Every so often, you come across game changing information. Most of the time, this type of information costs money. So it is EXTREMELY rare to come across this type of information for free. With that being said, I want to give a shout out, and HUGE Thank You, to Brent Ozar for putting all the energy and giving back to the SQL community as he has with the Group By sessions. They are just awesome.
With all the training options out there, I often run behind trying to keep up. Thankfully the Group By videos are posted on YouTube. This one session though, has just blown my mind with useful shortcuts in SSMS. I’ll definitely be rewatching this video a few times.
I’ll admit, that for a while now, I have been longing for a change in my day from a job perspective. No, I don’t dislike being a DBA and yes I would love to do more development stuff, but that’s not completely the point. In the past I have done report writing, as well as data mine, for financial reports that were spit out in Excel. Truth be told, I used to really enjoy digging through the data to create the these ad-hoc reports. I learned a lot about finance, student information, grants, payroll, and all the other fun information that makes a school district run. Same thing when I moved into banking. I learned a lot when I would have to dig into the guts of the data. So maybe, deep down, I’m more of a data nerd than I am a DBA.
In IT there always trends, and sometimes those trends really catch on. For example, virtualization. These days it is much cheaper to host multiple systems on a VM host as guests than it is to pay for physical servers. It makes HA and DR so much easier, and cheaper from the stand point of a/c, electricity, and physical space to house that many servers. There’s some trade offs, as there always are. For instance, if the host goes down, you can lose all the guests on that host. So it’s pretty safe to say, that cloud computing is the next evolution. And yes, there are some down sides to it. Point is, IT continues to evolve.
From DBA to Data Science…
A few years back when I decided to make the transition from the world of AS/400’s and move into the SQL space, I came across a book called DBA Survior: Become a Rockstar DBA by this LaRock guy. You might have heard of it, or maybe even heard of him. I credit this book for getting from accidental DBA in the AS/400 world to a full time DBA in the SQL world. So thank you SQLRockstar. From there I got on Twitter, I started going to local SQL User Groups, a SQL Saturday in OKC.Then it was absorb as much as I could from everyone I could. And I’m still learning. I have a long way to go…
All that being said, that Tom guy posted another article on his blog in the last week about Data Science that hasn’t left my thoughts. In the post, it talks about the DBA job being automated away and how being able to analyze data is the new trend. Is that true? Hell I don’t know. I do know it’s not the first time I have seen people talk about it. Grant Fritchey was blogging about learning R. Microsoft has already demo’ed a PetaByte data lake during Data Amp. So it doesn’t seem to be a “fad”.
I think it might be a good thing to add in some data sciencey skills. That way, you’re at least prepared. In fact, I believe that so much that I spent sometime researching the “switch”. I came across a post by Swami Chandrasekaran that provided a roadmap. Then I came across another website focused on data analytics that had a good learning path. It suddenly dawned on me, maybe this is what I mean when I tell myself I want to move towards development.
Whether or not I ever become a Data Analyst/Scientist, I still think the skills put out in the roadmaps/learning paths are great skills to learn. At the very least, I’ll have a deeper understanding of the data. Which is a good thing when you are a Data Professional.
T-SQL Tuesday is a monthly blog party that is the brain child of Adam Machanic (b/t). This month the blog party is being hosted by Kendra Little (b/t). This month’s topic is about interviews and patterns used in interviews.
As Data Professionals, we spend a lot of time with our heads in books, blogs, twitter, Stack Exchange, etc learning as much as we can about Data. So naturally, with all that time and energy invested, it only makes sense to find someone who would be willing to pay us for this. Specifically, to pay us to keep their queries running smooth, keep the SQL servers running, Extract data to Transform the data so we can Load the data into another system, etc. You see where this going. We WANT a job where we can dazzle our employers with our SQL kung-fu. But before you can swing into action as your favorite martial artist, you need to get past that pesky interview.
Ah yes, interviews. This is the main hurdle to finding employment doing what you love. You’ve managed to get past HR with your resume, been nice and polite on the phone call expressing your interest, and now you’re being invited into meet with an HR rep, a hiring manager (or 3), and/or the “team”, to answer all kinds of “fun” and “interesting” questions. You’ve stressed out over the expected questions like “what’s your biggest weakness?”, “what are your salary requirements?”, and my personal favorite “Tell us about yourself”. You’ve put on your best clothes with your shiniest shoes and as soon as you sit down your heart is off to the races, you suddenly forget all those prepared answers, and you’re doing your best not to freak out. Sound familiar?
