Nov 172014

Freedom_From_WantIt’s almost Thanksgiving time here in the United States – that wonderful holiday where families and friends gather to share a meal and give thanks for all our many immaterial blessings. (And then for maximum irony, we head out the following day to battle each other in stores for heavily-discounted electronics while avoiding being trampled to death.)

One common tradition is to go around the table on Thanksgiving and have each person say what they’re thankful for. To gather all our #sqlfamily and friends around a dinner table would be an immense undertaking (and the buffet line would be super long). Instead, let’s do it blog-style. Jason Strate did this a few years ago with great results, and the community has changed a lot since then. I think it’s time for a reboot, and I’m happy to host.

So what are you thankful for? Your family? The wonderful people in your life? Your sweet new smartphone? The fact that you deep fried a turkey last year and didn’t burn your house down? There are no wrong answers. Whatever you’d like to share, write a blog post about it and link back to this one, much like T-SQL Tuesday. (And if you want to help me out even more, please leave a link to it in the comments!) Whatever I see by Sunday 30 November I’ll cover in a recap post.


Jan 232014

Pro Tip: If you’re a recruiter and sending out mass emails about positions you’re trying to fill, do yourself a favor and make sure you’re not accidentally including other things, like a letter of reprimand from your boss. The names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent, but here’s the email I received yesterday:

My name is Frank Schlawmeyer and I am a Sr. Executive Recruiter for B.O. Associates, a premier search firm representing major clients in the Chicago area. I discovered your information while sourcing for an opportunity we have as a SQL Server DBA for a major e-commerce company in the Chicagoland area. This is a full-time permanent DBA role and requires experience as both an operational / production DBA and must have experience with T-SQL.

Your background is impressive and I would appreciate an opportunity to speak with you regarding your work history in relation to this role. If you are interested, please send me an updated copy of your resume. I can be reached via telephone at <redacted> or via email at <redacted>. If you are not interested, please feel free to forward this information on to anyone that you feel may be a fit.

For your reference here is a link to the job description: <redacted>

Thank you in advance for your time and I am looking forward to hearing from you soon.

Frank Schlawmeyer
Sr. Executive Recruiter
B.O. Associates

Looks like a pretty standard recruiter email. But wait, there’s more! I’m so glad I scrolled down because I found this gem:

From: Otto Oberkuchen
To: Frank Schlawmeyer
Subject: calls?


You have 2 submittals that were done yesterday yet only 5 calls so far today. It is extremely hard for me to manage the others and push them on calls when they see a senior person like yourself getting away with that. It would be different if you were making tons of placements but without that it makes it tough. Any thought on how I should reply when they ask that? Don’t make it a topic of discussion out there either. This is going to be a year of “No Excuses And All Successes”!! Thanks

Otto Oberkuchen
B.O. Associates

Ouch. “No Excuses and All Successes” sounds like an incredibly understanding and flexible management methodology to me. I’m sure it’s working out great for them, especially since this isn’t the first time I’ve had an interesting encounter with this particular agency. I’ll be sure to add this company to my list of places I hope to work someday, right after an apiary. (And if you know me, you know I will run away if I even think there’s a stinging insect nearby.)

Sadly, this also isn’t the first time I’ve received emails I shouldn’t have seen. A little proofreading could have gone a long way here – it takes only a few seconds to give an email a once-over before sending it. I’ve worked that step into my routine to help avoid situations just like this one.

Help Frank Out

I really do feel for Frank, and he did say “If you are not interested, please feel free to forward this information on to anyone that you feel may be a fit.” So, if you’re interested in this position, drop me a line and I’ll be happy to get you in touch with Frank.

Maybe he can fill this position and have one more success (and one less excuse) to take back to Otto!

Dec 102013

This post is part of the DBA JumpStart series being written by myself and 19 other professionals from the SQL Server community and coordinated by John Sansom (@SQLBrit). It has been compiled into a free eBook, which can be found here. Be sure to download a copy!

If you could give an aspiring DBA just one piece of advice what would it be?

My favorite thought on this topic is don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Mistakes are one of the ways that we learn. Make a lot of them, and you’ll have many opportunities to learn. Really.

