Interview With Matt Gordon

Interview1I’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!

Conclusion

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.

What The Doctor Ordered

I recently went to our local pharmacy to pick up some prescriptions. There was one for my boy and one for me; at the time I didn’t think much of it to check. I had seen the last name on the slip for both and moved onward with the business of the day. What I didn’t realize is that I had picked up a totally different prescription for a gentleman with the same last name as me for something that had nothing to do with me.

A number of emotions ran through my mind some not so good, but some actually made me think of my day to day routine and work as a SQL Data Professional:

◾ What was the root cause of how the issue occurred?

◾ Was it a manual process or automated?

◾ What processes are in place for this to not happen?

◾ Security in general (information was on the slip for the other gentleman)?

◾ What could have been the outcome based on taking the prescription?

Sure, I’m human, and you bet I was frustrated by the situation. The questions above come into play every day if we look around. Think about it for a minute if you will. How many times are we going about the business of the day and truly aren’t paying attention? Or maybe we are working on an issue at work or in a shop and giving an issue a “what for” only to come to find out we weren’t correctly diagnosing the root cause of the issue, to begin with.

What is the root cause of how the issue occurred?

This seems like a logical question we would ask when dealing with a scenario. I’m guilty at times for triaging quickly and moving on; it is only when I step back and look at the true issue at hand will it then become extinct and truly eradicated. A wise boss I have once told me to always look for and identify the root cause; sure you will have to remedy the problem, but to truly fix the problem you need to address it at times further upstream. There will be times where you are not the one to fix the root cause and guess what? That’s okay. Yep – it is okay but you do your due diligence and bring that to the attention of others who may be able to fix that root issue.

Was it a manual process or automated?

For anyone who knows me knows that I love automation. Some may look at this as it pushing me out of a job. Quite the opposite for me; it has helped me to become more efficient and streamline many mundane daily activities. When I first became active in the SQL community six years ago I came upon a post by John Sansom (B|T) that dealt with automation. The concept has stuck with me and I am glad it did. Look around you in your daily routine; what can you automate? What should you automate? What processes can you enhance that will allow you to become more innovative in other areas?

What processes are in place for this not happen?

If you, dear reader, don’t get anything out of this post then I hope you tune into this section. If you identify a problem address it or get it addressed; too many times I’ve seen issues just get swept under the rug only to have the same problem happen again for the next data professional to fix. As I type this I’m even taking inventory of my own practices. Always have the mindset of making your practices better; don’t become stagnant. If you become stagnant then you are not innovating. Challenge yourself daily to make an impact – you be the game changer.

Security in general?

How many times have you seen security become an afterthought? I’ve seen it my whole career; it can quickly become the end of a project. Or better yet, if you work with a lot of installs and vendors, you will have the fun ability to just make everything SA. That should do the trick; just let me hop on your network and do whatever I want to do for the install. As a data professional and more specifically since I am a DBA, it is your duty to protect the information you are responsible for. Security is something that you should take seriously from day one. Do not make this an afterthought; if you do then the repercussions could be detrimental to any business.

What could have been the outcome based on taking the prescription?

As you work through any issues think about the outcome of what you are doing and the impact you will make. If you are changing architecture or schema how will that affect something else down the line? Maybe you just throw in an index not knowing if it will work better or affect something else down the line. Backups????? Eh, who needs them. Let’s just shut those things off. Oh yeah, I have backups but I’ve never restored one (don’t let this be you).

These are all scenarios I’ve seen over and over again. Think about working into your daily routine and thought mentality to think about the outcome of what is being done and the impact it will have on other business functions.

Conclusion

As we move through our daily routines and become frustrated at times with issues think about these 5 questions. They are simple in essence; don’t overcomplicate things. Look for the root cause and think about how to address it properly so it does not continue to happen. Don’t sweep issues under the rug. I still remember the saying from when I was growing up ingrained in me and I’m sure some of you have heard it as well ~ “Don’t put things off until tomorrow what you can get done today.”

Pass Summit 2017

It’s about that time of year again when there is a buzz in Seattle in regards to PASS Summit. Many data professionals will be heading out to one of the biggest SQL related events of the year. There is excitement for many along with a sense of being overwhelmed for some. The minute you step off that plane, bus, car, etc. you are immediately geared up for the unknown. Guess what – enjoy the ride!

