Monthly Archives: October 2015

What do you look for?

Job seekers – what are you looking for in a company, team, manager, and career plan?

People interviewing – what are you looking for in employees as far as skillset, experience, and potential?

If you aren’t satisfied with what you do, or are convinced that  you should be doing something drastically different, how do you switch gears and succeed?  Take me for instance.  I’m the manager of a development team, working with a process that deploys monthly to multiple clients and play firefighter more often than I’d like.  I’d like to get back into BI development, but I need to operate on a high skill level to make sure I can still eat, keep my house, and put my son through college.  How do you glean the knowledge and expertise to make the move without taking a huge paycut?

In IT, it seems to be a lot easier to move laterally or go into a different line of business because of the amount of resources available – it’s really a question of finding the right ones.  What if you’re a teacher and want to get into IT or an IT person and want to get into teaching?  Is it feasible to take the huge pay cut or jump industries when you don’t have the experience and just suck it up?

What do you think?

Make a move

Keeping with the theme of forward progression:

what is keeping you where you are?  Are you happy and satisfied, stuck and miserable, or somewhere in between?

Regardless of where you are in your career/life/personal situation, there’s always room for change.  Finding the inspiration may be a combination of having had enough, really wanting something, or happy circumstance.  Lately, I feel like I’m on a roller coaster.  Several years ago I was doing what I liked doing – business intelligence, but I was in an atmosphere that was fairly caustic.  I took a position with another company thinking it would be the answer to everything, but truthfully I wasn’t happy there either.  Where I am now, I was starting to see everything in a negative light until I really had a bit of an turning point moment.  The circumstances aren’t really important, what is, is that I decided I wanted and needed a change.

I’ve come to a few conclusions I thought I would share with everyone.  Probably not the first to come to these thoughts, but I’m trying to get myself out there and generate some conversation, so here goes.

#1 – Every job you go to has it’s own bag of bulls&*t.

Sure when you first get there, everything seems awesome, but after a while, the bag starts to fill up, and you realize you’re walking around with a bag of bs and it’s starting to stink.  “I’ll go somewhere else” you think, knowing that the grass is always greener over there.  Problem is, reality checks in after a few weeks and you realize you’ve just exchanged one bag of BS for another.

I’m still working out how to look at it differently, but I really feel that’s the key – it’s your perception of situations that color your reaction to them.  Perfect example – I am so jealous of the people at Summit right now, seeing everyone making amazing connections, seeing great stuff, and learning a lot.  In the past, I would watch the tweets and posts and feel the jealousy sink in deeper, but I had an epiphany a few months ago.

#2 – I am the instrument of change.  It may seem simple, but it never really sank in that it’s really up to me to make that happen, it’s up to me to find a way to get to that conference so I can share the amazing experiences and be part of it all.  It’s all about how much you’re willing to do and how much you want something – are you willing to sacrifice to get what you want/need?

#3 – Change isn’t easy, and it’s not something you should jump into.  Plan, discuss, think, discuss more, tweak the plan, and keep it going.  It’s like a living thing you have to nurture.

Anyway, it’s my daughter’s birthday and I’m in a food coma from PF Changs 🙂  Discuss…..

 

What’s in your workspace?

“The mark of an ordered mind is an ordered desk” – Someone

desk

So if that’s true, I’m kinda hosed.

I’ve gotten to the point where I’m doing more work at home than I am at work, at least for SQL/BI things, and I want to clean things up.  Besides getting rid of the bills/paper, Jango Fett (he’s being relocated based on the design, not being thrown out) plus scattered geeky detritus, and other things that have been shoved in my desk when company shows up, I was thinking of a redesign.

That got me thinking – what works for you?  Not only what you use (laptop, desktop + multi monitors), but how you have it set up.

The cabinet I have is solid wood, heavy as hell, and limited in space.  I have a condo, so I don’t have a room I can close off or shut the door on.  I would do stuff in my bedroom, but NJ Housewives is distracting and my wife can’t do without her reality shows.  The cabinet itself has a pull out shelf that has the keyboard and mouse on, which seems to work.

I do have a laptop, but it’s a mac, and SQL isn’t as easy on it, or I haven’t given it enough of a chance.  I utilize Team Viewer to hit my server, which while not humongous, is fast enough to handle SSIS and SSAS for now.

So my plan for now, is to pull everything out, sort through the paperwork, ditch the inbox/trays on the right and spread the monitors out a little.  Ideally, it would probably be easier to get one large monitor, but I’m trying to pay down some debt so I don’t have a budget line for that (yet).  It would probably help if I also found a way to plug in my laptop from work, and my mac as well.  In fact, I still have some old Mac Mini’s I might be able to utilize for things as well.  I’m going to hook up speakers and have headphones (at least until my kids steal them after they break their n-th pair).

I guess this is just a way to see how other people do their work.  I believe that your environment absolutely affects your progress and I want to try to increase my potential.

Networking at events

I was planning on going to SQLSaturday in Boston a few weeks ago and I was very excited to meet people who are from similar backgrounds and had similar interests.  I can usually get a wall to talk back, but I realized that it’s been a while since I’ve been in a situation like that.  Unfortunately work got in the way, so I’m going to try something a little more local in a week or so.

