Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

How Can You Talk To People That Are Not There?

Monday, November 29th, 2010

At a recent SQL Saturday event I was asked by a member of the audience about how to communicate with people who are not in your office. The question struck me as odd. Not because it is not a common scenario, but because I had not thought about the context. See, the question had to do with a help desk, or call center, that was miles away. So if this woman had a question for the DBA team she needed to open a ticket, the ticket would get resolved eventually and this woman would never actually get to speak to a person.

Like I said, not an uncommon way of routing tickets, but I had never quite considered the human impact before. So, how does one go about making contact to people that are so very disconnected?

I really don’t know. Everything I can think of relies on help from someone else, and I usually like to tell people things that they can do for themselves. As much as I recognize the need for others to help us along in life, I also know that some things are best done yourself. And communication is one of those things. Nevertheless, here is some advice for anyone in a similar situation.

Send an email introduction – Do your best to strike up a dialogue outside of the proper ticket-creation process. This is not an easy thing by any means, but it is a good first step. Just be sure that any time you need something actually done you still follow the ticket-creation process. In your email just tell the DBA that you have a quick question, say it is for an exam, say it is for some extra learning, say it is whatever you want it to be. Just make sure that the DBA knows you are not trying to do anything outside of the normal process of having requests done. If you get lucky you can strike up a dialogue and get some help. And don’t be offended if the DBA doesn’t answer your question but instead points you to places where you can find the answer. And also don’t be offended if they don’t respond back right away.

It would help if you knew of a friendly enough DBA to send your email to in the first place. For that you’ll need…

Help from others – Ask around if anyone knows any of the DBAs. You might get lucky. If not, ask your manager how to approach the problem. Perhaps they can arrange for a meeting at some point, even a video conference might be enough to break the ice. But it is important that you let your manager know that you are trying to communicate, and why. If you get your manager to support you then you could put pressure on your company at some level to bring everyone together in an effort to increase communication and productivity.

This is not an easy problem to solve. It will take time and patience. And even if the DBAs at your company seem unreachable then feel free to lean on the DBAs in the PASS community, we are always willing to talk to anyone!

Finding a Good DBA

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

I put a page together for this blog to help people understand how to find a good DBA.

I often hear people lamenting the fact that they cannot find a SQL Server expert. Many times this is a result of the people trying to find an expert by conducting a job search using standard methods (recruiters, online ads). The job description lists everything under the Sun as requirements and sometimes even list more than one job title (Sharepoint administration, Exchange administration, etc.), but those jobs rarely pay equivalent money. In short, employers want to find someone willing to do everything for less money than they are worth.

Guess what? You’re going to have a hard time finding those people.

I think part of the problem here is that most often a good DBA is nothing more than an appliance for most shops. Managers and IT directors have little understanding of the true value for a DBA so they are considered to be the equivalent of a toaster. They sit there and work on demand when you need them most. But for most of the day you don’t need them at all, but you know you want to keep them around for the next time.

If you want to find a SQL Server expert you need to stop thinking of them as a toaster. If you are serious about finding quality people to hire for your staff then you need to get out of your office and start meeting quality people that you would want to put on your staff.

Sitting in your office and posting ads for jobs or hiring recruiters is going to give you the same rate of success as if you were ordering a bride from Russia. It’s a crapshoot. Better you understand that now and start laying the groundwork to expand your network accordingly.

SQL Knowledge

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

Ever stop and wonder why everyone is always asking you questions about so many different Microsoft products? Besides the fact that as a DBA you are usually the smartest person in the room to begin with, chances are they think you are an expert in anything that has the letters ‘SQL’. Here is an excerpt from chapter four of my book, DBA Survivor.

SQL Server has a LOT of functionality inside. Have you ever noticed how many components have the letters ‘SQL’? Here’s a short list:

  • SQL Server
  • SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS)
  • SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS)
  • SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS)
  • SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS)
  • SQL Server Notification Services (SSNS)
  • SQL Azure

And if it has the letters ‘SQL’ you can bet that someone will walk up to you at some point to ask you a question. And when you respond with “No, I do not know how to wrap a notification from SSNS into an SSIS package, build a report in SSRS, and then push everything to SQL Azure” you will get a blank stare and hear the words “But aren’t you the DBA?”

Tip: Remember, no one person knows everything.

