TSQL Tuesday #96 Round-up


“Who are the folks who made a difference?” I asked two weeks ago. As T-SQL Tuesday themes go, this is pretty touchy-feely stuff, and boy am I glad I went with it, because the #sqlfamily delivered in spades.

Firstly, I want to thank every person who took part. SIXTY TWO blog posts got generated, including a few first-time #tsql2sday contributors as well as first-time bloggers. I am fairly glowing to have been a part of it, and I hope the other contributors are too.

Secondly, from my own experience in writing a post, I know it feels terrible when you start worrying about who to pick. There are many people I could have included, but I hope I have made my appreciation for them clear elsewhere. Not that I want to speak on your behalf, but I’ll assume that the same applies to many other contributors.

In doing this write-up, I made a conscious decision not to hoist named people into this post – I hope you’ll agree that this was a sensible choice. Then again, quite a lot of them appear as participants anyway.

The posts

In no particular order…

Okay, who am I kidding? In firstname-lastname alphabetical order, here is that whopping list of contributions.

Aamir Syed talks about two community leaders who impressed him on two counts: how helpful they’ve been to him, and also how approachable.

Aaron Bertrand reaches back in time to remember people who influenced him during his formative years.

Adam Machanic sings the praises of the old Microsoft Usenet community, drawing the line between that guidance and how it allowed him to become who he is today.

Adrian Buckman gives us a potted history of his route into database administration, and how people impressed, influenced and supported him on that road.

Alex Yates picks the rule of threes, and how he accepted the various nudges from three people who created pivot points in his career.

Alexander Arvidsson makes an eloquent point about paying it forward, and how we take turns standing on each others’ shoulders – I love his reminder that every one of us gets the chance to be a hero to someone.

Andy Leonard paints us the network that has supported him, calling out a few names who particularly inspire him today.

Andy Levy takes the path of reminiscing about inflection points and (by now) old friends, thanking some new friends for letting him into their circle.

Andy Yun has a lovely angle on the challenge, focusing on being inspired by the new generation of data people working their way through professional growth in the community.

Arthur Daniels tells a tale of hands-on guidance by a patient senior hand, also acknowledging well-known community leaders and friends.

Arun Sirpal has had an opportunity for one-to-one mentoring by a well-known name, whose great influence is abundantly clear in Arun’s work.

Bartosz Ratajczyk tells us about having one person draw him into the SQL community, leading to much other useful engagement and personal growth.

Björn Peters gives us another reminder of how a few positive engagements in person or through blogging/social media can draw one into the #sqlfamily.

Bob Pusateri remembers one guy who was clearly a significant point of reference of defining the DBA role, as well as a mentor.

Brent Ozar similarly had one shining beacon, whose example still resonates through Brent’s own teaching.

Chris Hyde went for two community stalwarts, who helped him directly through some well-timed pushes (or were they gentle kicks?).

Chris Jones took his inspiration all the way from childhood, into a recent DBA move into a supportive environment.

Chris Sommer talks about how one PASS Summit session inspired him to move into presenting, and how he has found a comfortable home in the PowerShell tools community.

Chris Yates identifies a handful of specific folks who invested in him, amusingly taking the time to acknowledge the naysayers who made him push himself harder.

Chrissy LeMaire gives us a poignant reminder of the important of representative role models, in addition to working through a number of specific influences.

Cláudio Silva covers a good chunk of his career through specific supportive co-workers, plus some names from the wider data community whose interactions gave him extra impetus.

Craig Porteous scores big on momentum, going full tilt from meeting some lights of the SQL community at SQLbits 2016 to organising an event himself recently. Wow.

Dan Blank has a “thrown into the deep end” story that ended up with him learning about the joys of emergency community help through Twitter (okay, he missed the #sqlhelp hashtag at the time, but it still worked out) and discovering a bunch of other great people along the way.

Dan de Sousa draws the line from a teacher who inspired students to give serious consideration to databases, to more recent peers who form his current support network.

Dave Mason provides a veritable shopping list of people who have helped him along the way, thoughtfully including the community investment made by some companies.

David Fowler traces things back to childhood, through helpful nudges at university and the workplace, also tipping the hat to negative people and environments who made him realise when to call it quits.

