Tag Archive for Personal Comments

Reflections in the 2013 Mirror

2013Reflections-lake2013 was a wild ride. I had set up my goals in December of 2012 and surpassed some of them half way through the year. I hope that I continue reaching my goals in 2014. If I do, it will be another amazing year.

Here are the goals I had and how I measured up.

Being Mentored

I knew I wanted to be mentored, I even wrote a post about it here. I had no idea how valuable it would turn out to be. After I wrote my post, one of my friends convinced me to ask Grant Fritchey (b|t) if he would mentor me. I really like his speaking style and the topics he speaks on. So, I held my breathe, sent him an email, and he said yes. I couldn’t believe it.

We Skyped all through 2013. Our meetings were very valuable for me. You see, like many people, my confidence isn’t that high, but Grant believes in me. He encouraged me to go after my goals. He critiqued my abstracts and even my first speaking event. This was definitely an achieved goal.


This goal I blew out of the water. My goal was to speak at 5 events. I picked this number because there are 5 SQL Saturdays in California where I live. I ended up speaking at 15 different events. I exceeded my goal by 300%! Here is the full list of 2013 events and here is a summary of the events:

  • 6 User Group Meetings
  • 5 SQL Saturdays
  • 3 Women in Technology panels (I moderated 2 at SQL Saturday’s I was already attending, so I didn’t count them in the total count)
  • 2 Red Gate events (You can view one of my sessions here.)
  • 1 Conference (Dev Connections)

I’ve already listed the SQL Saturday’s I plan to apply for. The conferences will be added as I’m accepted as well as the user group meetings. Here is the list of 2014 events so far.


My blogging goals were only half met. The first part of my goal was to write on my personal blog (this one) at least once a month. Since I like to participate in the T-SQL Tuesday Blog Parties, I knew this was most likely achievable. The other half of my goal was to write once a month for mssqltips.com. I did not reach this goal at all because there just wasn’t enough time. I was only able to submit one tip this year.

For my person blog, I exceeded my expectations. Since this was my first full year having a blog, I compared the first half of the year with the second half of he year. In that time, I doubled my page views. I had 40 posts for the year, 18 of which were in December, 8 of which were for the T-SQl Blog Party, and 1 was an incredibly fun (and funny) story based on the pictures that Pat Wright (b|t) took at PASS Summit.

Here are the 3 posts that had the most hits this year:

Obtaining a New Job

It took six months of carefully identifying exactly what I wanted to do and going through interviews and talking to recruiters, but this past July I finally took a leap into a new job and I’m glad I did. I miss my former colleagues, but I’ve acquired some pretty cool new ones too.

Friends of Red Gate (ForG)

Red Gate has my absolute favorite tools. They also have some amazing people working for them. This year had the privledge of being part of their Friends of Red Gate program. This program conects various proffesionals who are power users of their products with developers and project managers at Red Gate. We get to disucss new features and how to improve existing features. It’s a wonderful program and I think their product is better for having the program.

Unexpected Surprises

Those were my goals for 2013, but I had some surprises along the way that have shaped me this year and are worth mentioning.

Jan 2013 SQL CruiseSQL Cruise

In December of 2012 I won a trip (the registration) on Tim Ford’s (b|t) SQL Cruise from SQL Sentry. The cruise was for a week in the Caribbean. Three wonderful days at sea listening to amazing speakers like Kevin Kline (b|t) and Allen White(b|t). And three wonderful days in port. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience and recommend it to ALL of you.


Half way through the year, Marlon Ribunal (b|t) approached me and asked if I wanted to help finish the book he was writing on reporting services. I was very honored that he asked me and I said yes. Marlon and I had our book published this past October. It’s called SQL Server 2012 Reporting Services Blueprints.

I also had the honor of being included in an ebook by Red Gate called 45 Database Performance tips for Developers. I’m very honored to be included in this endeavor with Grant Fritchey (b|t), Jonathan Allen (aka Father Jack) (b|t), Phil Factor (b|t), K. Brian Kelly (b|t), Ike Ellis (b|t), and Louis Davidson (b|t).


I was so impressed with the first SQL Saturday that I ever attended, that I agreed to help out with two local SQL Saturdays (Huntington Beach and San Diego). Since I enjoyed the planning and running around with my head cut off, I’ve agreed to help out again this next year.

I also help the Women In Technology virtual chapter (WIT). I had the honor of moderating three panels this past year, one of which was at PASS Summit in front of 600+ people. You can view the event here.

