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So long, and thanks for all the fish

March 1, 2013 9 comments

In May of 1998 I was laid-off.  It’s the one and only time in my life that has happened, but it did, and I expected it.  I was working in the semiconductor industry and lay-offs happened on an 18 month cycle.  I was fortunate at the time to have very few bills, outrageously low rent and was able to survive quite nicely on my unemployment benefits and my severance.  By the end of July I was bored – bored, bored, bored; and my unemployment was close to running out.  It was time to find the next job, so I started the job hunt in earnest instead of just applying for the required 3 jobs a week and spending the remainder of my time reading in coffee shops, playing around on my favorite BBS, and drinking beer with friends over a game of billiards.  At the time I had a friend that had been working for this jewelry company in town – they were a mail order place, with a call center and warehouse and they were always hiring… He liked it, but was moving on to something else, and strongly suggested I apply.  Worst case they paid decently for the area and had amazing benefits, and the CEO wished every single employee a good morning, every single day.

Needless to say I applied for a call center position – I had done call center work before, and the pay was okay – not as much as I had been making in the fab, but certainly more than unemployment and at this point I needed to get back to work.

After the strangest pre-employement assessments and interview process I had ever been involved in I eventually got a call that they wanted me to start at the end of August.

On August 24, 1998 I started my next job in my short history of jobs as an adult.  I really thought it was just a job – something with decent hours, a set schedule, low stress – I mean, even the most upset customer had to admit that no one ever died from a jewelery emergency!  Looking back now, I couldn’t have been more wrong about the path I was taking that late summer day.

I did a very short tenure in the call center, and was pushed by my business coach to apply for an open position with the Information Systems Operations team.  I’ve written about that before, so won’t rehash it again here.  I will say that if it hadn’t been for that one single push, my life would be very different today, and I can’t thank my coach enough for it.

Today – after 14 years and a handful of months I am turning in my keys to that building, and I am pulling out of the parking lot for the last time, and I’m likely shedding a tear or twelve while I do it.

I’ve turned over the systems I’ve managed and supported for the last decade, I’ve dumped as much historical and technical knowledge as humanly possible to my teammates, and said my good byes.

While I was technically an adult when I started my tenure at Rio Grande, I can honestly say that I grew up inside those walls.  I learned that I can stand up for myself in the face of sexism, I learned that I can excel at any damn thing I put my mind to, and I learned that I am the only thing standing in the way of my happiness and success.  I have struggled to live a principled life – sometimes succeeding, and sometimes falling flat on my face.  I learned what it means to be really, truly, on the hook for keeping the system that runs the business up and running.  I learned how to give and receive feed back in a positive manner regardless of the content of what is said.  I learned how to  have fun while working harder than I’d worked before.  I learned how to trust that everyone had the same goal in their sights.  I learned how to admit that I don’t know an answer, but would be happy to find it.  I learned how to crimp CAT5 very late one night in Tuscon AZ because of Rio.  I learned that I can – if needed spend 5 straight days at work to fix a critical problem.  I learned that I enjoy making things work, and making them work better than they did before.   I learned that no matter what I know now, there is always something more to learn.  I found my community with #SQLFAMILY I learned who I was and who I don’t want to be inside those walls.

I made more friends than I can count while working at Rio – some of those friendships fleeting, and others are life long, and I can only hope that I will work with the same caliber of people again in my life.

So, why leave?  Because all good things must end and it’s time I took my career into my own hands.  ExactTarget offers me experiance that I can’t get anywhere else.  I will be joining Eddie Wuerch and the rest of his highly intelligent, super cool DB Performance team on Monday to learn the ropes of high volume, high demand performance tuning.  ET’s set of 8 principles mesh well with the principles I’ve worked under previously, and the work excites me in a way that I can only compare with the high I get when I get together with my #SQLFAMILY.  It’s time for a challenge, and ET offered me that & the icing on the cake is that I don’t have to relocate to get it.

Now, almost 15 years later, I find myself unemployed.  For the first time in more than a decade I’m not on the hook for a production system, and I’m only carrying a single cell phone.  At least this time it’s only 48 hours or so before the next chapter starts at ExactTarget.  I sure hope they are ready – ET has big shoes to fill after Rio!

Categories: Uncategorized

Post SQL Install checklist

December 4, 2012 2 comments

I’m finding myself in an uncomfortable (for me) situation these days.  I have SQL servers being built and configured on my network with out my input or assistance and there’s not much I can do about it – other than wait for the VAR to be finished and give me access to the boxes.

