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

 

Summit Submission Feedback Response

I’m It Survival Tips for the Lone DBA – Level 100

(Not Accepted: Higher rated session selected)

Track: Professional Development

As others have done I also will share my feedback from my submission to speak at PASS Summit in hopes it will lend some more insight into the process.

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.

Topic: Handling High Stress Situations

Prereqs:
None

Goals:

  • Show how to manage the people you work with (boss, developers, etc) to control expectations around your life and environment.
  • The importance of tools and how to build out the best tool set to support you in your job.
  • Discuss tips on building out your support resources (people, blogs, etc) to help you get through your day.

Feedback:

  • This is more related to dba track rather than prodev. Also is survival really career development? Many would say that working 15 years as a lone dba could equate to failure in some peoples eye’s and I would struggle to want to see this session based upon info provided.
  • Interesting topic; 1st/2nd/3rd person tense shift -bad. Borderline PD topic.
  • I like the title. Good topic and goals. I’d like to have more details in the abstract of what content to expect.
  • Well written abstract with clear goals and a well-developed outline. The topic is one that should appeal to a large audience. The title and abstract are catchy. Overall a really good abstract. Sounds like a session I would enjoy attending.

My Thoughts:
Honestly, I was a little taken a back at the first comment. I found it insulting and not helpful. I am not sure how telling someone working as a Lone DBA for 15 years is seen as a failure. Especially when those of us that do it, manage to do the work load of multiple people by ourselves.  After considering it, I forwarded the comment on to PASS as being inappropriate and unconstructive. I was pleasantly surprised at their response. I give kudos to all the hard work that goes into reviewing the comments before they send them out.

Secondly, I fully understand how some would feel that this is not a Professional Development session, maybe I should have put in under Database Administration. I still have mixed views on that. In any case, I have found this session to be well received and always have 15-25 in attendance at SQL Saturday’s. Regardless of the feedback I will continue to submit it to SQL Saturdays and Summit next year. There are many Lone DBA’s out there and I will to continue to lend them a hand by sharing my 15 years’ experience with them.

 

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!

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.

So How Did It Go?

My first time speaking at a SQL Saturday is now behind me.  I cannot wait to do it again. The support from the SQL Family leading up to and after the event was nothing I expected, it was beyond AMAZING. From high fives in the halls to virtual hugs. I had my own cheering section.

I was a little nervous and talked probably too fast at times, I am sure, but I hear everyone does on their first time out, right? (Evidently, I say that a lot) The good part was that the audience looked to be truly engaged and listening to what I had to say. I even had a few attendees come up to me afterwards and tell me they enjoyed the session and wanted my card. I can’t describe the high you get from that. I, totally, know now why speakers give up their time to do this.comments

Anyhow, I just wanted to say thanks for all the support and I am looking forward to speaking and sharing my knowledge with others.

Moving Forward

To continue to feed my new found addiction, I have already submitted to speak at a couple more SQL Saturday’s.  More specifically, I submitted to speak at SQL Saturday #478 in Albuquerque, New Mexico and to SQL Saturday #470 in Washington, D.C.. I hope that these events will allow me to move forward in becoming a better speaker and to continue giving back to this awesome community! Either way speaking or not, I’ll see you at my next SQL Saturday in DC.

Admit You Can’t Do Everything

As most of you know, I have been a Lone DBA for 15+ years and during that time I have learned a thing or two about how to survive on my own in relatively large environments.  One of those things is knowing when to admit you cannot do it all.  Working alone on 56 servers you can imagine how the workload can seem insurmountable.  There are times when in one week I will do 70+ tasks, not including project work and daily monitoring.  To manage and get this type of workload accomplish you have to learn to work smarter not harder. That’s when you have to enlist help and hire consultants.

But I am Afraid

Many people think that hiring consultants is admitting you are incapable of doing your job. Some think that if you hire consultants, it opens the door for the company to think that they may not need an “in house” DBA. It may lead them to just hire a consulting company to do the work. At the last company I worked for employees frowned and complained every time a consultant was brought in for anything.  Some even refused to share knowledge hoping to protect their jobs somehow.   I think this is nonsense.  You shouldn’t worry about being replaced by consultants.  A consultant only has superficial knowledge of the company.  You are the one that knows the whys, how’s, and understand the needs of the business.  The consultants don’t.  Don’t let it scare you.