One of my most proud moments occurred this month, but it really started in September. (You can read the back story here.) I created an event for Jason Strate (b|t) and Bradley Ball (b|t) so that they could speak in Orange County. I had no idea if one person would show up or 100. QuickStart Intelligence hosted the event and they helped find attendees by calling all of their former students. Between my contacts, QuickStart’s former students, and Jason and Bradley’s reputations I was able to get 48 people sign up and around 30 people attend the event. I also found a sponsor for the pizza so it didn’t cost me or any of the attendee’s a dime. I call that a win!


I thought that my 2013 SQL year was at a close once December hit, but I was wrong. Red Gate put out a call for nominations for their new Tribal Awards and I was nominated for Best New Community Voice. I wrote about it here. All that I can say about this one, is that I’m pleasantly surprised and that I’m secretly hoping that Koen from Belgium wins.

2013CheersThank You

I want to thank all of you for reading my posts this year, for the comments that you leave, and for coming back time and time again. Cheers to you!

Where am I going now?

So what does 2014 hold for me? You’ll have to wait for my next post. (Evil grin inserted here.)

Once Upon a Time, In A PASS Summit Far Away

Once upon a time, in a PASS Summit far away, there was a princess named Buttercup. When she turned twenty something her father introduced her to SQL Society in grand style. There were many sessions that she had to attend and many parties. Everyone loved her.


One night there was a wonderful party full of singing and dancing. Everyone was having such a swell time.


Princess Buttercup had heard about the party. Her father had forbidden her to go because it was well known that SQL Hippo was known to hang out there. Princess Buttercup didn’t listen to her father though. She set up some Powershell scripts to make it look like she was doing homework and headed out. When she arrived at the party she met three suspicious looking attendees. They were asking her all sorts of database questions.


After a few hours had passed, Tim heard the three attendees talking about princess Buttercup, so he went looking for her. He couldn’t find her anywhere and became concerned. He tried to get everyone’s attention and said, “Hey everyone! Where’s princess Buttercup? Has anyone seen her? Maybe the notorious Oracle gang has made off with her! We should send someone out to find her!”


At that very moment, the notorious Scary DBA himself entered the party. He sauntered over to Tim, looked down at him, and said, “I’ll go search for her!”


And without another word he jumped into his really cool car to head out!


Tim ran after him, and yelled, “WAIT!” you have to get your eyes checked first so that you don’t miss any clues”


So, before the Scary DBA could head out in his really cool car, he stopped to get his eyes checked by Dr. Emmett Brown. He told the Scary DBA, “If my calculations are correct, when this baby hits 88 miles per hour… You’re gonna see some serious shit.” Then he put his hand on the Scary DBA’s shoulder and told him, “So if you don’t want to go blind, keep it under 88 miles per hour son.”


The next morning, the Scary DBA headed out looking for clues, and he found some scribbled on the sidewalk. He knew they would lead him to the infamous SQL Gator.

SummitStory2013_-008SummitStory2013_-008 SummitStory2013_-008

EdThe Scary DBA followed the clues to a little bar in UpTown where SQL Gator was known to linger on Sunday nights. He wasn’t disappointed either. In the very back of the bar, he found SQL Gator. With a great big knowing grin on his face, SQL Gator said, “I hear you’ve been looking for GrantPrincess Buttercup.”

The Scary DBA replied, “Why yes I am. Do you know anything? I’m not leaving until you spill the beans.”

SQL Gator chuckled and took a sip of his drink. “Your execution plans might be the fastest in town, but this is my town and you don’t scare me. “ He paused for a moment. “I’ll tell you what. I’ll help you out this once, because I like Princess Buttercup.“ SQL Gator looked behind him to make sure he wasn’t being watched and whispered, “Go see the Quiz Bowl council. They’re overseen by The SQL Agent Man and Dr SQL. Maybe they can point you in the right direction.”

The Scary DBA looked SQL Gator in the eye and said, “You better not be leading me astray, or I’ll sic my parameter sniffing dogs on you.”

The Scary DBA jumped into his really cool car and headed over to the see the council. It took two hours, but he was finally brought before them.


They told him in order to finish his quest, he would have to find the Knights who say Ni.


After many nights of searching, he stumbled upon a great battle and watched with much interest from above. The battle seemed to stand still at times, but finally it came to a gruesome conclusion.