I hear the term “expert” thrown around a lot, occasionally even in contexts I agree with. To me, an expert is someone that’s found an incredible number of ways to break things, and has used those experiences to their advantage. They have figured out how to fix everything that they have broken, and even more importantly, they know how to avoid breaking things in the future. Whenever something goes awry, the worst possible outcome is to not learn anything from it. So long as this isn’t the case, you can always make at least some good come from a sticky situation.

This is not to say that you should go out making mistakes or breaking things. Creating problems in a production environment is still a very bad idea that could have a negative impact on your career. These mistakes are best made in development or (even better) a local sandbox instance. Practice everything there before making changes in production. Even more importantly, take some time and think about all the different things that can go wrong. If possible, make those situations happen in your DBA environment and then figure out the best way to recover from them.

Along those lines, not being afraid to make mistakes also doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared for them. Even if they are inconvenient, simple actions such as making sure backups are up-to-date and on hand before launching a change can be the difference between looking like a rockstar for recovering gracefully from an unforeseen issue, and having egg on your face.

Nov 212013

There was an interesting debate on Twitter the other day over whether or not it’s important for an interviewee to know what a company does, or if they should just know whatever technology the job description calls for and nothing else. Jen McCown blogged about it in detail and included a lot of comments.

There are definitely valid points on both sides, but in general I think it’s always a good idea to know what you’re potentially getting yourself into before you head to an interview. This way, should you find there’s something about the position you object to beforehand, you can save both yourself and the interviewer a lot of time by canceling.

Even more importantly, taking the time to learn a little about the company and what they do shows your interviewer(s) that you are really interested in the position, and may separate you from the other candidates. If someone is faced with two similarly-qualified applicants and one of them put forth the extra effort to do some research about the company in advance, which candidate looks better?

True story: back when my brother was a senior in high school he was applying for all the local scholarships he could find, one of which was offered by the local Masonic Lodge. They decided to bring him in, and I can remember him mentioning to my father one morning that the interview was later that afternoon. My dad asked if he knew anything at all about the masons, and if not, maybe he should look up some facts about them. Adam heeded my father’s advice before heading off to be interviewed.

A few days later, the Worshipful Master (awesome title!) called my brother to say they decided to award him the scholarship. This of course was awesome and we were all very happy, but even more entertaining was why they decided to award it to him.

It turns out they only invited 2 people in for interviews, and one of the questions they asked was “What do you know about the Masons?” Adam came prepared, and said he knew they were one of the oldest fraternal organizations in the world, and that several U.S. Presidents, including George Washington, were all Masons as well.

They said the other candidate, when asked the same question, replied something along the lines of “You guys are a cult, right?”

So if you want the job, or the scholarship, or for whatever reason find yourself needing to impress someone, do your homework ahead of time.

Oct 232013

I was extremely fortunate to be able to present at the PASS Summit this year. It was an amazing and energizing time, despite getting about 15 hours of sleep the entire week. Much like last year, here are some of my thoughts and highlights in no particular order:

  • Pusateri Christmas Summit (circa 2000)

    I love community. Really, I do. I’ve always loved getting people together to have a great time, whatever we happened to be doing. Back in high school my brother and I would have a huge Christmas party every year and invite all our friends. We’d also be sure to cram everyone into a photo – quite the challenge in my parents’ small basement. I don’t think PASS Summit is all that different. It’s a giant group getting together to share our knowledge with others and have a great time while we’re at it. Sure it’s a little bigger and a single photo of everyone isn’t possible, but the motivation is the same. To me what makes PASS events like the Summit special is the way we all revel in community. It’s the little things like the Community Zone, an area loaded with beanbag chairs and power outlets so people can hang out, charge their gadgets, get help with a technical problem, or just get to know each other. The sessions are important and valuable, but even moreso is the opportunity to catch up with old friends and make new ones. If I need to skip a session or two to do that, I don’t feel the least bit guilty.

