Leadership and the Data Professional

 

Leadership

Many traits make up data professionals and the many who find themselves in leadership roles. The traits being shared in this blog post are ones that have helped me on my journey not just in a leadership role, but from a data professional perspective as well.

I debated often on sharing these; maybe even turning them into a session somewhere down the road. Also knowing that these are not set in stone traits for others; each data professional has their own thoughts and the way they conduct themselves on a day to day basis, but if someone can glean any insight or help by this post then it would be worth the share.

Jumping right into it then shall we? Many of you know my sports background; it is something I am not ashamed of nor try to hide. A lot of traits have carried over from my sports background into my career and as I go through these traits you will see some similarities shine through.

The Base – Industriousness, Friendship, Loyalty, Cooperation, Enthusiasm

Building a house means you start with building a solid foundation. These traits are ones that stick out to me as building part of that solid foundation:

  • Industriousness – “Success travels in the company of very hard work. There is no trick no easy way.” – put forth that effort
  • Friendship – “Strive to build a team or be part of a team that is filled with camaraderie and respect: comrades-in-arms.”
  • Loyalty – “Be true to yourself. Be true to those you lead.”
  • Cooperation – “Have utmost concern for what’s right rather than who’s right.”
  • Enthusiasm – “Your energy, enjoyment, drive, and dedication will stimulate and greatly inspire others.”

The Second Layer – Self-Control, Alertness, Initiative, Intentness

  • Self-Control – “Be disciplined” – enough said.
  • Alertness – “Constantly be aware and observing. Always seek to improve yourself and the team.”
  • Initiative – “Make a decision! Failure to act is often the biggest failure of all.”
  • Intentness – “Stay the course. When thwarted try again; harder, smarter. Persevere relentlessly.”

The Third Layer – Condition, Skill, Team Spirit

  • Condition – “Ability may get you to the top, but character will keep you there – mental, moral, and physical.”
  • Skill – “What a leader learns after you’ve learned it counts most of all.”
  • Team Spirit – “The star of the team is the team. ‘We’ supersedes ‘me’.”

The Fourth Layer – Poise, Confidence

  • Poise – “Be yourself. Don’t be thrown off by events whether they are good or bad.”
  • Confidence – “The strongest steel is well founded self-belief. It’s is earned; not given.”

The Final Layer – Competitive Greatness

  • “Perform at your best when your best is required. Your best is required each day.”

Do I follow these principles every day? I wish I could say yes, but nevertheless I do not. I strive for these as in my heart I believe them to be solid foundations for me as a data professional, but I am human.

With success does come failure, but what defines you as an individual is not how many times you get knocked down. Instead it is how many times you get back up from the knockdowns that you will receive on your journey.

I’ll leave you with these lessons I’ve learned both in sports and being a data professional:

  • Good values attract good people
  • Love is the most powerful four letter word
  • Call yourself a teacher
  • Emotion can be your enemy at times
  • It takes all team members hands to make a team; not just one set
  • Little things make big things happen
  • Make each day your masterpiece
  • The carrot is mightier than the stick
  • Make greatness attainable by all
  • Seek significant change
  • Don’t keep a scoreboard of who is right and who is wrong
  • Adversity is your asset

Whatever you build your foundation on as a data professional make it yours and own it. You are the playmaker of your career, and orchestrator if you will.

Coach John Wooden is behind a lot of these thoughts in which I have built these foundations on. A statement he made resonated with me when I heard it, “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable.”

I ask you, are you becoming the best of which you are capable of?

New SQL Blogging Challenge

SharingI recently came across Tim Ford’s (B|T) challenge to the technical blogging community. The challenge is to write one introductory level blog per month for the community.

A simple statement with a profound substance to it. How many times do you and I take for granted the knowledge we have and share both privately and socially on a daily basis?

More recently, I was approached with a question along these lines that I interpreted to be simplistic in form. The data professional however was sincere and it made me realize that there are still a lot of gaps to bridge…..and more so, who am I to judge what is simplistic or not?

It’s time to set ego’s aside and the game of “can you top this” with our knowledge and continue to bridge these types of gaps amongst members in our community and beyond.

No question is a “dumb” question for it is how we learn and grow as professionals. To the new community member or data professional keep asking those questions and being ambitious.

A huge thank you to Tim for bringing this challenge more to the forefront; it is something I, myself, have taken for granted. It was an eye-opening experience to know where I came from, where I am now, and where I want to go. May we never stop learning and sharing.

Onward….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

 

 

Why Should Data Professionals Automate?

Automate_thumb.jpgTake a minute and look around you. Automation is all around you; whether you see it or not processes are automated on all levels of life.

One thing that I’ve noticed among professionals is that “change” is very difficult; while others do not know what to automate.

Time and Value

In today’s day and age time is an important factor for many. It is the vehicle for efficiency. If you are responsible for a process and it fails; would you want to know before someone else tells you? I would hope the answer is yes. Sure there are caveats to processes all around, but the majority of the time automation of daily processes is a key component to being a successful data professional.