To prep for that day I’ve started documenting all those things that I generally do as part of my installation process, but will now have to do after the fact.  This list is by no means complete, nor in a particular order – and really a reminder for myself, but hopefully it will help some of you as well.

1.  Alerts for severity 16-25, errors 823, 824, 825

2.  Operators

3.  DB Mail

4.  Backups

5.  Index maintenance

6.  Check DB scheduled

7.  STATs maintenance

8.   Check permissions for ‘Perform vol Maintenance tasks’

9.  PageFile Size

10.  Check Memory configs

11. Default file paths for DB’s

12.  Check model db configs

13.  Create DBA database

14.  Install SP_whoisactive

15.  Install & run SP_Blitz

16.  Check TEMP db setup – how many files, autogrowth, etc

Edited 12/5/12

17.  Verify windows power management settings

18. Verify SQL Agent is mail enabled


I will continue to add to this list as I think of things.

Categories: Uncategorized

On Being Exceptional

October 2, 2012 Leave a comment

I was recently named as Redgate’s Exceptional DBA for 2012 and let me be the first to tell you that winning that award floored me.  Seriously, completely, absolutely floored me. 

Let me tell you a little secret here:  I don’t think I’m really all that exceptional. 

I think I do my best, and I try very, very hard to meet all of the needs put on my plate, and I go out of my way to try to anticipate needs, but I don’t think that makes me exceptional….

and that’s okay. 

Time for another secret:  Since being named as the 2012 Exceptional DBA I’ve received tons of congratulations, a few cards and even a money tree.  The attention has been a bit overwhelming at times, and every time I think it’s fading another round of emails and phone calls come in.  This is a strange place for me to be.  It really is.  Don’t get me wrong – I like to hear the occasional ‘Good job!’ as much as the next girl, but I’ve discovered that I have no desire to be a super star.  I’ve found myself averting my eyes, and mumbling a thank you when folks stop me in the hall at work to congratulate me, blushing when the award is mentioned in meetings, and down right uncomfortable when I am introduced as an award winning DBA.

My comfort zone is off in the wings, offering support to those I can, and solving problems in my own quiet way.

So, you might ask:  “Meredith, if you know you don’t like the full glare of the flood lights why did you enter the Exceptional DBA contest in the first place?”  – great question! 

I entered for one simple reason.  I’m not very good at singing my own praises.  I am one of those people that deflects praise quickly and deftly.  If I solve a problem I will quickly include everyone that helped in any way.  I try very hard to include my coworkers in any small victory.   I have also come to realize that not everyone operates in the same way, and if I am not ready to tell the world what I do, have done, know, or can find out no one else will – at least not all the time.  I entered the Exceptional DBA contest as a way to practice answering questions about me and my work in an honest and flattering way.  I had no expectation that I would be named a finalist, let alone win.

So, this is my long and rambling way of saying thank you to the community members that voted for me, and to the judges that felt I deserved to be elevated into the final five in the first place, and also a way to remind everyone else out there that just because you don’t feel like you are exceptional all the time, chances are good that you are exceptional to the people that need you to be.





Categories: Uncategorized

Bad Blogger, no cookie

It dawned on me this morning that it’s been just over a month since my last post, and for that I apologize.

I’ve got a long list of reasons excuses I could share, but I think for now I will just leave you with a promise that I will be back in action next week with a long post on how to be an effective IT admin without encroaching on others.



Categories: Uncategorized

Next #ABQSQL user group meeting details

Transposing Data with C# and the SQL CLR
This “soup to nuts” presentation will take the audience through the basics of CLR development, deployment, dataset construction, error-handling, and finally tie everything together demonstrating how to transpose a T-SQL dataset with a CLR stored-procedure.  The presentation will utilize the free “Express” versions of Visual C# 2010 and SQL 2008 to eliminate the dependency on Visual Studio licensing.
This months speaker will be Leo Flores.  With a background in mathematics, Leo has been destroying data with the Microsoft SQL productstack for the past 12 years, starting with SQL Server 6.5.  He is currently the lead Business Intelligence developer for Sun Healthcare Group. Originally from Long Beach, California, he has lived in New Mexico since 1992 and is an avid road/mountain cyclist.
Tricore is located at 1001 Woodward NE in Albuquerque.
West on I-40: Exit on University. Go through intersection to south bound frontage road. South on frontage road, turn right on Mountain and Left on Woodward. From Southbound on I-25: Exit Comanche, south on frontage and follow as above.  Parking is across the street at Embassy Suites or available slots in the Tricore parking lots.
Hope to see you there!
Categories: Uncategorized

T-SQL dictionary for Office 2007/10 part 2

There is one significant thing missing from the custom dictionary I posted here…  T-SQL reserved words.  I knew it when I posted it, and even mentioned it in the post, but still it bothered me that they were missing.

