All posts by Sql Kohai

What are my Reps doing anyway?

So, I was curious about things and wanted to educate myself, especially since it looks like we’re all going to hell in a handbasket (or is it hen basket?).  Regardless of who you voted for, even if you won’t admit it, you have to have some misgivings about the man who will become our next president.

<rant>
I will always respect the position.  He is the duly elected leader of our country, and deserves our respect.  In this case, and I will not use his name here because I feel like he’s addicted to click-bait, I will respect him because of the position he will be in, but I will never respect him as a person.  Bush Sr, as much as I didn’t like his policies, I respected the man, and the position.  His son?  Okay, I respected the position 🙂
</rant>

What really shook me was a realization I had the other day.  Something occurred to me that made me stop and think, which I don’t think i’ve really been doing enough of lately except at work.  Senators and Members of Congress are elected by the people.  All hollywood and TV stuff you’ve learned aside, they are our voices in DC when it comes to making and passing laws, making the government work, and generally getting things done.  I won’t pretend to understand what either of the jobs entail, but my understanding is that they are there to promote the common good of the state and people they represent and help us continue as a nation.

Again, I’m woefully ignorant and fully admit that I have not been keeping up with political things until it becomes some kind of crisis – for me that was the two Bush W terms, and now this fiasco that we find ourselves in.  From what I can see, people who were hesitant to come out and speak against the president elect, are even more so now.  People who have publicly spoken against him, are now praising him.  Sure, people like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are trying to shed light on what’s going on, but I think the tactic of those in power, is to shine lights on things that are not as controversial as what they’re trying to get away with and in some cases, the media is along for the ride.

More and more I see in all facets of this predicament, it comes down to one thing – Money.  Who can make the most, who can get away with the most to make the most, and who can hide the most to get away with the most to make the most.  I’m not going to go into all the ways I believe the American people are going to be shafted in so many ways.  I’m not going to get on my high horse and start asking why no one is accountable anymore.  I’m seeing the sons and daughters and the members of the cabinet starting to circle around like a pack of vultures on a carcass.  It feels like they’re going to be feeding on the US until it becomes said carcass.

Rather than sit and bitch and moan and wring my hands, I’m going to get educated.

So the title of this post is about Congress and the Senate.  I had to look this up, but a Senator’s term is 6 years, and a Member of Congress is 2 years.  Let me ask you this – do you even know who your Senators and Reps are?  Did you bother to look them up to see what they stood for, or like me, just voted party line?  I’m working on that, I am, truly.

So in my research, and yes, this is just me googling stuff and coming back with what I found, so it might be off, I saw that the average term of service of a Senator is 10 years and a Representative is 9.  So in most cases, the average is about 2-3 terms.  That average sounds pretty good, and I don’t have an issue with that.

What I do have an issue with is people who have been there for more than 20 years.  The longest tenure for both bodies was over 50 years.  McConnell has been in the senate for more than 30.  The issue is this – How can someone who has been in DC for that long, really understand what it’s like to be from the state they represent?  How can someone who is making an average amount of $174,000 a year really understand what it’s like living pay check to pay check?  And if you serve more than 5 years, you get most of that in a pension.  And yet, it seems that’s where they’re looking to make cuts – at the very heart of things they depend on.

I guess what I’m getting is the problem is money.  Why would they want to give up their jobs, threaten their own re-elections, if they have it pretty good?  I mean come on, once you get in office, it’s gotta be pretty cushy 🙂  I’m sure its a lot of work, and you have to have the right set of skills, but once you’re there it seems like most of them are more interested in staying there than doing their jobs.  Where most of us are working around 250 days (if you have two weeks vacation and holidays off) where they only work about 130-150 (in session).  Yes, I know that they are working on days that they are not in session, but the appearance is that they’re doing very little but passing stuff that will increase the profits of someone other than the american people.

