Tag Archive for blogging

Year in Review for 2015 and Future Goals for 2016

AdobeStock_96432559This has been another spectacular year in the SQL world. Unfortunately, I can’t find my list of goals, so I’ll have to wing it. I can say, that I have had some unexpected surprises this year.


Level up!
  1. I have two favorite activities in the SQL world. One of which is speaking. This year I presented 14 times to over 1300 people. I spoke at two conferences, one of which was my second year at PASS Summit in Seattle. I spoke at 6 user groups, one of which was presented remotely in Australia. I also spoke at 5 SQL Saturday’s and once for Pragmatic Works.
  2. My second favorite activity is writing. This year, I started writing for SQL Server Central. I wrote two articles for them, which had more than 20K views. I have my third post scheduled for Jan 4th/5th, so keep your eyes open for it. I also had 17 blog posts on my website. My metrics for the year were off the wall. An 82 % increase in sessions, a 403 % increase in session duration, a 97 % increase in page views (that’s 23K page views!), and my favorite, 52% increase in Users, which yields 9.5K users. Thanks viewers!
  3. I created my meet and greet list for PASS Summit and I was able to meet most of the people on my list. Some of them I knew through conversing on Twitter, like Pinal Dave. I (finally) had an opportunity to give Buck Woody a big hug too. I also met some people that I didn’t know: Wawrick Rudd, Mellisa Lord, Michael Upton, Denis Horner, and many more.
  4. This is my second year co-leading our local BI user group with Rob Hatton.
  5. I had the honor of being part of the Friends of Red Gate program again. This is my third year.
  6. My husband granted me my wish for our 20th wedding anniversary of going on my second SQL Cruise in the Caribbean AND he went with me on it. When I mentioned I had been on a SQL Cruise in my interview for my current job, they thought I was kidding. If you have never heard of SQL Cruise, I highly recommend checking it out. There is no where else you can get 6 amazing instructors for 30 students. Those speakers are trapped on a ship with you, so you can actually spend time with them over drinks or dinner asking them any question you want. I had that opportunity with Jes Borland, Grant Fritchey, Kevin Kline, David Klee, Tim Ford, and Amy Ford.
I have some new goals for 2016 as well
  1. I was hoping to speak at least once a month again, but after looking at 2014 and 2015 it will be easy to speak an average of twice a month. I have a goal of of 9 SQL Saturdays. Hopefully, I will get another opportunity to speak at PASS Summit. And I plan on speaking over the inter-webs as many times as I can. Here are some of the speaking engagements, I already have planned.
    1. SQL Saturday 461 in Austin, TX, Janurary 30th, 2016.
    2. Pragmatic Works on Feburary 9th.
    3. Profession Development Virtual Chapter in March.
    4. SQL Saturday 497 in Huntington Beach, CA April 02, 2016.
    5. DBA Fundamentals Downunder Virtual Chapter in May.
    6. All the others will slowly appear on my Speaking Engagements page.
  2. I plan to continue writing for my own blog and for SQL Server Central with a goal of one post each month for each site. That is a lofty goal for me since almost all my writing is done on Sunday’s, in a little coffee shop with my daughter. (I also spend that time writing abstracts.) Wish me luck!
  3. I’ve enjoyed speaking on SSRS, but I’m going to change it up. I’ll continue speaking on writing better SQL, but I’m also going to take up another SQL subject. Stay tuned!
  4. I’ll continue co-leading our local BI user group.
  5. I plan on mentoring one of my colleagues, Ly Nguyen. He has a goal of becoming a DBA or a Database Developer. I’m super excited about this, since he is eager to learn.
  6. This next year, I want to spend more time on forums, helping others.
  7. Hopefully, I’ll be part of Friends of Red Gate for another year.
Stretch goals

I think it’s a good idea to have some stretch goals to help push yourself past your comfort zone. Here is mine.

