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.

 

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.

Everything is coming up ACE’s

I am thrilled to announce that I have been chosen as one of the 2016 Idera ACE’s. It is truly an honor to be part of this great program and give back to the SQL community.

What is an Idera ACE?

According to Idera.small ace duck

“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

My SQL Saturday Addiction

Recently I joked on Twitter, that I am now addicted to SQL Saturday’s and need a GO FUND ME just to pay for them all. Well, that is no longer the case. As an ACE, Idera will generously sponsor some of my 2016 speaking engagements. This year I will have attended 5, next year with Idera’s help I hope to attend even more.  This amazing gift will allow me to not only grow in my career but also help others to as well.

What I Love About This

Being an ACE doesn’t mean we have to be sales people for Idera. Instead we are given means to enrich our knowledge about Idera along with opportunities to give feedback. We get to participate in Beta testing and tell them how we have used their products in the past, to help them continually improve. I cannot wait to start working with the product teams.

The Need for Tools

As a lone DBA, I rely on products such as those from Idera to juggle my daily work load. As I say in my session about Survival Techniques for a Lone DBA, I have to be an octopus to get all the work done. Products like the ones from Idera act as my extra arms. They allow me to quickly monitor my servers, perform administrative tasks, and perform health checks among many other things without having to write my own scripts. The time these tools save me is invaluable so I am happy to be able to contribute my input on them.

Thanks

I thank Idera for investing in me. I will fully take advantage and make the most of it. I am humbled by the fact I have been chosen as a 2016 Idera ACE. Congrats to the other newly appointed ACE’s, I look forward to working with you!

 

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.

How I joined the SQL Family

For my first blog I want to talk about my experience as a member of SQL Family.

My Start

I started my career as a lone DBA, 15 years ago, with zero knowledge of what SQL Server actually was. I was promoted into a sole DBA job with expectations I would get certified and take the bull by the horns to manage the 50+ SQL Servers .  The company, The Port of Virginia, took a big risk with me, but within 6 months’ time the gamble had paid off. In the beginning, most of what I learned to do the job was from a site called SSWUG.org. This is where a man by the name of Chris Shaw “Shaw” (t|b) unknowingly mentored me for three years. Twice a year I would register for the virtual training conferences the site had to offer where I attended almost every session Shaw presented.

My First PASS Summit

After a several years as DBA, I was given the opportunity to attend my very first PASS Summit. This is when I began to find out what SQL Family was and when my exposure to SQL Server grew exponentially. Prior to going to Summit I registered for Summit’s “First Timers” program, I was assigned to a volunteer, SQL Family member, TJay Belt (t|b). His job was to tell us how to prepare for Summit and how to get the most out of it. In his first email, he suggested we setup a Twitter account before doing anything else. He said to use SQL as part of your handle and just start following the #summit11 hash tag. So I did. Creating a Twitter account was one of the best pieces of advice that I could have gotten.

On the first day at Summit, I attended a session given by Shaw and after the session I introduced myself to him. I told him that he was my mentor and thanked him for sharing his knowledge with me. For me it was like meeting a celebrity (cheesy, I know). I was pleasantly surprised how nice he was and humbled he was to hear how much his sessions had meant to me. Shaw ended up being the first SQL Family member I met in person. I ran into him a few more times that week and by the end of the week he made a promise to me to get me an autographed SSWUGGIE.  A “SSWUGGIE” is a Snuggie blanket with the SSWUG logo on it. Some speakers wore them in the virtual conference sessions and I thought they were cute at the time. A month later, I received it in the mail.

swwug

During Summit I traded business cards with so many people, talked with so many different DBA’s, attended all the events, and some after parties. Luckily for me, I am very outgoing and just jumped in with both feet taking advantage of everything Summit offered (which I highly encourage others to do). I met more than a dozen active SQL Family members that week. Upon returning home I logged into Twitter and began following everyone who gave me a business card.

My New Virtual Co- workers

As a lone DBA, Twitter has given me an outlet and supplied me with thousands of new co- workers.  Over the years, I have relied heavily on these connections. I can find help by just tweeting questions or using the #SQLHelp hash tag. All hours of the day and night SQL Family will come out of the woodwork to help me and others. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been able work through an issue, talk through ideas, and just vent to them. SQL Family has generously shared their knowledge and guidance which has in turn helped me grow as a DBA.

Becoming a Valued Member of the Family

Now that I, myself, am a seasoned DBA with knowledge to share, I want to begin doing for others what SQL Family has done for me. I have started speaking at SQL Saturdays (thanks to being encouraged by SQL Family members), I am running my local SQL Server User Group (thanks to Derik Hammer (t|b)), and now look at me I am blogging. I find myself immersed daily in SQL Family. Each morning when I log into work I also log into Twitter and say good morning to them. I have Twitter open on my desktop all day looking to see what’s going on with #SQLHelp, reading blogs I see tweeted, and just staying part of ongoing SQL conversations.  Every day the SQL Family continues to teach me something new.

Thankful

I never imagined that when I started as a lone DBA that I would be able to walk in the footsteps of my mentor Chris Shaw and contribute to others in the SQL community.  I’ve been able to begin to give back to the family that helped raise me in the SQL world. Thanks to all of you that knowing or unknowingly impacting my career and for bringing me into the amazing community we lovingly call SQL Family.  Looking forward to our Annual SQL Family Reunion they call PASS Summit. I am proud to be a member.