Slip Sliding Away

Time is creeping away from me these days.  I’ve had some major life changes in the last year and while I’m not going to air those here, I’ve at times felt it was all I could do to keep up with my day job, community responsibilities, and all those things that must be done to keep life rolling.  Needless to say, keeping up with this blog has been at the end of my long list of high priorities while I’ve attempted to find my new rhythm.  I think (hope) that I’m back to a place that will allow me to keep this semi-regularly updated from here on out.

Here goes nothing!

While I was away I managed to pack in Summit 2011, SQL Saturday 104, and SQL Saturday 109 as well as an ERP Vendor Shootout.

I’m not going to spend time trying to summarize my experiances at Summit and SQL Saturday 104 – It’s been too long, and I certainly wont’ do justice to either.  You should know that Summit 2011 was one of the best yet  – every year Summit gets better and better.  SQL Saturday 104 was great as well.  I delivered a Backup Basics session to a great group of folks, and the organizers did a fantastic job doubling the size of their event (or did they triple it?) from the first year.  Colorado Springs will be an event I don’t plan on missing in the future – and you should make the effort to join them next year.

I will tell you a little bit about SQL Saturday 109 though.  I have to hand it to Mark Ginnenbaugh, Ross Mistry and their team of volunteers.  They put on a great show, with an all star cast of speakers for their inaugural event.  I believe the attendee count was right at 450, which is a feat in itself for the first SQL Saturday in Silicon Valley.  The session selection was top notch – in fact I had tough choices to make for each session slot, and really wished that sessions had been recorded for playback after the event.  I think the top session for me was Grant Babb’s session on Pro-I : open source security monitoring on SQL2008 because it was completely new material for me.  Don’t get me wrong – security isn’t a new concept for me, but I’d not considered what it would take to create a proactive monitoring system end to end using SQL Server and the work he and his team did is fascinating to me.  In fact I plan on sharing it with my co-workers this week as something to consider in our shop.

Other sessions I attended included Angel Abundez’s session on Reporting Services for mobile platforms, Wendy Pastrick’s Replication session, Denise McInerney’s session on Begin.. Commit, and Allan Hirt’s session on High Availability in 2012.  The day was rounded out with the Women in Tech lunch panel.  I had the pleasure of sitting on the panel with Wendy Pastrick (@wendy_dance), Jen Stirrup (@jenstirrup), and Nikila Srinivasan (@nikisrinivasan), moderated by Denise McInerney (@denisemc06).  We had a great discussion about why we keep talking about Women in Tech.  Both Jen and Nikila brought diversity and insights to the panel that we’ve not always had at previous SQL Saturday WIT events.

I’m still gathering my thoughts on the ERP Shootout – while it wasn’t really a SQL centric event in any way, the format was interesting and I can see a place for that type of event in our community – imagine if we had an event to see all of the 3 party packages for say, backups following the same scripts, using the same databases, on the same hardware, back to back.  Would that be valuable to you?  I could see how it would be if your company was in the process of evaluating toolsets.   I have more to say on the event in general and the format as well.

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Categories: Community, SQL, SQLSaturday

Let’s see some sparks people!

August 16, 2011 3 comments

First a disclaimer – this post has very little to do with SQL, or even IT; rather it is all about community and sparks.

I attended Ignite NM 11 last night, and was very disappointed in myself that I managed to miss the first 10 events.  That’s right.  I missed 10 other opportunities over the last 3 years to participate in my community, and watch other people talk about their passions.  For those of you that are unfamiliar with Ignite talks they are 5 minute presentations similar to the Lightning Talks at PASS Summit (speaking of, go submit now you have until August 17, 2011) with a few differences.  At an Ignite talk you have 5 minutes, 20 slides, 15 seconds a slide.  Speakers submit abstracts and the community votes on their favorites.  The result is truly an evening full of diverse presentations by folks with differing levels of public speaking skills.  Last night I was introduced to organizations ranging from The Metropolitan Homelessness Project to the Challenger Learning Centers   and in the same evening learned a little bit about alternate plant sources for the paper industry, what it is like to live in a dune shack for 3 weeks, and how to publish a ‘zine.   All of that, and I missed at least 3 Sparks while I took a phone call outside.  The event ran just over 2 hours, included ample networking time before hand, during an intermission, and after the last spark and was a great way to reconnect with old and dear friends as well as meet a few new people that I otherwise would never run into.

