Author: sqlatspeed

Coast to Coast in the Next 30 Days!

Coast to Coast in the Next 30 Days!

It would be an understatement to say that I’m excited about this month in my SQL community life. While I have multiple submissions out to European conferences in the first half of 2018, this month’s highlights are two confirmed speaking engagements that I have: SQL Saturday Charlotte on October 14th and PASS Summit on November 3rd.

As my previous post mentioned, I used to live just south of Charlotte and haven’t been back in years, so I’m looking forward to seeing some friends in the area along with meeting and reconnecting with more #sqlfamily.

While Charlotte is going to be a great event (and you should definitely register here), the coolest thing to happen this month will be my PASS Summit speaking debut on Friday, November 3 at 11 AM local time. I’m incredibly proud to have been selected to speak at Summit and am looking forward to unveiling new elements and new demos during my “Where Should My Data Live (and Why)?” session.

This session is all about trying to open more traditional database administrator’s eyes to the opportunities that cloud platforms and technologies give them to leverage and extend their existing on-premises implementations and deployments. I look forward to sharing what I know and learning from the crowd about their own experiences so I can improve this talk in the future as I continue to speak and our data professional world continues to evolve. Hope to see you in Eastern time or Pacific time in the next 30 days!

SQL Saturday Charlotte – I’m Speaking!

SQL Saturday Charlotte – I’m Speaking!

I’m excited to announce that I’m speaking at SQL Saturday Charlotte (#683) on Saturday, October 14, 2017! I’ll be speaking on the final time slot of the day and giving a new talk of mine – “Where Should My Data Live (and Why)?”.

I’m really excited about this opportunity for a couple reasons. First, any opportunity to attend a SQL Saturday means I’m guaranteed to learn something, whether it’s a technical fact, a presenting tip, or something else. I think SQL Saturdays are, hands down, the finest free technical training available in the data professional community. Secondly, I used to live near Charlotte (Fort Mill, SC) so that weekend should be a great opportunity to get caught up with both professional colleagues and old friends who call the Charlotte area home. I haven’t been to Charlotte since PASS Summit 2013 – it will be great to get back!

Click here to register – and I can’t wait to see you at SQL Saturday Charlotte on 10/14!

 

 

T-SQL Tuesday #93: Shock and Subtlety of Sexist Interviewers

T-SQL Tuesday #93: Shock and Subtlety of Sexist Interviewers

First of all, thanks to Kendra Little (b|t) for hosting this month’s T-SQL Tuesday. This month’s topic (Interviewing Patterns & Anti-Patterns) is a great topic that’s generating a lot of interesting responses from many different perspectives. Beyond that, I’ve seen Kendra present at PASS events and various webinars and she presents deep technical content in a very engaging way. Definitely check out her blog and follow her on Twitter!

As for my submission to this month’s blog party, I was excited to cover the original topic I had for this post – “Interviews Aren’t Trivia Contests”. I may still blog that at some point, as I believe I’ve definitely improved as an interviewer and would like to pass along some things I’ve learned the hard way so you don’t make the same mistakes I have.

That said, a couple of conversations I had at SQL Saturday Louisville this weekend changed my mind on my post for this edition of T-SQL Tuesday. Hearing women discuss the subtle and overt sexism that they have to deal with in IT is always jarring and it prompted me to relate an interview story from my wife. Even though my wife has been in technical fields her entire career and I’ve both managed and worked alongside women in IT, hearing these types of stories is always jarring, upsetting, and thought-provoking. This post is most certainly about a couple of interviewing anti-patterns, as you’ll see below.

While my wife is currently in IT (she is a PMP-certified project manager specializing in software delivery and implementation), this story dates from 2012 when she was interviewing for a ceramic and materials engineering position in the Midwest. She has a B.S. in Ceramic Engineering, an M.S. in Materials Science and Engineering, and has her name on at least one patent and multiple academic papers. Long story short, she was indisputably qualified for the position for which she was interviewing.

Anti-Pattern 1: Subtle Sexism

This interview, as many others are, was a series of one-on-one meetings with folks in HR, on the technical side, and points in-between. There had been nothing particularly noteworthy until she interviewed with a guy in a very senior technical position. After a few minutes, he asked my wife a seemingly innocuous, albeit cringe-worthy, question (but more on that in a bit): “how does a woman get into engineering?”. My wife explained her interest in and aptitude for math and then a little more about what drove her specifically towards materials science and engineering.

