It’s been a couple of years since I have been able to attend a SQL Saturday. I was grateful I was able to make it this year. This year however was a first for me, it was my first SQL Saturday in Minnesota and the first time I went to a precon, both were enjoyable.

On Friday, I went to Monica Rathburn’s (b/t) precon – SQL Server Performance Tuning and Optimization for the DBA. It was definitely worth the time and expense. I learned a lot and Monica is an excellent, as well as an energetic, speaker. I was reminded, when it comes to SQL not everything is set in stone.

Saturday was equally as good…although the weather turned and spent the day watching snow squalls. It made the 3-hour drive home a bit longer. I concentrated on DevOps tracks, with the exception of a presentation on leadership given by James Phillips (b/t). I really enjoyed James’ presentation and wish more managers were as focused on being leaders as he was.

All in all, it was a great couple of days of learning. My only regret was I wish I had stayed overnight one more night to attend the after-party. Ah well, maybe next year.

t-sql-tuesday_FI

#tsql2sday

I think I’m actually going to make this TSQL Tuesday, it’s the first for me in a while. I kind of have a valid excuse, I left my job at the hospital in Denver and took a job in Duluth, MN. So currently I’m in the middle of a cross country move, and if you’re ever done one….you know the fun I’m having. Oh ya, and there’s the new job and the learning that goes with it which I’ll hopefully get a post about soon. In the meantime though, I am going to mention a few of the people who have made a difference to me personally. This month’s TSQL Tuesday is hosted by Ewald Cress (b/t). 

In the spirit of giving thanks, I’d  like to a moment to take a moment to thank all of those in community that I have helped me learn by supplying great information. While I don’t personally know these folks, I am grateful everyday I get to learn from them. By no means is it an exhaustive list… just the blogs and twitter feeds that have been most prominent for me lately.

Brent Ozar Erik Darling  Pinal Dave
Jes Borland Grant Fritchey Kenneth Fisher
Kendra Little Jen and Sean McCowan Cyn Jo
Kimberly Tripp Steve Jones Robert Davis
Paul Randall Glenn Berry Karen Lopez
Erin Stellato Thomas LaRock  #SQLHelp
.NET Rocks  Scott Hanselman Troy Hunt
 Carlos L Chacon Steve Stedman Guy Glantser
Matan Yungman All the Pass Virtual Chapter Leaders

 

 

One of the things all of these people have in common, is that have inspired me to be a better DBA. In fact, some of them have inspired me to be a better a developer (ok, just be a developer). The point is, for me personally, these are some of my professional mentors. I follow their blogs, webcasts, or in some cases both. They all of freely given their time and energy to bettering the SQL community. Everyone of them is an inspiration of what makes the SQL community so special. So to all of you, I say Thank you. Your contributions are truly appreciate and are invaluable for the rest of us.

 

I’d also like to take a moment to thank my former coworkers. I learned so much from Michael and Toni in such a short time. You two will always be on the list of best DBAs I have worked with.

I feel accomplished a bit this year, I’ve made it to two SQLSaturdays in the same calendar year. This SQLSaturday was put on by the Denver SQL Users group and was hosted at the University of Denver. There were a number of sessions I wanted to attend, and they all seemed to be in the same block, I hate when that happens. I’m hoping I can catch a youtube of some the ones I missed. Sadly, Idera wasn’t there this time, so I didn’t get a new duck like the last one. What’s up with that Idera?

In the mean time, here are the sessions I did make it to

How to Build Your Brand and Become a Thought Leader – Patrick LeBlanc (b/t)

If you ever get the opportunity to see Patrick deliver a session in person, do it. Not only was the information good, but Patrick has a great speaking style that makes the session fun. Patrick gave a great presentation on personal branding and how becoming a thought leader ties into that. The greatest take away from this session was Patrick’s advice about not letting your brand get swallowed up by the company you work for. You have to keep working on your brand, your resume, your career, because to the company you’re just an expense that can be eliminated at will. Having personally been through that kind of downsizing, it really struck a nerve with me.

SQL vs NoSQL – Eric Peterson

I really wish I caught more of this session, but there was a work issue that cropped up and I was the oncall. What did take away from this session was NoSQL is primarily JSON, or written in JavaScript and objects can be linked inside of objects? I’m not too sure about that last part.

Lunch

At this SQLSaturday, the organizers tried out something different. Instead of doing a box lunch with a $10 donation upfront, they built in 90 minutes for folks to go get offsite and get food. It was kind of a nice change. I ended up eating with current and former coworkers, so it wasn’t bad. As opposed to the previous SQLSaturday where I just quietly ate my box lunch alone.

Next up….