The evening started as a way for me to get out of the house, avoid yet another night of talking to the dog and cats about SQL server and things happening at work, and wound up being just like a first date.  I left feeling energized about the community I live in.  I left with sparks of my own floating in my head.  I left with a long list of things and groups to research, a desire to help out with Quelab, and a reminder that there are folks out there that are passionate about the things they know in my local community.

That reminder is important to me for a couple of reasons.  I find myself energized when I surround myself with passionate people.  I thrive in situations that allow me to tap into someone else’s enthusiasm to recharge my own batteries.  Generally I get my recharge by attending PASS Summit, SQL Saturdays and even ABQSQL meetings.  To find yet another venue that is close to home to charge myself up is a fantastic thing.  To find another venue that introduces me to even more places to find passionate people is better than fantastic… fantabulous maybe?

So, what are my next steps?  Fortunately I have SQLSaturday #95 booked in September, PASS Summit in October and SQLinTheCity in late October so I can get my DBA fix, and in the time between those events I plan on meeting up with the gang at Quelab to see what I might contribute to their efforts, and I might just develop a spark of my own for IgniteNM 12.

You should do the same…

Categories: Community, PASS, SQLSaturday

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

Working with Principles to guide you in IT Part 1

This is the second post in a series of at least 16 that speaks to the way I’ve come to practice DBA and Sys Admin work while meeting the cultural expectations set by my workplace.

 

Do what you agree to do.

Those have to be some of the simplest words in the English language to understand.  It certainly seems like a basic enough statement to me, however I’ve come to realize that this statement, like many others, is easier said than done.   There are all sorts of reasons why someone can’t, won’t or didn’t do what they agreed to do yet the end result is always the same.  Someone feels disappointed, a business goal is missed, a personal goal is missed, or confidence and trust is broken.

So, what does this simple statement mean to me as an admin?  It means that I have to think very carefully about what I agree to do at any given point in time.   Any time a request is made of me I go through a quick checklist in my head:

  1. Do I fully understand the scope of the request?
  2. Do both the requester and I have the same understanding of the desired end result?
  3. Do I have the time and capacity to fulfill the request at this time?
  4. Do I have the expertise and/or tools needed to fulfill the request?
  5. Am I the best resource to complete this request?
  6. Does this meet a business need  (critical or otherwise)?

If I can’t give an honest answer of ‘Yes’ to all of these questions I will continue the conversation with the person making the request of me and strive to either turn any of those no answers into a yes, or to find a more appropriate resource for the task.

It took me a long time to develop this list of questions, and honestly, prior to having them I often bit off more than I could effectively chew both in expertise and capacity.  I also found myself spinning my wheels trying to accomplish a task that didn’t meet a business need.   It’s not a great place to be as an admin (DBA or otherwise).   You wind up working late nights and weekends, loosing out on social events, family time, sleep, and personal time only to have your efforts fall flat because you provided functionality that wasn’t needed or wanted by the business.  Or, worse yet, someone in a leadership role notices that you’ve spent the time on a project or task that was essentially a waste of time and wants an explanation.

By working through this checklist each time I am asked to accomplish something I am able to ensure that the work I take on is meaningful, and is also something that can be accomplished.  It also gives me a little bit of extra credibility with the people I work with.  By asking these questions I am forced to evaluate my current workload on a daily basis in order to answer question number 3.  By knowing what I have on my plate at any given time, and by fully understanding what each task will take to accomplish I am able to set reasonable expectations with my co-workers.  I don’t have to guess about how many days or weeks it will be before I can get a new development instance stood up because I know how many other tasks and projects I’ve already committed to and approximately how long each one will take.  By setting expectations and being able to tell a requester that I will be able to complete their request, and that it will take a week because of the requests ahead of theirs we are able to either talk to the folks ahead of them in my queue to either re-prioritize, or worst case a reasonable deadline has been set and no one has to wonder when something will be done.

I will caution you that this type of scheduling and setting of expectations takes experience and time – give yourself some pad time if you’re not used to working this way.

The end result of all of this is that I ultimately meet more deadlines than I miss, my co-workers are happy with my performance, and I don’t feel stressed by deadlines most of the time.  Also, after a length of time working like this I found that I didn’t get nearly as much push back when I wasn’t able to commit to a request, or I suggested a different resource.  My co-workers had come to learn that if I was truly able to accomplish something I would do so, and otherwise I would let them know up front.

