A Data Professional’s Story – PASS Summit 2016

This year is different. Why? I’m not sure yet. There is a lot of reflection going on since my return from PASS Summit 2016. As I look at the long laundry list of “to do’s” to get completed in the office; this past PASS Summit reminded me to slow down and take a minute to breathe – to take it in so to speak.

The recap post you are about to read will be a bit different from my past ones; gone is the synchronous order of how each day went. Instead, this post will be more relaxed and share view points through my eyes on how I went through the conference in which I’ve come to have a strong passion for.

The Story

As you first come into Seattle it is very difficult not to see a lot of its natural beauty. It never ceases to amaze me when the plane flies past Mt. Rainier and the breath-taking views that it holds. I often wonder to myself what it must be like to be near something on such a grand scale. I remember back to my first PASS Summit when I would be in such a hurry to get to where I was going; I took things like this for grantednot anymore.

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One thing I’ve come to thoroughly enjoy is noticing all the “first timer” ribbons. The look of excitement and overwhelming elation of knowledge that has been received all over their faces speaks volumes. If you are ever walking around and notice someone with this ribbon on please take a moment and see how their day is going; offer them some encouragement if needed. I was once in their shoes and I remember how I felt at my first conference.

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This year I had the pleasure of speaking at  SentryOne’s Boot Camp.  One thing is for certain; this shop knows their stuff and have a stellar crew in place to bring excellent products to the community. Some colleagues of mine (Monica Rathbun (b|t), John Morehouse (b|t), and Chris Wood (t) in the community shared how SentryOne has helped in our respective shops and businesses. I spend a lot of time in slide decks for my current work and this was no different; I had some slides made up and was planning on talking from the slide deck, but as I got up on stage I had a “change of heart moment”. I wanted to divert attention away from the slides and just have a heartfelt conversation with the attendees on what I felt was important. After initiating the “wave” in the crowd (yes folks Kevin Kline (b|t) was involved) we had a good talk and I was happy to be a part of it. Some better terms in being a part of the boot camp are thankful and blessed.

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The keynotes were nothing short of amazing. For the second year in a row I had the privilege of live blogging. It’s always fun to provide data professionals who are not able to attend an avenue to get the information from the conference. I did get a kick out of sitting next to Rob Farley (b|t). We’ve become friends over the years and always look forward to seeing him; not sure how he gets hand delivered coffee while live blogging, but then again – – it is Rob Farley.

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Speaking of friendships; a good friend reached out to me earlier in the week letting me know he’d be near by. After some going back and forth on timing I felt it was important to leave the conference and share some time with him. Tom Roush (b|t) has been an inspiration to many and he allowed me into his life a little bit that day. It was the first time I got to meet his wife Cindy in person; together all 3 of us were able to share a cup of coffee and just talk for about 30 minutes. This, to me, is what PASS is all about. I would have never had the opportunity to meet Tom several years ago had it not been for PASS and the mentality of Share, Connect, Learn. The PASS Summit is much more than just a technical conference; it is a people conference. It is a place where friendships are made, ideas our bounced off of each other, and a place to grow. Tom, here is to you buddy ~ cheers!

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Sponsors are huge at events like these; wouldn’t be able to put on a good show without them. As I walked through the vendor area my mind began to wonder just how many people each of these vendors have reached. If you look past all the swag and fluff you’ll find that these vendors are doing some phenomenal things for the community. I’ve already mentioned SentryOne above, but another one that has had a huge impact on me personally is RedGate. Yes, I am a Friend of RedGate and yes I utilize their products at the shop – one thing that stands out to me is their strong passion for the community in which they serve and have built a business for. I cannot go through and name every vendor, but from me to every one of you ~ I thank you.

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The conversations had this year were amazing. You’ll find these happening in one off’s all over the convention center, restaurants, hotel lobbies, etc. I’ve never been to a PASS Summit where I haven’t had a conversation that has either helped or inspired me. Mike Fal (b|t), Mike Walsh (b|t), Warwick Rudd (b|t), Wendy Pastrick (b|t), Tom Larock (b|t), TJ Belt (b|t), Tim Ford (b|t), and Steve Jones (b|t) had a huge impact on me this year. It’s humbling when individuals take time out of their day and just pull up a chair and talk. Investing in others is key; I’ve had a lot of people invest time in me; what am I going to do now? It’s time to invest in others the same way and build up another generation of data professionals.