What Should I Automate?

This is not a comprehensive list, but more or less some ideas to get one to think. You can add to your list; it should be considered a living list or document (there is that nasty word “document”; yes I am a firm believer in documentation being important, but will save that for a later post).

Some potential items to review for automating:

  1. Monitoring concepts
  2. Maintenance procedures
  3. Disaster Recovery
  4. Notifications
  5. Deployments
  6. Ticket generation
  7. ETL processing
  8. Creation of dashboards

The list can continue to grow, but under each point can be several other bullet points to specific items.

Views

Every person, shop, and entity have their own views on automation. Understanding how best to utilize ones time can dictate what is automated versus what is not. Doing a gap analysis also provides some light into what may or may not be working efficiently.

For me doing nothing and continuing manual processes is not the way to survive.

I recently ran into a situation where business units were working as hard as they could not knowing that some of the processes could be streamlined which would free them up to do the work on projects that they needed to get done but couldn’t. These types of situations are everywhere; look at your own shop; what can you improve?

As my good friend John Morehouse (B|T) says, “Don’t just sweep items under the rug.” If you see an issue or a process that could be fixed take that initiative and start righting the ship. If your recommendation is not one that is approved that’s okay just keep being that voice; it takes one to make a difference.

The Challenge

Take a look around you, what can you automate to help streamline or become more efficient? What obstacle(s) are you facing that has a solution ready to be had, but no one has taken the initiative yet?

HADR Virtual Chapter Involvement

 

HADR.png

I am always looking for ways to get involved within the PASS community. One such way that has become available is the opportunity to get to work with two stellar individuals, one of whom was part of why I became involved within the SQL Community.

John Sterrett (b|t) and I have been speaking some time in various forms or ways that I could help, and this past PASS Summit I was able to sit down with both John and David Klee (b|t). From that meeting I am pleased to announce that I will begin helping with the HADR Virtual Chapter specifically around marketing.

What is the HADR Virtual Chapter?

The High Availability & Disaster Recovery Virtual Chapter focuses on one of the most important aspects of a business – data availability. The goal of the HA&DR Virtual Chapter is to provide a PASS community for Microsoft SQL Server professionals to learn more about how to protect their data and minimize the risk to a business. Join us in our monthly webinar series to learn more about the numerous tools and techniques for SQL Server business continuity.

Speaking Opportunities

If you are interested in speaking at the HADR Virtual Chapter than we would love to hear from you. Please reach out to the various forms provided for John or David as noted above, or feel free to reach out to me. We are always looking for past, present, and future speakers.

Wrap Up

Please check out the HADR home page here and let me know if there are any questions; I would welcome the opportunity to speak with you.

I look forward to teaming up with these two outstanding individuals, and will work extremely hard at continuing their efforts to keep moving this community forward one day at a time.

Community Involvement–Why Wait?

PleaseWaitEveryone has a story; some stories are similar while some stories are vastly different. People always make the statement that you shouldn’t “assume” because if you do….well then you know what happens!

I will go out on a limb and gather to say that many fall into the category I did when it comes to the SQL community. From the years 2000-2010 I had no clue that the SQL community existed yet alone any conferences. It was when I was hired on at my current shop did I learn of this thing they called PASS Summit.

From 2011- to present I can honestly say it has been one heck of a ride. A lot has transpired over the course of soon to be 5 years and I’m thankful for it; I wouldn’t change a thing. I look back at those first 10 years and I was floundering – man o man was I floundering. What that time means to me now though is a light into the future and to know where, as a data professional, a direction I want to go in.

I’m starting to get asked more and more the question of “What can I do to get involved within the SQL community?” or “I’m not good enough to get involved”.

My answer to that is simple, let’s roll. Below are five avenues in which you can get started with community involvement. All they require are you; yes that’s right you to take the initiative and get involved.

Blogging

I can tell you that blogging was not an easy thing for me to get started on but has been well worth it. I’m not the most talented writer; nor am I one of the most captivating individuals you will ever meet. What I do feel that I can bring to the table is real world life examples that have helped me along my way in my SQL journey, and guess what – you can be the same. Some things to keep in mind when starting out to blog are:

1. Don’t beat yourself up if you start to write, but have mental blocks.

2. Get a few blog posts in the pipeline and scheduled to help get your feet wet.

3. Find a good platform; there are several out there such as WordPress.

4. If writing examples; then prove your examples. Don’t just write to be writing. Have a point prepared.

5. If you reference someone’s work then give credit where credit is due. This is a huge pet peeve of mine.

Social Media

In this day and age it is almost impossible to not be connected through some form of social media. You can find many groups, hash tags, companies to follow, and other viable sources to become involved with. Some different types are:

1. Twitter – pay attention to hash tags such as #sqlfamily, #sqlserver, #tsql2sday, #sqlhelp

2. LinkedIn

3. Facebook

4. Instagram

One caveat I want to add here is be professional; companies do look at your involvement.