He walked down to the battleground searching for the survivors of the Knights Who Say Ni. The Scary DBA came across seven knights in kilts and asked, “Are you the Knights Who Say Ni?”

Knight one replied, “We are now no longer the Knights who say Ni.” Knight two hastily added, “NI.” The other knights shushed him. Knight one ignored his brethren and in a strong voice announced, “ We are now the Knights who say… “Ekki-Ekki-Ekki-Ekki-PTANG. Zoom-Boing. Z’nourrwringmm.”


The Scary DBA was very confused and started to get frustrated when he was approached by a Jedi Microsoft Certified Master. The Jedi whispered in a haunting voice, “These are not the kilts you are looking for.”


“Look to the east where the SQL Sisters live. They lured princess Buttercup away from the party with promises of chocolate and faster queries.” Then he vanished.


It took some time, but the Scary DBA was able to track down the kidnappers. He cornered them in the community zone and had them arrested.


The Scary DBA was so pleased to see that Princess Buttercup had not been harmed. Princess Buttercup had him kneel before her and she dubbed him Sir Knight of the Red Gate.


That night there was much rejoicing at the return of their beloved princess Buttercup.


The End


No Database Developers were injured in the making of this tale. 99% of the pictures were taken by Pat Wright. Please visit his website for the originals and other great pictures.

PASS Summit 2013 in Summary

PASSFlagMy second PASS Summit concluded a week ago. It was just as amazing as my first, but also completely different. It’s like trying to compare an orange and a mandarin. The differences weren’t just related to the different locations. The differences came with how many people I already knew, even if I only knew them as a twitter friend. Last year I knew less than 10 people at the beginning of the conference. This year I knew over a 100 people personally before the conference started and by the end of the conference I had at the very least doubled that.

Side note: Please don’t be bummed if I don’t list your name below. If I listed everyone I met at Summit, this post would look like the book of Numbers in the Bible (and be just as exciting). I enjoyed my time with everyone, but can only mention a few.
Summit BuddyMelissaAndMickey

My absolute favorite part of PASS Summit is meeting people and networking with them. With 5000 people attending Summit this year and 1400 of which were First Timers, I had ample supply of new people to meet. Last year, I participated in the First Timer’s program as a First-Timer. Joe Fleming (t), my “Summit buddy” really helped me get my bearings before attending the Summit and helped with questions that I had throughout the Summit. I so strongly believe in this program, that I signed up to be a “Summit Buddy” myself this year. I’m so glad that I did, because it let me start networking before I even arrived in Charlotte. I was assigned five First-Timers and immediately started sending them emails on how to prepare for Summit. I also had them send a bit of information to our little first-timers team including a picture so that we would be able to recognize each other all week. Along the way, I even picked up two others.

I did find it difficult for us to coordinate meeting each other as a group though. Mostly due to my various volunteer duties and meetings that were during the prime time to meet. While the whole group couldn’t meet, I did run into half my group throughout the week, and was able to hang out with David Maxwell (b|t) and Melissa Chen at various events. Melissa even shared with me that she loved the emails I sent her so she shared them with her team at work who were attending Summit, but didn’t have a “Summit Buddy”. (Loved that!)

Side note: I do think we need a different name than Summit Buddy. I think Summit Mentor, or SQL Big Sister and SQL Big Brother sound a bit better.
SushiNightExisting Relationships

PASS Summit is a wonderful place to spend more time with SQL Family. The downside is there is not enough time to spend quality time with EVERYONE. So, I decided before Summit that since there was no way I can see and talk to everyone, that I would try my best and leave it at that.

This year I really enjoyed meeting all my Twitter friends. You know, the ones you have been talking to for months, but have no idea what their real names are and half the time you don’t even know what they look like because they have a coffee cup for a “mug shot”… Speaking of Father Jack (b|t), I really enjoyed getting to hang out with him all week with all of our Australian friends. It’s funny how some “in person” time can alter a relationship and make it more meaningful. I also enjoyed spending time with Richie Rump (b|t) and tweeting with him during the Keynote speeches on the first day.
This year I found myself hanging out more with my international SQL Family members, than I did last year. I shared many meals and drinks and had wonderful conversations with Julie Koesmarno (b|t), Martin Cairney (t), Father Jack (b|t), Rob Farley (b|t), Scott Stauffer (b|t), and Mladen Prajdic (b|t) . I miss them all terribly. I also enjoyed my time with Maria Zakourdaev (b|t) from Isreal. I remembered having breakfast with her last year on Friday morning and she was so quiet. This year it was like watching a flower bloom. I can’t wait to see her again next year.


