This morning I saw a tweet from SQL Cyclist (b|t) that linked to a post of his about starting a collection of “How I Became A…” centered around career paths in the database world. I encourage all of my readers to contribute to this – I suspect there are a lot of interesting stories about how we all ended up our current career path. Mine may not be the most dramatic or interesting, but I think there is a good lesson in it about giving somebody a nudge to pursue something at which they’ll be successful and companies developing and promoting from within when they can. Beyond that, you should reach out and thank those people that helped you along the way.
Fifteen years ago (let’s all pretend it wasn’t that long ago!), I was working as a support analyst for an enterprise asset management software company in the southeast US. I had graduated from Clemson with a CIS degree and my work experience consisted of general IT support even though my academic background was in software development. I was a fairly decent support analyst so my name did periodically come up in attaboys and things of that nature that got me a bit of notice outside my immediate support team.
An opportunity arose to directly help a couple of customers with reports and queries they were putting together within our software or within Oracle Discoverer. My manager suggested to me that I would be a good fit with those customers so I worked directly with them while continuing to take normal support calls. I had taken care of a SQL Server box (among many other servers) at a previous job but that and a senior level database course at Clemson were my only real exposure to databases not called Access. I enjoyed helping customers put their data together to work for them and the customers were complimentary of my efforts. My company started advertising for a QA Release Engineer position whose duties mostly consisted of care and feeding of a variety of database servers and creating/maintaining build scripts for test builds of our products. Between my development education, IT background, and the fun I’d had working with customers to build queries and reports, this position seemed like the next logical step in my career. While the details of that interview process will make a good blog post someday – the end result is that I got the position and I loved it. That position turned into a SQL Server DBA position when my wife and I moved to Kentucky in 2005 and now I’m a database consultant – a role that I absolutely love.
The short version of the story is this – we get where we are through a combination of hard work, a bit of luck, and managers/leaders in our organization seeing potential and encouraging us to realize. If you’re in a leadership position, do everything you can do to develop the potential of the folks on your team. If you’re not in a leadership position, work as hard as you can at your current role and take those new opportunities when they’re offered. Most importantly, take time to thank those leaders that helped you get to be where you are today. Thinking through this story today I realized I have a few folks I need to thank!