My First…

This is a post of firsts, and hopefully the beginning to more.

I have been a DBA for the past 10 years. Since there is really no way to get formal training in this IT discipline, I, like others is self taught. When i took the position as a DBA, it was after turning down the position initially. My impression of a DBA was that all they did was write reports. This just did not seem appealing or challenging in any sense of the word. Once I chose to take the position at the urging of my CIO, I started to look at what a DBA did. My first task was to look at job postings on From here I looked at the job description of what a DBA did from various companies. I started to see that there was a common theme to the tasks and skill sets. I started to read documentation on how to do basic DBA tasks. Backups, job management, security, database design 101. Once I felt comfortable with each of those skills, I was hungry for more and kept taking in as much as I could over the years.

I later stumbled across PASS. This lead me to local user groups. I attended the first of many meetings of the NESQL user group meetings. These are generally 1 hour sessions once a month that covers 1 or two topics per meeting. The sessions, while informative and providing free pizza, taught me something more important, there were other DBAs that existed and suffered from the same problems I did. I got to hear the stories of other DBAs in the same industry or other industries with the same struggles. I got to hear other DBAs tell those DBAs the solution. There was this free exchange of knowledge that was very foreign to me. Most people do not like to share data, as they feel it gives them the advantage over their colleagues. This was just an awesome concept. I would absorb this knowledge that I was hearing and take that information back to the office, test it out and implement it.

Fast forward through a few years and 3 jobs.

I am at a senior level now in my DBA career. However, I am still just as hungry to learn and get better as I was when I was started. I attend the NESQL group still, and now attending the RISSUG as well. (this one meets in RI at New England Tech, come on down. Here is the link) I still love hearing the stories of other DBAs and their issues. Trying to figure out how it applies to myself, and the solutions that come of it. Now, I try to assist and give a solution and not just sit on the sideline. I have met some great people in the user groups. These people have become my friends and mentors. Two of which, being Mike Hilwig and Andy Mallon have “volun-told” me to start speaking and blogging. This was not something that was high on my agenda ever. First, I am quite introverted, so talking to people and presenting in front of others is not something I like to do. I did my first lightening talk a month later and it went well. I enjoyed the experience, but was glad it was over and that I would not have to do it again.  After that presentation, I was pulled aside by Mike and Andy and told…”Now make that into an hour presentation and submit for SQL Saturday Boston”. The thought of this, was a bit daunting. I had attended many of these events, if you have not, and you are a DBA, you should. It is a free day of training from both local speakers, Microsoft reps, and MVPs.

Come the next SQL Saturday and I am one of the first speaker of the day. I get to the room and get set up. The room holds maybe 12-15 people and it was full. This shocked me because these people chose to see my presentation over someone else’s. This amped up the pressure I was already feeling. A few minutes later, two MVPs, Grant Fritchey and Jes Borland,  that I look up to enter the room and sit in the front row. This of course, increased the pressure. I took a couple of breaths and settled in. An hour later, it was over and I felt even better, than the last time. I got some great feedback from both Grant and Jes which I later used to refine the topic for later presentations.

As I write this, I am thinking about another first. My first time to the PASS Summit in Seattle. The PASS Summit is an expanded version of the SQL Saturday event. It lasts 3 days, 5 if you do the pre-cons,  and covers all database topics you can think of regarding SQL Server. I had grant intentions to attend every session I could. When I built my schedule, I double and triple booked myself in any session that looked remotely interesting. I was intending to take in as much knowledge as I could. I was going to be a sponge.

Then I got there. I ended up missing the first half of the first day to take care of some responsibilities in the office. This shift in schedule, opened up my morning. In doing so, I was able to take advantage of this time and sit with people from Microsoft and get 1-on-1 time to ask questions on how Azure and SQL Database worked. I must have spent about an hour asking any question I could, and they would just keep giving me answers. It filled in so many gaps I had and in turn gave me so many ideas. The more I asked, the more they answered. It was great. Later, I was able to get great 1-on-1 time with the SQL CAT Team to ask them how to fix a problem I was having. What was challenging to me, was easy to them, and they explained it easily for me to resolve my issue. I took in some sessions the rest of the week, but I stopped worrying about taking in every session. I decided to be more practical and take sessions that truly interested me and figured any other session I could not go to, I would watch on the recordings later.

The other thing that was great for my first time at the Summit, was professional development courses I took during this week. The only session I was going to take was Brent Ozar’s session on career internals. It was an amazing session on advancing your career. Right after that session I took a session by Edwin Sarmiento on what DBAs get out of blogging. This was also a fantastic session. What was bigger take-away from these sessions, was the personal 1-on-1 time I got with both. Brent stood there for at least 3o minutes answering questions from me and others. Edwin did the same with the group that stayed after. He then spent over an hour after that with me just chatting. This 1-on-1 time I got was very valuable and insightful.

In closing, the significant firsts in my DBA career have been incredible and I am happy I took those first steps. Taking that initial first step of first becoming a DBA, was the most crucial, as it provided so many more opportunities down the road. I have learned so much, benefited so much, from these initial firsts. I have also benefitted so much from the connections I have made. Now, I look to share more by hopefully blogging more, and speaking at more SQL Saturdays and user group sessions.