One of MANY favorite memories in Charlotte was getting to spend some time with my mentor Grant Fritchey (b|t). We rarely get to see each other since we have three time zones between us and are usually with a large crowd of people when we are at the same event. I enjoyed having dinner with him and a few friends Monday night after SQL in the City, getting to say “hi” here and there all week, and finally getting a whole, uninterrupted hour of his time on Friday for us to talk shop.

New Relationships

I don’t want you to think I spent the whole week just hanging out with people I knew. I purposefully found people I didn’t know and introduced myself. I now have many new friends on my SQL Family list. Here are some of the highlights.

· I was introduced to Paul White (b|t) and had the pleasure of talking to him about SQL Sentry Plan Explorer.

· Someone introduced me to Ola Hallengren (b). We enjoyed a couple of different conversation, but our first conversation was at a Karaoke bar and it was about the song Mickey by Toni Basil which was also sung by Swedish popular music singer Carola Häggkvist. (Tim, put that in the Quizbowl next year!)


· I actually met Bradley Ball (b|t) and Ben DeBow (t) two weeks before Summit. All three of us presented at Dev Connections in Las Vegas with several other amazing speakers, but at Summit I got to attend both of their sessions and spend some extra time getting to know them.

· I also enjoyed several great conversations with JK Wood (b|t), Jamey Johnston (t), and Wayne Sheffield (b|t) just to name a few of the amazing people I met.


I will admit, I was bummed we were going to be in Charlotte this year, but looking back, I’m glad we were there. I still miss Seattle and can’t wait to go back next year, but there were some great advantages to Charlotte. It was easy to find dinner fairly close to the evening events and I only needed a taxi on one night. The down side was the places to eat were more expensive, and their scotch selection was dismal… Except at The Black Finnthey have Oban (pronounced “Oh-bin”).

I did absolutely love the two places I went to for SQL Karaoke, especially since they had room to dance. I even danced with my good friend, and fellow SQL Cruiser Neil Hambry (b|t).

Getting InvolvedJulieAndMickeyMentors

You may have noticed that I’m an extrovert and I doesn’t sit still. This year I was asked by Tim Ford (b|t), to be on a team with Julie Koesmarno (b|t) in the Quizbowl. We paired up with Mike Donnelly (b|t). We had such a great time, even when we were down by -1700 points and Tim put me on a time out for answering a question (very) badly. The good news is, we bounced back laughing all way and ended up coming in second place which won Mike a gift card.

I also enjoyed being a Summit Buddy, which I wrote about above. I plan on doing that again next year.

I didn’t stop there either, I volunteered in the Community Zone on Friday which I think was the easiest thing I’ve ever done. I wish I could hang out there all day! The community zone is a great place to hang out while you charge your electrical devices. It’s set up to encourage talking. Anything from find out where the closest User Group is in your area for engaging with Andy Warren (b|t) about mentoring programs. I even participated in a Star Wars Flash Mob at the Community Zone.

PASS_Summit_2013_WIT-1But the cherry on top of my volunteering at Summit, was moderating the Women in Technology (WIT) panel. Our WIT Virtual chapter spent months preparing for the luncheon which hosted over 750 attendees. This was all possible due to our sponsor SQLSentry. (Thank you!) The topic was Beyond Stereotypes: Equality, Gender Neutrality, and Valuing Team Diversity. This topic is near to my heart since I’ve been excluded for various reasons throughout my career and even in my childhood. The panel discussion was streamed on PASStv so there is a 60 minute recording that you can watch here. I truly enjoyed moderating the panel and hope that they will let me do it again next year.


I did actually attend sessions, and I enjoyed all of them. My favorite one was Skewed Data, Poor Cardinality Estimates, and Plans Gone Bad by Kimberly Tripp (b|t) whom I admit to now having a Geek Crush on. She spoke on my favorite topic and I can’t wait to listen to it again here.

I took both of Jes Borland’s (b|t) classes. I took Index Methods You’re Not Using to validate what I already knew about indexes and I’m glad I did, because I learned a few new things.

I also took a class that was out of my comfort zone. Data Internals Deep Dive was given by my friend Bradley Ball (b|t), who incidentally is a great speaker and I am in total awe of his knowledge. I learned about extents and I watched him teach us how to decode Hex and binary data. I found the session quite fascinating.

