Time for a Change

I am ecstatic to say I have joined Denny Cherry and Associates Consulting.

Lone No More

I am happy, excited, and nostalgic to announce that I am hanging up my Lone DBA hat and becoming a consultant. Yep, you read that correctly, I’ve decided after 16 years that I am going to change things up a bit. I am switching gears and will be helping those who are Lone DBAs and others by lending them a hand with their work loads.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love being a Lone DBA. So, I will continue to speak on the topic and mentor others in that boat, but it’s time to give myself a little more freedom. Over the past 16 years I have been on call 24/7, even working while in labor, on vacations, nights, and weekends. I really think now is the time to slow down just a bit. My normal speed is 150 miles an hour so down shifting to 100 will allow me to spend time on what is important to me, my family.

Why DCAC?

First and foremost, the people. I am looking forward to working with and learning from Denny (B|T), Joey (B|T), and Kerry (B|T). These guys are wicked smart and most importantly know the importance of the SQL Community. They have a wealth of knowledge to share and I cannot wait to tap into it. With DCAC, I will be getting exposure to so many new environments as they are a renowned global provider of IT consulting and work on the cutting edge. I absolutely love learning new things and can’t wait to dive into things like Azure, which they excel at.

DCAC will give me the flexibility to speak and blog more which I genuinely want to do. Getting out into the community is also a strong passion of mine and moving out of the Lone DBA role will give me greater ability to do so.

Thanks, DCAC for bringing me on board, can’t wait to get started.

About Denny Cherry & Associates Consulting

The vetted and certified experts at Denny Cherry and Associates Consulting assist companies with attaining IT goals such as HA, scalability, SQL Server virtualization, migration and acceleration reliably, while finding ways to save on costs. With clients ranging from Fortune 50 corporations to small businesses, their commitment to each is the same: to provide a deft, high-speed IT environment that leverages every aspect of their platform: from architecture, to infrastructure, to network.

DCAC was named by CIOReview’s 20 Most Promising Azure Solution Providers of 2016.

Lone DBA Podcast

I recently had the pleasure of being a guest on a Podcast episode with the SQL Data Partners Carlos Chacon (B|T) and Steve Stedman (B|T).  If you haven’t had a chance to attend one of my sessions on Survival Tips for the Lone DBA, this is great insight into it. I share via questions and answers how it is to be a Lone DBA.

http://sqldatapartners.com/2017/03/28/episode-89-lone-dba/

Run Book, Run!!!

run-bookHow many of you actually have a “Hit-by-the-Bus” handbook? What is that, you ask? It is a document that explains how to execute all your jobs and SSIS packages. In addition, I preference mine with all key elements someone might need, like where passwords are stored, architectures, backup times, where are backups stored, etc… then dig into the job steps. The purpose of this document is so that someone with some SQL skills could step in if needed. You never know when you will be hit by a bus or win the lottery and someone has to take over for you.

Important things to note:

  • Step by Step with Pictures
  • Diagrams – Pictures are worth a thousand words
  • Plain English— Do this, then this, because of this, and watch out for that
  • Jobs- Rerun information, what to do if fails, what not to rerun when
  • Make a HARD Copy

Here is an example:

SERVER NAME

JOBS

LoadEDIDataandValidate: Imports a file \\EDI_FTP\CUSTOM_HOLD_RELEASE\EDI35020110908.log of EDI records that were sent from Gentran to Server A and Server B. It then validates that Server A and Server B have posted those records to their systems. Alerts are sent when something does not post with 15 minutes or record is in QUEUE status on Server B for more than 60 minutes. Server A and Server B data are kept separate on purpose do not combine those tables. As of 3/9/2015 It also sends out a TXT message if count is >50 that have not been posted.

Schedule: Runs Daily every 15 minutes between 2:16 and 11:21 am. This corresponds with 15minutes after Gentran begins and ends its daily processing.