Becoming a Master by Giving it All Away – Michael Wall (b/t)

This is was a good presentation on why you should be sharing your knowledge. In fact, you should be sharing that knowledge in the form of teaching other people what you know. Why? Because by learning the material well enough to teach it, you’re reinforcing what you already know. More importantly, someone is going to ask you a question about the material from a perspective you hadn’t considered forcing you to learn even more about the material. I thought this was a nice complementary session to the branding session earlier in the day.

Profiler is Dead! Long Live Extended Events – Keith Tate (b/t)

I struggle with Extended Events, and not because I prefer Profiler. I struggle with Extended Events because the UI is clunky and not very intuitive, which come to find out is why a lot of people struggle with it as well. At least I’m not alone. This was a good beginner session but I had hope to get a little more in depth with it than just setting up a basic trace. I still learned a couple of things I wasn’t aware of, so it gives me hope the next time I try to use it.

End of the day

There were 3 or 4 session in this block I wanted to check out, but as it always is at these events you have to pick one.

Tame your Data with Constraints – Rob Volk

This was a really good session with lots of information. While it was geared towards beginners, it reminded of some points I hadn’t thought about since I was in school. And lets face it, I don’t get the opportunity much at the moment to work with development stuff. So I found a lot of useful information in this session.

Raffle

Like every SQLSaturday, there is a raffle at the end of the day. Vendors and sponsors put up prizes to win, the only catch is you have to be present to win. At the Colorado Springs I won a free copy of SQL Toolbelt. I can’t tell you how much I love that tool. So I wasn’t upset I didn’t the quad-copter…..lol. No really, it’s a good time to show your appreciation for the sponsors and organizers. They are just like you, giving up a free Saturday to put on an event for you.

Afterwards I guess there is a social event, but I wasn’t able to attend. The wife wanted to see me a little bit

 

 

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.

 

kaboomSo after posting yesterday about struggling to keep up with SQL information, I got to thinking about how I could actually solve the problem instead of just complaining about it. I didn’t come up with grand, earth shattering Kabooms. What I did come up with is a system that I think will be an easy way for me to keep up with everything, while not getting too over loaded.

Twitter

I’m kind of bad about keeping my eye on the feed. It’s easier when I have the Tweetbot app on my Macs. At work, it’s blocked so watching the phone is kind of a PITA. But I try. The SQL community is great about using it as a communication platform. And every once in awhile it helps me blow off a little steam. Some where on Twitter is a response to Brent Ozar’s Baby got Big Int lyrics. Ya, I was feeling a little punchy…I’m not sorry. Besides, it’s a great medium to interact with people you probably wouldn’t otherwise get the opportunity to engage with. Sadly though, it doesn’t make my replies any funnier. Ah well, I can only do so much.

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I had to finish the lyrics….I blame my OCD

Blogs and Articles

I use feedly as my RSS feed editor, which I’m sure a number of people do. Although, I have to admit, I have been using it poorly. I have a number of separate sections and I would go through each section trying to skim the titles and see what looked interesting. This works great for the news section I have, but not so well for the SQL sections.

My problem with the SQL sections is I have an aggregate section that has stuff like feeds from Redgate, SQL Server Central, etc and then a SQL Blog section. So sometimes I get dupes. So what I would do is jump between the two, reading the oldest articles that were about to fall off. This is of course, after I would just try to get the unread number done. I wasn’t getting much out of this approach except stress. So here’s what I’ve done to change it. I just start at the top of the All section and go. If I don’t have time to read an interesting article, or if it requires more technical thought than I have time for at the moment, I just save it to Pocket for later. I am going to work on the articles as I have time in the morning. As far as Pocket goes, that’s going to be a Friday endeavor.

Webinars, Videos, and Podcasts

So I try to keep up on the Pass webinars, the group by webinars, and other videos that I find. It’s a lot sometimes. I’ve started to let them slide if I can’t watch them during the day and go back to their YouTube channels when I have time. I try to work through a couple of these a week. What I have also been doing, is try to bemore selective about what I’m watching. Like if I’m working on learning indexes, then I try to focus on just index videos. Of course this isn’t always possible.

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Podcasts I work on when I go for a walk, at the gym, or in the car. Seeing as my wife isn’t a big fan of technical podcasts, I’m limited to just when I’m alone. However, these are bit easier because I can just let them go in the background. So there are times I have them going when I’m working on busy work. That way, if I hear something that gets my attention I stop to listen more attentively or even take notes.

Dev Training

This is the area I haven’t quite figured out just yet. I need to spend quality time, where I can truly concentrate to work on getting better at this. At the same time, I have to find time and not be burned out from a long day or over do it. I think for now, I’m going to work on the dev stuff in the afternoon as I can. I’m trying to reserve evenings for family and such.

