Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Building a Resume

There are plenty of web sites, books, and other reference material for writing a resume. If you're not comfortable writing one, I urge you to research a little, get some ideas, even ask your boss or HR people at your current employer for some advice on things to do and not do).

Many of you many be uncomfortable with talking to your boss or HR person, but you don't have to be looking for a job. Or you could be, but asking for advice on your career should be something you can do. Tell them you're just performing your quarterly update, and you want another set of eyes.

You should also have your spouse or a friend review your resume (I usually have my wife look at mine), but you also want advice from someone that hires for your position.

My basic advice on a resume for the modern world is two-fold:

1. Build a 1-2 page resume.

2. Supplement your resume with online materials that help define your brand.

For the first one, use the advice you get, keep it to 2 pages, and then link to supplemental material. Have a page that contains your speaking engagements. Have one for your published work, maybe another for the other areas in which you've built your brand.

Use the online links to provide more information or details and keep your resume from getting too cluttered.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Tweet Your Job Away

A great example of how to “Tweet” poorly. This guy got fired before he started work.

Twitter is a series of hallway conversations. I think that’s a great description, and I’ll write more about that at some point. However just like those hallways, you need to be aware that you don’t necessarily know who’s listening. Putting it in writing means it could be overheard by anyone, and send on.

In case you’re interested, here’s the tweet that got him fired.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Touch Your Resume

One of the pieces of advice that I give in my talk "The Modern Resume" is that you should review, and likely touch, your resume once a quarter. It was a habit I got into when I worked in the corporate world after having a startup company that I worked for fail.

That experienced bothered me, I didn't like the instability near the end of that company's life, and so I decided that I didn't want to get caught in that situation again. When I went to JD Edwards, there was a feeling of instability at times before they were purchased by Peoplesoft, and it seemed I was reviewing my resume on a regular basis then.

My simple advice:

  • Set a calendar reminder for every 3 months to review your resume.
  • When it remind you, open your resume and spend a few minutes looking it over. Think about what you've done over the last quarter and see if there is something you should add. Things to consider
    • Position/responsibility change
    • Certifications/degrees earned
    • Training taken
    • Volunteering you've done.
    • Articles/books/speaking engagements
  • Look for things to remove if you've added something.
  • Close it and mail a copy to yourself at home or another location (we want resume DR as well).

These simple steps should take you 5 minutes a quarter, and it's worth it for managing your career.

And if you have nothing to add, think about that as well. Perhaps you should be looking to grow your career a little and undertake something worth adding to your resume.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

SQL Saturday #14 - Pensacola

I committed today to attend SQL Saturday #14 in Pensacola on June 6, 2009. I'll be giving The Modern Resume - Building Your Brand talk down there and taking a couple days to enjoy the gulf coast with my daughter. I've never been to this section of Floriday, so it will be an interesting trip for me.

You can register on the SQL Saturday site.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Presenting Remotely

Yesterday I presented to the Charlotte SQL Server User's Group. Since I live in Denver, it didn't make a lot of sense to travel to Charlotte, as much as I would have liked to see Peter Shire of SQL Sentry and a few other friends in the area. I'd watched Joe Webb do a remote presentation a few months ago, so I had an idea of how it would go, but this was the first time I'd tried it.

I realized that I had a few things in my slides that were looking for audience input, like some survey questions, so I ended up changing the slides Mon night, and then Tues night not wanting to use my other email accounts, so getting in a rush to set up a web page and email for my site at The Modern Resume. BTW, I have a blog for The Modern Resume that should get the redirect. If it doesn't, use this link.

So I made a couple mistakes in making last minute changes, and afterwards my web redirect was broken.

It was a hard presentation. I like interacting with people and this was the first time I'd done a remote talk. The talk was through GoToMeeting, set up by SQL Sentry (Thanks for that), and they showed a few slides from their side before making me the presenter.

I'd never used GoToMeeting, so I wasn't sure what to expect. I had closed all my software on the desktop and started the Powerpoint deck. I had a phone I was using (landline) for the audio, I was in the basement, dogs locked away, my wife quiet upstairs, it went well.

However I felt like I was speaking in a black hole.

It's really like giving a lecture, and for the most part, I could have just been recording things and not really live. There was only one question during the presentation and none afterwards. Not sure if that means I was good or bad. I'm hoping for some feedback from someone that attended.

I only had an hour, lost a little time at the beginning, and with the changes I'd made, I had to speed things up a little at the end. I hate doing that, but I wanted to leave time for questions, expecting a few. Every time I've done this (4 so far), I've had questions.