Yes, this might have been a very naive post, and maybe I’m deluding myself into thinking I can make a difference, but it’s been on my mind and I’ve wanted to at least write it all out, even if it only makes sense to me.

Thoughts?

How will you change the world?

Hope is great word.  According to Wikipedia Hope is an optimistic attitude of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes related to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large.

Is hope more than just wishful thinking?  To me it always seemed a passive attitude, like you were waiting for something to happen.  To me, I always wanted to help it along by doing anything possible to make what I hoped happen, to actually happen.

I feel like with enough people with true hope, the world could change for the better.  I also feel like people are swallowed up in the immediate and material that people are distracted away from the real point we’re here – at least what I feel like is the real point we’re on the planet.  To make a difference.  I’ve spent the last several years so wrapped up in trying not to be miserable at work, trying not to bring that home, trying to save enough to do the things I want to do without spending so much that I can’t save, etc.

I feel like I have a lot to give.  I’ve done a decent job, imho, raising two wonderful children and giving back through the community and getting involved in things.  Lately tho, now that I have time to sit and think, i’m coming to the realization that I can do more.  With the technical skills I have, I want to try to help non-profits or agencies that help homeless and mentally disabled people do more to stretch their taxed budgets.

I have some ideas on who to contact and get that moving.

What are you going to do?

Happenings of a travel newbie…

I decided to start what might seem like an obvious list of things to bring when travelling, that I nonetheless figured out the hard way.  Feel free to comment, I’ll add it to the list.

  1. Do not bring two small containers of conditioner, shampoo is necessary.
  2. Take that old beat up pair of headphones and stick them in the bottom of your bag.  You will need them when you forget your decent ones and you’re on a flight surrounded by a group travelling halfway across the world who thinks it’s necessary to talk the whole three hours of the flight minus the ten minutes before landing when most of them fell asleep.
  3. Air horn to set off once ChatterBoxPackOfTravellers falls asleep.
  4. Comfortable clothes to travel in.  Thought about it, and had the clothes, next time I’m changing into sweats.
  5. Smaller device to watch movies on than my 17in laptop that I couldn’t open all the way.
  6. USB charger to plug my dying phone into said humongous laptop.
  7. Sharp pointy things for my elbows to move the butts of the people who leaned against my chair waiting to get to the restroom.
  8. Upgrades to move from the 2nd to last row before the bathroom because I have so little status with United Air.
  9. Extra pair of reading glasses to try to do crossword puzzle on my dying phone.  One of the butt leaners stepped on my glasses the .0000001 seconds after it fell from my pocket because I leaned forward away from the stinky breath of the traveller behind me trying to talk to my neighbor.

Yeah, it was all kinds of fun 🙂

Habits

Eventually, I’d like to be able to write novels full-time and live in the big summer house on a lake with all the trimmings.  In order to get to that point, I have to sell books.  In order to do that, I need to write one.  In order to do that, I have to write.

So how do you establish a habit?  I’m asking because I’m the king of not following through, lord of starting and not finishing.

I was born and raised in a happy environment with a living family and plenty of friends.  I’m probably smarter than the average bear, but it wasn’t easy.  Sure, in the beginning it was, didn’t have to study, also had the benefit of being good at any sport I tried so I was successful at most things.

Then I hit 10th grade geometry and almost failed my first class.  Junior and Senior year were more of the same-“wtf is happening to me?”. Truth is, I had no idea how to work, how to study, how to succeed on more than natural intelligence or physical skill.  To this day, I still have to struggle with being methodical and not blaming someone or something for me not succeeding.

So how do I succeed, or at least keep moving in a forward direction?  I plan, I try, I take smaller steps but keep in mind what the next few will be.

I try not to get distracted and surf for hours, but it happens.

So my step here is, to just write.  Hopefully it’ll help someone, but just the practice of writing will help not only stretch creative muscles, but also form habits.

So back to my original question, how do you form habits?