Free Up Your Time

The biggest opponent I have to contend with as a Lone DBA is time. I have no time; every minute of my work day is used.  My world is all about prioritizing what needs to get done. Sometimes there is just not enough time in the day.  Hiring a consultant doesn’t mean you can’t do the work; it means you are managing your work load.

I hire consultants from time to time to free up my plate and cover some of the workload so I am able to focus on higher priorities. At times, I use them to do the normal redundant or routine admin work, little things that add up to a lot of time in a week.  On other occasions, I admittedly give them stuff I don’t want to do, or get tired of doing (but if you know me, I never really get “tired” of doing anything DBA related, I am just proving a point).  I will also give them the big projects that take too much time. Time is invaluable. For example, I may need to build a new cube. That as you may know, takes a lot of time. I know how to build and design cubes, but why should I spend hundreds of hours working on that when I can farm that out?

Do You Want to Take Vacation Ever?

Vacation, what’s that? Most DBA’s can take vacation without having to do work, because there is someone to cover and share your responsibilities. When it’s just you; you take work on vacation with you. One of the best benefits of hiring a consultant or a DBA service is to be able to leave that work load at work and take a real vacation. It took me years to realize this. I took my first vacation without work just earlier this year, it was wonderful to hand the reins over for a week and not have to worry about it.

Gotachas

However, there are a few gotchas to admitting you can’t do everything and hiring a consultant. One of the main one for me is giving up what you like to do. I love the core DBA stuff; turning that over to someone else to do is not easy for me. Relinquishing that can be very tough.  I also find that having to spend time hand holding the consultant is another gotcha. Consultants do not know the ins and outs of your environment. Getting them started on a project can take time away from you but in the end it’s worth it.

Embrace It

The moral of the story is I think it’s hugely important to admit to yourself that you can’t do it all. It took years for me to realize that I don’t have to do it all.  If you are juggling a workload for many when you are just one consider hiring help. You’ll thank me for it.

My First Speaking SQL Saturday

sqlsat

I will be speaking at my first SQL Saturday on September 26th in Spartanburg SC.  I am so excited to have been selected to give my session on Survival Techniques for the Lone DBA.  After a year of, not so subtle hints from the SQL Family (John Morehouse (b|t), Rie Irish (t), Melody Zacharias (b|t), Mike Fal (b|t), Argenis Fernandez (b|t) , Kirsten Benzel (b|t), Andy Yun (b|t), Lindsay Clark (t)), I submitted my first session and got selected.   I will be finally standing up before a room of colleagues and talking about my experience as a lone DBA for the last 15+ years.

What did I just do?

Unless you have ever submitted to a SQL Saturday, you have no idea how it feels to input your biography and abstract into the site and hit that submit button. It is exhilarating and scary all at once. You get this “Oh crap! what did  I just do?!” feeling. Part of you hopes you get selected to speak and the other little part of you wants to say “Ok I submitted, let that be enough for now.“ I am very happy to have gotten selected and I’m looking forward to hitting that submit button on many more events.

Feedbackfeedback

I gave this session last month at my local user group and I now totally understand why so many take the opportunity to speak.  The thrill you experience as the audience engages in what you have to share is overwhelming. I loved to see the proverbial light bulb turn on, after showing another way of doing something. It was so much fun (yes I am a dork, I know).  One of the best things I experienced after doing the session was reading the session feedback forms.  If you are one of the ones that normally don’t give feedback I ask you to reconsider. The feedback is how we as speakers (yep me included now) can improve. I was pleasantly surprised at the comments and happy to learn they got more out of the session they expected. Mission accomplished in my book. I can’t wait to see the feedback from SQL Saturday! Hopefully I’ll get some feedback on what to improve upon.

Look! I am on the schedule! Come join me at 3:45-4:45.Capture

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 the Spartanburg, SC area that weekend come out and get come free SQL Training and stop by my session that afternoon. You can register for the event at https://www.sqlsaturday.com/431/EventHome.aspx and here is the lineup of sessions https://www.sqlsaturday.com/431/Sessions/Schedule.aspx .

Hope to see you there; it’s going to be a great event!