Thanks for All the FishJulieAndMickeyFriday

I do want to take this time to thank all the volunteers, speakers, and sponsors that help make PASS Summit educational, fun, affordable, and just plain awesome. I also want to thank my SQL Sister, Julie Koesmarno for being an awesome roomie and friend.

Side note: I’ve been going through Summit withdrawals all week and am eager to attend all the SQL Saturdays I can to feed my SQL Family addiction until next year’s PASS Summit.

Prelude To My PASS Summit Summary

Captain’s Log, day one (beep, beep). I have landed on a strange planet. Scotch is
not served with the evening meals and singing out loud is forbidden by the young
red-head who keeps calling me “mom”. No one seems to speak our home
language of SQL, so I must translate my stories from the PASS Summit mother
ship. I have been informed that tomorrow I am supposed to operate a machine
called a “car”. I am to take to take another young female (who looks just like me)
to her school and then proceed to a place called “my job”. I hope they speak SQL

T-SQL Tuesday #47: SWAG And A Hit

Kendal Van Dyke (b|t) is hosting this month’s T-SQL Tuesday blog party. The party was started by Adam Machanic (b|t) in December of 2009.  The topic this month is a fun one, just like last month. Kendal wants us to brag about our favorite SWAG.

Wow, my favorite SWAG. Only one? Can’t do that. So I will give you my top 3.

Number 3 on the list

Tim Ford (b|t) gives the best All Inclusive Package of SWAG when you partake in his SQL Cruise conference (b). When I went on SQL Cruise this past January curtsey of SQL Sentry (b) (Thanks guys for paying for my classes!), we received the coolest fabric cooler. Inside this cool bag, was more awesome SWAG. There was a beach towel, several gifts from various vendors, and the coolest little multi-tool. (I unfortunately learned the hard lesson that multi-tools can’t be part of carry on luggage. Sad Panda.)

I use this bag when ever I need a simple cooler, which is ever SQL Saturday. I have so many food allergies, that I usually need to bring something for me to munch on. This bag does the trick.

Number 2 on the list

The PASS Summit 2012 backpack. I love this backpack. It’s sitting next to me right now while I type this post at the Las Vegas airport. This backpack is comfortable to wear and full of great pockets. My absolute favorite pocket, is the little pocket right under the handle. It’s great for putting my phone and wallet.

This bag is my laptop’s home. Timmy my Think Geek monkey gets to ride on the side of the bag, and my laptop gets to ride in the center. I can quickly store all my odds and ends for my speaking needs.


And Number 1 on the list

When I spoke at my first SQL Saturday in Silicon Valley (b), the speakers weren’t given speaker shirts, but were given jackets. The jackets were made by Port Authority and are absolutely wonderful.

Being that Southern California doesn’t “really” ever get cold, this jacket is now my new “winter” jacket…which means I wear it a couple of times a year.


Thanks for all the fish

Thanks go out to Kendal Van Dyke for hosting this month’s T-SQL Tuesday blog party. Please visit his website at http://www.kendalvandyke.com.

T-SQL Tuesday #45–Follow the Yellow Brick Road

This month I’m the lovely host of the T-SQL Tuesday blog party which Adam Machanic (b|t) in December of 2009.  The topic this month is Auditing. I chose this topic because auditing, in some form, is needed for all databases (IMO).

Was it the lion, tiger or bear? Oh my!

One of the databases I use to manage had a schema where each table had four fields to keep track of who originally created the record and who last modified the record. The date was also stored for these two events. These four fields were populated by the .Net application that used the table.

TSQLTuesday45 - Table

We found, over time that this solution had a couple of holes.

1. Values were missing when someone inserted or updated data directly in the database.
2. Values were missing when the .Net programmer forgot to add code to populate the fields.

Luckily, the solution was a quick and easy one.

First, defaults were set on the InsertedBy and InsertedDts fields, SUSER_NAME() and GETDATE() respectively. This provided the user’s account that was used to access the table and the current date.

Second, an update trigger was created to populate ModifiedBy and ModifiedDts. This allowed the application to insert values if they were provided, but default values were available when they weren’t. More importantly, when someone modified the data directly, their login was captured.