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One aspect of the conference I was extremely pleased to help with was Steve Jones and Andy Warren’s idea for a networking dinner. I had spoken briefly to Steve prior the meetup as he was needing some hands to help. It was after the sessions had ended and we were to congregate in the lobby at the convention center. I didn’t know what all to expect; just knew that help was needed. What unfolded next was pretty amazing…..seeing people from all around coming up to talk about their interests and have the ability to meet new people. Saw a lot of “first timers” again and getting them paired up with 4-6 people in a group was something to behold. The event itself was very successful and hopefully if one person was reached or changed then it was all worth it. Nothing but respect for Steve and Andy, would gladly go into battle with either of them any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

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This year had a twist for me in that I was invited to eat lunch with Rimma Nehme, Mark Souza, and Mitra Azizirad from Microsoft. This opportunity, along with five other data professionals, was nothing short of amazing. A casual conversation over a myriad of topics on how we as data professionals relate to Microsoft at our respective shops. I could see quickly that we were in the midst of some great minds, and trying to be a sponge is an understatement.

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Another highlight was getting to see, as I was live blogging, Malathi Mahadevan (b|t) receive the PASSion Award for 2016. I’m a product of the hard work she has put in over the years. Her tenure has spanned a decade now here in the Louisville, or as we call the ‘ville. It has only been a few years since we have crossed paths; little did she know when she started down this path for SQL Community how big of an impact she would have. It’s an honor to serve along side her and a testament to what hard work can do; sticking with something through both good and hard times. Job well done and well deserved. You can read her blog on the award here.

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We were able to meet and send Karla Landrum (t) off with appreciation in the community zone. For those of you who don’t know Karla she has been a steadfast presence in PASS as a Community Evangelist. She has gone above and beyond in her tenure and from the many people who stopped by to wish her well it is obvious she has hugely impacted a lot of data professionals. No, this won’t be the last we hear from her, but here it to a job well done ~ cheers

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As the halls are emptied and we close up another successful PASS Summit I can only hope that the future remains bright. It is my understanding that we had a record crowd on hand this year; may we continue to build on what has been started. If I may leave one thought with you I will leave this (again my viewpoint and opinion). At the very core of what we do day in and day out as data professionals we find data and people. People make up the PASS Community, people make up the shops you are in, and yes it is people that make an impact on one another. I personally, am blessed to have been one of the ones impacted. May we continue to give back in avenues that we can whether it’s volunteering, speaking, organizing, mentoring – – whatever the case may be. This community; this is our community

Thank you to all the PASS volunteers, staff, sponsors, speakers, convention help, caterers, attendees, etc. It takes all of us to make the wheel go round…..until next year.

Be an impact player ~ let’s roll

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PASS Summit Live Keynote – Release 5

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Julie Koesmarno, Senior Project Manager at Microsoft, takes the stage to talk about business analytics utilizing War and Peace.

Tracing emotions of each key characters via a heat map…..pretty cool to see application of SQL Light language.

Cognitive capabilities managed with big data……


Deep learning is everywhere; this means that SQL Server 2016 falls into that category. Seeing a demo on drone functionality and feeling the pulse of the power grid


Jen Stirrup (Data “Whisperer”) takes the stage and talks Pokemon…..yes folks Pokemon but there is more than that.

Utilizing Power BI for the activity for each Pokemon sprinkled in with some “R”. The data itself is stored in the Azure SQL Database with utilizing the Azure Services.

 

 

PASS Summit Live Keynote – Release 3

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Justin Silver, Scientist Pros, takes the stage……

Taking data science out of the lab settings and placing it into real world scenarios.

Azure has tremendously been able to allow enhanced functionality into the realm of data science bridging the gap 100x faster with SQL Server 2016.

Microsoft is the only vendor that has the depth and breathe to handle the capacity the Pros company needs in order to succeed.


Sneak preview after Just leaves the stage……HTAP solution scaled out.

