I’ve been wanting to share a little bit about Matt’s story for a while now and this past week I reached out to him to see if he’d be up for an interview for the blog. As is usually the case he was happy to oblige. I’ve known Matt for, O gosh, a couple of years now. Met him when he first came down from Lexington to speak at our Louisville SQL and Power BI User Group. It’s pretty awesome to see how he’s grown over that amount of time not just as a data professional but also as a speaker.
Check out the interview below:
Tell us your name, what you do, and how you got started as a data professional?
My name is Matt Gordon (b|t) and I’m a Data Platform Solution Architect for DMI. Basically, I’m a data architect and consultant in our Data Platform & Analytics group. While I had done basic maintenance on SQL Server machines for a year or so before this happened, my real start as a data professional was thanks to a wonderful manager of mine. I was working as a support analyst for an enterprise asset management software company and we had a reporting platform that allowed customers to write their own queries against their data that we hosted. As you might imagine, those queries did not always perform well and several of our customers wanted help tuning them. My manager thought I would do well with that, I did decently with it, fell in love with data, and here we are.
I see you speak a lot at SQL Saturday’s; what would you say to someone who is just starting out speaking and wants to get involved?
I would say that there is no better feeling than helping your fellow data professionals solve a problem or think through an issue in a new way. I would also say that involvement in the PASS community will benefit your career and personal knowledge base in ways that you can’t even fathom at this point in time. It certainly has mine.
That said, the one thing I would say to somebody starting out is not to let anything stand in your way. As an example, when I was younger, I stuttered. It would have been easy for me to duck any community involvement and public speaking (and for years I did, even as I attended SQL Saturdays and PASS Summits) by saying that nobody would want to hear me talk. I wasn’t a good enough public speaker, I didn’t know enough, other people knew more. Maybe all of that is true, but people have told me that my community talks have helped them and that feeling is invaluable. If you need any further motivation, just read Mr. Yates tweets every morning!
If you could go back in time; what would you tell your younger self in regards to being a data professional?
I would tell myself to never settle for a title and never stop learning. Don’t say “I’m a developer” or “I’m a DBA” and decide that’s all you will ever be. I completely understand that job roles sometimes aren’t fluid at all – I’ve had my fair share of jobs like that through the years. Being involved in computing (and data specifically), however, almost demands a certain amount of continuing education. I wish I had understood that earlier in my career but I’m glad that I understand it now. I happily pass that advice on to my younger self.
What advice do you have for new data professionals coming into the community?
Do not be afraid to introduce yourself to people who you think are “famous”. There are people in the community who will likely hear about via blogs, webinars, etc. Those people, in almost every case, are just normal people looking to help folks within the community. Whether they’ve headlined a pre-con, spoken at PASS Summit, been on a podcast, etc. they want to teach people what they know and how they came to know it.
I was very intimidated by this for a couple of years until I had a technical issue at my job that really had me perplexed. I happened to be going to Summit so I made a point to go outside my comfort zone and talk to somebody I didn’t know in hopes of resolving the issue. I spoke to Denny Cherry (b|t) on the exhibition floor near his booth and he gave me incredibly useful advice that set me on the path to resolving the issue. Denny was “SQL famous” (and he still is) but he listened and was kind to me despite the number of people queued up to barrage him with questions. In my experience, most names in the Microsoft data community live up to this standard.
What is one thing that most people don’t know about you?
I played street hockey in college at the Clemson Street Hockey Club (on sneakers). As much as I enjoy hockey thanks to sending half of my formative years in the Chicago area (go Blackhawks!), I can only skate well enough to stand up on skates and make slow circles around the rink. Ice hockey was never going to be an option for me. That is the only time in my life I was ever able to play competitive hockey and I did manage to score one goal. It was against my roommate, we’re still friends to this day, and it still bugs him when I bring it up!
One thing I am a big supporter and fan of is how integral the local user groups are all over the world are. I probably would have run into Matt somewhere down the road whether it was at an event or conference, but meeting him at a local user group is a story that runs rampant in the SQL community. Being able to meet, cultivate, and grow friendships as such it a key proponent of keeping our community fresh and alive.
Matt, thank you for taking the time to be interviewed and share a little bit about yourself. I look forward to watching you for many years to come as you continue to impact others in the community, including myself.