Joining UpSearch

After what may be the longest interview process ever, I have joined the professionals at UpSearch. This marks a few interesting turns in my career. A few firsts:

  • Working from home, full-time. I’ve worked from home before for short periods; perhaps a week or two at the most. So this will be an interesting challenge for me. I do like my home office though, and find that I am quite productive in it. Often more so than I am in a traditional office environment. I’m confident that this will work out well.
  • Consulting. I’ve done contract work, and many of my previous engagements have been contract-to-hire. I know what it takes to keep clients happy. (Candy. Clients like candy.) However, my most recent previous positions have been as a full-time employee. I’m looking forward to the challenge of working for multiple clients. I feel like I have a decent handle on my time management and documentation skills, so again, I’m confident that I am up to the challenge.
  • Community Involvement. I like to think I’ve been doing this already, blogging, speaking at SQL Saturdays and participating in the local user group. Now, however, this is considered a focus of my job. Maybe a minor focus, but a focus none the less. I plan to expand my community involvement because of this.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the two best parts of joining UpSearch are the people I’ll be getting to work with. I have great deal of respect for the professionalism and skills of both Colleen Morrow ( b | t ) and Kendal Van Dyke ( b | t ). I’m looking forward to working with, and learning from, both of them.

Let’s do good work.

Thanks for reading.

-David.

PASS Summit Thoughts & Speaker Idol Wrap-Up

Summit 2015. Where do I start? The Annual PASS Summit, as anyone who has been there can tell you, is almost always a whirlwind. But there were three specific things I was focusing on this year, and I want to talk about each of them in turn.

First, this year was a lot more about networking and meeting people than it has been for me in the past. I’m not the most social of people, though I do like some karaoke and hanging out with friends. So one of my main goals this year was to meet more people, and get more involved in different activities. Sadly this meant missing out on seeing some people I usually like to spend time with, as I wasn’t going to be at the usual or largest events. For that, I’m sorry my friends – but I will be in touch with you again, soon.

Second, I did not make many technical sessions last year, and wanted to make sure I saw a few this year. So I stopped by Paul Randal’s Mythbusters session, Jason Strate’s Plan Cache session, and Colleen Morrow’s SQL Audit session. All three were excellent, of course. No matter how much I think I may know about a topic, attending sessions, even ones I’ve seen before, always yields a few new nuggets of information that are extremely useful to me.

Third, I was a contestant in this year’s Speaker Idol. I want to spend the rest of this post on that, since that consumed the bulk of my attention this year. Of the 12 people who were originally picked for the event, 2 had to eventually back out. I was very disappointed by that and hope that all is well with them. I would really have liked to have seen them present.

I showed up on day one of the event, with a nicely prepared presentation that I had practiced several times and was happy with. Then I saw the first four presenters and said to myself, “Um… I better go practice some more. And work on my slides. And my demos… ”  I did so, and returned on day two and experienced much of the same sentiments. I was floored by the quality of the speakers. Everyone was very polished and professional. I got to go last on day three, which I think was an advantage. I took copious notes of the judges feedback over the first several sessions. I think that helped me to refine my presentation even further.

When it was my turn, I took the stage with a deep breath (sorry, audio tech) and simply presented things the way I had rehearsed them a couple of hours before. I took mental notes on the judges’ feedback, and thought hard about them. At that point, I was not thinking about advancing in the competition. What I was really thinking about was how to apply the feedback I received and studied over the last few days to future presentations. I really thought the competition was over for me. However, once the judges returned from deliberation, they declared their winner, and I was a bit surprised to find myself declared the wildcard for the finals.

Then, the penny dropped – the judges had come up with a new rule. The person who won the wildcard had to go first in the final round. So that meant I had roughly 30 minutes to come up with something new, or further refine my existing presentation. Yikes. The feedback I had was that the judges wanted to see a slide or example of page splits / fragmentation as I described it. I could have easily found a picture out on the web that displayed something “fragmented” but I didn’t think that fit the existing style of my presentation. So I decided to animate some little blue pages in a random fashion. I also thought about different ways to say some things, based on what the judges found lacking the first time around.