What can we do to solve a data visualization problem within SQL server and how can we expand its capabilities. SQL Server 2016 shipped with Polybase to  help provide this type of solution….the always on functionality can replicate 10 times the data from where we were in the past.


Intelligent Database Service – machine learning to capture behaviors for intelligent capabilities.

Better together with Windows Server – unparalleled SMP capability

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Yes folks…just saw a restore onto SQL Server running on Linux…..installed SQL; restored backup from windows…..keeps getting better.

22,000+ registrations >50% of fortune 500

 

 

Ten Essential Traits for DBA Success


Hard-Work_thumb.jpgThere is greatness within you whether you believe it or not. Over the years there are certain skills that have helped me along the way that, in turn, may help you along your journey. These traits are by no means written in stone and some will not agree that these are important and that’s okay; what I can say is that these traits are at the backbone of some exceptional DBAs I’ve met along the way.

 

 

Technical Traits

Backups – Think about this a moment if you will. A backup is pretty much the most fundamental aspect of database administration one could do. Let’s put this into more general terms; I view database administration as a service ( I thank Grant Fritchey (B|T) for that – Database Administration as a Service). Now, with that said whether you are new to database administration or not it is imperative to find out what the backup strategy requirements are for your business units and get your backups aligned accordingly. Let’s take this a step further and ask this question;  if you are taking good backups then are you restoring/testing these backups?

Automation Yes folks; I am a key advocate for automating as much as you can. This relates back to making database administration tasks run as efficient as possible. By doing this it will free you up to do even more types of database administration tasks. Some things to consider automating are:

  • Code Deployments
  • SSIS Deployments
  • Job tasks
  • Alerts
  • Health Checks
  • Patches
  • Server Level Changes
  • SQL Installations
  • Unit Tests

Sysadmin Rights – I think this one speaks for itself. If you don’t know who has sysadmin rights on your servers than you are doing it wrong. Find out who has this type control on your SQL Server if you haven’t already done so.

Disaster Recovery – Organizations and businesses that do not have a plan in place could fall into a few categories. The categories that I’ve seen which seem to be more prevalent, outside budget concerns, are realizing the importance but not knowing how to get there, and not knowing that a disaster recovery plan can even exist. Whatever the case may be laying out a good plan in case of disaster should be a must for any data professional.

Monitoring – This is an integral part to any DBA related job. You have to be monitoring your daily processes, policies, and procedures. Whether you are utilizing home grown coding or monitoring utilities by third party affiliates it is an absolute must that the data professional is aware of processes that may go awry before they happen; or for that matter knowing that things are going smoothly as well.

Non Technical Traits (a.k.a. Soft Skills)

Communication – One of the keys to becoming a great communicator is not becoming a great talker – big difference. These are some of the ways that can help become a better communicator where you are:

  • Earning Trust – you earn it with right acting, thinking, and ability to make decisions.
  • Become personal – I was taught early on that most of the time people really don’t care about how much you know until they discover how much you truly care.
  • Be Specific – one of the lessons learned over time is the need to be specific when communicating with a team, business unit, and executives.
  • Keep an Open Mind – want to limit a group trying to become innovative? if so then keep a closed mind. Use this as a utility to learn and grow; it’s okay if someone’s opinion is different than yours.
  • Shut-up and listen – sounds harsh I know but not really sure how else to get that point across. Becoming a great communicator you have to know when to dial it up, dial it down, and yes even dial it off. Knowledge is not always obtained by flapping your gums but rather listening and understanding situations.
  • Check Ego at the Door – over the years I’ve seen it time and time again. When you can put arrogance aside and check it at the door some great things begin to happen in shops, teams, corporations.
  • Read Between the Lines – I’m continually amazed at some of the mentors I’ve looked up to in the DBA realm and their conscious ability to read between the lines. Keep your eyes and ears open.

Listening – Just like communicating and talking I think there is as vast difference between listening and hearing. Next time you are in a conversation don’t just hear the other party but listen to them, and by listening don’t just judge but rather show you understand what is being discussed.

Work Ethic – two words have never been so important in my own life and journey. If you know me at all you know that having a strong work ethic is near and dear to me. A strong work ethic will result in respectfulness, dependability, dedication, accountability, determination, and humility. No one can do it for you; it has to be from within.