Now, I know, at least one of you out there is saying under your breath that this all sounds well and good, but we work in IT, and our workflow is not always within our control – and you’re absolutely correct.  Seemingly unpredictable things happen in IT, particularly on the Operations side of the house.  Machines experience failures of one type or another, partners don’t deliver code on time, or as expected, our customers (users) can have unexpected impacts on our systems.  All of that is absolutely true, and also absolutely manageable when it comes to adjusting expectations.  Communication is key here.  If you have issues arise that put one or more of your deadlines in jeopardy it impetus is on you to advise the folks depending on you of that.   It takes far less time to jot off a quick email letting someone know that their request is going to take a day, or week longer than expected because of a situation outside of your control than it does to deal with the consequences of missing that deadline to begin with.   And hopefully, you have padded your deadlines just enough that you might still be able to hit your original deadline – it’s a WIN\WIN situation if that happens.

Some side effects of working by this principle

There are some (for me) unexpected side effects of striving to work by this principle.  The first one is that I find myself asking a similar set of questions before taking on tasks in my personal life as well.  This causes me to evaluate what is important for me to accomplish at home and with my friends, and that’s a good thing in my opinion.  I know what I am capable of, and what is going to leave me feeling stressed so I feel like I have better balance in life.

I also am finding myself assuming that every one places as much importance on this principle as I do, and when others don’t meet their commitments to me it leaves me feeling more disappointed than I did earlier in life.  I find this side effect less okay than the first, because my confidence and trust in others seems to be more fragile than it reasonably should be.  I go into each interaction I have with other people expecting them to do what they agree to, and like it or not, many people just don’t – for many reasons.  I’m still figuring out how to moderate my reaction when other people miss deadlines, or just plain don’t do what they agreed to.  If you have any sage advise on ways to handle that please leave it in the comments – I’m all ears!

Related posts: It’s Confession Time

Categories: Community, Prof Dev

It’s Confession Time

June 9, 2011 3 comments

I have a confession to make.  I’ve been working for the same company for just 3 months shy of 13 years, and I’ve been a part of that same company’s IT Operations team for just shy of 12 years.  I know, I know.  That simple fact makes me a dinosaur in the IT world, and it also means that I’m likely underpaid and that I likely have a limited set of experiences from which to draw from.  While I recognize why IT folks hop around from one company to another I have a handful of reasons why I’ve stayed in the same place for so long, and why I have no intention to leave any time soon.  This post and subsequent ones will share some of those reasons and hopefully show you that it is possible to find a perfect fit where employment is concerned.

I have my reasons.

The first thing I want to share with you is that the company I work for and I have shared values.

No, really, we do.

I place a high value on family, friends, and local communities that I exist in.  So does the company I work for.  It is a privately held corporation that has been run by the same family since the beginning in 1944.  The sons and daughters of the founder sit on the board of directors with the addition of a few close, long-term friends.  I know that for some the idea of a medium sized corporation being run by brothers and sisters is a bit scary, but trust me – it works in our case.   The company I work for participates in both the local community via charitable donations to local groups and allowing and encouraging employees to take part in local efforts like Junior Achievement.  It also participates in the community we serve with our business by donating to groups like Jewelers for Children, assisting with sponsorships to events like The Santa Fe Symposium, and processing scrap precious metals for efforts like Jewelers for Japan.

The company I work for and I both place a high value on our impact to the environment.  I am able to recycle at work almost more easily than I can at home, there are efforts to reduce energy usage, reduce waste, and in general be good citizens of this planet that happen on a constant basis at work.  I know that these things all make good economic sense in the long run, but they do take effort to coordinate and maintain and that time and effort can all but eliminate any cost savings you might see as a corporation, yet the company I work for still does it.

The company I work for takes a principle-based approach to guiding behavior rather than being bound by rules that have no flex or give.  This is a big one for me.  Nothing makes me more frustrated than a rule that doesn’t apply to the situation, yet must be enforced because it is the rule.  By allowing principles to guide the behavior and our decision making process we are able to be more agile, make quicker decisions, and adapt to situations more quickly than a business that is bound by a rule book full of policy and procedure, and that suites me just fine.  As my family and friends can attest I stopped seeing the world in black and white a long time ago, and working in a company that recognizes the multiple shades of gray, while maintaining ethics and remaining law abiding is just about perfect for me.

Speaking of Principles

While I’m mentioning our principle-based approach, it may be helpful for you to see them in print.  It will give you a basis for where I come from in both my writing and my presenting.