Steps: Executes SSIS Package EDI350Import.dtsx and executes 2 stored procedures; jobValidateEDIServerAEDI350ServerB and jobValidateEDI350

Rerun: Can be rerun any time. Right Click on Agent job and Choose Start Job at step… There is only one.

sample

Here are some other examples of rerun information (try to be a clear as possible:)

Rerun: Can be rerun prior to 4 pm. If run post 4pm you’ll have to manually change the date (@pdate) of the data being pulled. Always verify no partial data was brought into table before rerunning clear out any data loaded.

Rerun: Do not rerun. Load the data manually to Server X for any missing data and use date_billed as key field for data pull

Rerun: This job will fail if there is a duplicate XXX number. You’ll need to resolve the duplicate before you can successfully rerun. It can be rerun prior to 4 pm. If run post 4pm you’ll have to manually change the date (@pdate) of the data being pulled. Always verify no partial data was brought into table before rerunning clear out any data loaded.

Why Share My Knowledge?

Don’t try to build job security into what you do. I know many that worry about giving up the knowledge to others. Having the sole “how to” knowledge for some, gives them a sense of job security. While to a point that might be true, it also locks you in to your current position. Many that hoard their knowledge never advance because they find themselves invaluable in their current position. “We can’t move them because they are the only ones who know about such and such”. Why put yourself in that position? If you can’t ever be replaced, you also can’t move up.

As a lone dba, I find this run book to be vital. It allows me to direct someone to the book and I can walk them through running anything I need them to in my absence.  It allows me to take a vacation or a day off while giving others the tools to get things done.

Why is it important to have a hard copy?

I’ve found over the years having some tangible steps in hand to follow and make notes helps those who have to cover for me. It’s very easy for them to grab a book off my shelf and follow step 1, 2, and 3. It also gives them a place to take notes as they go through the steps that I can later use to modify documentation for better clarity.

If you don’t have a run book I highly suggest you take the time to make one. Now keep in mind a run book is only a helping guide. I automate as much error handling as possible and build in code to minimize the use of this of this book.  However, in my opinion it is invaluable.  The book can give you some space for someone else to cover for you and when that day comes when you win the lottery, you will have left everyone with great notes on how to run things.

Now, off to buy that lottery ticket. Wish me luck!

This Idera ACE Has Been Busy

This year has been a whirlwind so far, thanks to the Idera ACE program. For those that don’t know what that is …

What is an Idera ACE? (According to Idera)

ace

“ACEs (Advisors & Community Educators) are active community members who have shown a passion for helping the community and sharing their knowledge. We help the ACEs pursue that passion by sponsoring travel to select events and offering guidance for soft skill training.”

Requirements to become an Idera ACE:

  • Enthusiastic members & leaders of the SQL community
  • Accomplished contributors to the SQL community
  • Good speaker, writer and presenter
  • Demonstrated a passion for educating fellow community members

Being an ACE has been both a very busy and very rewarding experience for me. Idera has given me the means to be able to share my knowledge as a Lone DBA and help others who are also in this predicament make the most of it. Since October last year, thanks to the generosity of the ACE program and the exposure it has given me, I have started my own blog, presented at a total of 9 SQL Saturdays, and 2 User Groups. I have also hosted 2 Idera #SQLChats on Twitter (links below) and participated in a SQL Hangout with Cathrine Wilhelmsen (B|T).

hangoutSo far, I have given my Lone DBA session to over 200+ SQL professionals, tweeted in SQL topic specific Idera #SQLChats to with a combined over 600 tweet interactions and had 200+ views on a video chat SQL Hangout.

One of my biggest talking points I try to convey is the power of networking and getting “virtual co-workers”.  Making those connections with others in the community is vital when you are a Lone DBA. I speak on the importance of building those relationships with those that can help you with their experience and expertise. Being an ACE has allowed me to vastly grow my network of “virtual co-workers”, by letting me travel to so many SQL Saturdays. I’ve had the pleasure in meeting so many speakers and attendees.  I make it a point at each of these events to make new co-workers and offer up any help I can give others.