Character – can be defined as what determines how we respond to the situations and circumstances of life. One of the first jobs I had after my ball playing days was a position at a local sports store. A regional manager had made his way in and as he walked back into the back room (which I admit was not always the cleanest place due to inventory etc.) there were several pieces of paper laying in various places on the floor. Now, he didn’t know anyone was behind him but he stopped at each piece, picked it up, and threw it away. You may ask what does that have to do with character? It left an impression on me that how you work when someone is not watching you does in fact make a difference.

Do Not Compare Yourself – It is easy to get caught up in trying emulate oneself as others. Just ask Michael Jordan how many people tried to emulate him or some other renowned celebrity. I’m here today to tell you that while you can take traits from some of the best in the business; you will not be them and that’s okay. Your journey is just that; your journey – no one else’s. Own it and make it yours and along the way keep learning.

Conclusion

Focus on your greatest sphere of influence; it’s time to tear down the walls between teams, business units, and organizations. These 10 traits mentioned don’t even come close to representing any complete package of skill sets, but what it is intended for is to provoke some thought around even the basic essentials of what makes up a successful data professional.

The Next Chapter ~ A SQL Journey

 

Journey

The past five years have been nothing short of an amazing ride on this thing we call “The SQL Journey”. I never cease to be amazed by the many outstanding data professionals we have in the PASS community.

For me, this ride has been a great learning experience. In addition, I am very thankful for the sacrifice of time that Chris Shaw (B|T) made in my behalf so many years ago. He was kind enough to take a willingly motivated individual under his wing and show him the ropes. He could have very easily said that he didn’t have the time. But the willingness that he expressed epitomizes what I have come to appreciate and expect from the SQL Family.

Along this journey I’ve witnessed a “closeness” rarely experienced in other communities.

A group rallies around someone in need, searching for an answer to their problems.

Fund raisers are organized for causes that benefit the individuals.

Intimate conversations are encouraged between peers – especially at large events and major conferences.

Words of experience and wisdom are freely exchanged when real-world battles make the road difficult.

These continual acts of kindness and sacrifice often leave me in awe.

It is not a perfect journey. It is not always an easy journey. And I have yet to see a bed of roses along the way. But my, oh my, it can be a rewarding journey.  The fruits of knowledge, friendship, bridging of gaps, experience, and opportunities are priceless.

Given my current position at “the shop”, leadership has been on my mind a lot lately.  Along with having aspirations in the SQL community, these are some important traits that I hold close to the heart:

  • Authenticity
  • Integrity
  • Concern
  • Restraint
  • Humility

At the same time, I strive to gain and exhibit:

  • Confidence
  • Vision
  • Composure
  • Resonance
  • Practical Wisdom

With these things in mind, I am today pleased to announce that I, along with my good friend John Morehouse (B|T), will be serving as Co-Chapter Leads for the Louisville SQL User Group. John and I were introduced to each other by Chris Shaw, and his influence has been tightly intertwined with our respective journeys since their beginnings. Little did I know, after a simple handshake at a PASS Summit, John would someday move to Louisville and a new friendship be forged. I will go to battle with John on any day, at any time, and anywhere, and I look forward to what the future will hold.

I do appreciate all of the hard work that Dave Fackler (B|T) has put into this community. While he is a stellar data professional in his own right, he has also helped to provide us locally with an avenue of opportunity and growth. Ideals to which he has been dedicated. It is my primary desire to help cultivate our local user base. To bringing forth new leaders, new innovators, and new SQL family members.

For those that know me, I have a reputation for using this saying … “Let’s roll.”

So, without further ado…Let’s roll.

Reflections and Looking Forward

ScoreboardTime is slowly ticking toward 0:00 on the clock. As I look around I couldn’t help but reflect back on the game – the game being 2015. Did I give it my all? Did I leave everything out on the court, and lay it all on the line? Sadly, I’m sure I could have done more – – I took some plays off where I needed to dig deep and give it all I had.

With just a few more days left in the year 2015; the coach is drawing up one final play. I, you, we have to finish strong; it is what defines us; it is character; it is leadership; it is seeing things through and finishing strong.

