PASS Election Endorsements

I’m not in the habit of getting political, but here are my endorsements for the PASS board elections this round:

  1. Allen White – I’ve known Allen for quite some time, and I feel his dedication to the community is beyond question. He’s moving the needle in the right direction for his chair, and I would like to see him have more time to continue doing so.
  2. Eduardo Castro – I do not know Eduardo personally, but from what I have learned over the past week or two, I feel he would do an excellent job for PASS. He’s involved, passionate, and ready to roll up his sleeves.
  3. Wendy Pastrick – I’ve known  Wendy as long as I’ve known Allen, and can echo many of the same sentiments. I also appreciate her ability to look into the future of PASS and shape things in a way that benefits the community as a whole. Wendy’s leadership will help PASS continue to grow.

Now, in no way does this mean that I think any less of the other candidates. In fact, this was a hard call to make due to the caliber of the slate. I look forward to seeing the results of this election, and will support the new board members as best I can, whoever they may be.

 

Thanks,

-David.

T-SQL Tuesday #36: What Community Means To Me

First off, thanks to Chris Yates (blog | twilter) for hosting this edition of T-SQL Tuesday. For those of you who don’t know T-SQL Tuesday is a recurring blog party started by Adam Machanic (blog | twitter), that happens on the second Tuesday of each month. The host for that month picks a theme, and off we go.  This is my first time participating, but I guarantee won’t be my last. :-)

This month’s theme is: What does the community mean to you? I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and I keep coming back to a few thoughts each time.

Community means being able to explain what you do for 50+ hours per week with a single sentence. You have no idea how many times I tell people what I do, and it takes two paragraphs or more to explain it. I don’t have to do that when I’m around you folks, and I love that.

Community means there’s always help available. It may not be fast, but it’s there, and it’s good – every time. When I show DB2 or Oracle people what we do with #sqlhelp, their jaws hit the floor every time. When I tell them about SQL Saturday, the rest of them hits the floor as well. Recently, I even heard a DBA from another product say, “Wow – I should have learned SQL, instead.” I replied with, “Never too late to start, we’ll help you.” And I know we will.

Community means spending an entire Saturday learning. Even if it’s a gorgeous day outside. It says something about a community when a couple hundred people take a weekend to train themselves, get better, and help others get better as well. I just don’t see that in a lot of other groups. At least not on the scale that we do it. It shows our professionalism and dedication, and it makes a difference..

Community means giving, just as much as receiving. Yes, I was a little slow to start, but the primary reason I started this blog, started speaking and writing about SQL Server is because I get so much from the community, I just had to start giving something back. I’ve gotten so much from the community – it just makes sense to start giving back. And on top of that, it feels good. Whether it’s answering a question on #sqlhelp, speaking at a SQL Saturday, or when someone mentions something I wrote, it feels good to know that I helped someone. (Even if it was by being a bad example. ;-) )

Community means being welcome. I think this applies to just about any community, but I really feel it in this one, more so than in many others I’ve participated in. This is one of the most welcoming groups of people I’ve known. Maybe it’s just a function of common experience, but I feel like I can just walk up to anyone, and start a pleasant conversation. You don’t get that everywhere, and I’m glad to have it here. No wonder many of us call it #SQLFamily. It feels like home.

Thanks for reading.

-David.

Ada Lovelace Day

I try to keep the content on here as technical as I can, but I would be in error if I did not mention a few of my favorite women in technology on Ada Lovelace Day.

First is Erin Stellato. Erin has assisted me on multiple occasions and has been both a source of encouragement and inspiration for some time. I would consider her an expert on SQL Server internals and performance. She blogs at both erinstellato.com and sqlskills.com/blogs/erin/. You should follow her on Twitter as well, at @erinstellato.

Second is Kendra Little. I have spoken with Kendra many times. She’s about as well versed in SQL Server as you can get, and is very approachable. Kendra is a consultant for Brent Ozar PLF, and you can find her writings at brentozar.com or littlekendra.com. You should follow her on Twitter at @Kendra_Little.

Third is Jen Myers. I have known Jen for quite some time, and am proud of the association. Jen is an exceptional UI designer and developer and an outstanding community organizer, who knows how to motivate people. You can see what she’s up to at jenmyers.net and should also be following her on Twitter at @antiheroine.

Yes, there are a TON of other women I should, and want to mention. WordPress doesn’t have enough storage for me to list them all. I have met each of these ladies in person, and they never fail to amaze me with the things they are doing, or how well they do them. Most importantly, each of them has had a hand in getting me to where I am today, and I am grateful for that.

So thanks, ladies. You make IT a better place to be.

-David.

How Do You Provide Good Customer Service?

This week has been “Customer Service Week” all around the country, and we’ve had a few fun items in my particular workplace. A few games, relaxed dress code all week, free 10-minute chair massages and a host of other things. On Wednesday, bags of candy showed up on everyone’s desk. Though somehow I missed getting a muffin on Tuesday. No matter, I hear they were very sugary, and I don’t need that.

My sister works for a zoning company and just published her own take on customer service. It’s worth a read, if you have a moment, and discusses how being positive can have an impact on your relations with customers and clients.  I commented that asking questions is a good way to ensure good service, since I think most IT folks would agree that our clients don’t always know what they want. Sometimes they think they do. I have noticed that the more technically competent a person is, the more they focus on implementing a specific solution rather than solving a problem. Brent Ozar has a good post on this as well.  Usually it’s somehow related to the technology that they’re most familiar with.  Remember the expression, “When all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.”  I fall into this trap as well. You’d be amazed what I’ve tried to do with SQL, that had no business even involving SQL in the first place.