The biggest reward for me is after my session is when attendees do their homework. Yes, I assign homework.  During the session, I ask each attendee to take advantage of what the SQL community has to offer by getting on Twitter and begin growing their own personal network.  Usually within a few days, many of them have created a Twitter account and has sent me a tweet.  I then take the opportunity to introduce them to the #sqlfamily.  I get a kick out of sitting back and watching each of them get involved in the community because me. It makes me giggle every time.

Of course, all good things must come to an end.  My year as an ACE is wrapping up in the next few months and I just wanted to take a minute and say thank you to Idera for a wonderful program. I encourage everyone to take full advantage of these types of programs and make the most of what they have to offer. I urge those that do, to not only take advantage for themselves but also to pay it forward. Give back to the community in any way you can. We can all benefit from each other with our shared experience and knowledge. The ACE program has really motivated me to get more involved and contribute to the #sqlfamily.

Stay tune to what comes next for me.

SQL Saturdays

 Washington DC

ABQ, New Mexico

Richmond, Virginia

Atlanta, Georgia

Pensacola, Florida

Louisville, Kentucky

Kansas City, Missouri

            User Groups

Richmond Virginia

Nashville Tennessee

            SQL Chats

Building Name Recognition

Building Your Career as SQL Developer or DBA

 

The Shield

small shieldHow many of you are known as the “Grumpy DBA” or have a bad reputation with users because you are always saying no or they have to wait? I know many DBAs that have this reputation. To avoid this, I use my manager as a shield and suggest you do too. As a Lone DBA, with an extremely full plate, I learned that having that shield is necessary. It prevents me from being seen as the bad guy and protects me from work overload.

We all experience what I call, “Drive Bys”, when people are asking for stuff on the fly. Telling someone “No” while they are waiting in your office can be hard to do and can reflect poorly on you.  So how do you avoid that? While you probably cannot prevent the drive by, you can however; fix the perception the user has as they walk away. When drive bys occur I take time to listen to the user’s needs, let them know I will look into it, and then follow up with my manager without giving a yes or no to the work.  I’ve found this to be not only the best way to keep from becoming a “Yes Man” and trying to fulfill every request, but also keeps me from having to say no.

Using your manager as a shield puts management of the workload on their shoulders instead of your own.  This, in turn, keeps them apprised of the work load, and prevents your plate from getting too full without negative user perception.  My manager has no issues saying no to users or prioritizing requests appropriately.  Doing this removes you from being the bad guy and prevents the opinion that the user’s needs aren’t important to you.

The key to maintaining a healthy user relationship is to make sure their needs are heard and you are doing your best to give them what they need to be effective at their jobs. It’s easy to become the Grumpy DBA when you’re forced to be the nay sayer. With my shield in place, I can tell the users that I passed the request along and their work is being prioritized. If they have any questions they can follow up with my manager to see where their request stands.

So far this works well for me, as a Lone DBA, and has become vital in preventing me from becoming over worked, over whelmed, and burnt out.  If you don’t already have a shield in place, I would recommend talking to your manager and seeing if you can work towards one.

Good luck!

It’s time to speak again!

My second time speaking at a SQL Saturday is upon us. This weekend I will be giving my Survival Techniques for a Lone DBA session at SQLSat470 Washington, DC.  Living in Virginia, I am surprised that I’m a first timer to this event. I live only 3 hours away but December is usually crazy with my daughter’s dance schedules and I haven’t been able to attend until now.

My session is bright and early as the first session at 8:20 am and going up against some other great sessions. Thankfully they will have an actual barista on hand to make me a much needed espresso. So, if you see me a little dragging first off and then more peppy as we go along you know that the espresso has kicked in. Obviously those that know me know that I am never dragging… so let’s just say if I am a little less lively just give it a few minutes.

dcschedule

So why don’t you start your morning with a little espresso as well and join me, SQLEspresso, for my session!!