  1. Create a full day session to present. This seems so overwhelming, but I was a Microsoft Trainer for two years at the beginning of my career, so I know it’s possible.
  2. Speak (physically) in another country. My Australian friends, have been pushing encouraging me to speak in Melbourn, AU. I’m not sure if it will be possible, since my oldest daughter will be attending college next year, and most of my speaking money will be redirected to her tuition. If I accomplish the first of my stretch goals, then this might be possible.
  3. Writing another book. This is a big commitment of time. The good news is, my family is willing to support me in this endeavor. This is great, since they would hardly see me, except at dinner, until the project was completed.
I want to thank…

There is no way I could accomplish what I do without the support of friends and family. Here is this year’s shout out.

  1. My husband is definitely number one on this list. Whenever I have a really bad week, or I get bummed out about something, his first question is, “When is your next SQL Saturday”? Also, he is encouraging me to speak and write until my heart’s content.
  2. I always say, my first language is SQL and my second language is English. Luckily I have my daughter Victoria to help with my grammar and spelling. She is now one of my official editors and will continue to be my editor through college.
  3. Ben McNamara is my second editor. While Victoria can catch my English mistakes, Ben can catch the technical ones. He is also one of my touchstones when I get nervous about speaking or am taking criticism personally.
  4. Jes Borland, Chris Yates, Julie Koesmarno, and Nghi Nguyen are my other touchstones in my life. They are great at keeping me grounded.
  5. Steve Jones asked me to write for SQL Server Central and I was very honored. He also has the most relaxed manner that I wish I had. I can learn how to be more laid back from him, since I see him at SQL Saturdays and at Summit.
  6. I want to thank you, my readers and those that attend my presentations. Without you, I wouldn’t be having any fun.
Now it’s your turn.

My question to you is, what are your technical goals for 2016? Do you have some achievable goals and some stretch goals? Here are some ideas.

  • Start a blog. Most people start writing a blog for themselves, to remember how to do something in the future.
  • Start speaking. This can be very scary, but there is always someone out there who needs to know what you know. It can be as simple as rewriting a cursor or as complex as setting up replications.
  • Mentoring. Speaking might be too scary, so instead take someone under wing. Not only can you mentor them in a technical capacity, but you can also mentor them in how to deal with different parts of a team or how to gather requirements.
  • Volunteering: Every organization that is run by volunteers, needs more volunteers. You can help out at your local SQL Saturday or at PASS Summit to name a couple of places. (I volunteered at Summit this year. I directed people to the WIT lunch or to the normal lunch. I had a blast!) You can also volunteer at local community centers that have programming classes for kids. We need to help encourage the next generation.

Spreading your Wings: Seven Tips to Help Find a New Job

ButterFlyJust as a butterfly takes time to change from a caterpillar, I too have been changing this year. I had a set of goals that started forming last July and were solidified by December. Now I’m ready to take flight on one of those goals.

I started looking for a new job last July, but I realized I wasn’t quite ready to leave my team. In February I started actively looking again. I have spent the last five moths looking and I can now say I am the proud owner of a cool new job. I start right after my two week vacation which starts today. (And there was much rejoicing.)

I will miss my current team, but my new job is close enough to still have lunch with them and they do attend the OC SQL User Group meetings.

I wanted to share with you my journey and the seven tips I found most helpful.

Tip 1: I made a list and I checked it twice

I’m a detail person with OCD tendencies. So I made a list. As I’ve mentioned before that I like mind maps, so I created one for my dream job. It had everything I wanted, including things like the size of the company, the size of the team, and things I didn’t want to be responsible for. (Knowing what you don’t want to be is as important as knowing what you do want to be.)

Here is a list of things to consider for your list:

  • What is the ideal company size?
  • What is the ideal team size?
  • How much overtime are you willing to endure?
  • Are you willing to support a 24 hour uptime?
  • What parts of SQL Server or other products do you want to work with?
  • What parts of SQL Server or other products do you not want to work with?
  • How old can the technology be?
  • What are you willing to give up so that you can have other items from your wish list for new job?
  • What kind of commute are you willing to endure?