We’ve done some great things this year; nothing can take those things away nor negate the fact that we gave it, in our minds, all we could. So as people approach me and ask me what are my plans for 2016; I don’t know what the future will hold. Some of my thoughts though…..

Failing

That’s an odd word and sometimes one that we don’t’ associate well with. I expect to fail; if I do not then it means I am not trying; I’m not trying to be innovative and test the boundaries. Embracing the struggles that one goes through helps with the learning process of our job. It defines us; failing forward – don’t be scared and run from it – embrace it.

Failing is not in our nature; it is not something we like. It is however an aspect of growth. Keep moving forward, take the hit, learn from it, own it, and move on.

There will be times in your life when you are kicked down and you feel like you don’t want to keep going with figuring out the issue at hand;  the weight of the world is on your shoulders and it is up to you to get it done…..this is when you find the way and you dig deep to find something within you to keep pushing forward. I, we, you eventually will get through the test of the will and grit – mental toughness if you will.

Motivation

Pain is temporary, I heard this over and over again when training in sports. Keep moving one foot in front of the other; you have to work through it. Is it something new you are tasked with to learn? Is it a company directive that is “impossible” to get through? We’ve all been there; even the great ones in the industry. The difference is, in a lot of people, the great ones don’t quit. Anyone can be good when times are good; will you show up when times are bad? Will you show up when those tough times come up – – two words “Bring It”

The Past

It takes courage to let things go; 2015 will be in the past soon. 2016 will be in front of us; what is in front of you is greater than what was behind. It will be up to you to make it yours….

Do you want to embrace your destiny or flutter on the ground in your history? The new year represents new beginnings; if you want to learn something new within the industry then set your sites and – Let’s roll.

Don’t be distracted on what used to be or what could be…..if you do that then everything that is will slip by you. Everyday when you wake up you can go pursue that piece of technology that you want to learn.

Investment

I remember the sprints I used to run in the middle of the street at 3:30 a.m.

I remember the 1000 jump shots I would take in the morning before school.

I remember the countless hours of training off hours from practice that were put in.

I remember people holding brooms up in the air as I took shot after shot to get that arch down right when shooting over a 7’ tall player.

All that work; all that planning – it has made me realized that the same investment in yourself has to be done as a data professional. Each one of us are designed to be who we are; not like everyone else. I have a ton of people I look up to in our SQL industry – John Sansom, John Sterrett, Jes Borland, Aaron Bertrand, Tim Radney, Brent Ozar, Steven Jones, Grant Fritchey, Erin Stellato, Chris Shaw, and many more that I cannot name as it would fill this whole post up…As much as I look up to these people I cannot be them. They are each their own person and I am me; what I can do is put forth and effort and continue to learn just as they have. I can be the best that I can be; same for you.

That mountain you are trying to climb right now in learning? We’ve all been there; it’s part of growth and I’m here today to say you can do it; just keep putting one foot in front of the other – that is action and that is progress.

So 2016; what about it?

Heading into 2016 I can only say that I will give you my all, give you everything I can, and at the end of the game I can look each of my SQL team members in the face and say – I gave you all I had; have nothing left in the tank to give.

When the lights are off and the game has been played continued work will still be being done. Putting the time in; putting in the effort to be the best SQL Data professional that I can be in 2016. Some of the following are areas am working in:

  • Speaking at different events
  • Continued article, blogging, and case study writing
  • Mentoring
  • Leading
  • Certifications
  • Vendor programs and feedback
  • Virtual Chapters

So I ask you; what will you do in 2016? Finish the game strong; leave it on the court and make today better than yesterday – Let’s roll

 

 

SQL Saturday Field Notes

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As you walk toward the entrance the door opens and there stands a volunteer smiling welcoming you in. You make your way into the building where you are ushered toward the sign in table; there is where you are greeted by more volunteers who help you get checked in and situated. After you get checked in you begin to look around and see some renowned vendors set up where they have additional swag and want to talk to you about some products. As you walk through the venue you notice speakers that you either follow their blogs or you’ve seen them speak at different locations. You sit in some awesome sessions which are free, and get a nice lunch. A great cost-effective way to learn.