Despite the changes, I was a little more relaxed the second time I presented, and was able to engage with the audience a bit more. Q&A, or really any kind of interaction, is the best part of presenting for me. I love it and it’s what keeps me wanting to present. The remaining presenters went again in the final round, and like I did before – I had no thoughts of winning. Only thinking what a wonderful experience it was.

And then – I won. I honestly, truly don’t know how, but I did. And for that, I have some thanks to give.

THANK YOU: To Denny Cherry, Joey D’Antoni, Hope Foley, Mark Simms, Allan Hirt, Andre Kamman and Karen Lopez for giving us all both the opportunity and means to improve our speaking skills in this way. It was a ton of fun.

THANK YOU: To everyone who showed up, supported us, assisted us, and congratulated us. You are all my #sqlfamily, and it meant a lot to see so many friendly faces, even ones I didn’t know personally, in the audience.

Finally, and most importantly, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU to the other participants in this year’s Speaker Idol. Twitter links provided here, so you can all follow them:

You were all awesome. It was you that pushed me to become a better speaker than I was, and for that, you have my undying gratitude. I sincerely hope you all continue to submit to speak at the PASS Summit for 2016. I would love nothing more than to each of us, up on stage, together. Sharing what we know, and learning from each other. Connect. Share. Learn. It’s what we do.

Thanks for reading.

-David.

Speaker Idol. I’m in.

A little over a week ago, Denny Cherry posted the 12 contestants for this year’s Speaker Idol competition at the PASS Summit. If you’re unfamiliar with the event, it’s patterned after the “American Idol” singing competition, where people compete for a record contract, except that you’re in for a speaking slot at next year’s PASS Summit. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? :-)

If you look close and have a good attention span, you’ll see my name at the bottom of that list. So I will be presenting a five minute technical session on… something. I’m going back and forth between a couple of different things. The difficulty is presenting a complete technical concept in a professional manner with a time span so short. Am I confident that I can do it? Absolutely. I feel like I have enough technical presenting under my belt at this point to do this.

Am I worried about the competition? Nope. But not in the way you might think. You see, I don’t really view this as a competition in the traditional sense. I know a couple of the other participants personally, and have seen more than one of them present before. They’re good – very good. So why aren’t I worried? Because there’s nothing to worry about. There’s no way to “lose”.

At the very least, I get to present a five minute session to a panel of experienced speakers who are going to give me valuable feedback on my presentation skills. Is that not worth participating? I get to work with 11 peers on improving my speaking skills. Yep – totally worth it. And whoever wins – good for you. If I don’t get the speaking slot for 2016, then I just submit as I normally would. See? Nothing to lose and plenty to gain.

Actually, now that I think about it, the people I feel bad for are the judges. Last year’s event was a really difficult decision. So… many… good… presenters… I do not envy the job of the judges one bit. In fact, I’m glad I’m the one on stage. All I have to do is present.

I can do that. :-)

See you there?

-David.

Speaking at SQL Saturday Kansas City

Whew… where does the time go? Well, if you’re me it goes into helping all the people that spent money on projects earlier this year to finally implement everything over the last few months. To say that work has been busy would be a gross understatement of the recent Sisyphean nature of my job.

There. That should be enough literary references for now.

Anyway. Just a quick note that I’ve updated my speaking schedule. I’ll be in Kansas City this weekend for SQL Saturday #444. Seriously, #300, #444… KC gets the cool numbers. Wait – I wonder who had SQL Saturday 007… :-)

I hope to see you there.  More posts coming soon. Promise.

-David.

SQL Saturday Rochester Recap and Speaker Feedback

Rochester, you all are so, so kind… :-)

First things first: Big thanks to Matt Slocum, Andy Levy and their entire crew, the sponsors, the speakers, the volunteers, everyone who put together such a fun event. SQL Saturday Rochester was a great time.