So my question of the day is – how do you meet people at events, especially if you don’t have any connection besides the fact that you’re in the same room or the same event?

I’m seeing pics from SQLSummit on twitter, and putting faces to twitter handles, but how do you make introductions without coming off as really dorky?  Even the Rockstars that are speaking at these events were, at some point, new to these experiences themselves.

So if you could give advice to people breaking into this wonderful offering, what would it be?  The one thing I’ve picked up so far is that everyone is human, and at least in SQLFamily – everyone seems to be really warm, welcoming, and friendly.

So is it just as easy as start asking questions, or if it’s someone specific, do you do a little research on their expertise (without stalking of course) and try to get into a discussion of some sort?  Or something as simple as “Hey, I’m SoandSo, I work for Company X, what do you do?”  I think it’s easy to talk to people at the booths, because they’re concentrating on something specific, but I’m more interested in navigating the social events.

Thoughts?

Thank you #SQLFamily

I’ve been involved with development for the last 20 years in some capacity doing anything from answering help desk lines to managing 7 deployments at the same time.  I’ve been in big corps, mid-sized LLC’s and startups in someone’s basement.

They all have their benefits and drawbacks, but the place that I have felt most comfortable, most welcome, is among the people in SQLFamily.  I’m still trying to wrap my brain around the concept of being part of this wonderful group.

In the past, I’ve had responses ranging from “Yer an idiot” to “Why are you alive” in other communities, but in the SQL community, it’s all about “Try this” or “Can  you give me more info to help you”.  People that are passionate about what they are doing, and willing, able, and open about sharing solutions to common or not so common problems.

What is it about what we do that makes it comfortable and welcoming?  At first I was a little intimidated by some of the people I was seeing and everything they accomplished, but I found after a little while and some well placed replies, you begin to get follows, and feel more and more a part of the community.  To the point now where I find myself taking time every morning to see if I can answer anything on SQLServercentral.com or on #sqlhelp.  I created a new columns in TweetDeck for family and help and I try to keep up 🙂

So question for you….How do you contribute to the community?  And on a personal note – how to you keep track of everything?!?!  I see people following hundreds of people and I wonder how they keep up.

Teddy Roosevelt is the man

I was listening to my daughter’s marching band director speak to the kids the other night to inspire them not only for the last few competitions of the season, but to challenge them in general.  He had a quote written on the board:

Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.

Why do we sit around wishing for things instead of trying with every fiber of our beings to accomplish those things?  People have the tendency to look back instead of forward – what’s waiting out there for you?  EVERYTHING!  You’ll never get anything or anywhere by sitting there wishing or hoping.  You have to take the first step.

So here’s my challenge…I DARE you to be better than  you did yesterday.  Take a chance, hell, take a walk!  Just do something that takes you closer.  I’m doing it right now by writing at least one post a week.

GOOD LUCK!

Giving back to the community

I was hoping to get to SQLSaturday in Boston this weekend, but work stuff kept me home bound.  I’ve been kicking around an idea and wondered if it had any merit.

Wouldn’t  it  be interesting to have as one of the seminar sessions at a SQLSaturday something like a “Give Back” event.  Poll some non-profit organizations that could use some help getting their data together and turn it into a mentoring session for different levels of people attending.  Designate a few people as mentors, and parcel out tasks to people looking for project work to hone their skills working on ‘real’ instead of always having to resort to something at their current work, or Adventureworks/Contoso.

I wouldn’t suggest doing anything significant during that hour except working out who is doing what, and deciding what is to be accomplished and how the best way to go about it is.  Maybe having separate teams and turn it into a competition of sorts, but the end goal is that the deliverable is given to a company/organization that needs a hand and other people get more experience whether it’s in a new technology, or someone gets some PM/Mentoring experience.

This also might be something that already exists that I don’t know about, and if so, please let me know.

An atmosphere of competency

How many times are we faced with this situation:  You’ve got 9 balls up in the air and someone tosses in a few more.  But these are on fire.  And have spikes.  But the severity of the flames and points depend on which person is looking at all of the things you have up int he air.

So what do you do?

You may be lucky enough to have departments that communicate at multiple levels so priorities have been decided on before they start tossing to you so you can toss a few balls to someone else to juggle while you keep everything else up in the air.  At other times, everyone’s project is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN THE UNIVERSE and you have to finish it NOW NOW NOW!!!

I think that most of us can admit that there are far more encounters with the latter than the former.  So, how have I survived this long without losing my hair? (okay, most of my hair?)

  • Surround yourself with people you can trust, who are competent, and are willing to pitch in when needed.
  • Discover those who are not going to do more than is absolutely necessary and find something to inspire them to go the extra few feet, or take the extra step.
  • PLAN PLAN PLAN for the what ifs that can cause you to have to start juggling one handed or blind folded.
  • Take those short pauses between major incidents to decide how to become more efficient, maybe automate parts, maybe train/promote someone to be your backup

I think the main mistake that people make when they come out from under one of these huge events is to sit back and relax.  To me, this is the most important time to learn.  What went right, what went wrong, and how can we cut down the emergency of the situation so it can be planned and handled better?

