Monday, February 27, 2012

Do You Need a Coach?

Most of us reach a point in our careers where we think we can tackle most of the challenges we face ourselves. We may ask questions, we may need to read, study, practice, or more, but we tend to have the self confidence to go it alone, making our own decisions and giving ourselves feedback on how things work.

However maybe there’s a better way. I read this piece about a surgeon that tried a coach and found it to be very helpful. To be fair, I’ve read Dr. Gawande’s book and enjoyed it: The Checklist Manifesto.

It’s an interesting idea. We often pay teachers and coaches to help us with sports, with some areas of our lives, but most of us don’t bother. I wonder if there’s something that’s worth investing in here professionally.

I think there is, and that’s probably the easy thing. Finding someone that you trust to be a coach, and you’d be willing to pay.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

How do you learn the advanced stuff?

An editorial on technical work, but one that might apply in other areas as well. This was originally published on The Voice of the DBA blog on Oct 4, 2011.

I was talking with someone recently about features in SQL Server and they mentioned that partitioning was something DBAs should know. It’s only available in the Enterprise and Data Center editions for production use, but my friend noted that it works in Developer edition and felt there was no excuse for a DBA not being familiar with a feature that’s been out since SQL Server 2005, nearly four versions removed from its introduction.
I can understand that, but if you don’t have the ability to actually tune large data sets and see the impact of partitioning in a larger, production environment, it’s easy to dismiss this as a feature that doesn’t provide many benefits in a smaller situation. The same could be said for clustering, SSIS imports, or any number of features that aren’t often used. So how do you actually learn to get some experience with these features?
The first thing you need to do is get a copy of SQL Server Developer Edition and install it as a virtual machine on your primary computer. I use VMWare, but you could use Virtual PC, Hyper-V, or VirtualBox as well. The important thing to do is have a sandbox to play in and a machine you can easily copy, clone, or destroy as needed. I would recommend a base install of Windows and SQL Server DE, and then copy that for a machine you can experiment with.
One way to learn is duplicate the work that someone else has done. Make a copy of your virtual machine and then implement partitioning as described in an article. See if you can duplicate the way the author used the feature and get the same results. If you can’t, find out why, and if you can, experiment with the feature and try to improve the author’s implementation. The SQLServerCentral Stairway Series is a great way to do this in SSIS, SSRS, or other features that you may never have seen. Set aside an hour or two a week to learn some feature. After a month or two, you might be surprised what you’ve learned.
The most important is to understand how a feature works and gain some experience in using it. You might not become an expert, but being able to talk about the feature, and explain how you might use it in a situation comes from practice. That ability  might get you the project or job that allows you to become an expert over time.
Steve Jones

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Busy Career

It's been busy for me lately, testing new things, getting new talks ready, with a hectic family life in general. I haven't blogged in a month on this site.

That's not to say that I haven't been looking at my career or paying attention to career building, just been slow to post here.

My apologies, and I'll try to do better. I have a few editorials worth reprinting here that talk about career items.