All the above is pretty normal, this year though it is a bit different for myself and it has changed my view drastically. This year I decided to get involved more locally; I’ve always traveled elsewhere to attend, speak, and network but this year it hit me that the community in my own backyard is something I’ve never been involved with. This is where it all has changed for me; I have a new-found respect for the organizers and volunteers that go into pulling the above off. Sitting in speaker rooms prepping, seeing old friends, or listening to sessions that are interested in has always been beneficial, but I’ve never taken the time to thank each one of the volunteers individually.

I’m thankful this year that Malathi Mahadevan (b|t) has allowed me to be a part of something great that is going on here in Louisville. There is definitely a rising of top-tier talent here and we are on the verge of blowing the socks off this town. I’m also thankful I get to work alongside John Morehouse (b|t) who has taught me a great deal; not just from an event standpoint but a SQL standpoint in general. This dude is a complete work horse and I’d go to battle with him any day of the week.

My mind drifted back to PASS Summit and remembering the people standing near the escalators or the door ways; have I ever stopped and thanked them for helping with the event?

I realize now what it takes to put something like a SQL Saturday on and I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything. I’m humbled by the fact that so many volunteers give selflessly to make these things happen; I want to be around a long time in this venue and arena and help make SQL Saturday 403 one of the best venues around.

If you are in the area in August make sure you register and come see me, John, Mala, and others. Stop and introduce yourself, we would love to talk to you and get to know you more. Together we can do some great things and we can keep giving back to the community that has helped shape most of us.

I challenge you if you have not ever been involved in helping put one of these events on then please do so. It is a ton of work, time, and coordination, but the people you meet along the way is well worth it.

It takes one to be a game changer and difference maker; will you be that one?

For details on our SQL Saturday event here in Louisville you can go here.

To visit the upcoming SQL Saturday events you can go here.

To visit the SQL Saturday event home page you can go here.

 

 

 

SQL Prompt – The Power Within

*Photo by Red Gate

*Photo by Red Gate

Come a little closer; no seriously come on over just a little closer as I don’t want to you to miss this. Can you hear me? Good, listen if you are in this Data Professional game for very long than you will have some “go to” utilities when you need them. Over my 14 year career thus far I’ve accumulated many scripts, procedures, techniques, and vendor related products.

One product that has remained steadfast for me over the past several years is Red Gates’ SQL Prompt. If you are already using this utility than you know what I am talking about; if you haven’t then you are missing out. I’m continuously amazed at some of the options the product contains. A brief overview and you will find the following:

  • IntelliSense-style code completion
  • Customizable code formatting
  • Save code snippets
  • Refactor SQL code
  • Tab History – save, search, and recover tabs in SSMS

Why did I bold Tab History you may ask? Well pull up a chair, sit down, and listen up.

The Setting

Have you ever had one of those mornings where you wished you would have stayed in bed, perhaps one might call it a “do over”. Well that was me not long ago; the day was actually fitting as the rain was pouring, had no umbrella present, and forgot the ole key card to the shop. For the ones that know me also know that I quit drinking coffee a while back. Ha, yes, I usually get the jaw drops for fellow co-workers and beyond; if there ever was a day I needed some then it was that day.

I sit down, fire up the laptop, and off we go. I starting looking at my plate and opening up a script I had saved the previous day; or had I?!?!? I go to my repository and nothing, absolutely nothing. As I mutter the words to myself, you got to be kidding me, I dive further into my folder structure thinking I might have misplaced it. Aha (there will be more coming in a future post about this little word), I know what let’s open SSMS and check the most recent files. I know I saved it the day before and I probably just put it in the wrong place. Wait, what, wait a minute – nothing there either.

Well this day is just off to a great start; isn’t it?

The Power Within

As I stand up and start walking to the break room to clear my head, get back on track, and re-asses the events thus far I remember something. SQL Prompt has a built in feature that might save the day. I come back to my desk and look at the following:

Tab History

Tab History – two words. Who knew that they would be so important on a day that started off bleak. I click on the Tab History and complete a search of the word “local” since I knew what was inside the script:

Info

 

Scrolling down through on SQLQuery7 I found my script I was looking for! Yes, if you heard a loud clasp of thunder or the earth moving some more on it’s axis that was me doing a SQL Happy Dance. This one feature saved my bacon due to deadlines that I had to meet the next day.