I like planning mock engagements, I’ve done it in several past jobs.  If time permits, I like to have the team practice before deployments to make sure all materials we need for it (test plans, logins, setup data, bodies) are ready and available.  This has helped shape our process, of which I’m pretty proud of at this point.  I’ve even gone so far as to hamstring it to see how we handle it, and gauge how much it throws us off.  I walked out of my office in the middle of a practice deployment and shut off one of my QA people’s machine as he was testing.  He was not very happy, but he recovered quickly and moved to another machine while another team member printed out the things he needed.

He was able to respond quickly, but it still ended up costing time in the end.  He hadn’t been tracking in the test case where he was, so he needed to begin that section again.  We had a post-mortem meeting where we all sat down and went through what was good, bad, and where we could make things more efficient.  The main thing that came out of that meeting was to have everyone have everything they needed summarized and printed out so the lack of a machine or access to the network drive wouldn’t hinder them as much.  We also decided that having the physical process of checking off steps and having the manager review for completion was a good idea as well.

Honestly, as a manager, it’s really amazing to watch how dedicated people react in a crisis with aplomb and efficiency, and how they take what they have experienced and turn it into a tool to make us better.

Of course, there are also the other side of the coin.  “My machine is dead, so I can’t do anything.”  Or, “I sent you an email, I was waiting for  you to respond.  Do you smell smoke?”  How to you motivate them in daily work?

Think Big, Start Small

Do you smile when you’re working?  Do you have things that you do that give you joy or challenge you?

I wasn’t smiling when I was working because to tell the truth, I’m not really doing what I want to be doing.  I’ve made choices based on money and promotion and while it’s helped at home, it’s leaving me wanting for more.  Life is too short to be stuck, to regularly do something that doesn’t help you grow or at least make the world a better place.  If you’re sitting in the parking lot dreading going into the office, or pulling the covers over your head when  you wake up, it’s time for a change.

Regardless of what higher power you believe in or what you believe comes after this life, you owe it to yourself to make a difference.  Whether it’s helping someone succeed in business, raising decent human beings, or just spreading joy around you, this is not the time to sit back and do nothing.

I found myself in that very position a few months ago.  I have been trying to get back into development several times over the last 2-3 years, I would always get discouraged and go back to feeling sorry for myself.  I decided to try again, but this time I resolved I wouldn’t just focus on technology, I would focus on me – my decisions, my behaviors.  Yes, there are things that everyone has to do on a daily basis that might not be the coolest or the happiest thing to do, but some of those things are necessary.  The key to what I’m hoping will be my success, is that I finally saw the issue – me.  I think we are all guilty of getting in our own way whether it’s from making excuses, or not getting up to do that extra bit of reading or research, or making a sore leg worse in your own mind so you don’t have to wake up and run.

The Nike commercial and Shia LeBeouf had the right idea – Just Do It.  The key to that piece of advice, is think big, but start small.  For me, I want to be one of those people up on stage at conventions giving speeches that everyone is on the edge of their seat for.  That’s my 10000 foot goal.  My 1 inch goal was tweet more.  Got into the habit of that and said, “Okay, start blogging”.  That was a little more difficult because I didn’t know what my platform was – who is SQLKohai, and why should people listen to him?

Well, it’s a few months now, I have made some REALLY great connections with people on Twitter, found some excellent sources of info in blogs I’m reading regularly, and Saturday I’m going to my first SQLSaturday in Boston.  I can’t afford the room, but I’m not letting that stop me, so I’m waking up at 4am, driving to Boston, and hoping to make some connections with people.  I’m doing the extra, going above what I would normally do because I know what I want, and I really think this is a step on the path.

So what’s your idea/passion/quest?  Think Big, Start Small.

SQLSaturday

I’ve been developing software of some sort for a long time.  Started with html pages when I was still an accountant, posting pictures on the internet so my parents and inlaws could see more of my son right after he was born.  I soon realized that I enjoyed that more than doing bank reconciliations, so I moved into help desk and fast forward to my job as a manager of development.

Over the years, I’ve gone to Tech and BI conferences, but I was really more of an observer at those because they just seemed so big and I was trying to collect as much swag as possible 😉

Over the last year or so, I’ve been more active online again in the SQL community and decided it’s time to put myself out there and start doing more.  I’m going to a local SQL group meeting tomorrow night in Iselin NJ, and to a SQL event in Boston on Saturday.  The significance of Saturday is twofold.  It’s a BI SQLSaturday event, and it’s in my favorite city on the planet. (I’m a huge Boston Red Sox fan even though I was born and raised in NY).  So I’ll be able to kill two birds with one stone – do some networking with the #SQLFamily as well as replacing my old worn out Boston Red Sox hat.

So I’m packing up my business cards, some clothes to change into (driving clothes are not wearable to conferences), and drinking about 5 gallons of coffee before I drive up at 4am from NJ to Boston for the event.  Got some good advice from some really great people, and I hope to see people there!!!