  1. Do what you agree to do.
  2. Do not encroach on other people or their property.
  3. Create an environment of trust.
  4. Be open and honest.
  5. Treat everyone with dignity and respect.
  6. Express and value all feelings, concerns, and ideas equally.
  7. Exchange your best effort for the best effort of others.
  8. Develop long-term relationships of mutual benefit (WIN\WIN)
  9. Have fun.
  10. Passionately develop and pursue shared and individual purposes and goals.
  11. Strive to maintain a positive attitude at all times.
  12. Maintain your power to succeed by choosing not to believe you are a victim.
  13. Take responsibility for your part in each live experience and learn from it.
  14. Be successful by helping others to be successful and accepting that help for yourself.
  15. Lead by influence (using reason, benefits, and inspiration) rather than by coercion (using force, fear, and innuendo).

So there you have it, the 15 principles that guide the way the company I work for treats it’s stakeholders, and in this case it’s stakeholders are the owners, employees, customers, vendors, and any other partner you can think of.

Go ahead, read that list again.

I think it’s pretty impressive, and quite a lofty goal to get more than 300 people from all different walks of life to not only try to meet those principles, but to actually follow them day in and day out.  I’m happy to report that the company I work for is mostly successful at doing just that, and it makes for a quite happy workplace.  I do have to confess that it’s not easy to follow every principle every single day, and as a DBA and Sys Admin it would be a lot easier to use the ‘because I said so’ reason to explain many of the decisions I make about systems.  What I can tell you is that by following most of the principles above, especially when explaining to someone why they can’t have DBO rights to a database, or why they can’t be added to the Domain Admin role to simplify their access to files on the network there are far fewer hurt feelings, significantly less push back when I have to make drastic changes to permissions or systems, and honestly it takes less effort and time to treat people with respect and show reasons and benefits to changes than it does to have an argument about it.

Next up I will talk a bit about each of the principles and how they apply to IT.

Categories: Community, Prof Dev

Lessons learned: Filming video is hard work

Last week I headed to Tucson AZ to record 3 sessions for SSWUG.org and I learned a few things.

 

Lesson # 1:  Presenting for cameras is hard work!

Seriously, I’ve done a few SQLSaturdays where I’ve presented more than one session and those were tiring, but filming all day is something else.  Without an audience in front of you the impetus is all on you to keep the energy up.  I’m worried that I wasn’t able to do that towards the end of the day.  I had no idea it would be so exhausting.  It was fun though.  The folks at SSWUG took great care of me, and were fun to be around.

 

Lesson #2:  A 60 minute session in front of people != 60 minutes in front of a camera!

I knew that my sessions would go a bit more quickly with no interaction, but I had no idea how much more quickly..  I had done full run-thrus at home and the time was short – but I figured it was just because I was doing them at home.  I wound up having to create new demo’s and add even more info on site to meet my time obligations.  And that was after adding more slides prior to leaving Albuquerque.

 

Lesson #3:  Tucson is HOT in June!

I’ve spent time in Tucson previously.  In fact, up until last year I was in Tucson every February for at least a week if not two.  I’m not sure why it didn’t register with me that June would be significantly warmer than February, but it didn’t.  If you travel there in the summer be prepared for hot weather, and don’t forget the sunscreen.  The sun seems stronger in the desert, and I managed to deepen my tan on the little short walks I took while I was there.

 

Lesson #4:  Rent a car while in Tucson.

I opted not to rent a car for this trip and I wish I had.  Because of the way flights worked out I had quite a bit of down time even after working some long hours from the hotel.  There is a mall within walking distance, and there are restaurants close by, but I would have had more fun if I had been able to head down to 4th street for some live music, or even been able to drive around the mountains a bit.  The other thing I realized is that I prefer to be able to hit a grocery store while I travel.  I’m used to having fresh veggies, fruit, and greek yogurt every day and I just don’t feel the same eating out for every meal.  If\when I go back I will be sure to rent at least a small car so I can get to where I want to go when I want to go.

 

Lastly, the reason I was asked to film in the first place is for the upcoming SQL Server Disaster Prevention and Recovery event on June 17th.  I am presenting on Backup Basics, and I am planning on being available in the chat room for any questions.  See you then!

Categories: SQL

Next #ABQSQL user group meeting details

Title
Transposing Data with C# and the SQL CLR
Abstract
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