What I Wish I Knew Sooner

Mike Walsh started a blog titled 4 Attitudes I Wish I Had Earlier as a DBA.  This was followed by other folks tacking on with their thoughts.  I had commented on Mike’s blog with some of my thoughts, but figured I should just post it directly and link off to the thoughts of others as well.  While some of the titles may suggest a technical slant, most of these apply to just life in general and any walk of life.  These are soft skills and not anything particular to technology or any one career path.

Relationship Building

Relationship building is a big soft skill. It helps in numerous ways. You could be the smartest person in the world, but without building relationships, it will be challenging to get places. I see that all the time. It’s not just what you know, but in reality it is also who you know. Personally or professionally.  That may sound unfair, or biased, but it is true.  My kids are in elementary school, and there was an example my younger daughter shared with me about her day yesterday that echoed that – even at 6 years old. 

For some this comes naturally.  For others, this is very difficult.  For me, I think I’ve naturally done this my whole life looking back.  I didn’t realize until more recently that this was what I was doing and how important it was.  But this has helped me throughout life in everything I’ve done.  If you find yourself struggling with this, there are lots of material out there on the webs to help you.  Also, if you feel you are too late to start doing this, you aren’t.  Get to it!  You never know what is around the corner.

Be Consistent

Don’t just show up to some triage, or group meeting once every 6 months (if it is a regular meeting) and expect to be known as the go to person. You need to establish yourself, and to do that, you need to be consistent.  Doing things regularly shows that you can be relied on.  People will recognize you and will start to utilize you more as they get to know you.  This isn’t the one thing that will make everything work for you, but it is really important to get you there.  You may be doing everything else right, but if you aren’t doing this, it will be more challenging that it maybe needs to be.

I still struggle with this one in a lot of areas, but I do recognize this is important.  I really need to do this more in my home life.

Participate

I see a number of people that keep their heads down and do their day to day job/activity. Then they wonder why they aren’t moving ahead, or being asked to do the fun projects, or be that trusted advisor. You need to step out and show what you can do, or are willing to do.  Some people may have a fear of this for risk of failing.  Failure is a way to learn and you should work on getting past that fear to move forward. 

We continue to teach our children this at home.  We encourage them to do this at school.  Even if you are wrong, you took a chance.  Ask questions!  Provide your thoughts!  Help out with a project!  Be a part of the team!

Be a part of the Team

Trying to do things on your own can be challenging.  One thing I’ve loved about the team I work with at Microsoft is the ability to Rally when we need to.  I’ve been a part of some challenging cases that required the work of a bunch of people to get things done, across many days/weeks around the clock.  There have been an upwards of 10-20 of us all working together to get it done and releave others.  Even when that isn’t your area of strength, you can help.  This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be the leader of a team.  It just mean helping others around you to work towards a common goal.  I’m as much of a follower as I am a leader in things.  Even as a leader, I want to listen and, in some cases, follow others as it may be a better path then what I had first thought.  We can draw on each other to get a better outcome than what would have been done otherwise by one person.

Depending on your situation, this may be difficult.  The culture where you work, or participate in, my encourage an individual mindset instead of a team mindset.  Even in an individual mindset, you may still be able to find way to show that you can help others without sacrificing where you are, or putting yourself in jeopardy.

 

Links to others thoughts:

Mike Walsh – 4 Attitudes I Wish I Had Earlier as a DBA

Tim Mitchell – Four things I wish I’d known back then

Erin Stellato – What I Wish I Had Known Sooner…as a DBA

Brent Ozar – What I Wish I Knew Sooner as a DBA

Tim Costello – 4 Things I Wish I Knew Sooner as a BI Consultant

Chris Yates – What I Wish I Had Known Sooner…as a DBA

Kathi Kallengerger – What I Wish I Knew Sooner

 

– Adam

Coming back home…

Back in December I had mentioned the fact that Microsoft and GE were doing a Joint Venture and I didn’t know at the time what that meant for me.  I’ve been working on the Health Support Team focusing on HealthVault since last August.

I had several options with regards to where I would go, but after some discussions, it was clear where I really belonged.  That is with SQL Support and working with the #SQLFamily

The Official start date is June 25th, but I’ve already been getting plugged back in.  I have posted a few more posts on http://blogs.msdn.com/psssql and I participated in SQL Rally in Dallas back in May.

I’m going to focus on SQL Business Intelligence.  Primarily, Reporting Services and Analysis Services.  Including Power View and PowerPivot along with SharePoint Integration.  There is a lot of cool stuff there and I feel that I can contribute a good amount.

I’m really looking forward to what is to come with these products and what Support can do to help the SQL Community and our customers!

My thoughts on certifications…

I read the following post that Paul Randal (@paulrandal) made regarding Certifications.  I completely agree with his thoughts on this.

I’ve been in jobs where there were strong pushes for Certifications.  So much so, that it seemed people were getting a new cert every week.  It became a race to see who could have the longest Cert Chain (see what I did there?) in their email signatures.  Some of them got pretty long.

It got to the point where if someone had the certification, to me, that just meant they knew how to study and take a test.  It didn’t necessarily mean they “knew” the product.  This really came front and center when I interviewed someone and they confessed to me that they had an MCSE title, but have never touched the Windows Server product as they were more of a Unix/Linux person.  Really?!?  The fact that someone would admit that spoke volumes also.

After a while, I just lost interest in even trying for certifications – also the fact that I am horrible at taking tests.  /sigh

It’s been a long while since I went for a certification.  I think the last one I did was for SQL 2000.  Although, I have had a strong desire of late to go for the SharePoint MCM.  Which means I need to take the 4 pre-req certifications that are required.  Although my motivation on that front has been limited (re: horrible at taking tests).  That’s my goal though. 