You aren’t trapped or helpless

this is an addition to my original post – http://www.sqlkohai.com/be-happy/

A lot of people stay at jobs because ‘it pays the bills’ or ‘no one else will hire me’.  Truth is, the job market is good enough that you don’t have to settle in and wait for something to come along, you can go out and get something – IF, you’re willing to do the work.

Things don’t come easy, and they aren’t free.  When I realized that I wanted to develop fulltime and get away from management, I felt like I had trapped myself.  My development skills weren’t as sharp, and I had been working on simple SQL stuff rather than the complicated, mind bending things I had been used to as a developer.  Yes, there was a time that I could make an integration package do just about anything.

If you want to get out of where you are, don’t wish, don’t put it all on a recruiter or another company.  Remember, the grass isn’t always greener.  See what you can affect and change in your current position and try to make a change that way.  If that’s not getting you what you need, maybe it’s time to sharpen up your skills.  Before you decide what to delve into, look at your career and examine what you liked and didn’t like about your past jobs.  Or even better, if you have a particular position or company in mind, use that as a guide as to what to look into.

I knew I didn’t want to be a manager anymore, that I wanted to do SSIS more or at least some form of integration/migration, and thought it was time for me to move to a bigger corp environment.  So I found a way to do some small project work that turned into a huge thing we implemented and was off to the races.  Soon after that, with some adjustments to my resume, I was out in the market, more confident in myself, my skills, and what I was looking for.  I think the last part was key – before I had been going on interviews that matched the salaried and got smoked on the technical interviews because they were doing much more than I had been or was capable of.

Be realistic, know yourself, and don’t give up.

Turn the page….

“And now, for something completely different”…well maybe not completely different, but today was my last day at my current job and I start my new position at K Hovnanian Homebuilders on Monday.

It’s the same in that i’m still going to be a data hound, but I won’t have anyone reporting to me (so no HR/reviews/personnel worries), the pace is a lot more relaxed (actually possible to work 40 hours in one week and have a bit more free time), and I’ll get to focus on the technology I enjoy and think I can make a significant contribution to.

Going to spend the weekend relaxing and getting excited about my new journey on Monday.

I wanted to take a minute to thank everyone in SQLFamily for their support and advice.

Be Happy

Life is too short to be doing something you aren’t suited for.

The Dalai Lama said

"Man surprised me most about humanity. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money.
Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived."

There is a lot of merit in this statement, but the reality of the situation is, we all have to work.  Unless  you’re that fortunate person who has figured a way around the system and travels the world getting paid to do cool shit 🙂

So there I was, sitting in a job I wasn’t happy with because I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to be doing.  You may ask yourself, “How do you figure out what you’re supposed to be doing?”, and truthfully it took me a while to figure it out, but I am not going to say “THIS IS THE WAY” because I found what worked for me.  You really have to find what works for you.

For a long time, all I wanted was to get the title of ‘Director’ in some form or another for an IT department.  I wasn’t happy with developing because I wanted the title, the responsibility, and most importantly, the paycheck that came along with it.  I worked, sacrificed, switched several companies, and worked my tail off to learn and adapt and become what I needed to be in order to be that person.

And I was miserable.

I still  had bills to pay, so I tried to suggest alternatives to my situation that would allow me to do what I’m REALLY good at.  Wasn’t going to be possible in the situation I was in, so I started down a path of self discovery, focusing on what I’m good at.  The surprising thing was what I found along the way.  That’s one of the most important things I found was that we spend too much time looking ahead at what’s coming or working towards to enjoy where we are and how we’re moving along.

I started investigating what I’m REALLY good at, and came  up with the notion as good at programming as I might be, my strength really sits in the fact that I excel in a group.  I’m the guy who throws out the ideas, puts in my .02$, and hopefully steers the group around obstacles to come up with the best solution to what the problem is.  I discovered in the process that I was also really good at identifying NEEDS vs WANTS.  I can really listen to someone to hear what they want to do, and then discuss, plan, and discover what the real bottom line issue or enhancement is, and help a team to implement that.