Anti-Pattern 2: Shocking Sexism

His response was “interesting, most women who get into engineering are more flat-chested.” This is the part of the blog where you should hear a record-scratching noise in your head as you’re shocked by what you just read. Sadly, the few times I’ve relayed this story over the years the women I tell are not nearly as surprised as the men I tell. It goes without saying that this is an interviewing anti-pattern of the highest order. It’s sexist, demeaning, crude, lawsuit-worthy at best, and illegal at worst.

Summary

But I said I’d take you back to the seemingly innocuous question, as over the years it’s troubled me nearly as much as the obviously horrifying commentary on my wife’s figure during an interview. “How does a woman get into engineering?” As one of my wife’s friends said, the proper response was “the same way a man does”. The subtlety of this is perhaps more insidious than the overt sexism of the crude comment, as the implication is “why are you here, you don’t seem to belong?”.

If you take anything away from this post, I want it to be this sentiment: as an interviewer, that candidate across the desk/phone from you is there because they believe they’re qualified for the opportunity and want to work with you and your company. Everybody’s career journey is different, but the subtle or overt implication that because they don’t fit the stereotype in your head they don’t belong there is simply unacceptable. Not only could you be costing your company the best candidate for the position, you may plant a seed in that person’s head that takes them years to overcome or puts them off their chosen career path entirely.

To end this on a positive note, this did not have a negative impact on my wife’s mentality and she’s fantastic at her current job. I still wish she would have slapped the guy, though!

 

 

SQL Saturday Louisville – I’m Speaking!

SQL Saturday Louisville – I’m Speaking!

As readers of the blog know, the last few weeks have been quite hectic in the racing side of my life, so I apologize for the delay in this announcement, but I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve been accepted to speak at SQL Saturday Louisville on August 5th. This will be my fourth SQL Saturday presentation this year (following Cleveland, NYC, and Atlanta). That was a personal goal of mine for 2017 and I am incredibly appreciative of being selected for four SQL Saturdays this year. It means a lot, especially to be selected for my “hometown” SQL Saturday (I hail from Lexington, KY, about an hour from the SQL Saturday Louisville venue).

SQL Saturday Louisville was my first SQL Saturday presentation last year, so it’s cool to bring it full circle and present a new session – “How To Keep Your Database Servers Out of the News” – a year later. I’m excited to give this presentation to a PASS event, as I’ve made a lot of changes to it after its initial creation last year. It’s certainly a subject whose importance increases as time goes on, so I look forward to giving the talk and getting the feedback from the audience.

Beyond me, the speaker’s list for this year’s edition of SQL Saturday Louisville is fantastic. As always, there will be lots of good information disseminated on a wide variety of data platform topics and the presenters are a who’s who of SQL Server and Microsoft data platform experts. If I’ve piqued your curiosity, click here to register for the event.

This year’s event also features three outstanding pre-cons – the information on those can be found in the middle of this page. While all three sessions will be outstanding, I’ll be attending my buddy Josh Luedeman’s (b|t) pre-con on “Building Your Modern Data Architecture”. I had the good fortune to work with Josh before he moved to Microsoft and I’m really looking forward to this session.

I can’t recommend this year’s edition of SQL Saturday Louisville enough. If the outstanding speaker list and great pre-cons haven’t convinced you, don’t forget that here in Kentucky we have delicious, delicious bourbon. Bourbon and free SQL Server training – what a great way to spend a Saturday! Hope to see you there!

Old Habits Cost You Money

Old Habits Cost You Money

As a consultant, I spend a lot of time with customers whose most significant pain point is what they’re spending on SQL Server licensing. In general, they’re all facing a similar scenario: they’ve found an architecture that works for them and as they scale that out for new clients or new users they continue purchasing the same servers (with the same version and edition of SQL Server) that’s always worked. While there’s nothing wrong with that, eventually management starts asking some questions:

  1. Why do we need all these servers when IT says they’re barely using any CPU?
  2. What do all these servers do?
  3. Why we are using X-year-old software?

As DBAs (especially those of us who wear the architect hat as well), we’re in a constant battle between priorities 1 and 1A: ensuring maximum uptime for our customers and spending the least amount of money to achieve that uptime. Settling for an older architecture on an old version of SQL Server does a great job fulfilling priority 1 but, generally, a poor job fulfilling priority 1A. The more money we spend on licensing, the less we have to spend on training, new hardware, etc.

It’s incumbent on us to keep abreast of the evolution in the SQL Server universe. As we’ve seen, Microsoft has massively accelerated the pace of their development in the SQL Server space, whether we’re talking about the database engine itself or Azure SQL Database or something in-between.