While this utility is a nice feature, we need to look at the utility in terms of a broader scope. SQL Prompt offers much more.

  • Allowing the ability to write code more smoothly
  • You can customize your SQL Code formatting rules
  • Affords you the ability to save code snippets and better yet share them across your team
  • Refactors SQL code
  • Exploration of your database (another feature I like)

Conclusion

A data professional is always looking for ways to improve their processes and become more efficient. SQL Prompt is a utility that accomplishes that goal. If you are a seasoned vet of it then great; however if you have never tried it then give it a go. You will be glad you did.

I tell you what; check out what my other colleagues have to say on something they learned recently:

On a SQL Collaboration Quest

Four SQL professionals gathered from the four corners of the world to share their SQL knowledge with each other and with their readers: Mickey Stuewe from California, USA, Chris Yates from Kentucky, USA, Julie Koesmarno from Canberra, Australia, and Jeffrey Verheul from Rotterdam, The Netherlands. They invite you to join them on their quest as they ask each other questions and seek out the answers in this collaborative blog series. Along the way, they will also include other SQL professionals to join in the collaboration.

 

Trumpet Sounds; Call To Post

ChurchillThis past weekend was the KY Derby. All eyes are on this one day of horse racing; celebrities come in to town in what seems to be a whirlwind two days. According to experts over 100 million dollars is pumped into the local economy.

I get to see all the hoopla firsthand, and throughout the week can walk down the street from the shop and see no telling who walking down the street on their way to the limos, Escalade’s, and the such.

The Race

Then comes the day of the race. The big race where people go to the track spend the day, and then in the evening for 2 minutes, which has been deemed by others as the most exciting 2 minutes in sports, the horses are loaded in and off they go. Some 160k people cheering in the stands and millions of dollars are at stake.

The horses start off in a pack going into turn 1,2, and 3. Jockey’s maneuver their way in the field to position themselves for that final stretch. Turn 4 and horses are in their stride; jockeys kick it into gear and now an all out sprint ensues. Sometimes there is a dead heat; sometimes there is a huge gap, but nonetheless it is a mad dash to the finish.

The DBA Race

As I went throughout the week leading up to the Derby my mind kept wondering to how closely it reminded me of the life of a Data Professional. Being a Data Professional means that you will be in the same space and many other fellow Data Professionals and if you pay attention closely all jockeying for that last leg to the finish line. I’ve kind of stepped back and started looking at how I was running the race.

If you go at an all out sprint in turns 1,2,3 would you really have anything left on turn 4 in the home stretch?

What if you laid back in the field and waited for the opportune time but come to find out you waited to long and the bottleneck wouldn’t give you a clear shot at the end goal?

Or you could be like the one jockey I saw get thrown from their horse during the race.

I’m finding that being a Data Professional and, to be more exact, being a DBA my journey can be at times related to a race. I remember when I first started out how excited you become; just like starting out of the gate. Then, as you go through your journey and you see some of the Data Professionals that you started out with start to fade. Whether they get burned out, choose a different career, move on, or whatever the case may be the numbers start to drop then it is another cycle where new faces come in.

The Call To Post

The trumpeter starts the call and in walk the Data Professionals, as we get ready to prepare to run our race don’t settle for the being average. What are some of the ways when you start out of the gate as a DBA you can do to prepare yourself  for the journey? I’m not sure there is any one right answer but I can share with you what has helped me along the way. It’s not rocket science and it is not something that you can snap your fingers and it be done. If this helps just one aspiring DBA then so be it; it would be worth it.