I started my day off in Colleen Morrow’s session: “So You Want To Be A DBA?” It’s a question I’ve posed to quite a few people recently, as I’ve been approached by multiple people interested in the career track. I always kind of struggle to describe what I do and what makes a good DBA. Colleen doesn’t struggle with this at all. She did a great job, presenting all the main points, pains and proclivities of a DBA, and even had a fun quiz in her session. The quiz showed the background of several well known people in the community and the attendees were asked to match the person to the bio. I was a bit surprised at a couple of them, which was very cool.

Next up, I went to Adam Belebczuk’s session, “XML Without Xanax.” My knowledge of XML is sorely lacking. (Read, just enough to pass an exam.) So, I was desperate for some help and better insight into how SQL stores and actually works with XML. Adam didn’t disappoint. One of the really good takeaways I got from this session was the idea of using an XSD schema definition as a sort of column constraint, where XML is being stored. Something I’m definitely going to have to look into.

After a break to make sure my laptop was charged, I stopped by David Klee’s session, which was called “My Brain Has Blue Screened.” Rather than deep technical content, this was a bunch of DBAs and the like, gathered around swapping war / horror stories. Many of which had me cringing. Excellent idea for a session, and something we may have to do at SQL Saturday Columbus this year, if he’s willing. (Hint, hint…)

After a very tasty lunch, I stopped in to see Kendal Van Dyke set up a SAN-less cluster with SIOS’ Data Keeper product. This wasn’t something I had seen before in the wild and it was certainly interesting. We’ve been kind of trying to move away from failover cluster instance at work in favor of Availability Groups. I’ll have to check this out to see if it may be a better fit for us.

I skipped the next session to re-run the demos for my own two sessions in the afternoon. Good thing I did so. I made a few final adjustments to one of my demos and was ready to rock. My first session, “The Usual SUSPECTs”, which deals with database states, went off without a hitch. “DBA 911 – Database Corruption” went pretty much as it usually does. I was able to get through both sessions without modifying too much, though I did gloss over a couple of things due to the time limit. I was trying very hard to make sure the attendees were able to get to the raffle on time at the end of the day, since you do have to be present to win.

I don’t have much in the way of speaker feedback this time, since the feedback I received was universally positive across the board. The attendees must have been very kind people. For the Usual SUSPECTs session, I did get a pair of really great comments under the heading “How will you use the information you learned here?”

“Not sure if I will, but good to know.” – Trust me, one day, you will. :-)

“Test at office on production. No, just kidding!” – If you do, let me know. I could use the consulting work…

And from the DBA 911 session:

How will you use the information you learned here? “Test Backups”.

My work here is done. See you in Philadelphia? :-)

Thanks for reading.

-David.

Quick Speaking Event Roundup

Wow… so much on the radar right now.

This Saturday, I’ll be speaking at SQL Saturday Rochester. I’ll be giving two sessions. First, The Usual SUSPECTs which covers some of the states that a database can be in other than “online”. Second, DBA 911 – Database Corruption, which covers on-disk data corruption and repair techniques. I’m really looking forward to it, and hope to see many of you there.

Next month on June 6th, I’ll be speaking at SQL Saturday Philadelphia, giving my DBA 911 – Database Corruption session. That session has certainly been popular. I think I’ve presented it about a dozen times. :-) Both Rochester and Philadelphia are new cities for me, and I’m really looking forward to enjoying my visits.

I’m also excited to say that I’ve been selected to speak for this summer’s 24 Hours of Pass. This is a great event, and the lineup of speakers is awesome. I’m grateful to be included in such a group. I’ll be presenting my latest session, Turbo-Charged Transaction Logs, on transaction log internals and performance. I encourage you to register, and look forward to ‘seeing’ you there.

Last, but most definitely not least, SQL Saturday Columbus is coming up on July 11. We just extended the speaker submission deadline through the weekend for those of you who still have to submit sessions. Please do so; we’d love to hear what you have to say.

Thanks for reading, and I hope to catch up with you at one of these events, or another.

-David.