must be completed today
B – Should be completed today
C – Nice to complete someday
D – Delegate
(You’re all smart folks and I’m sure you get the general idea so I’m not going to explain the detailed reasoning behind each of these categories, that’s what the book is for. If you have any specific questions though feel free to drop me an email.)
Within each category you then assign each task a numerical priority, with 1 being the most important.
Once completed, your system shows you exactly what you need to be working on right now, with A1 being your most important task.
Task Log Example
Increase Your Effectiveness By Getting Organised
By using a task management system such as the one I described here, you can keep an accurate track of workload, prioritise and ensure that you spend more of your time delivering on what’s really important.
Do you have a task management system that you like to use or have some tips of your own? Share your thoughts in the Community Forum.