I’m grateful that in my current position, there are not any hard and fast requirements to go and get a certification.  I’d rather do it on my own accord and show the interest in achieving that myself, as opposed to someone forcing it down my throat.

Running Windows 8 Consumer Preview

On Wednesday, the Windows 8 Consumer Preview became available.  I’ve really been looking forward to this as I’ve been a big fan of the Metro UI feel from using my Windows Phone for a while now.

You can get the Preview at the following URL:  http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-8/consumer-preview

Everything at this point seem to be running pretty smoothly from internal tools that I use, to Game (Star Wars: The Old Republic), to developer tools such as SQL and Visual Studio.  I haven’t really had any issues.  Also all of my hardware is running as expected.

I performed an upgrade on my desktop at home which is my gaming box.  And I just completed a fresh install on my work Laptop.  I definitely recommend giving this a try, with the understanding that this is still a Beta Product.

image

Getting “Work At Home” working for me

I’ve never been a big fan of working at home.  This has evolved over time though.

The Early Years (Kinda)

Early is relative as I’ve only been with Microsoft for about 6 years.  But when I first started, we were able to VPN into the office using our Smart Card.  This was kinda clunky and slow but allowed us access.  From my point of view, my only real option was to RDP into my Desktop machine at the office to actually work and use the tools I had to use from a Support Perspective.  This was done from my desktop at home as I didn’t have a laptop.

While usable, I didn’t really care for it as it restricted me to a single monitor.  I love multi-monitor and am really way more productive with more screens.  I’ve found that 4 is my sweet spot.  I had 5 at one point, but never really used the 5th.  Probably just because of where it was located.

Not so long ago…

Since then, I’m on my second work laptop.  And this laptop is powerful enough that I replaced my main desktop with it.  My current laptop is my main work console.  Which begins to make working at home more appealing as I have everything I use in a consistent spot whether I’m at the office or at home.  Although this still had the problem of a single monitor. 

I worked around that a little bit by plugging a second monitor into the video port on the back of the laptop.  However, now I had a weird issue of one screen that was normal, and one that was smaller (the laptop).  While usable, it still wasn’t ideal.

I’d say about two years ago, I got onto the DirectAccess project with my work laptop.  I will just say that DirectAccess is really awesome.  No more VPN or Smart Card.  I just boot my laptop and I have access to corporate resources regardless of where I am, as long as I have network access.  This has worked out really well for me, especially when I go to conferences such as SQL PASS.

So, this setup is usable.  It is better then where I started from, but I still didn’t really like it and enjoyed being at the office more as the setup was more ideal with 3-4 monitors.

Today!

I recently built a new gaming box and we did some rearranging of our office space at home.  We also did some network drops and got things wired for 1gb.  Really fast.  I only have two monitors at home though.

So, I decided to try out the RDP session using all monitors and full user experience.  WOW!  With the faster network, this really pops.  Occasionally there is a little lag, but overall, it is very nice and looks great.  I get to work on my laptop, but on my gaming box.  This makes it feel like I’m working on a desktop with two monitors.  A normal setup.  But there is still one problem – Audio and calls.

I’m using Enterprise Voice through Microsoft Lync.  This is basically VoIP on my laptop.  When I first started looking at this, if I got a call or wanted to make a call, I either had to setup my headset directly on my laptop and get out of the RDP session, or use the Lync Client directly on my desktop outside of the RDP session.  Not ideal.

I then found that you can do recording through the RDP session as well.  Although, by default, Windows 7 Client doesn’t support it out of the gate.  I had to enable the following registry key on my laptop:

HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Terminal Server\WinStations\RDP-Tcp
fDisableAudioCapture REG_DWORD 0 | 1

This got my headset to work when plugged into my desktop and use the microphone through the RDP session.  So, now I can do Calls through the RDP session.  NICE!

image

Working from home is now very usable for me.  I don’t feel cramped and I feel like I can work at 80% steam.  Would need another monitor to feel at 100%. 

Obviously, another way to go would be to get a docking station at home for the laptop like I do at the office, but that would cost more money and what I have now is pretty darn good.

Surprises and Opened Doors

Last week was an interesting experience.  I had joined the Health Solutions Group Support Team about 4 months ago.  I saw a lot of potential and it was exciting to get involved with something that was pretty much at the ground floor – at least from a support perspective.  Then I saw this last Thursday.

GE, Microsoft to Launch Joint Venture Aimed at Global Healthcare System Transformation
http://www.microsoft.com/Presspass/press/2011/dec11/12-07MSGEHealthcarePR.mspx

Regardless of the details, I knew right away that this would affect me.  It reminded me of a sermon at our church a few months back.  It was mentioned that everyone should pray for surprises in our lives.  Surprises are what challenge us and drive us forward.  For good or bad.  It makes us think about where we are and where we are going.  Sometimes the surprises you pray for, aren’t really what you were thinking of, or hoping for.  That’s what makes it interesting.

There are probably people wondering what is going to happen and are worrying about the details.  I really haven’t worried about this at all.  I know that this will put me in a spot where God wants me to be, and that comforts me.  I’m ready for whatever happens, and I know my Family is as well.

It’s also amazing to see what can happen in situations like this with regards to what doors open for you.  The options that are made available.  At this point, I haven’t heard any real details and I doubt anything will be known this month.  With the holidays it is pretty much a dead month.  Business as usually.  January is really where things will really kick in – is my guess – with regards to what decision I need to make. That being said, I know that I have several options available to me. 

These next few months will definitely be interesting and life changing, regardless of what happens.  I really feel that moments like this are pivot points for your life.  The fork in the road.  Which way?

Time will tell…