TSQL Tuesday #96: Folks Who Have Made a Difference

I’m really excited to be participating in this month’s T-SQL Tuesday, the monthly blog party that has been running since 2009. This one was started by Ewald Cress.

This is my first post for T-SQL Tuesday, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.  I just returned from Pass Summit where I had a chance to meet and talk with people in person that I’ve been conversing with online through Twitter in some cases, for years.  It made me really understand something that I understood subconsciously, how amazing #SQLFamily really is.  This community is unlike any other development community, in its participation from so many different backgrounds, it’s inclusion, it’s passion for the technology we all work with and the compassion for people.

I’d been active on Twitter in 2011 when I was first getting into Data Warehousing, but mostly from a development point of view.  Even then, it was more of a question and answer thing.  My company didn’t look favorably on using Twitter as a development tool, but they couldn’t argue with the results.  I fell off the map when I took a new job in the city as a business analyst, and Twitter/Facebook/Most social media were all blocked.

Fast forward to 2014 when I Tweeted for the first time in a while, asking a question and tagging #sqlhelp.  Reading posts of some people I’d followed a while before, I saw some of the people I followed using a hashtag that I didn’t understand – #SQLFamily.  The response to my question was of course, almost immediate, and I struck up a 140 character conversation with someone named @grrl_geek.  Solved the issue I was trying to solve, and her expertise led me to look up some of the stuff she’d written, quickly learning just how much I didn’t know about a lot of things.

I followed her, enjoying her banter with several others whom I quickly followed and all of a sudden the conversations, the discussions, the direct messages with people started making me see something I’d never seen anywhere else – a sense of inclusion.  I’ve always been big into bushido and the way of the samurai, studying various martial arts on and off for the last 25 years.  If you’ve ever posted on ASP.NET or some of the other popular development forums, you can almost expect that someone will couch their answer dripping with sarcasm and “How could you NOT know this already” attitude.  Everything I was reading on people’s blogs and their tweets was supportive and positive, even when they disagreed.

I’ve always been into martial arts, loving Japanese culture especially.  The word samurai comes from the Japanese verb saburai, which means to serve (someone).  I’ve always been a big proponent of sharing what I know, giving back whenever and wherever I can, and doing it because it makes me feel good to help, not because I expected anything back.  I felt more and more; that I was in the company of like-minded people the more I interacted.  Took a chance and tried to answer some #ssrsHelp and #ssisHelp questions as best as I could, wanting to help the community as a whole by giving something back.  It felt good because I’d gone out of my way to do a bit of research before I piped in, and in a few cases it was helpful to the person on the other end.

Without going into too much detail, I came to a crossroads at work.  I had been chasing the almighty dollar and the coveted title of ‘Director of IT’ for so long, I didn’t really look at how miserable I was becoming as I moved farther and farther from development.  I was managing a few people, and we were doing a good job, but I wasn’t happy.  I discussed this with several people, but it was the same @grrl_geek, Jes Borland, who really convinced me that I deserved more, that I deserved to not only be doing what I wanted to do but that I was capable of doing it.  We talked about how she was so happy because she was doing what made her happy, which took a bit to get through my skull but felt so resoundingly right.  She encouraged me to build small projects to dust off my SSIS skills that had been mostly dormant from misuse.  After a while, I came out of my funk.  I had managed to convince myself that I had no alternative, no opportunity to pursue because my skillset as a developer was woefully behind.  Now I felt a glimmer of hope for me and mine.

I put together a pilot project that automated a few of our manual processes and implemented it as a test to see what kind of improvement we’d be looking at.  Showed it to my boss, who quickly diverted my focus to adding a few things and beefing it up a bit with logging and such, and all of a sudden, my confidence came full circle.  Wait, I can do this!  What was I thinking?

I’d spent so much time applying for jobs that I wasn’t qualified for, mostly because I spent most of my energy on applying for positions that were around the same as my management salary.  Yeah, not a good idea, wouldn’t recommend it.  Problem was, I wasn’t sure what my skills were any more, wasn’t sure what I was qualified to do.  Put the Indeed.comApplyFor15JobsANight plan on hold and worked on this project for a bit.  Broke open some old reports written in VB, updated them to use SSRS, dug into PowerBI and PowerShell and there it was – the developer in me never left, I just stopped listening to him.

I got lucky in many ways.  I was able to build some projects that helped me work on both skills and self-esteem, and I was able to move to a job that allowed me to do that fulltime in a less stressful environment (less than 65 hours a week ;)), and build up ‘Me’ to be healthy in so many ways I hadn’t realized.

The real luck was that connection with one person – Jes Borland – and through her, to all of the wonderful people in #SQLFamily.  That’s the concept behind why it works – we’re all here to help one another, to share what we’ve learned, and help people out of the bad, and into the good.  She’s the reason I pushed to go to Summit, to meet her and connect with so many people who had become my friends.  Okay, some of them were the wise-ass brother or the smarter-than-me sister putting me in my place; good people and good friends.  Learned a few weeks before that she was having to attend another event.  So I’ll have to wait to buy her a cup (or ten) of coffee, but it’ll be worth it.  Until then, I try to contribute as much as possible, where I can.

To that end, I’m using this as the inspiration to do something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.  I’m going to submit an abstract to a SQLSaturday on “Social Networking 101 – how to Tweet your way to career success through helping others”.  Well, that’s the title that’s in my head 🙂  The abstract is only half done, but I’ve given myself a deadline of this Friday before I go home.