This year due to previous business engagements scheduled I will not be attending; however, I will be there at times virtually along with social media. I will miss seeing many of my friends from around the globe; however, this post isn’t about that. Why? Because I know I will see everyone again real soon somewhere down the line and even back at the event in 2018. Instead, here are some tidbits for you, dear reader, that may help you along your journey in the upcoming week.

Network

That’s right, you will find yourself among the best speakers in the world, thousands of your closest friends, and a plethora of vendors. I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and mingle around; talk to someone you don’t know. Spend some time at the vendor booths learning about the various products that may help you in the future.

Sessions

img_20161026_103752In reviewing all the sessions, yes I still review them even if I am not there, there are so many good ones to choose from. You will hear many people say they can’t see all the ones they want to – that’s okay as well. Attend the ones that you feel will help you the most; you can always check into purchasing the recordings while you are there or even after the event. Just soak it all in, ask a question yet be respectful.

Speakers

IMG_20161025_092017_01.jpgYou will find yourself immersed with speakers from all over the globe; some of the most talented individuals and data professionals we have in the community. Please provide feedback for the speakers for the sessions you are in. Believe it or not, it helps speakers hone their craft. How do I know, because I am one and it has helped me. Also, please be respectful of time.

After Events

fileThere will be events after the sessions are done for the day. Enjoy yourself, but do remember it is okay to network with others at these things. One of the highlights I’ve read so far is the mentor program this year. Truly stoked to see that happening. I remember last year when I was able to help Steve Jones and Andy Warren pair up people for their event to help plug people in. Seeing the smiling faces and knowing that they were excited to meet others said a lot.

First Time Ribbons

If you see a first-time ribbon don’t just run by. In the past events, I’ve made a point to go up to people and introduce myself and ask how they are doing. If you remember your first time attending the PASS Summit then you can relate to how overwhelming it can be. I remember Andy Leonard and Mike Walsh invested time in me early on when I attended and it made a world of difference in my life. You be that impact player for someone else.

Volunteers

img_20161025_074203You may not notice the volunteers as you are rushing up the escalators at the convention center. Take a second and a breath and if you see one of the many volunteers working the event stop and say THANK YOU. You will be surprised at how others may be having a bad day and a simple thank you for what they are doing will change their outlook for the day. No seriously, try it.

Community Zone

img_20161026_074256As you go toward the food one (it’s what I call it; where you go eat at the convention center) you will come upon the community zone. It is there you will find all kinds of community members hanging out. Go up and get to know some of the members. You’ll find a wide range of people there from organizers, speakers, etc. Hang out a bit and get to know some of your fellow data professionals

Key Notes

img_20161026_093230There will be morning keynote sessions before the day gets started. I encourage you to attend these; there is a lot of valuable information that comes out of these. Yes, I know there will be some late nights, but I do encourage you to do your best to get to these. Fantastic speakers with a fantastic message. I’ve been blessed to live blog the keynotes for the past 2-3 years. Each time presents new and exciting messages to be heard.

Summary

Again, I will miss everything about PASS Summit this year. Personally what has started off as an eager data professional has turned into much more. I deeply care about the event and everything it entails. Walking through the vendor areas talking with old friends, to spending time at the after events catching up. Or the one-off conversations in the halls – some of those have impacted me more than anything.

If you don’t catch anything I’ve said thus far, then please, listen to this. Enjoy yourself, learn as much as you can, and maybe…just maybe the PASS Summit will mean a bit more to you than when you first got there this year. Until we meet again down the road my friends ~ Take care and Let’s Roll.

img_20161031_124917

Running for the PASS Board of Directors #PASSelections

Someday_20564This year I decided to take “someday” to heart and do something that has been on my mind for awhile – submit my application to run for the PASS Board. Going through the process so far has been a humbling experience; one that I’ve learned a lot from. I’m excited to say that my application was accepted and with that this is my formal announcement and the beginning of my campaign for election.

You may ask who is Chris Yates and why is he running? By the end of this post, my goal is to answer that question for you. I am a by product of what PASS can do for you as a data professional. There are so many stories that people have shared who have had similar experiences such as mine. My first time I heard of PASS was in 2011; it is then I was afforded the opportunity to attend my first PASS Summit – information overload ensued! Unknown to me at the time it was the foundation being laid for the journey to arrive at this day.