CREATE TRIGGER dbo.trg_ClientOrder_iu ON dbo.ClientOrder

	UPDATE dbo.ClientOrder 
		ModifiedDTS = ISNULL(i.ModifiedDTS, GETDATE())
		,ModifiedBy = ISNULL(i.ModifiedBy, SUSER_NAME())
		dbo.ClientOrder AS tb
		INNER Join inserted AS i ON tb.ClientOrderID = i.ClientOrderID

Here you can see that when I inserted the first two records, my login was captured. On the third record I provided values for InsertedBy and InsertedDts.

TSQLTuesday45 - Data1

Next I updated the first record without providing a ModifiedBy or ModifiedDts. On the second row, I did provide a ModifiedBy and ModifiedDts with my update.

TSQLTuesday45 - Data2

This simple solution allows you visibility into who and when data was changed. While this is not a comprehensive solution, it did solve questions that we had over the years.

Thanks for all the fish

Usually this is where I thank the host, but as Spock would say, “That would be self-serving.” So instead I am making a plea to all the amazing female bloggers out there. You know who you are. I want you to ask Adam Machanic (b|t) if you can host the T-SQL Tuesday blog party. Why am I making this plea? I’m glad you asked.

Being a data geek, I went through all the past T-SQL Tuesday invitations, which Steve Jones (b|t) so graciously keeps up to date. (Thanks Steve!) I found that out of the 45 invitations, only FIVE hosts were women.  The other amazing fact was that three of us didn’t host until this year!

  • Jes Schultz Borland (b|t)
  • Erin Stellato (b|t)
  • Jen McCown (b|t)
  • Wendy Pastrick (b|t)
  • And yours truly

Ladies, that is only an 11% representation. Please, please, please email Adam Machanic (b|t) and ask him if you can host. The rules are here.

Ok, I’m getting off my soap box. 🙂

T-SQL Tuesday #42 – My Journey on a Roller Coaster

Wendy Pastrick (b|t) is hosting this month’s T-SQL Tuesday blog party. The party was started by Adam Machanic (b|t) in December of 2009. The topic this month is on the Long and Winding Road.

Anticipation of the roller coaster

Today is T-SQL Tuesday, literally. I’m sitting in Mother’s Market Cafe, drinking my coffee and succumbing to the fact that I should be part of this month’s blog party. You see, I wasn’t going to write this month. I didn’t know what to say, but then I read Pat Wright’s (b|t) T-SQL Tuesday’s post and I was inspired to write about my journey, because it has been a tough one.

Getting on the roller coaster

I went to Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo to study Mathematics in the early 90’s. The first thing I did was sign up for a computer programming class because I knew it was going to be important, but I had no idea how important. My third year there I realized that I didn’t like my major. (Too much theory.) I struggled with the decision to study computer science or statistics. I took what I thought was the easier path, Statistics with a concentration in computer science. Pro tip: It was not the easier path, but I don’t regret it.

My first dataset I worked with was on a 10 year study of lobsters. I found that I liked data. I also found that I absolutely loved the one whole database design class that was available. I graduated in 1994 without a job. Why? Because jobs were scarce in the field of statistics where I was moving to and Dice and Monster had yet to be written. I did however have an opportunity to teach… computer programming. Specifically, Microsoft Visual Basic and I liked it.

The roller coaster goes up

As time went on I went from teaching to consulting. I liked programming, but I wasn’t in love with it. I did love writing SQL and I was good at it. I kept finding myself on the teams who wrote the business objects. Once in a while I would even get a say in the database design.

The roller coaster goes down

While I did enjoy writing business objects and SQL, I did not like the way I was treated by some of my colleagues and even a manager that I had. As my self-esteem was walked all over by these people, I got more and more dejected. After I had my second beautiful daughter I decided I was through with IT and that I would never return. (Ominous music played here.)

I went back to college to be a high school Mathematics teacher… And that didn’t work out too well for me, so I went back to what I knew best, computer programming. With my self-esteem low I took a position I was over qualified for. I met some great programmers at this new company and some real big jerks whom we shall not talk about. After three years I left the company.

The roller coaster banks left

I had always wanted to pursue being an artist and this seemed to be an opportunity to do so. I was able to pursue being a jewelry designer and a glass artist for three years before reality started to set back in that the private education my daughters were enjoying cost money. Money that my art was not bringing in. Pro tip: This is not the profession to get into during a recession. I had to go back… and I didn’t want to.