If you’ve got Word setup to use the default proofing options, and you always type DBCC CHECKALLOC in all caps you probably never would notice an issue.  But, what happens if you type DBCC CHECKALLOK instead?  Nothing, a big fat nothing.  Why?  Because by default Word doesn’t spell check words that are in all CAPS.  You can change that behavior, but if you do, typing things like dbcc or checkalloc will bring those awesome squiggly lines right back, but Word will have no suggestions for you.

To fix that, and get my custom dictionary a little bit closer to complete I’ve provided a dictionary file that includes all of the DOCUMENTED reserved t-sql words in Books on Line.  I know that there are many more undocumented reserved words in SQL Server, but I’ve not found a great way to expose them all.  If anyone has any ideas for how to expose the undocumented reserved words I would love to hear them.

So, to use the  tsql dictionary you need to rename it the same way you did with the first dictionary file I posted, then open Word and make a few changes.  First up, you need to tell Word to check UPPERCASE WORDs, by deselecting the check box below:

Next step is to import the file by clicking on the Custom Dictionaries button and begin writting.


Categories: Uncategorized

Recovery plans are not just for the Data Center

I get to wear many different hats at work, not just that of a DBA – even though that particular hat is my favorite.

This week I am working off site supporting the 25th annual Santa Fe Symposium along with several co-workers.  SFS is an event we support every year, and generally it runs like a well oiled machine.   This year we decided to step it up a bit from a technology standpoint and made the jump to a high res, high lumen, rear projection setup and after some shenanigans Saturday night getting presentation mode to work with both a Windows laptop and the MacBook Pro, and spending an exorbitant amount of money on CL2 HDMI cables we were very pleased with our choice…  color was fantastic and  the screen image was brighter than we had ever been able to pull off with our older equipment.

After a very long day we powered down all of our equipment, carefully stashed it all in a secured room at the venue and found our ways home for a few hours of sleep before the Symposium kicked off bright and early Sunday morning confident that we were in good shape for our speakers to hit the ground running.

Unfortunately that good luck didn’t last long for us.  I got a call Sunday morning at 5:55am letting me know that both our brand new HP Envy and the super-duper, high res, high lumen projector had been turned in to vessels for some of the hardest water west of the Mississippi.   Yep – our perfect setup had been ruined less than 3 hours before the first presentation was scheduled to start by a faulty air conditioning unit in our store room…

Houston, We have a problem

Now, both of us that are here to support the presenters are from an Operations team, so we don’t make a plan to do anything without a backup; but in this case our backup plan was less than ideal.  Our backup projector was going to take us from 4000 lumen to 2500 lumen, and from 1080p to 1024×768 (and our screen is 16:9, so really we were stuck with 1024x 576, or stretching our image to fit the screen), and our backup plan for  the laptop was to load Office 2011 on the MacBook, as well as to have a dual boot partition with Windows 7 waiting in the wings.

So, we finished getting ready in record time and raced our way to the venue to assess the damage to the laptop and projector (they both appear to be total losses) and to put our recovery plan in place.

Turns out that taking a presentation that was written in Office 2010 on a Windows box, and then trying to run it in Office 2011 on a Mac works sometimes – as long as its a pretty simple presentation.  Once you add video, animations, or audio it’s no longer quite as simple. Also, neither one of us remembered to make a backup copy of the final presentations we had gathered forSunday’s speakers before we left Saturday night (d’oh!  I’m a DBA – always, always, always take a backup!) so we had to find our speakers for the day and get copies again before we could test much of anything.   Then to top it off, we couldn’t get a good image out of the Windows install on the MacBook.

We were able to get our backup projector up and configured, with a reasonable picture (although dim) before our scheduled start time,  and fortunately our first presentation of the day was straightforward and lacking animations or video, but we spent all day hopping fixing up presentations to run in Power Poing 2011, swapping out laptops for the few that just wouldn’t work on the Mac, and  swapping out our dim backup projector for a new high res, high lumen projector during a break, double and triple checking animations and video in presentations.

This is definitely not my preferred work mode.

So, my lesson for you is one that you’ve heard over and over again from other bloggers and speakers.  It’s not good enough to have a backup or a recovery plan… you have to test each and every aspect of that plan – including the equipment and facilities you might be forced to use.

We certainly won’t do another one of these without testing each and every presentation on all possible laptops we might bring, and we will be sure that we have an equivalent projector to use in case of emergency, and I see a few more long nights in our immediate future testing the remaining 18 presentations on the MacBook.

Categories: Uncategorized