The Question – Who Is Chris Yates?

Well, that’s easy enough. I’m a 17-year vet of SQL server who views his job as, well not a job. I work for a stellar company in Republic Bank located in Louisville, KY. It is there where my first break with PASS was given to me. I help John Morehouse run the local Louisville SQL and Power BI user group along with helping co-organize the local SQL Saturday event here with Malathi Mahadevan, John Morehouse, and many volunteers. I enjoy helping others succeed and leadership is a strong passion of mine to which I’ve dedicated time to leading a Center of Excellence initiative around leadership for our IT folk at the shop.

You can read plenty more over on my bio page on PASS’s web site located here.

You can view candidates rankings here

The Why?

So this is the meat of this post – the why? Chris, why now. Listen, earlier I mentioned that I’m a by product of what PASS can do for someone and their career. I’ve been blessed and fortunate in my career and more so over the past six years since PASS and I got to know each other. I want others to experience that same success and want to continue to help lead PASS to many more successful years.

PASS is the people, it is the networking at events from big to small, it is staying ahead of the curve that will provide and give our members the edge in their data professional careers. If you’ve been around me long enough then you’ve heard me say over and over again that if we just reach one it’s worth it; I truly believe that. For me it was a guy by the name of Chris Shaw who decided to take a chance on me and become my very first mentor after that 2011 PASS Summit – that is PASS. It is the one off conversations you have at events, email, phone calls in helping each other to learn – that is PASS.

There are plenty of Chris Yates’ out there who are still looking for something and don’t know about PASS. It’s time to step up to the plate and pay it forward like so many before me.

So What Do You Bring to the Table?

I’m not perfect; never will claim to be. If you come here looking for that then it is time to move on. Heck, I’m not even going to make promises that I won’t be able to keep. What I can tell you is this; each candidate running for this board is more than qualified. I’d even go as far as to say I would support all of them if I could. I can tell you that I have a passion for seeing this community succeed, and seeing PASS succeed. I will attack it like I do everything else and give it 110%; at the end of the day, there will be nothing left on the table and nothing left in the tank. Along with the passion and effort; I will tap into my previous board experiences along with being cognizant of my grass roots mentality. I truly believe that we can make an impact anywhere at anytime. Doesn’t have to be at an event; nor does it have to be on a call. Each one of us can impact someone’s life both as a data professional and on a personal level. This will be one epic ride and I ask that you take that journey with me.

Summary

There will be no “what if’s” nor will there be no looking for that someday. That someday came knocking on the door and I’m ready to answer that call and step through it hoping to make a difference for all you and our community. Whatever the outcome may be when this is all said and done; know one thing. The people make up PASS and without you (us) we couldn’t do what we set out to do on a daily basis – help each other to connect, share, and learn. If elected; I’ll give you all I got.

Now whether you vote for me or one of the other candidates I implore you to go vote; what you are doing is helping shape the future of the PASS organization.

To all the other candidates running; it’s truly an honor to share this stage with you. Thank you for laying it out on the line and accepting the call.

My name is Chris Yates and I’m running for the PASS BoD – for more information please go and visit here

SQL Summer Vacation–SentryOne

sqlvacation2017We are having an extra Louisville SQL Server and Power BI User Group meeting this month due to the SQL Summer Vacation coming into town. SentryOne’s Kevin Kline (B|T) will be rolling into town for a fun filled 2-hour event on Wednesday the 25th. This is a fun event that Kevin and family travel around for every year, and for our SQL community is a great time to sit in multiple sessions learning from a Microsoft SQL Server MVP.

Seats are filling up fast and should have a packed house over at Homecare Homebase whose gracefully opened their doors to host this event. John Morehouse (B|T) and I will both be in attendance and as PAC Ambassadors for SentryOne we would love to talk to you and answer any questions that you may have of us.

Look forward to seeing you all there; going to be a great and fun time. Head on over to the user group site here and check it out available seating.