Can your company save money and provide required uptime by a move to Azure? Do you need to upgrade to SQL Server 2016 SP1 but downgrade to Standard now that in-memory OLTP, advanced compression, and greater partitioning functionality no longer require Enterprise Edition? Do you need to use something like ScaleArc to ensure you’re leveraging your complete Always On availability group investment?

This blog would be thousands of words long if I delved into every single option, but my point is a simple one. As things in the SQL Server universe change by the month rather than by the year, we all need to keep up with the latest developments and think about how they might make our job easier and/or our architecture less expensive to license and maintain so our company can spend more money on their most valuable resource – us!

Read blogs, follow SQL Server experts on Twitter, attend SQL Saturdays, and make plans to attend PASS Summit so you can stay on the cutting edge of cost-saving developments. If regular operations and maintenance keep you from having the time to reevaluate your architecture, engage a Microsoft data platform consultant (like me!) to help you in that evolution. We all know old habits die hard, but they can cost you and your company valuable resources as well. Engage with the community to help break out of those old habits (and learn cool things too)!

Achievement Unlocked: I Raced at Indy!

Achievement Unlocked: I Raced at Indy!

As Twitter followers of mine may have noticed, I raced at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this past weekend (6/9-6/11) as part of the Open Wheel World Challenge. I competed in rounds 3 and 4 of the Hoosier Tire US Formula First Championship Series. I’ve competed in this series for years, but I’ve only done one race in the last 18 months due to engine issues with the car and commitments for my kids. Between that and the fact that this race was at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, let’s just say I was looking forward to the weekend a tiny bit.

This particular weekend was structured differently from a normal US Formula First weekend as we had a practice session on Friday morning, a qualifying session Friday evening, another qualifying session Saturday morning, then a race Saturday afternoon followed by another race on Sunday morning. Below I’ll offer a brief rundown (with a couple pictures) of the weekend for those who are interested.

Friday Morning (Practice 1)

Friday morning’s session, in all honesty, was quite boring. As my final event last season ended up with a blown engine, the first session this weekend was a session spent breaking in the newly rebuilt engine. That means lower RPMs and, honestly, about 80% throttle. While it was a wonderful time to savor lapping at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (road course, but still), it resulted in times 20 seconds off the fast time and a whiny driver! Breaking in an engine is necessary, but definitely frustrating.

Friday Afternoon (Qualifying 1)

Following a change from the break-in oil to racing oil, it was time to get the maximum from the car as we began to set the grid for Saturday evening’s race 1. Unfortunately, after only six laps of the session, my car developed a miss and various other electrical maladies and I was only able to manage a 1:49.73. While that was good enough for 7th in my class, it was a frustrating session that led to a long night diagnosing and fixing the problem with the car. Long story short, the distributor clamp failed and the timing was so far off as a result that the engine would not refire after I stopped in the pits. Were it not for the generosity and knowledge of fellow racers Doug Seim and Dave Dawson, we would have been hard-pressed to make the Saturday morning session. In the end, though, the car was repaired and we were ready to go for qualifying 2 Saturday morning.

Saturday Morning (Qualifying 2)

After the previous night’s repairs we took to the track Saturday morning with high hopes of improving the pace and our position on the grid for race 1 Saturday afternoon. I managed a 1:48.1 in the session (1.6 seconds faster than qualifying 1), but given the competitiveness of the field I was still starting 7th in class (11th overall) for the Saturday evening race. We made some handling changes to the car that we thought would improve it and got ready for race 1 Saturday evening.

Saturday Evening (Race 1)

indy_crash_edited

Race 1 was significantly affected at the start by the incident pictured above. After what was, in my opinion, a delayed green flag, the cars starting in positions 9-20 (roughly) got a flying start while those of us in the front had to throttle back a bit in order to not jump the start. That led to 4 and 5-wide racing down the front straightaway…which led immediately into the incident pictured. Many thanks to Brian Schell for the image above – it is a brilliant shot! As you may see, I’m near the back of the image while my friend Sam Farmiga is being used as a ramp by a fellow competitor who misjudged the braking zone. Somehow, I made it through the melee and soldiered on to a 5th-place finish despite being hit by a lapped car with two laps to go. It was a solid finish, but no trophy. Sunday morning’s goal was a trophy.

Sunday Morning (Race 2)

File_003

Sunday morning’s goal was two-fold. First, I wanted to improve my lap times into the 1:47 range, at least. There were some handling issues with the car that likely prevented race-winning speed, but I thought 1:47 laps were attainable. Second, I wanted a trophy so I needed to be third. One of the grid marshals told me that if I used the duck umbrella (pictured above) I would be on the podium, so I gave it a shot!