“I want a brand new page that will allow me to do X” turns into a small adjustment to an existing page with some additional information so the person gets what they want while we still supply the original users with what they want, and a little extra.

“I want a report that will give me these calculations and I want to run it every x hours so I can mix it with these 10 other things and deliver a matrix that I’ve put together” turns into a small datawarehouse project where we not only give them the calcs they need, but also expose the fact that we can give them the whole matrix and then some with a bunch of other factors thrown in for flavor.

It took me digging in and doing a LOT of work on my own and some seriously soul searching to find out what works for me.  I spent a long time jumping from job to job because I wanted to make more money so I could finally do what I wanted to do.  I’m still in debt, not as much as before, but the added cash didn’t magically save the day.  Changing spending and saving habits is doing that, so why not get into something I really enjoy.  I spent a lot of time early in my career blaming outside things – lack of training, lack of budget, rough bosses, etc for not being able to excel.

I manage a team of 2, working with an internal team of 7 with a bunch of third party vendors doing work for  us.  I want to do the work, not manage the stuff.  The issue here is, how do I transition back to development status, without taking the salary hit I know is coming?  I went on a bunch of interviews for jobs I wasn’t qualified for because they paid the salary I needed to keep paying the bills.  In truth, if I had gotten any of those jobs, I may have been able to ‘fake it till you make it’, but the stress would have been just as bad as I was already facing.  I took some time off from interviewing and being disappointed (hell, I applied for an architect job – what was I thinking?) and did some real thinking and some soul searching and talked with a lot of people.  Sometimes got away from me and I would spend several minutes bitching and moaning about how things should be done etc.  In the end, I came up with what worked (plus I got REALLY lucky in the job I found).

  1. Find out what makes you happy, but be realistic.  You can’t start throwing 98 mph fastballs or get a job at CERN without training and know how.  For me, I realized I wanted to work with people, and I wanted to get back into development.
  2. Ask yourself what you can do to get closer to a solution for #1.  I got re-involved on twitter with #SQLFamily, asking and answering questions on SQLServerCentral.com and began studying the foundations of SSIS and SQL.  I knew that I had been smoked by some really simple questions on interviews, so I started there and began with a few suggestions from Dusty and started refining what I wanted to focus on.  I really enjoyed the experience of building a datawarehouse from scratch at one of my companies, so I started one at home based on Red Sox statistical data
  3. Help people.  I found that if I saw a question on Twitter in #SSISHelp or #SQLHelp, I’d start looking up the solution if I didn’t know it and post anything that might help the person.  I also found that some solutions that I had spent weeks on would help someone out if I posted the details of how, obviously hiding the sensitive data (id/pass/url).  Sharing information not only helps people, but it feels really good.
  4. Take time to be thankful for what you have.  There’s a proverb I found really poignant that helps me remember perspective:
  5. An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
    
    “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
    
    The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
    
    The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

I hope that this may help someone through a rough time or even just help someone decide that life really is too short, and lift their spirits enough to move in a better direction.  Lets be honest – we all have to pay bills.  How you make that money, or spend the time, really is up to you.  Some of us have to dig ourselves out of the pit of our own making, but it’s worth it.

Good luck.

Best way to learn is to do it… (SSIS)

So I’ve been working on a bunch of projects that are allowing me to get my hands dirty with SSIS, and it’s been awesome.  I’ve learned so much in such a short period of time – well, re-learned some, learned better ways of things.

The most important thing I learned:

  1. If you have SQL2012 server and you’re developing on VS2013, STOP!  I had to recreate the process in SSDT2012 in order to deploy and run it on my production SQL box.  Has to do with versioning, etc.  Save yourself a bunch of worry – find out which version of SQL you’re using, and make sure you can develop in the right environment.