My wife later gave me a few things I should have done. She's done quite a few webinars with GoToMeeting and she suggested:

  • Configure my desktop to show questions during the presentation.
  • Upload my slides and have them delivered from GoToMeeting so I can keep my desktop running.

I also had a few other things I did.

  • Cleared the desk so I wouldn't fidget with pens, etc.
  • Set my watch on the desk so I could see it and monitor time (Powerpoint does a bad job here)
  • I had water and coffee handy
  • My cell phone was next to me with the conference number entered in case things went bad. I also had the PIN code on a sticky.

Things I wished I'd done:

  • Uploaded Powerpoint deck.
  • Monitored Twitter during the talk (not sure I could have typed, but I wish I'd see things go by)
  • Fixed the web site up front (worked on my machine, sigh)

Presenting remotely was definitely different than live and I'm glad I made a few changes. I'm not really sure how it sounded and flowed, so I'd love feedback if anyone has it.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Modern Resume - Building Your Brand

The PPTX for my presentation is available here: The Modern Resume - Building Your Brand - 3

Version 3 has a number of notes and includes some changes for remote presentations. I converted this down to a PPT 2003 format from 2007, so if it doesn't look correct, that's the reason.

I have it on Google, so here's the iFrame as well:

Colorado Springs SQL Server User Group

After the remote presentation tomorrow morning for the Charlotte SQL Server User Group, I'm driving down to the Colorado Springs SQL Server User Group to give the presentation a second time to them.

The event is at 5:30 at Configuresoft. More information here.

Charlotte SQL Server User Group

I'm presenting The Modern Resume: Building Your Brand tomorrow for the Charlotte SQL Server User Group. I'm doing this one remotely, and that's new for me. I try to include the audience in the presentation and this will be a join desktop/audio conference line, so I need to rework the presentation a bit to deal with that.

Sign up here.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Is This Your Brand

I saw this story, which was upsetting enough as it is: A Culture of (Potential) Assholes: Sexual Harassment in IT. If you care, my response, and another.

However I thought about this in terms of branding yourself. What if someone recorded this? What if the blog mentioned the guy's name? What if there were a picture of him tossing his key?

We all do things we might not be proud of, especially if we've had too many adult beverages, but remember that your behavior might get recorded, in text or other media, for all to see. Have some restraint and set some limits, especially in a professional atmosphere.

White Marbles

My wife has this analogy with horses. She trains them, and trains people to work with them using the Parelli natural horsemanship program. I'm not much of a horse person, but we talk about what she does, and I've learned some interesting things there. One of them actually caught my interest and made sense when applied to branding as well.

She tells me that horses have great memories. They remember what happens to them and how you treat them. They also remember how others have treated them.

She says that each time a horse has a good experience, it's like putting a white marble in their "jar." If they have a bad experience, it's a "black marble" that gets put in there and over time these white and black marbles make up the sum of their interactions with humans.

You don't want a horse that has too many black marbles in their jar. Not one you want to get on and ride, and we've met a few of them.

I talk about your brand, your image, and how people view you. Your brand is a sum of the good and bad things that people learn about you, from your appearance, your resume, your writing or posting on the Internet, pictures, the results of Google, etc. Each of these things is a white marble, or a black marble, in terms of the opinion that someone forms about you.

In terms of your career, and finding a job, your modern resume should contain more white marbles than black ones. Everyone will have some black marbles, but the idea is that as you build and grow your brand, you overwhelm the black marbles with lots of white ones.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Mutually Beneficial

I saw a great blog post from Brent Ozar about whether or not you are being treated fairly at work. It’s the response to a question asked by Chris Shaw: Are you being treated fairly?

This blog talks about employees being replaceable and references the hospitality industry. That struck a chord with me because I worked in there for a long time as well. And I learned that I not only didn’t want to stick around, but very few people would. I thought it was a bit sad that I had a few friends in their 40s and 50s still tending bar, waiting tables, or doing some other relatively menial job. They were good at it, but it’s a hard life.

I’ve grown up a bit, and I’d retract my sympathy for them. There’s nothing wrong with that (or any other) job where you work and get paid. If you want to do it, and you’re willing to work, you earn your money the same as me.

You are replaceable. Even someone like me, who as the editor of SQLServerCentral, have built a brand that is almost indistinguishable from the site, can be let go and someone else do my job. I’m successful, people identify the site with me, it’s still growing and popular, but I know I could be replaced. It might lose some people, and there might be some short term (or long term) loss of revenue, but it could work.