So there you are sitting down, the introductions are made, and you have composed yourself, the questions begin. Some times the questions become redundant and you’re asking yourself why you’re interviewing with these people in the first place. I refer to these scenarios as interview games.
Here’s some of my more “favorite” games I have encountered:
Interviewers being unprepared – I had this happen once. I spent my time preparing for an interview only to meet with the IT Director of a printing company, have the HR Rep hand me off to this person who either forgot about the interview, or didn’t care. While we were interviewing, he looked over my resume for the first time (he asked me for a copy as he hadn’t seen it yet), and then complained I spend too much time in school for development to be a good Sys Admin (never mind the previous 7 years of Sys Admin exp). The guy was a rude, pompous ass who I wouldn’t have wanted to work for. Where I failed this interview, was not ending it sooner and leaving.
Panel Interviews – Panel Interviews are a royal pain in the ass. Oh I get it, employers want to see how you react under pressure, they want to get the teams in there to meet you, and in some cases other managers/hire ups want to “meet” with you as well. As a professional you better be able to articulate ideas with others well and discuss things in a meeting setting. I get that. During a recent interview, I met with the rest of “the team” and talked about the shop with them. Which was great, except the room was small, there were 6 of them, and they sat down circling me. At this point I was an hour in and mentally tired, already past the “technical” interview, I was now fending off more technical questions, as well as questions about my style of troubleshooting, goals, outside interests, etc. I was rehashing the previous hour.
Technical Questions – If you look at my resume, you’ll see I’ve only been a DBA in the SQL space for about 3.5 years. PRIOR to that I was a DBA on an AS/400 for 7 years. Before that, a windows and linux admin. Plus I’ve been to school. Asking me what the meaning of acronyms are is wasting both of our time. Why? Because who doesn’t Google that? I’ve been asked questions like what’s the definition of ACID, on what level of the OSI layer do you troubleshoot connection errors, why would you choose spinny disk over flash storage? Come on. If you can’t flesh out whether I know what I’m talking about without asking juvenile questions, why do I want to work with you?
Tell me about a time…. – It’s either your worst day, your biggest win, or how you improved the business. Come on, seriously? You want a story about when I failed, how I handled adversity, how I saved the business, or came up with a miracle solution? Honestly, I don’t keep score. So much stuff happens in a day, week, or month, that requires me to shift gears….I don’t have the bandwidth to remember. I just fix it, try to prevent it from happening again, and move on. If it’s that big of a lesson, I’ll take notes…..which I don’t have at my disposal during the interview.
Where do I want to be in x years – I deem this as a lazy question. I want to win the lotto, have a remote cabin in the Canadian Rockies (only because Colorado is being overrun), and spend my days riding my motorcycles and pursing my other hobbies. Ohhhh you meant work….in x years, I don’t know…it’s too hard to predict technology a year out. In x years, if I still need to work, I still want to be growing and being challenged. What’s that going to look like, I have no idea….my crystal ball is in the shop (probably from me kicking it for the failed lottery numbers).
My recent tactics in Interviews
I am making fun of what I deem as arbitrary questions that can measure a candidates worth in a an hour or two. Don’t misunderstand me, I understand companies invest a lot of time and money in hiring their employees. They want the best bang for their buck, I get it. A person has to fit with the culture of the company and meld with the dynamics of the team. Some managers are better at interviewing than others. BUT….they aren’t the only ones doing the interviewing are they? If you’re not scrutinizing the employer, asking them hard questions – playing tit for tat, then why are you there? Do you really want to spend 40+ hours a week working with people, or an organization, you don’t like? It doesn’t matter if it’s your dream job, if the people or the organization is toxic, you’re gonna have a bad time.
Don’t do that to yourself, your friends, or your family. If you’re miserable, they are going to be miserable because you’re going to complain about your job all the time. As for employers/managers, don’t waste candidates time, don’t play games with them, and don’t jerk them around. If you can’t respect the people working for you, than you either suck as an organization or a manager. Remember the Golden Rule, “Treat others as you would like to be treated”.
One final note when it comes to looking for new opportunities as a Data Professional follow the advice of Buck Woody and Sean McCown:
“Do you have 10 years of experience, or 1 year of experience 10 times?” – Buck Woody
I couldn’t find Sean’s exact quote, but it’s something to the effect of you shouldn’t pursue a position because it’s the exact fit right now, you should pursue a position that’s an 80% fit and forces you to grow.
Each quote (or paraphrase) puts the responsibility of growing on you. If you care about what you do, you should be working towards growth.