Tip 2: I found a Mentor

I am a strong proponent of a having ( or being ) a mentor and I blogged about it here. I knew I was going to start looking for a new job in February, so I started looking for a mentor in December. That allowed me to find one that could help me figure out how to get a new job. You see, this is the FIRST job where I didn’t have an “in”. I knew someone at all the other places I’ve worked.

Here are some of things my mentor helped me with:

  • He gave me advice on where to look for jobs.
  • He gave me advice on areas I should read up on that would help round out my current skill set.
  • He also kept reminding me to blog. This was probably the best advice he gave, because it came up in my interview.

I wanted to make sure I was qualified for the dream job I wanted so I had him quiz me. (Yes, I passed.)

Tip 3: I signed up for job alerts

I found that Indeed.com had the best search engine. What they do is they get feeds from other job search websites and compile them into a single list. You can set up several alerts and they’ll email you with new entries that match your criteria. Other websites have this same feature, but I found them to be inaccurate. One of them actually sent me jobs that had absolutely nothing to do with my skill set.

Here are some tips:

  • I created a temporary email address just for recruiters and the job search websites. Now that I have a job I don’t have to worry about my normal email being flooded by recruiters who are still trying to find me a job.
  • I created job search alerts on multiple sites, but Indeed.com was the best.
  • I created a job search that had keywords I wanted (like SQL and Database Developer) and I excluded words in the search as well (Oracle is not for me).
  • I created an additional job search that also included a minimum salary. This was always my first email to read, and it’s the email that I found my new job.

Tip 4: I networked

This might be hard for some people, but networking is a great tool. You can network with your past teammates through lunches or LinkedIn. You can attend user group meetings and talk to the other attendees. Here is a link to find a local PASS chapter. Networking also helps you refine your wish list and weed out things you hadn’t considered, but came up in conversations. While networking didn’t find me my new job, I did get to spend time with past colleagues and they did try to get my foot in the door. It just wasn’t meant to be.

Tip 5: I blogged about my everyday accomplishments

My mentor was very adamant about this, and I’m so glad he was. If he hadn’t seen a post from me in two weeks, then he reminded me to write one… on anything. I did make sure I participated in in the T-SQL Tuesday blog party every month. I found the best way to find out who the current host of the blog part was to look up the twitter hash tag, #TSQL2sday.

Why, you may ask, was this such a great idea? Well, it was brought up in my interview. “Mickey, I was going to ask you about sub-queries, but I read about it in your latest post.” There was at least one other interview question covered on my blog as well. (That was really awesome by the way.)

It also gives you a great reference for your abilities.

Tip 6: I asked questions

Before I went to my first interview I researched questions I should ask. I Googled questions to ask, I asked my mentor, and I went through my wish list to create a list of questions to ask at my interviews.

Here are few of my questions

  • What would an average week look like for me?
  • What tools do you use besides SSMS? (This was very important to me since I’m a Red Gate junkie.)
  • What are you looking for in an employee?
  • How many databases do you have and what are their sizes and versions?

On my second interview I asked: Is there anything that stands out that might make you think I’m not a good candidate? That was a hard question to ask. I actually read it to them. They were impressed. They had to think about it. After they answered it, they turned the table and asked me the same question. It turned out we had the same concern, I would be moving from a HUGE company down to a SMALL company. But, that is also an attribute we were both very excited about. They like the fact I like structure. It’s something they want to (slowly) move too. And I want to be at a small company. That was on my wish list.

Tip 7: I was picky

I did work with a couple of recruiters, but their attention span wasn’t the best. My mentor called them “a necessary evil” and I agree. Whenever they called, I would only be willing to set up an interview if the potential job met my wish list to my satisfaction. I also was picky about what time of day I was willing to meet for interviews since I still had a day job.  There was one job that looked perfect on paper, but they neglected to list DB admin duties and I was only interviewing for DB developer positions. They were really interested in me and I in them, but I stuck to my guns and passed on a second interview.

I’m glad I did, because my new job was worth the wait.