The roller coaster goes up

I refused to go back to being a VB.net programmer. What else was there? A friend of mine had a position at his company authoring reports. He needed someone to come in and convert old Crystal Reports to SSRS reports and to author new ones.  I had worked with both Crystal Reports and SSRS in the past so I accepted the job. The most amazing thing happened. I enjoyed my work and there wasn’t anyone tearing me down. In fact, there was someone on the team who took the time to rebuild my self-esteem and I am so happy he did.

The roller coaster goes faster

A year ago I realized that I wanted to learn more about writing better queries, data warehouse design, SSAS, and everything else about the SQL Server stack that I could absorb. I started attending a few conferences. I started looking for user groups and blogs to read. And the cherry on top was finding our SQL Family who encouraged me to start teaching again. This is the best ride ever.


How does this tie into technology? Well, it’s more about how we tie into technology. Different personalities tie into different professions. Twelve years of my career were spent working with the wrong technology. I shouldn’t have pursued computer programming for all those years, but database programming. Unfortunately, back then you had to do the database administration as well as the database programming and the administrators life is not for me.

As I move forward with my career I am eager to learn more about the SQL Server stack and to build relationships within the SQL Server community. I also look forward to how the SQL Server stack continues to change to the meet the needs of the world.

Thanks for all the fish

Thanks go out to Wendy for hosting this months T-SQL Tuesday blog party. Please visit her website at http://wendyverse.blogspot.com.

My Come Back From The Speaking Grave

I started my career in 1994 at a training company, QuickStart Technologies (now QuickStart Intelligence). I spent my first 2.5 years there as a Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) teaching Visual Basic 3.0 and 4.0 amongst other classes. I was one of their best trainers and I can thank them for that. They didn’t just hand us our Microsoft curriculum and told us to “Make it so”. They invested time and money into us. We took classes each year from outside trainers on how to give presentations. They were some of the most helpful training I’ve ever had, boring as hell, but incredibly helpful.

In 2006 I helped start and become the president of The Southern California Glass Guild for LA and Orange Counties. The training I received at QuickStart paid off. I was able to lead the monthly meetings and occasionally present on a topic.

This last weekend I had the pleasure of presenting my first SQL Saturday Session (#177) up in Silicon Valley. My presentation was on the tablix controls (Table, Matrix, List) in Reporting Services and was entitled Tablix – The Rubik Cube of Reporting Services.

When I first finished the session, I thought I had done so poorly. I had technical difficulties with my monitor which meant I had to present with my back to my audience, which I hated. …. But then something happened. My students smiled at me. They thanked me. They asked questions. They didn’t leave in the middle of my presentation.  And my friends who attend my class told me I did well. So now when I’m asked how it went, my answer is it went great.

The biggest difference between being an MCT and a SQL Saturday trainer, is the materials that you teach from. As an MCT, my materials were created for me, even my demos.  As a SQL Saturday trainer, my materials were typed by my own fingers and my demos came from my own imagination. Which meant, I had to buy a laptop because I didn’t own one. I had to think up what I wanted to talk about it and how I would get my points across. I spent 2 months on and off preparing for my one hour session, probably about 30 hours of time.

What advice would I give to a new speaker?

I would actually give this advice to anyone who wants to improve their speaking.

  • Invest time into your presentation skills. I was lucky to take classes on speaking, but if cost is an issue, then there are other ways.
    • You can join local Toast Masters group.
    • You could also have an experienced speaker critique you and give you pointers.
  • Go watch other experienced speakers, even if you aren’t interested in their topics. You are there to watch how they present and how they engage their audience. I have three favorites and if you ever get an opportunity to watch them speak, take the time to do so.
    • Grant Fritchey (b|t) – He is lively, he LOVES questions, and he has great demos.
    • Kevin Kline (b|t) – He has the best voice which means he speaks clearly, he looks at home while speaking, and I swear he uses mind control to get the slides to change. You don’t even see his hand move.
    • Jason Strate (b|t) – Jason has the same attributes that Grant and Kevin have. The first time I took a class from him, I was so impressed that I changed my schedule to take the other two classes he was teaching that day. That wouldn’t have happened if he was a bad presenter.
  • Video tape one of your presentations (make sure to get permission first). I will warn you, you won’t like looking at it, but you need to.
    • Look at your posture. Are you standing up straight? Do you look like you want to be there?
    • Look at your clothes. Are they distracting? Are they neat and clean?
    • Listen to your speech. Are you loud and clear? Do you use filler words like “um” or “like”?
    • Look at the use of your mouse and/or pointer? Are you moving it so much that a cat would pounce on it?
  • Make sure you know how long you will be speaking. (For some reason I thought I had 90 min. Nope, I had 60 min.) Bring a clock. The one on your phone is fine. I wrote down the following times on my cheat sheet. That way I didn’t have to do math in my head between remembering the next step in my demo and changing slides.
    • The time the session Started
    • The half point time
    • 10 minutes before the session ended
    • The time the session ended.