I’m It – Survival Techniques for the Lone DBA

Abstract: Are you the only database person at your company? Are you both the DBA and the Developer? Being the only data professional in an environment can seem overwhelming, daunting, and darn near impossible sometimes. However, it can also be extremely rewarding and empowering.  This session will cover how you can keep your sanity, get stuff done, and still love your job. We’ll cover how I have survived and thrived being a Lone DBA for 15 years and how you can too.  When you finish this session, you’ll know what you can do to make your job easier, where to find help, and how to still be able to advance and enrich your career.

Why not attend?

So, if you are in our Nation’s Capital Washington, DC this weekend come out, get some free SQL Training and stop by my session that morning. You can register for the event at http://www.sqlsaturday.com/470/eventhome.aspx  and here is the lineup of sessions http://www.sqlsaturday.com/470/Sessions/Schedule.aspx

November #SQLChat – How to Build your Name Recognition and SQL Network

For those who don’t know Idera Software sponsors a SQLChat on Twitter once a month. This month I got the privilege to host and had come up with a topic and questions for discussion. Below are the questions and answers I provided as well as some from others that chimed in. I think these are worth noting and give some valuable information especially to newbies of the SQL Community.

Q1: How have you benefited from networking with SQL professionals?

My Answer: As a lone DBA networking has gained me “co-workers”. I now have people to bounce ideas off of. I use these connections daily. Many have gained job opportunities based on just networking and getting to know other SQL professionals. I actually know several companies that hire based on SQL Networking relationships instead of utilizing recruiters. Networking exposes you to so many other facets of SQL you may not have otherwise looked into. My follow- up responses are depicted in italics.

A1: I have met incredible people who opened doors for my career. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them – @SQLDBA Kendal Van Dyke

I too have experienced this.  Getting connected and familiar with the SQL Community can really launch and expand on your career.

A1: If you don’t talk to folks in the same prof. you in a silo in many ways that can be a serious obstacle to progress – ‏@sqlmal  Malathi Mahadevan

I totally agree with this one. I found myself before I started networking in my own little world not really expanding my knowledge.

A1: I’ve built my network & ID’d a Go-To SQL Person for a variety of problems: Backups, mirroring, index, optimize, etc – @IrishSQL Rie Irish

I actually talk about this is my SQL Saturday presentation. Getting Go-To experts in all aspects of SQL Server is key, especially for a lone DBA like me. You cannot be an expert in everything, but you can build a network of those who are experts in their own realm of SQL Server.

A1: I was burnt out & wanted to change professions before I went to my first UG mtg and started meeting people and it re-energized me –@sqlgator Ed Watson

It is so easy in this field to get burnt out. I truly love how inspiring and motivating our community is.

Q2: What avenues have you used to build your SQL network?

My Answer: Twitter first and foremost. I am on it almost every day talking to SQLFamily and building those relationships. Even if it is just to say “Good Morning!”, people get used to seeing you every day and you becoming more involved. I also blog now and speak at SQL Saturdays. Now that I am an Idera ACE for 2016 you will be seeing more of me this year as I travel around to more SQL events. I am extremely excited to get even more involved.  Another great aspect of this community is that it’s easy for introverts to mingle their way in because it’s so inviting. We have lots of introverts in this community. There is a place for everyone.

A2: I’ve found that while SQL Sats, Summit etc are helpful, adding in Twitter is like rocket fuel for the process- @sqlstudent144 Kenneth Fisher

This is very true, add Twitter to your networking tools and you will see how much of an impact it will have.

A2: On Twitter since an amazing #SQLPass at the recommendation of @GlennAlanBerry been blown away by the SQL Love and support on Twitter – @_adamnichols Adam Nichols

I love this one. It goes to show how inviting our community is to new comers. The passion for what we all do shines through even in just 140 characters.