  • Community – I was late to this game and had I become more involved with the community earlier on in my career I believe it would have helped me more. I’ve already elaborated on my “Fab Five” and if you haven’t read that yet check it out. For me I looked for people in my industry who were at the top of their game and who I knew were what I considered the best of the best. Learning from others in the community is a huge positive and one can garner much knowledge from others if we would do just two things – be still and listen.
  • Initiative – how bad do you want it? If you are expecting someone to hand you success and you are a data professional then you are in the wrong business. Early on in life I was taught discipline and a hard work ethic. If you want it that’s fine; go after it and prove to yourself that you can do it.  One quote I always remember being told to me is that “Somewhere someone is practicing getting better at the skill and goals you want to achieve; how bad do you want it?”
  • The Craft – learn it; live it; breath it. If you are a DBA like myself then what are some of the things that you can do to enhance your shop? Perhaps it is implementing a maintenance strategy around index fragmentation, or is it disaster recovery? Have you restored that backup yet, do you know if you were asked for a restore from 3 days ago could you do it? How about exploring the Plan Cache and getting a feel for how your stored procedures are acting? Oh wait do you know if you have any missing indexes present in your current environment? Speaking of environment have you documented your environments yet? So much work to be done in this are that a paragraph in a blog post doesn’t do it justice.
  • Ask Questions – have you ever been in a session or speaking with a group of people and you wanted to ask a question but didn’t because you thought it would make you appear to not know what you are talking about. Guess what, we’ve all been there. The end of the day every question is valid. If you don’t know then say you don’t know; research and find the answer that is called learning. The challenge is to continually learn; go back up to my Community point. My “Fab-Five” are ones that continually learn and hone their craft and skill set.
  • Don’t be afraid to make mistakes – now don’t take this point and execute something in production that causes your company an outage and money. No that’s not what I’m saying. Think outside the box; test new alternatives and do so in a manner that meets your shops integrity and criteria with environments.  Why wait for someone else to come to a solution; everyone can bring something to the table.

The Roses

Every horse that wins the Derby is dawned with roses over their mane. Guys I don’t know when my race will end, but when that time comes I want people to realize that I gave it my all with integrity, character, honesty, and in a trustworthy manner. I want that developer to be able to come to me and not worry about me chewing his head off (yes that has happened before), or the network guy who can come talk to me about space concerns, heck why not throw in the business unit requesting some help with architect something out. No we (DBAs) aren’t perfect and days will come where we flat out fubarb and make a mess out of it, but guess what? How did you run the race?

Rest assured we’ll get to the finish line one day. Let’s have some fun along the way and realize that we won’t be perfect everyday, run a steady race, and continue to work hard day in and day out. For it is in the face of adversity when true character will shine through.

For those just starting out check out the advice in a collaboration John Sansom made happen that I was honored to be a part of. For those that have been around keep working hard. Hard work will pay off; keep fighting the good fight.

Windows Functions; Who Knew?

CollaborateImage

SQL windows functions, it would seem, get lost in the shuffle most of the time when dealing with SQL. Why do you think that is? I honestly think that it is more or less developers, DBA’s, and data professionals are oblivious to some of the cool features that can be accomplished with its utilization. To put it simply windows functions could be viewed as looking in “windows” of your data. That is about as simple as an explanation as I received when I first started using these types of functions.

Example

Take the below table structure that I created on my local environment in SQL. My table name I created is called CustomerLog within that table I have two columns CustomerFirstName and CustomerLastName (represented below):

CustomerLog

For example(s) sake lets say I have a vast amount of data in this customer table and I want to partition it out and view just how many (categories) or windows I am looking at. This is where the windows function comes in nicely. With the below query I can find the results I am looking for pretty quick and easy:

Code

As you can garner with the above SQL windows function code you can derive how many customers share the same first letter in their name (result set below)

CustomerLogResult

Bottom Line

As you go through the SQL journey note that with any aggregate function being used you can turn that into a windows function by utilizing the over clause. You can only use windows functions though within the select or order by clause. This example only showed you how to partition using windows functions and only scratched the surface. It would behoove you to do some more research on what all you can do with SQL and window functions. Also, while you are at it; check out some of my colleagues as well

Mickey Stuewe: A Date At The End of The Month

Jeffrey Verheul: Write readable and high-performance queries with Window Functions

Julie Koesmarno: ABC Classification With SQL Server Window Function

Don’t sell yourself short. I guarantee once you start utilizing windows functions  you will want to use them everywhere. Just make sure you know the positives and negatives and as always just don’t blindly copy code from the net. Explore it, set something up on your Dev or VM sandbox. Failure to learn is not an option!