More pointers

My mentor gave me some great advice before I gave my first presentation, and on Wednesday when we meet, I know he’ll have some more for me. I’ve also observed from other great instructors some tricks that I used that worked for me.

  • Make 3 backups of your slides and demos, including the databases you need. Store them 3 different places you’ll have access to.
  • Install ZoomIt by Microsoft and practice with it.
  • Be prepared if ZoomIt doesn’t work (that is what happened to me).
  • Practice with your screen resolution at 1024 by 768.
  • Have a cheat sheet with any special code or numbers that you will be typing in your demo. Allen White (b|t) uses notepad in the background so that he can copy and paste. I LOVE this technique. It worked great for me. Nobody wants to watch you type a formula out. They want you to explain the different parts of it.
  • Look and sound confident, even when you’re nervous.


I know there are things I need to work on, but there always are. I enjoyed coming back from the speaking grave and teaching other’s technical content that I use and they might need. I hope that someday you can attend one of my classes.

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.

WANTED: Mentor – Inquire Within – Recruiters Need Not Apply


A mentor is someone you can ask questions so that you can accomplish your goals. They are a sounding board for your ideas so that you can feel more confident about the direction you are going to reach your goals. It’s not the mentor’s job to tell you what to do or how to do it, but to provide guidance so that you can go down your own path. The mentor should shine a light down the path, and not carry you. Usually these goals are related to furthering your career, but they can also be more specific as well.

Being Mentored

There are many ways to be mentored. You don’t have to use only one technique at a time either. Below are a few of the techniques that I have used in the past.

  • Blogs and Forums: With the internet you can ask anything that comes to mind and there are endless answers to those questions…But which is the correct answer for you? This is a great avenue to find answers quickly, or in the middle of the night, but I don’t think this your only way to achieve your goals. Why? The internet doesn’t ask YOU questions. The internet doesn’t remind you that you are straying away from your goals. The internet won’t congratulate you when you achieve your milestones. The internet IS a great place to do research so that you figure out what goals you want to achieve.
  • Teams: Another method that I have used is the team approach. I gathered several others who had similar goals so that we could share our ideas. This is a great way to hear several ideas at one time. The others in the group might ask questions you hadn’t thought of as well. I tried this technique when I was an artist. I gathered several other artists together and we met once a month to share ideas on how to sell our art. We all worked with different mediums and our ideas on how to sell and even display our art was as diverse as the mediums we worked with. The only drawback was we were all at the same place in our careers. Sometimes we didn’t have ideas on how to get to the next level, because none of us had been there. I see the SQL PASS User Groups fulfilling this type of mentorship in my life today. I found this technique very rewarding, because as I received help, I was also helping others.
  • One on One: The traditional way, is having a one on one relationship with someone. It doesn’t have to be a long-term relationship. It can be just a couple of weeks, a couple of months, or a life time. My first mentor was a colleague at my first job out of college. We were both MCTs. He was a great speaker and programmer, and I was very shy. We would meet for lunch every two weeks and I would ask him questions on how to present better and how to be more assertive. We would discuss my questions and set goals for our next discussion. Today, 18 years later, we are working at our 4th company together.

If you live in a remote area, don’t think you can’t have a mentor. You can be mentored through email, Skype, Webex, and half a dozen other formats. The important part is to have a set of goals and commitment from both sides to work towards those goals.

How Do You Know If You Need A Mentor?

  • If you know where you want your career to go, but you’re not sure of how to get there, you may need a mentor.
  • If you have too many goals and don’t know how to prioritize them, you may need a mentor.
  • If you are reading this article, you may need a mentor…OR you may need to BE a mentor.

WANTED: Mentor For Mickey Stuewe

Yup, I’m looking for a mentor to help with my goals. Why? Because I’m a proactive person and I like to talk things through. I want to bounce ideas off of someone on topics to speak on at conferences like SQL Saturday and SQL PASS. I want to talk to someone about the different Microsoft Certifications and whether they will help me in my career. I need advice on how to obtain my “dream job”. I’m looking for someone who is encouraging and supportive. Are you interested?

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