  • Charlotte is pretty cool. I love Seattle and had a great time there last year, but Charlotte provided a nice change of scenery and showed me an excellent time too. I wish I had more free time to explore the city, but everything I saw about it I enjoyed. The weather was mild, the downtown easy to navigate, and I’ve never seen crosswalks with longer signals in my life! 50 seconds to cross a 4-lane road is amazing – I’m used to Chicago, where the “don’t walk” signal is usually flashing by the time you make it halfway across the street.
  • There’s always plenty to do. I can’t imagine going to a conference and returning to my hotel room once sessions are over for the day. Thanks to #sqlfamily, that’s never been an option. There’s more than “enough” things to do – there’s too much! Between the PASS-organized events like the volunteer appreciation party (this year at the NASCAR Hall of Fame) and the exhibitor reception, or the plethora of events organized by community members and sponsors such as the #SQLRunnetworking dinner, or SQLKaraoke. I like sleep, but not during summit week. I don’t think I got back to my hotel before 2am any night.
  • Community Zone Photo

    Chillin’ at the Community Zone

    The content was amazing. Once again, my biggest problem with sessions was simply determining which ones to attend in person. Buying the recordings is something I highly recommend, not only because you can watch all the sessions, but also because it’s much easier to absorb material when you can hit “pause”.

  • I’m getting better at names and faces. Last year I did a pretty good job of making a fool of myself a few times. I like to think I did way better this time: the vast majority of people that I couldn’t identify were actually ones I’ve never met in person before. I got to meet tons of people for the first time this year, and I don’t think it’s fair to list names as I will undoubtedly be leaving people out.
  • My wife wasn’t there. You’re probably thinking that I’m saying this in the “SWEET! I’m on my own for the week!” sense, but not the case. Early in the week I was fortunate to meet Cathrine Wilhelmsen (@cathrinew). A few of us started hanging out at the social events each night, and shortly thereafter the comments started rolling in about how nice it was that I brought my wife with. Wha? I didn’t realize it at first, but several other people pointed out that Cathrine has a certain resemblance to my wife. See for yourself.
  • It’s the best week for twitter. Ever. Twitter is a great way to communicate with groups most of the time, but it really shines at events like this. It’s an amazing tool for keeping in touch with all your friends and finding out where everyone is. It’s also extremely enlightening during keynote sessions. I can’t fathom attending the summit (or any other tech conference) without it.
  • Presenting at PASS Summit is somewhat nerve-wracking. It really shouldn’t scare me – I’ve been getting up and speaking in front of people for over 10 years. Back in college it was things like the Physics Van, and more recently it’s at user groups and SQL Saturdays, but summit is different. Why? Because for the first time in my life, people were paying something to see me. Sure it was indirectly – they’re paying to attend the conference and then choosing my talk as opposed to forking over cash for a ticket with my name on it, but still I felt extremely obligated to put on an excellent session. Thankfully once I got started everything seemed to fall into place. And much like when I speak at a user group or SQL Saturday, I can’t wait to do it again!
  • MCM Photo

    All of the Microsoft Certified Masters we could gather for a photo.

    Being asked to autograph a book is surreal. Yep, I co-authored a book. I have a post all about it coming up in the queue, but to briefly summarize, I contributed a chapter to Tribal SQL, a project started by the Midnight DBAs, and published by Red Gate. Red Gate was kind enough to do a launch event at the summit, distribute free copies, and have a signing for all the authors that were present. It was a ton of fun to see people so excited about something I contributed to.

  • It’s not possible without sponsors. Even though the summit isn’t free, the costs of putting on such an event are so massive that it still wouldn’t be possible without sponsors. A huge thank-you to all the vendors and organizations that had a booth in the exhibition hall or contributed in any way. Probably the best way to show your appreciation – and this goes for any conference – is to spend some time in the exhibit hall, talk with them, and let them scan your badge. Yeah, you’ll get some emails from them, but nothing you can’t stop later if you’re not interested. Many vendors determine the “value” of a conference by how many people they make contact with. If they don’t get enough foot traffic they may not be likely to come back.
  • Thank you to SQL Sentry! I don’t like singling out sponsors – all are important, and many go to great lengths to sponsor a wide variety of SQL Server community events throughout the year. But I feel a special shout-out to SQL Sentry is warranted this time. Charlotte is their home, and they went above and beyond to make all of us feel welcome. They also arranged for the free shuttle trolleys all around town, distributed maps of trolley routes and points of interest, sponsored the #SQLRun, and probably did a bunch more things I’m not even aware of. I’m very happy that my workplace is a customer of theirs because I know how much they support this community that I love.

That’s all for this time. I can’t wait to do it all over again in 2014!