Deborah Melkin has a very interesting angle, putting a spotlight on TSQL Tuesday itself – this is indeed a great way to work on your community involvement.

Devon Ramirez talks about how engagement in the workplace led to discovering the wider SQL community and some specific people who have guided her along the way.

Doug Lane reminds us how a single moment (in this case a debut presentation) can be a make-or-break inflection point in personal growth, and how one person’s support there, plus others further along the road, makes all the difference.

Ewald Cress writes about himself in the third person in a pinch, but really enjoyed writing about a teacher, an author/trainer, and some SQL friends.

Frank Gill has a tale about great presentations, and how great community leaders draw you in to become an active participant.

Garland MacNeill takes time out from a cross-country move to list a number of people (and yay! the #sqlhelp hashtag itself!) who have helped him.

Glenda Gable talks about two co-workers and a presenter who provided guidance as she grew into the twin roles of DBA and speaker.

James McGillivray writes about key influences in the regional and international SQL community. Bonus points for being a man who pointedly applauds Women In Tech.

Jason Brimhall has an amazingly eclectic list covering family/friends, sports, and technology, and reminding me that inspiration and guiding forces can come from everywhere.

Jason Squires is one of the first-time bloggers, making me inordinately pleased to have been associated with that genesis. Also, by this point the leitmotif of the PowerShell community drawing people out of their shells is building into a rousing chorus.

Jeff Mlakar took a distinctive approach, eschewing naming individuals in favour of a very thoughtful piece on drawing inspiration from the people and situations around you.

Jen Stirrup paints a familiar picture of feeling out of place at a community event when someone comes along and engages you, keeping you within the circle of warmth. And for the sake of the rest of the community, I for one am very grateful that Jen stayed!

Jim Donahoe goes with the theme of finding kindred spirits at community events, and how the friendships spill over beyond technology.

John Martin calls out some familiar names, and demonstrates what is also becoming a common theme: kindness and support at an early point in someone’s career is something they tend to remember.

John Sterrett talks about paying it forward, from the angle of the guy who eventually pays it back by helping to organise an upcoming SQL Saturday in Wheeling, West Virginia.

Kendra Little gets enthused about adventure, with a refreshing reminder of how people, technology, and personal stories can’t help but get interwoven.

Kenneth Fisher takes the time to higlight several people who have provided him support at important inflection points, as well as on an ongoing basis.

Kevin Hill picks three people (but like me, then squeezes in a fourth) who have been instrumental at different stages of his career.

Lonny Niederstadt also goes for the Rule of Threes, starting with an early influence outside of SQL Server, who evidently played a role in Lonny’s own tenacity in tracking problems across traditional domain boundaries.

Lori Edwards keeps that triplet rhythm going, picking two heroes who influenced her from a distance, and one who took a more active role in her life.

Malathi Mahadevan focuses on the person who took her from the already good starting position of user group leader to SQL Saturday organiser.

Matt Cushing also has a specific guiding light in mind, reminding us of the power of #sqlfamily and social media engagement.

Michelle Haarhues tells her story in terms of pivotal people at various times in her career, once again reminding us all how important female role models and peers are in a healthy, or at least aspiring-to-healthy, workplace.

Mike D Lynn is another first time blogger (welcome!), talking about the support and influences that helped his early career and his growth into SQL Server specialisation.

Mindy Curnutt gives us a glimpse into her fascinating life story through calling out a bunch of people who influenced and helped in various ways. The Bill Butler paragraph alone reads like the synopsis of a movie I’d love to see.

Paul Randal reminds us of some of the many illustrious SQL Server stalwarts he has been associated with, and who helped him along the way. Nice side note about presentation technique too!

Peter Schott takes us back to the Usenet community that Adam Machanic also focused on, additionally emphasising the kind of non-SQL community you can find within the SQL community.

Randolph West highlights one very influential pivot from his earlier career in data, a friend who has passed away since.

Rob Farley has a unique angle, applauding some people who impressed him so much that he hired them.

Rob Sewell just bubbles over with enthusiasm for some of the people he gets to work, present, and organise with. We can all take inspiration lessons from this guy.

Robert L Davis gives us a nicely balanced post involving lessons in both personal development, technology, and workplace culture.