PAC Community Ambassador – SQL Sentry

pac-logoLast week Aaron Bertrand (b|t) published a post regarding five new PAC Community Ambassadors for SentryOne. I am privileged and honored to be a part of this journey with some stellar data professionals:

  • Andy Mallon (b|t)
  • John Morehouse (b|t)
  • Derik Hammer (b|t)
  • Mike Walsh (b|t)

This venture is a new community program that SentryOne is starting this summer which allows us more avenues to get out into the community, stay connected, and continue to be involved in the programs that SentryOne has to offer.

Knowing each of the other four individuals I can without a doubt say that the mindset is focused on helping others. How do I know this you may ask? Because each of these data professionals has helped me over the years, and I know their drive and motivations to help others succeed.

Thanks SentryOne for the honor to continue to serve others and look forward to meeting, even more, faces as we travel around, collaborate, and impact the community!

Built My Presentation, Now What?

IMG_20161025_092017_01Over the course of several years, I have given many technical and non-technical presentations. It is fun for me to put a new slide deck together, but it also requires a lot of hard work and can be time-consuming. I’ve had a few mistakes, to say the least, over the years where that one typo slips through or something doesn’t go according to plan ~ guess what? It happens.

I compare articulating a presentation to similar fashion in testing something. Yeah, you go over it again and again just like you would test a backup process or verify indexes are actually working. For me the same concept applies; I can’t remember who in the SQL Community always mentions having a checklist handy. I know I’ve read that somewhere before but cobwebs are thick right now so, please, forgive me if I don’t remember. Through the years, I’ve managed to build my own checklist regarding presentations. It is the nuts and bolts of what works for me; it doesn’t necessarily mean it, in turn, will work for you.

Given light of some past conversations I’ve had, I figured I’d share it with you all and maybe someone out there will benefit from it.

Presentation Checklist (a.k.a. Project Double Check Yourself)

What is the purpose – fully understand the purpose of the presentation. By that I mean, what outcome are you seeking?

  • To inform
  • To convince
  • To generate insight and discussion
  • To drive action

Know your audience

  • Do you know who my audience is? Have I provided adequate context to make it easier for them to understand?
  • Are there any personal motivations that you need be aware of?
  • Is the audience familiar with the topic? Have you included adequate detail and background information?
  • Is the presentation tailored to fit the audiences communication style?

Know the message

  • If applicable, do you know the problem or issue you are trying to address?
  • Do you have three to five key teaching points you want to deliver? If so, have you tied those teaching points logically and clearly to the original problem?
  • Have you clearly linked your teaching points to key data or trends along with explaining how the analysis supports, confirms, or denies beliefs about the problem and/or possible solutions?
  • Have you limited the data to what matters most?
  • Have you clearly established relevance? (why would your audience care? Have you clearly highlighted how this aligns with the target audience?)
  • Have you clearly established urgency (why would the audience act now; why is it critical?)

Structure

  • Is the presentation clearly marked with markers and sign posts? Is it easy to follow?
  • Is there an agenda that clearly identifies the different elements and how it fits together? Key point up front?
  • Are there additional details about internal or external sources that were consulted for the included information? Give credit where credit is due

Narrative

  • Does the presentation include insights that will be most influential to the audience? Is the scripting memorable and powerful?
  • Does the presentation identify key assumptions?
  • Does the presentation articulate immediate actions that you believe the audience should take?

Graphics

  • Do you know the purpose of each graphic? Is it tied to a teaching point in the message?
  • Do the graphics present information in a logical, visually appealing manner? Are there other ways of interpreting the graphic other than your intention?
  • Is the page balanced?

Formatting

  • Does the presentation have a standardized look and feel (same headings, colors, fonts)?
  • Are page elements consistent (background, title, body text)?
  • Are colors used judiciously (to emphasize, highlight, and organize)

Conclusion

Checklists; they are everywhere. They don’t necessarily have to be for technical related activities; heck we use checklists for grocery items. They are a part of our daily lives; so when you get that presentation built and you are ready to give it at your shop, on the job, a conference or a client take a few minutes and review a checklist. Make sure you have your house in order and that everything makes sense.

Remember, you get out what you put into something. Continue to work hard and hone in on your speaking and presentation talents that lie within. Like I said, these are some of the things that have helped me over the years; doesn’t mean they are for everyone. The flip side to that, you may have some of your own to share. I encourage you to do so.