One final thought, is I’m going to follow the suggestion of another blogger I recently read. They were going to blog about anything they came across they didn’t understand about SQL or something they just learned about. Kind of the purpose of the blog huh? Kind of what I thought I was doing when I started this but then realized, no I haven’t been doing that like I had planned. So now I’m making that commitment. Anything that I come across I don’t fully understand or happen to have light on type moment with SQL or dev languages, I’m just going to blog about.

 

 

I admit, I slid a touch on my weekly blogging goal. In my defense however, work has been focused on a relocating a data center which hasn’t gone quite as planned. So there has a been a couple of late nights. I’ve also been extremely busy working on training goals. Which has been tough in itself. Trying to improve SQL skills, looking at DevOps, trying to find time to brush up on C# and Python….that’s a bit overwhelming in itself, and a separate post all it’s own.

One of my personal and professional goals is to always be learning. Professionally, that means learning more about SQL and development. Both of which are very broad, and very deep, topics. Of late, my topic of interest in SQL has been indexes, performance tuning, and getting better at writing SQL. On the development side I’m still focusing on SQL, but I also want to get better at Python and C#…two subjects I haven’t really touched since completing school. Oh then there is my current obsession with DevOps.

How to do the learning

So how do I learn? Well there’s my Safari sub, then my sub to Brent Ozar training, plus all of those blogs in my RSS feed as well as the podcasts feed to name a few. I have to admit, there are times it feels over whelming. Then there’s the attempt at following Twitter and Stack Exchange, which I don’t do a very good job of. It seems I need to find a better system or take on less. Oh and then there is all the free training from the SQL community to keep up with. SQL Saturdays, monthly PASS chapters, and Brent Ozar’s Groupby.org.

I think what I need to do is come up with a system so I don’t start suffering from burn out. I have had to remind myself that I don’t have to learn everything at once, but find it hard sometimes not squirrel down a rabbit hole.

So if you have suggestions or a system in place that you wouldn’t mind sharing….I’d be all ears. In the mean time though, I think I’m going to have to work out a schedule and system. Maybe par down all the incoming information a bit.

 

 

The IT industry moves fast and staying current is tough to do, especially when you have a full time job. Even for those who love their jobs or their positions, it is tough to set aside time to work on new skills. Or even brush up on old skills that haven’t been used in a while. It’s an exercise in time management skills. Technical training is especially difficult because of the focus it can require. Especially now that SQL 2017 is on the verge of being released with the option of running it on Linux, career minded DBAs will be stepping up their training.

Obstacles

Personally, some the obstacles for me are:

  • Physically tired of sitting in front of computer (maybe sick is a better word than tired)
  • Carving out time that doesn’t take away from family, friends, or health
  • Mentally drained after work
  • In some cases cost. Training materials cost money
Solutions

I’ll be honest, I struggle with trying to find solutions to these obstacles. I work full time, and after graduate school, I made a promise to my wife that I would spend less time focused on work. Additionally, I’m not just focused on getting better as DBA and Developer, I am also focused on getting healthier. So for me, sitting in front of a computer is presently driving me nuts. At work, I have a sit-stand setup which is nice. At home, well I haven’t made that transition yet but it’s coming. I still struggle with actually making it to the gym after work. Some days/weeks are better than others. The days where I get my exercise in, I find whatever I’m studying to be more readily absorbed as opposed to the days I don’t work out. On those days, I’m not very patient with problems.

Training

As I mentioned making sure I make the time to be healthier is a struggle for me, so not alienating family or friends is another struggle. I can easily sit down and get sucked into training, writing code, or some other thing. That being said, there are times where I’ll sit down to train and end up on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or some other internet rabbit hole I didn’t mean to find. What I have found that works, are short focused blocks of time where I focus on the training. No more than 45 minutes or so, then I go do something else. Plus the added benefit is I make my wife happy. On the mentally tough days, I just don’t bother.

Costs

The costs associated with training can be tough. Online resources like Pluralsight, Safari Books, and one off web training are great because they are modular, as well as easily available over the web. The downside to these resources are the monthly subs. Sure by themselves, they are reasonable but have a few of them together and suddenly you’re spending upwards of $100 a month. Depending on your budget, that maybe ok…..or it might not be. Check with your spousal unit to be sure.

Oh, want to go to SQL Pass Summit, SQL Cruise, or some other destination learning opportunity? Now we’re talking in the mid 4 figures, plus time off from work. So unless you are willing to sacrifice vacation time and the family can tag along, you’re probably not going. And if the family does come along, are you really going to be as focused in the conference? I’m still trying to crack the destination conference nut, so I don’t have an answer for this one.

I honestly wish more companies would include training in their compensation package. Something like 2-3 days off (without using PTO) and $2k towards the conference. I would happily pick up travel, hotel, and food for the trip. However, when I have mentioned this I have been shot down by more than one manager. I wonder if it’s possible to find a sponsor….hmm, something I’ll have to check into.