Samir Behara thanks a handful of colleagues who helped get his blogging kick-started, and then turns his attention to one person who helped him grow into a co-chapter lead and SQL Saturday organiser.

Shane O’Neill manages to tell the story of his own growth into blogging and very strong community involvement through the various people who helped him on that journey.

Steve Jones talks about how inspirational it was to see one of his heroes present at the very first PASS Summit – double whammy!

Tamera Clark reminisces about a few interesting turning points in her life, and the ongoing support of #sqlfamily.

Todd Kleinhans sings an ode to print books, the people who write them, the people who used to survive selling them, and the stories locked up in individual copies. Some very interesting thoughts in there.

Wolf calls out quite a few influences, highlighting two people who respectively got him into speaking and into relaxing in his existing personal branding.

In closing

Our data community has deep roots, and contains an amazing network of people. Some of them may appear to live on Mount Olympus, but when you read these stories, you are continually reminded how many of those folks want to help you grow. Embrace those opportunities!

TSQL Tuesday #96: Three People Who Made a Difference


It’s #tsql2sday today, and I’m hosting it this time around! My chosen subject is “Folks who have made a difference”, with the idea that we’ll take a moment to acknowledge people who have helped us become who we are.

I have chosen three people who influenced me in different ways at different points in my life.

Colin Hannah

No, you probably haven’t heard of him, the man with the palindromic last name and the fascinatingly unmatched set of eyes (one brown, one green). He was my high school computer studies teacher, and an unusual species of superhero.

Our school curriculum allowed for Computer Studies as an extra credit-bearing subject. To be honest, I’m not really sure what was in the curriculum, because Colin mostly let me hack around by myself, occasionally surfacing with bits of sage advice, and the gentle reminder that life will be punctuated by written exams. Perhaps it wasn’t really supposed to work like that, but it worked for me.

Beyond the classroom, he was just a great guy to have on your side. He had a semi-acoustic Ovation guitar which he wielded with some skill, and on two occasions I managed to enlist him in playing for musical productions. It was during one of these where he saved my bacon during the nail-biting Mystery Of The Missing Girls’ School Key. Don’t ask, but any man who places himself between a schoolboy and the vengeance of Headmistress Jones deserved a medal.

He also utilised me as babysitter for his toddlers when he and his wife needed to escape from the kids for an evening, leaving me treats like Monty Python videos as entertainment. In another time and place, that kind of thing would be frowned upon. What I took away from it was that some rules are there to be broken in a respectful manner and with a straight face.

He left that school not long after I did, to take up a job in some government department, and during our university years, my friend Andrew Freeborn and I once tried to track him down, to no avail. Within a few years, I had word indirectly that he had died, and I never even managed to verify the story.

Thinking back on it now, he stands out as a very special kind of mentor. He provided me encouragement and space, and stood ready to help when I stumbled. I only hope I projected enough appreciation at the time.

Kalen Delaney

Sometimes a teacher can make a difference from afar, without knowing the student. In the SQL Server world, Kalen is surely the textbook example here. After all, she wrote the textbook.

In 2005 I was in the midst of a career transition, which is a nice way of saying I was working for minimum wage. I was vaguely database-aware by then, only insofar as I knew a few snippets of database design, and that one logically aspires to SQL Server to transcend Access. But SQL was just a language, and what lay beneath the surface was a closed book.

I occasionally passed through the Borders Books computer section, scanning for things that might point my way forward into IT, and one one such day I came face to face with “Inside SQL Server 2000”. Maybe it was the imposing heft of the hardcover binding that caught my attention. But a quick flip through made me realise that there is a tantalising world of database internals to be discovered.

It wasn’t really the classic way to gear up for a database developer job. But it eventually came to pass that someone was open-minded enough to take one of my job applications seriously, and when I got invited to an interview, my SQL Server knowledge came from devouring Kalen’s book. Never mind that I hardly knew how to open Enterprise Manager; they kindly kept the interview technical, hired me, and then let me figure out those details on my first day.

Without even talking about her skill as an in-person trainer, I can honestly say that nobody did more for my progression into the SQL Server world, and finding my niche, than Kalen Delaney.