A lot of what I think this boils down to is our ability to listen. Not just to what the client is saying, but to the un-asked questions and concerns as well. Taking the time to ask lots of questions, and understand the complete situation not only leads to better solutions, but tends to give my customers a better feeling about where we’re going next with their particular issue or project.

How about you? What do you do to ensure that you’re providing your employer / customer / client with the best service you can?  How do you keep your customers happy?

Thanks for reading.

-David.

What Do You Do? A DBA Fairy Tale

How do you describe what you do?  I have a couple of good answers for this, depending on my audience.  Two of the best answers I’ve heard are the recently posted description from John Sansom, (blog |twitter) which inspired this post, and the three-layer answer from Thomas LaRock (blog | twitter). However, I feel like those kind of expect at least a passing familiarity with IT. I was once asked to describe what I do by a person with almost no familiarity with IT.  The most technologically advanced thing I think she ever used was a CD player, or maybe an ATM machine…? So how do I explain what I do?

I’m going to tell you a story… (Oh, hell – here he goes…)

Once upon a time, any time, any place, there was a Business.  This Business provided a good and helpful service to it’s community. Like all businesses, this one kept records of all it’s transactions with the members of that community. Both for legal reasons, and so that it could reference previous transactions when helping someone with their next transaction.

As time went on, the number of records grew and grew until it became difficult to manage the amount of information The Business had to maintain. The Workers at The Business began to spend more and more time just hunting down records rather than helping the people of their community, and the community was sad.

“We need a better way.”, said The Leader of The Business, and since he was a Good Leader, he went out into the world seeking help, and returned with “The Machine”.  The Machine was a large and complex machine, but it was capable of managing the many and various records that The Business required.  Records were fed into The Machine, and The Machine stored them according to the instructions given to it by a special team of people called The Developers, who’s job it was to teach the machine how to store and manage the records. By use of a special language called “SQL”, The Workers could ask The Machine for a particular record or set of records, and The Machine would return those records within a fraction of the time it took The Workers to look up those records by hand. The Business returned to the duty of serving it’s community and the community was happy again.

As more time passed, the number of records grew and grew.  The Business, which had gained a reputation as a Very Good and Helpful Business, had begun serving other communities outside it’s own. Those communities were happy, but The Machine began to grow sad and tired. The Machine began to slow down under the weight of all the records it had to maintain. While The Machine was still somewhat faster than The Workers at looking up and storing records, The Workers were beginning to wait longer and longer for the information they needed to serve the community.

The Leader first turned to The Developers to see if they had any new instructions for the machine. The Developers were Good and Helpful Developers, but their knowledge of the inner workings of The Machine was limited. They knew how to talk to The Machine, but some of the responses from The Machine were cryptic or just plain nonsense to them. The Machine became slower and slower. The Developers tried everything they knew, but even a brilliant Developer has a limit. And the Developers were sad.

The Workers began to complain. The community began to complain. The Developers complained. The Leader knew not what to do. The Workers blamed the Developers. The Developers blamed The Leader.  The Leader, in desperation, blamed The Machine. “Maybe I need a bigger Machine? A faster Machine?” So The Leader began talking to other Leaders about their machines, but it turned out that even the larger, and much more expensive machines, fared no better. And The Leader was sad.

One day, The Leader was having lunch with another Leader, who mentioned something very interesting. “I know of a person”, said the Other Leader, “who is in the business of making Machines run better. You should talk to this person.”  Business cards were exchanged, and The Leader called this Person.

“Hello?”, said the mysterious voice on the other end of the phone.

“Hello.  My name is The Leader.  I have a Machine that is getting very tired and sad. Another Leader I spoke with said that you may be able to help me.  Would you come and talk with my Machine?”

“I would be happy to talk to your Machine. But before I do that, tell me about your Business, your Workers, your Developers, and your Community.”

The Person listened with a patient ear while The Leader spoke about the Workers, the Developers, the Community, the Business, and how they all related to each other. The Leader also waxed melancholy about the recent performance of The Machine, and how it made everyone sad. “That is OK.”, said the mysterious person. “You have described a picture of a situation I have seen many times before. Now, tell me what you would like to see. What should this picture look like?”  The Leader went on to describe a much different picture.  A very efficient and happy picture. “OK.”, Said the Person.  “I will come and talk with your Machine, but I will also talk with your Workers, your Developers, and with you…”

So the Person came to The Business and had many long, thoughtful and meaningful conversations. The Person was not a Developer, but they understood The Machine very well, and knew it’s inner workings. He taught The Developers about different and more efficient instructions to give to The Machine. He taught The Workers new and better ways to query The Machine. He even gave some of The Workers special knowledge about how to get detailed information from The Machine. These Workers became a special team, called, “The Reporters”.

Finally, the Person had a long and meaningful conversation with The Machine itself. He gave The Machine special instructions about maintaining and storing its information in new and more efficient ways. After all the conversations were done, and everything was understood a little better by everyone, The Business was back up to top speed, and everyone was happy again.

“Please feel free to call me if you ever need me again.”, said the Person.

“I will.”, said the Very Happy Leader, “But what should I call you?”

The Person smiled, and said simply, “I am The DBA.”  Then the DBA left, promising to return if there was ever any need.

Thanks for reading.

-David.