Other Important Stuff:

  1. Send Mail tasks won’t work unless you have things configured properly.  I was trying to find things on google and all I kept coming across was how to configure the task or how to Install SSIS and configure it to run, not how to configure the server to send it properly.  Thankfully John took pity on me and helped me realize that using an execute SQL task and sp_send_dbmail works more easily and cleanly – Sql Server Central
    • To that end, you need to make sure you have a profile to send from, so create one under Database Mail on  your sql box if you haven’t got one already.  I created one called SSISJobs.2016-06-07 15_10_34-Database Mail Configuration Wizard - 192.168.12.163
      I tried just creating entries into sysmail_account and sysmail_profile – no dice.  Use the wizard, it worked like a charm.
    • Run this after in your query browser to make sure it’ll work:
      EXEC msdb.dbo.sp_send_dbmail
      @profile_name = ‘SSISJobs’,
      @recipients = ‘test@test.com,
      @body = ‘The stored procedure finished successfully.’,
      @subject = ‘SSIS Job Message’ ;
    • The [msdb].[dbo].[sysmail_log] table is a handy table to tell you if your message is having an issue
      • 1) Exception Information ===============
      • or Not
      • DatabaseMail process is started
        DatabaseMail process is shutting down
  2. Make sure the applications you’ll need are installed on the box you are running things from, or you have a way to access them.  In my case, I’m using Putty to access SFTP servers to download and move files.  I’ll put that whole process in another post.
  3. DTSX is really all just XML 🙂
  4. Once SSIS is installed (which it already was), all you have to do is right click on Integration Services Catalogs and create one.  Open that and create folder.  Then deploy from SSDT by right clicking the project and hitting deploy.  You have to configure it to hit the right SQL Db, but more details on that later too.
  5. I’ll add more to this list, or create a new list when I get a chance.

I know there are a lot of things I’m not taking advantage of such as deployment and configuration stuff in 2012, but I just want to get my first package up and running.

Jack of all trades

So I’ve been working in IT in one capacity or another for the last 20 years.  (Oh wow, that just made me feel super old).  I’ve done everything from helpdesk to 3rd level tech support to tech writing and QA to managing a development team.  I have all this experience spread across technologies, industries, and years.

Is it inherently bad to be fairly good at a lot of things as opposed to an expert on a few?  I always find myself wanting to look into new things, new approaches, even older stuff to see how it works and how I can use it.  And then my daughter wants to hang out, or my wife wants to do something, or my son wants to jam.  The job I hold now is really frenetic at times and I find that if  you don’t use something right after a training class, it tends to fade faster than if  you are using something on a regular basis.

I learn by doing.  There’s only a certain amount of time in the day, and though I’m getting better at managing my time, I still find myself envious of the true experts in specific fields.  I think a lot of it might have to do with the fact that I feel like people have found their ‘thing’ and I’m still looking for mine.  I need to do what I like and focus on it for a while instead of bouncing around from thing to thing.  They call me the hole-plugger – if it needs to get done, I’ll get it done.

Anyway, I’m not sure of the point I was going for here, I was at work until 11pm and then home testing till 1:30am.  Amazing at how the brain works.

Questions for established developers

I think that we all have a responsibility to share what we’ve learned with others, if only to save people some headache or time spent having to deal with stuff that we can see now and show people how to avoid.  I’m a big proponent of learning through making mistakes and being challenged, but I think there are nuggets of wisdom that can be shared.

So, that being said, the questions:

  1. What was the deciding factor that made you become a developer/dba?
  2. Is there one thing that you would have people avoid or do differently from how you did it.
  3. How did you decide to concentrate in the space you now occupy?
  4. What advice would you give to someone who is trying to transition from an IT background into the data field?
  5. What advice would you give to someone who is trying to transition from an NON-IT background into the data field?
  6. What gets you up in the morning?
  7. Baseball, or football?

Thanks!