Sunday’s race started with two significant incidents. My friend Doug Seim was knocked into the air and out of the race by a fellow Formula First in the second corner and, directly behind us, a massive incident occurred on the front straightaway with 6-8 cars caught up in the melee. That triggered an immediate red flag and a ~25 minute visit to pit lane waiting on the cleanup. Thankfully there were no significant injuries from any of the first lap adventures.

When the race restarted I found a little more pace in the car (breaking into the 1:47 range with several lap times) and my fellow Formula First competitors found a bit of bad luck with reliability. After a furious 4-lap battle to pass some very quick Formula Vees and a 3-lap battle with Sam Farmiga for second in our class, I ended up third at the yard of bricks by a couple feet. I was frustrated at the time, but receiving a third place trophy from Indianapolis with my kids there to watch me (pictured below) soothed the frustration quite quickly.

For the next couple months this blog will return to Microsoft Data Platform-related content, but if you’ve read this far, thanks for reading! Hopefully I get to play race cars another time or two before the 2017 racing season comes to a close.

indy_podium_kids

We Interrupt This SQL Server Programming To Bring You Racing from Indy

We Interrupt This SQL Server Programming To Bring You Racing from Indy

I generally use this blog to let people know about community events where I’m speaking, pass along Microsoft Data Platform-related technical information I’ve found useful, or to participate in T-SQL Tuesday blog parties. For the next few days, however, this blog is going to be home to my updates from my racing debut at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I’m driving in the Open Wheel World Challenge this weekend and, honestly, I lack the words to describe how cool this is.

Every racing driver (or at least every one that grew up in the Midwest of the United States) dreamed of crossing that yard of bricks in any car. The fact that I am able to run at Indy this weekend, in my own car, with family and good friends supporting me is honestly hard to believe. Hopefully we have a good, clean weekend.

After this Sunday, I plan to revert to more disciplined technical blogging. For the next few days, though, I will update this blog with racing updates as often as I am able. If you’d prefer to follow along on Instagram, please search the hashtags #jaygoracing and #sqlatspeed. Talk to you from the track!

SQL Saturday #652 (Atlanta) – I’m Speaking!

SQL Saturday #652 (Atlanta) – I’m Speaking!

Usually my view of Atlanta is quite similar to the image above – as a Delta Medallion member and frequent traveler I see the airport in Atlanta quite a bit. That said, I’m thrilled to announce that I’ll be speaking at SQL Saturday 652 in Atlanta on Saturday, July 15. If you haven’t registered, they’re getting closer and closer to capacity so please register here before it’s too late!

I’m looking forward to ramping up my blogging next month, but the current priority is prepping my race car for its debut at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in a little over two weeks at the Open Wheel World Challenge. Please forgive the brevity of this blog, but rest assured both the technical and racing content on this blog will ramp up quite a bit in the next several weeks. For now, go register for SQL Saturday Atlanta if you’re in the area and I hope to see you either there or at Indy!

How I Became A…SQL Server Data Professional

How I Became A…SQL Server Data Professional

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!

SQL Saturday NYC (588) – I’m Speaking!

SQL Saturday NYC (588) – I’m Speaking!

I’m excited to announce that I’ll be speaking at this year’s edition of SQL Saturday New York City (#588) on May 20th! From a personal perspective, it’s fair to say that attending the 2015 edition of SQL Saturday NYC changed my professional life and it’s meaningful to not only be able to attend this year’s event, but to actually be on the speaking roster with so many people who have influenced my career, if only from blogs and books. I look forward to meeting them in person (and you as well).

This year’s speaking roster is absolutely outstanding (despite my presence dragging down the average!) and I cannot recommend highly enough registering for the event. It will fill up, and you absolutely won’t want to miss out on this day of free training from a who’s who of SQL community rockstars. Come for the speakers, make sure you visit the sponsors, and network with your fellow Microsoft data platform professionals. It may change your professional life, as it did mine.

Although I never need an excuse to visit the Greatest City in the World, those of you who may not be local would be well-served to submit a training request to attend this event. Not only do you get free Microsoft data platform training from some of the very best speakers in the community, you might get a night (or two) in a fantastic city as well.

Although the Empire State Building won’t be lit up to honor my Clemson Tigers (as it was in the image above), I can’t wait to get to New York, see old friends, make new ones, and present my Top 5 Always On Availability Group Tips session. I hope it helps you save a few sleepless nights and improves the care and feeding of your Always On Availability Groups. I’ll see you in May!