A2: Twitter! SQLSaturdays, user groups and events like PASS Summit and SQLBits. Newest is Slack – @cathrinew Cathrine Willhelmsen

The WIT (SQL Women In Technology) group has just started a new Slack channel, for those ladies that want to get involved, drop me an email or direct message I’ll get you invited.

A2: I joined the #sqlchat today and from reading the Tweets, it feels like a great SQL resource – @crhanks Cary Hanks

This is exactly why we do these types of things. It helps to get more involved and share our experiences with each other.

Q3: How can newcomers get started on networking within the SQL community?

My Answer: Get a Twitter account! Just start interacting don’t be afraid to jump into conversations, we don’t bite and I hear we have cookies.  Make sure when you setup your Twitter account and use SQL in your handle or at least in your Bio. It helps us recognize family members. In addition, change your avatar to an actual picture of yourself, start getting yourself out there. It’s great to put a face with a name.

A3:  Advice for to newcomers is to start with your local user group, attend SQL Saturdays and talk to the organizer and Tweet. – @LindsayOClark Lindsay Clark

If you don’t know if your town has a local user group, visit the PASS website and look it up.  If there is not one near you, try a virtual chapter those too are a great resource and way to get involved.

A3: Agreed if it is on Twitter and you can see it, it’s a public conversation –jump in. – @DanielGlenn

This a great tip to remember and several others chimed in and stated the exact same thing. Jump in to conversations freely, people will respond to you. Don’t be afraid to do so.

A3: Getting out of lurker mode on Twitter helps. Introduce yourself! I  often suggest new users of Twitter give a look to @BrentO’s free ebook on the topic brentozar.com/twitter/book@vickyharp Vicky Harp

This is fantastic resource for those new to Twitter. Great advice Vicky! I also completely agree with getting out of lurker mode. You can gain a lot by watching conversations and reading the information shared but you again even more by participating.

Q4: Do you have name recognition? Why do you think that’s important?

My Answer: I am working on building name recognition, I’ve begun using SQLEspresso on my blog, cards, and emails. I think it’s easier to remember then a name. I think building name recognition just opens doors it is not about becoming “SQLFamous”.  I’ll admit it floors me when someone recognizes me as SQLEspresso, I get a kick out of it.

A4: I heard “Oh, hey, you’re @AMtwo!” more than once at PASS Summit. Name recognition helps build relationships – @AMTwo  Andy

I’ve had this same thing happen, many others in the chat said they did too.  Since we are all located all over the globe social media, blogs etc. are our personalities and only interaction with many #SQLFamily members.  It’s important to build that name recognition and keep building it in order for people to remember you because of the lack of in person interactions.

A4: I have some name recognition. Enough for me. It helps when I need answers & gives more weight when I give answers – @IrishSQL Rie Irish

A little goes a long way. I agree with Rie, the more your name is out there the more credence you responses and questions get.

A4: I try to use the same photo of myself everywhere to help with self-brand recognition –  @johnsterrett  John Sterrett

This too is great advice. If you are trying to build a brand or name recognition consistency across all platforms is a must.  I’ve actually just started doing this myself.

Q5: What names or brands do you recognize? Why do you think that is?  

My Answer: There are so many names in the SQL Community I recognize because they make themselves visible and give back to the community.  They also promote others to get involved; you can see their passion for SQL Server and its family.

A5: Brent Ozar (wicked marketing chops) Paul Randal, Kimberly Tripp etc. They all have excellent branding –@sqlrus John Morehouse

These are a few of the “big” names you see every day. Why are they big names… because they give their time and knowledge to our community. They are active and are consistent in their brands image.

A5: I recognize people who write books/blogs, who speak at UGs & SQL Saturday type events, & engage, on Twitter. –@SQLDBA Kendal Van Dyke

I think Kendal’s response enforces the idea of noticing those that get involved and give back.