At least I operate on that principle.

You have to make sure you’re providing value to your company. That’s common advice, and it’s out there. I wrote an editorial at SQLServerCentral on that recently. But the company has to be providing value to you.

In the past most people stuck with a company for a long time. Part of that was the promise of retirement, but some was cultural as well (leaving a job had some stigma) and there weren’t as many new jobs opening up. Skills were less transient between companies as many people were trained to work in that business and not as generally as I think we are now (mostly thanks to computing).

However I’m not sure many companies were fair to employees. That would be an interesting thesis for someone to write.

Today there are more jobs available. Even in this economy, you can still find a new job, though I would be more careful doing so. But the economy will turn around, and you should be positioning yourself to take advantage of that if you cannot find a job now. And if your company is not providing you with values as well.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Branding on ESPN

I was listening to Colin Cowherd and the Herd one morning and he was talking about the Los Angeles Dodgers and Manny Rodriguez. At first I wasn’t sure I agreed with him that the Dodgers should spend $25million to sign him. Is he worth it? Does he make a difference?

Then Colin stepped back and started talking about branding, and that got me interested. Twenty years ago the big stories in sports included the Yankees and Dodgers. I’d agree with that as the history from Jackie Robinson through Bob Gibson, Sandy Koufax, Tommy Lasorda, I remember hearing about them in the 80s, seeing them on Sportcenter regularly, and knowing that the Dodgers mattered in sports. They actually seemed to be more people around the country supporting the boys in “Dodger Blue” than even the Cubs.

However I agree that’s changed. Nowadays the Dodgers don’t make as big a splash, and they’re not featured in highlights that often. The exception was last year when Manny was traded over there and hit home runs. All of a sudden they caught my attention slightly more.

That’s branding.

Colin brought up an interesting point. ESPN shows highlights and lead stories, which are often a minute or two long. If you could get yourself, or your tem into those leads, the A blocks, you are building a good brand. Buying a 30 sec ad for the season would cost millions. I’m not sure if it would be the $25mm Colin mentioned, but it would be something. If you could get Manny to advertise you more, as a side effect of his signing, in addition to more seats, (likely) more TV coverage of games, and apparel, he really could pay for himself.

As much as I hate to admit it, he might be the top name in baseball.

So what does this have to do with your brand? How can the individual DBA benefit here?

You have a brand as well, and it be used to promote yourself. You won’t get a $25mm contract, but you can leverage yourself in other ways. In the grand scheme of the world, Manny is small. Just as in the scheme of DBAs, most of us are pretty small.

You can get more exposure, grow your brand, and get a level of networking with one simple thing:

Write an article.


It can be intimidating, and it’s work. But it’s an investment in your career that is worth making. I don’t want to exclusively promote my site, SQLServerCentral, but I will say that you’ll likely get the most exposure (500k+ newsletters sent out) for your work with the least effort. I’m an easy editor, and we don’t require huge amounts of research. However there are plenty of other places (SQL Team, Database Journal, MSSQLTips, etc.) that you can write for in the database space. In other technologies, I’m sure you have favorite sites that you visit.

The thing to keep in mind is that this effort, your first article, is going to showcase your brand. Spend some time on it, get friends to review it, and teach the world something. It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering or amazingly innovative. However it should be in your area of expertise, whether that’s writing SQL, managing security, grooming a dog, or training a horse. Write something well that shows:

  • your knowledge
  • your communication skills (present the ideas well)
  • your attention to detail (watch the typos/spelling/grammar)

And then make sure it’s on your resume. I bet it gets mentioned in your next interview.

Monday, March 2, 2009

What's My Brand?

I give a lot of advice in building your brands these days, and one of the big ones is to keep your personal life and your professional life separate. So if you want to have a blog or a web site for your career (and you should), keep those separate from your personal life.

I tell people not to post about their cat or their kid on their professional blog. Am I breaking the rules then with posts on these topics?

I think not, and part of that is my brand. I've become known as someone with a variety of interests and while I do write about things not related to SQL Server or technology, I often tie them back to life in IT or the operation of my web site (SQLServerCentral) in many ways.

They're part of my brands, with the daily podcasts taking place outside as often as I can get them done out there. So while I am careful not to post things like these on my professional blog:

I can get away with a bit more than the average IT guy on my professional blog. I've built that brand over a number of years, and while you can too, I'd stick with a simpler one to start with.