Lonny Niederstadt

I suffer from a classic geek problem: I suck at socialising in large groups, either in the flesh or online. My default modus operandi is to latch on to one or two individuals as comfort zone, and then gingerly try and spread out from there.

Lonny (whom you may better know as @sql_handle or SQL Sasquatch) is one of those beacons. Famous for hilariously extended tweetstorms bordering on blog posts, and memorably describing himself as “a collection of edge cases”, I had been following him on Twitter for a while by the time I started blogging. As a multiplatform guy, he often reminds me to look beyond the confines of SQL Server, and as a human, he has a big heart and a big social conscience.

I’m not completely sure how I managed to engage him at first. But at a time when I looked up to him (not that I’ve stopped doing that!) and was finding my feet with blogging, he was among the first people to respond to my blog posts. Since he cast himself as a target audience, he has often been at the back of my mind when I write. It’s the nature of social and professional engagement: you need sparring partners, and you need friends with related interests.

When I attended PASS Summit in 2015, I had been set on meeting Lonny in person, and very happy when this materialised in the form of breakfast one morning. Within hours, things kicked up a notch when he met up with Randolph West (b | t) and they uncovered that Randolph and I spent a year in the same freaking school. Yes, the same one where Colin Hannah taught.

I got to catch up with both Lonny and Randolph two weeks ago Summit 2017. This time we met as old friends. Oh, and Randolph is now my web host 🙂

A final thought

Inevitably, this subject gravitates to talking about oneself. But the underlying motif is that this self is formed through the work of other people at pivotal moments. I am immensely grateful to everybody who has helped me grow over the years.

PASS Summit 2017 – a personal angle

It’s THAT season again, and although I couldn’t attend last year, I have made it to Seattle despite the best efforts of aeroplane fuel pump bugs. That is a good start.

So what’s the week about for me? Let’s see.

Firstly, I am hoping to meet you. I mean, if you got as far as reading the third paragraph of one of my blog posts, we’re practically family.

If you’re anything like me, you actually don’t function well in crowds, and you long for the comfort of an invisibility cloak. I’d like to think I have gotten better at talking to strangers over the years, and I don’t worry that much anymore when I make the effort and get met with awkward silence. Move on, Ewald, it wasn’t meant to be.

On the upside, while I regularly curse myself for sucking at names and faces, I have occasionally been pleased by recognising people I talked to before, and realising they are drawing a blank. It’s fine, those are the times when I award myself brownie points.

The intersection of SQL and a union

Seattle has a special place in my heart already. In the last season I worked in the cruise industry, we were doing an Alaskan itinerary based from here, and I have fond memories of spending homeport days by raiding the Barnes and Noble in Pine Street before devouring the spoils in a convenient Starbucks.

More significantly, the day Amy and I started that contract was also the day I plucked up the courage to propose to her. Since this week is both school holiday and our wedding anniversary, there is more-or-less inevitably a family holiday intertwined with Summit.

The Big Learn

When all is said and done, there will always remain things to say and do, and sometimes we just have to do as someone says. To that end, I’ll be attending Brent Ozar and Erik Darling’s precon “Expert Performance Tuning for SQL Server 2016 & 2017” on Tuesday.

I’m no DBA, but it always helps us to try and think like DBAs, or at least learn to empathise with them while they lovingly whip us into submission. And yes, I have huge gaps in my knowledge of recent features, so I am expecting to learn a good headful from these very intelligent and engaging speakers.

Remaining with the subject of pleasurable punishment, I am guaranteed to be jostling for a seat in Bob Ward’s notoriously high-bandwidth half-day session “Inside SQL Server 2017 on Linux”. Expect me to be drooling into my nascent Linux beard by the end.

For the rest, I hope to meet my target of two or three sessions on subjects I’m completely but guiltily unfamiliar with – I’m sure we all have our own skeletons in the closet there. Pad it with a few sessions where you think you kind of know the basics, so it’s not quite so punishing. Sprinkle a few more on subjects you’re comfortable with, but you just want to enjoy the speaker’s individual angle, and before you know it, the week is over.

This is old news, but I am going to repeat a classic mantra for my own sake: We need to make the most of the human interaction on offer. You can always catch up on technical content later, but it’s often a trusted network of peers who will signpost you to such content.

Go forth. Harvest yourself some low-hanging peers. And have fun.