A5: Leaders are “created” by their efforts and community acknowledgement. The most referenced names are that was for a reason. – @tomsql Tom Staab

A5: I think cheerful helpers in the SQL community gain name recognition whether they seek it or not. –@vickyharp Vicky Harp

I can’t agree more with Tom and Vicky. You don’t have to seek name recognition it is naturally created. You probably have more name recognition than you think.

Q6: How do you find time to network and build your personal brand? Are you able to do it as much as you’d like?

My Answer: I make time. Even just a little here and there makes a difference. I take a minute every day to pop into Twitter and say Hi.  I have started writing a weekly blog, as time allows and I give my time to my SQL user group. For those who know me personally they know I have a crazy schedule and as a lone DBA my work load is tremendous but the SQL community is important to me and I find time to network and get involved. It’s worth every minute of my time.

A6: I spend time building my brand and networking without knowing I am doing it. I focus on things I am passionate about so it’s really just my hobby time – @johnsterrett  John Sterrett

Many people have a brand and don’t even know they do. It’s just something the freely develops and can be cultivated if wanted.  I also find and think most people will agree if you’re passionate about SQL server it is a hobby for you and you make time. It’s one of the great things about our careers; we find it fun and don’t think of it as a job.

A6: I wish I could spend time participating in #SQLChat today. A meeting’s preventing me from it. Just wanted to say I <3 #SqlFamily –@DBAArgenis Argenis Fernandez

This is exactly my point. You make time. Argenis wanted to support me in this #SQLChat and made it a point to make time. Thanks Argenis!

All and all the chat session went really well. There are a lot of take a ways from this. The few I have I highlighted here helps drive home my point.  My notifications on Twitter blew up with so many responses; I wish I could include more in this post. We actually broke a record for Idera on the most tweets and involvement for a #SQLChat with over 370 tweets.  Thanks to all that played a part in the conversation, I hope it was as fun for you as it was for me. I am looking forward to next month’s topic.

Master of None

Being a Lone DBA gives you so much exposure to so many facets of SQL Server. Since I am just one I get to work on Replication, Administration, Security, Business Intelligence, Disaster Recovery, Reporting Services, Integration Services, Analysis Services, Database design, Development, Performance… you name it I get to dabble in it. However, being able to work on every facet also means I will never be a Master at any of it and that’s okay by me.
jack

For a Type A personality, like me, this is a hard thing to come to terms with. I‘ve learned with time to be fine with not knowing everything. I relish in the fact that I get to do and experience MUCH more than most. Those that are not Lone DBAs have to divide and conquer or are responsible for just a hand full of areas (like security, or DR, or Change management). However in our line of work, there is always a need for GO TO Experts. Through networking, I have gained several friends that have become my experts. I have an expert for things like PowerShell, Database Internals, Storage, Availability Groups, T-SQL etc… If I need expert knowledge on something they are always willing to lend a hand. If you don’t have a network of GO TO experts whether you are a Lone DBA or not, I strongly suggest you start building those relationships.

So, that being said, I will never be one of those GO TO experts. However, if someone asks a question if I have ever done something or had a particular issue…in most cases the answer is yes.  How do I accomplish that? The answer is by creating a broad skill set. I self-teach by dabbling in things. I am not afraid of trial and error. I learn all the SQL Tools I can and use them where appropriate.  I attend as many SQL training events I can manage.  learmingI am always trying to further diversify my knowledge base.  I attend my user group meetings (now run them), virtual training sessions, watch 24HOP sessions, I get the Summit Sessions on USB every year to watch when I have time, and finally I attend SQL Saturdays.  All of these avenues are great ways to further my knowledge base.

The most important tip I can give is learn just what you need to get most jobs done and don’t try to master it. It’s okay to be a master of none, revel in it, and embrace you get work on so many things. It will make you very marketable; there are not many of us that are given that opportunity.