The answer is “yes”. Yes we are the DBA, but that does not mean we know everything about each product that has the letters ‘SQL’. It’s the same reaction a developer has when I say “what do you mean you need me to restore the production database from yesterday down to test so that you can get a stored procedure? Don’t you have a copy of the stored procedure in your source control?”

[Getting Asked About SQL

Jonathan Gennick

What Tom says about the letters S, Q, and L is true. You really will get asked. A few years ago, I was approached about teaching a class on “SQL”. I don’t remember now whether it was someone who’d read my books and articles, or whether the person had simply heard that I was good at SQL. What I soon discovered though, was that the person wanted someone to teach a class not on SQL the query language, but on SQL Server the database management system. They are two different things, of course. Trust me. I am comfortable with SQL, but you do not want to see me teaching about SQL Server.]

Now that we have established that SQL Server has a lot of functionality you need to be aware that developers are going to ask you a lot of questions about various components that you have never used. That’s OK, do not panic, the developers are doing their job well and are researching different ways to complete a particular task.

With all the functionality the SQL has to offer, developers are not only going to ask you to help them to make something work, but they are going to also expect that you can help explain why something works in a particular way. It could very well be the case that a particular component of SQL is working in a way that is contrary to what everyone expects. Of course you will be expected to provide an answer for the behavior; the answer had better be found fast, and the answer better come with a solution that does not require the developer to undo months of coding. If it does then that same developer is going to ask for you to take out a hammer and make the square peg fit into the round hole.

If such a situation comes up you should do your best to offer the developers a handful of alternative solutions. The last thing anyone wants is for some band-aid solution to make its way to production. Too many times I have seen poorly designed systems deployed to production simply because a developer did not want to admit that perhaps they could have done things in a way that did not cause a slow memory leak and subsequent server reboots once a week.

Usually when that happens they do their best to shrug their shoulder and tell you to ask Microsoft for a patch to fix the problem. After all, they don’t have time to fix things right because they are under pressure to finish some other project.

More Feedback

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

I received a wonderful email last week regarding the book, and I wanted to share an excerpt with everyone:

Hello Thomas,

I just wanted to let you know that I just finished reading your book and I was truly inspired to become a better DBA. This book will be the first book I recommend to staff who has the desire to become a DBA but wasn’t sure exactly what a DBA did for a living.   It was so much fun to read and thank you for NOT writing those dry technical books that are really boring to read.

I posted a review on Amazon and I hope you much success in the future.

Thank you again.

A few weeks ago I asked my editor if he was happy with the way the book was being received. His reply was simple:

“…every time I read the reviews Tom, every time I read the reviews.”

And that sums it up for me as well. Every time I get an email from someone I have never met and they thank me for writing the book it makes my day a little brighter.

Matt Velic Review

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Recently I was contacted by Matt Velic regarding my book. Matt wanted to write a review about the book and asked if I had any objection to his doing so. I was flattered that Matt would want to write a review…actually I was amazed that he had even heard of the book. And after reading the review I was happy to hear that my words were able to help yet another DBA out there, somewhere.

For those of you that don’t know, Matt is one of the lucky winners for the upcoming SQL Cruise. You can watch his video entry here:

I had never thought about organizations such as Matt’s that does such great work helping other people. To think that my book helped Matt, who in turn helps millions of people each day, is a little overwhelming at times.

We Have a Winner!

Friday, March 5th, 2010

We have a winner in the “Name That Caption” contest, and the winner is…

Jordan Bullock with “This mural IS pretty life-like, but I still miss working above ground.”

Jordan, drop me an email with your snail mail address and I will have a book shipped to you just as soon as they get shipped to me.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the contest.

Voting is Complete

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

OK, the community has spoken, and these are the three finalists:

“I finally found a view in this company that I don’t have to maintain…”-BrentO
“This mural IS pretty life-like, but I still miss working above ground.” -Jordan Bullock
“Ok, who put the datacenter up here on the 35th floor??” -Troy Gallant

I am going to pick one of these as a winner, once I figure out how and where to display the quote on the website.

Thanks to everyone who participated.

Voting Begins!

Monday, February 15th, 2010

Voting for the “Name That Caption” contest has begun. You can select as many as you would like, but only the top three will advance to the final round. Thanks for your participation.