T-SQL Tuesday #38 – There Is No Spoon

T-sql TuesdayJason Brimhall (B|T) is hosting this month’s T-SQL Tuesday blog party. (Thank you Jason!) The party was originally started by Adam Machanic (B|T) just over three years ago. The topic this month is “Standing Firm”. Jason had a great list of New Year’s words for this topic: Resolve, Resolution, and Resolute. I immediately thought of the word “Resolute” and how I am determined to have my blog be successful on my terms.

I have been given many talents, but writing “proper English” is not one of them. A simple blog post can take me hours not only to write but to reword, correct grammar and spelling, and make sure I’m consistent with my personal pronoun usage. But I am determined and Resolute about having a blog to share my knowledge and to proudly call my own. Thinking of my challenge I thought of Neo from The Matrix. He meets a prodigy at the Oracle’s home and she is bending spoons with her mind. Neo tries to bend the spoon by staring at it, but nothing happens. She tells him the secret is, “There is no spoon”. After he realizes she was correct, he is able to bend the spoon with his mind. Would he have been able to bend the spoon if he had never met her? Most likely not. He had to learn to see his reality differently so that he could achieve what he thought was impossible. Being able to write when it is not “my talent” can be approached the same way.

The first thing the “Resolute Writer” needs, is to determine where the weaknesses are and find tools to help overcome those weaknesses.

Tools For Planning

The first thing I do when I know what I’m going to write about, is I create a mind map. A mind map is a diagram that illustrates the ideas I have on a subject. All I need is a piece of paper and a pen, but since I’m a geeky girl…I use my iPad. I have this great program called Grafio. It allows me to create mind maps and save them as images. Here is the mind map for this blog post.

Mind Map T-SQL Tuesday 38

Since I love color as much as I love SQL, I color coded my mind map. The pink circle is my main topic, and the purple and aqua circles are used as my grouping mechanisms for the gray circles which contain the ideas.

Outlines are a great tool for working out the flow of a blog post. There are even products out there that turn mind maps into outlines, but I have not used them. Microsoft Word and simply numbering the circles on a mind map are other tools for creating outlines.

Ginger is a tool I use to correct not only my spelling, but also my grammar and word usage. However, it isn’t perfect. Technical languages like SQL can be challenging for Ginger, but overall I find Ginger to be a wonderful tool for me.

Help Beyond The Borders

When Neo was stuck in the train station in the third Matrix movie, he tried to will himself out just like he willed the spoon to bend. He found it difficult. I’m sure if he had been given more time, he could have willed himself out, but Trinity was willing to help get him out. Writing is no different. I can ask just about anyone in my life to proof read what I write, and sometimes I do. I had my husband Dan proof read my last blog post on Mentoring, and I had my daughter Victoria proof read this blog post.

Another way to improve my writing skills, is to write for someone else, because they will definitely have an opinion on my writing ability if it’s not up to par. For me, my first post for MS SQL Tips came out yesterday (Working With Multi-Select Parameters for SSRS Reports). I also try to visit different SQL forums to answer questions. This allows me to test my own knowledge as well as allow me to explain to someone else, with written words, how to fix their problems.

Finally I have a goal to participate in as many T-SQL Tuesday’s as possible. This gives me two things:

  1. A topic that I didn’t have to think up.
  2. A time frame to write (1 week) with a deadline ( 2nd Tuesday) that is manageable.

Follow the White Rabbit

The best thing I can do for my writing, is to be true to myself. If I’m true to myself, and my SQL code is sound, then a couple of misspelled or badly placed words won’t matter to the readers. They will remember my posts for the content.

In the end, writing is as scary as deciding between the blue pill and the red pill, but I choose the red pill and I plan to see how far down the rabbit hole I can go.

Hello World!

When I taught beginning programming with Microsoft Visual Basic, I always used the traditional “Hello World!” to teach how to create a msgbox. Since this is my first Blog, I thought I would do the same.

You may ask, why am I starting a Blog, and why should you read it? Here are my goals:

  • Share with the T-SQL community what I have learned over the years.
  • Share with the BI community my knowledge with Microsoft SQL Reporting Services.
  • Better myself as a writer.

I hope you enjoy my posts.

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