PASS Active Member

Become an active member in PASS; it doesn’t cost you anything and can provide various forms of volunteering. This type of involvement has changed my career allowing me to see on a more global scale of how impactful our SQL community can be.

Learn more about the PASS Summit here.

SQL Saturday Events

These events are free. Let me ask you this; does your company not want to provide you with any training; or better yet maybe they do and just don’t know how. These events are free except for lunches and has some very talented speakers that attend. Take advantage of these; you can get a current listing on my blog here or go visit SQL Saturday’s home page here for further information.

Mentor

Maybe you have been in the community for a while and it has become stale. One idea would be to mentor someone; doesn’t have to be someone in a different state; how about someone you work with that is needing help. Do you remember when you started out? I sure do and I would have loved to have some guidance and help earlier on in my career. Five years ago I was fortunate to learn and model some of my ways from a group I called my “fab five” – give them a read here; truly thankful for these individuals.

Mentoring someone ignites the passion to keep those knowledge juices flowing; each one reach one effect.

Recap

I’ve come to learn through my 5 years of involvement with the SQL community that it is not always a bed of roses and flying unicorns but SQL family is composed of not only some of the brightest minds in the business but also individuals who care for one another and who genuinely step in and help when needed.

So I ask you, why wait? How many years will you let go by like I did before you become involved? There has not been one day where I have regretted becoming involved within the SQL community and if you would like to talk more about how to get started let me know. I will be happy to discuss with you offline if need be.

It’s GameTime folks; Let’s roll and keep this community moving forward.

T-SQL Tuesday #72 Invitation – Data Modeling Gone Wrong

SqlTuesdayT-SQL Tuesday is here again. I’ve had good intentions the past few times this event has come around and even have drafts still waiting to be queued up which I will eventually turn into regular blog posts, but I decided to just make time this month and jump back into the monthly party.

This month Mickey Stuewe (b|t) is hosting and has asked for some data modeling practices that should be avoided, and how to fix them if they occur.

What is Data Modeling?

Data Modeling itself is referred to as the first step of database design as you move from conceptual, to logical, to actual physical schema.

While that definition sounds simplistic, we can expound upon it to arrive to the conclusion that data modeling is a very important aspect from database design on all levels.

What to Avoid?

As a data professional and in senior management I’ve seen pit falls wide-spread in various business units when it comes to design architecture. The listing you are about to read are some of the methods and items I’ve discovered on my journey and conducting gap analysis type of events that carry a chain reaction. They consist of doomed failure from the get go.

  1. Audience – the audience and/or participants should be defined up front. I differ with many and that’s okay. To me the ability to identify business stakeholders, subject matter experts, technical groups, BA’s is an integral piece to the puzzle. Too many times I have seen the engine pull out of the gates with a design to only find out that the design and documentation to not even meet the criteria and standards of the shop.
  2. Detailed Project – how many times have you received documentation only to find out there was not enough meat to get the project off the ground? As a data professional we do think out of the box; however it is imperative to be clear and concise up front. When my team is given projects to complete that involve Database Design and creation, I implore business units to provide as much detail up front that is agreed upon. This helps streamline and makes for better efficiency.
  3. Understandability – With details comes the ability to articulate understandably. All to often items get lost in translation which causes additional work on the back-end of the database. This could mean unfortunate schema changes, large amounts of affected data, and so on.
  4. Business Continuity – ask yourself a question in design phase. Is what you are building that will be presented to the business efficient? Will business be able to decipher what is being presented back to them; if not why?
  5. Downstream Analytics – How does the business want to see this data in the form of analytics or reporting?  Most modern systems are going to either be queried by, or push data to, ETL processes that populate warehouses or other semantic structures.  Avoid complex table relationships that can only be interpreted by the code that stores the data.  Make sure you define all your data domains so that the BI professionals are not scratching their heads trying to interpret what a status of ‘8’ means. (In speaking with a colleague, Tom Taylor, at my shop – he brought up this valid point).

Items To Look For

Some key and general practices to look at and decide on are:

  1. Primary Keys – yes they are your friend – add them.
  2. Look at all audit data and what needs to be audited
  3. Clustered/Non Clustered indexes – have you read through your execution plan?
  4. Has the scope of the data model been met?
  5. Are tables normalized properly?
  6. One Data Modeling Tool – it’s easier if the team is looking at one utility together; if you have many varieties spread across many team members it could leave views skewed.

Conclusion

Data modeling, in and of itself, is a key component for any business. What often falls by the wayside is the poor leg work done up front. You have to lay a proper foundation in order to be successful with any design; taking into consideration all personnel in order to make the best strategic decisions to move forward.

Hopefully the next time you go down this path you have some questions to ask yourself along with some solutions to those problems.

What is T-SQL Tuesday.

Adam Machanic’s (b|t) started the T-SQL Tuesday blog party in December of 2009. Each month an invitation is sent out on the first Tuesday of the month, inviting bloggers to participate in a common topic. On the second Tuesday of the month all the bloggers post their contribution to the event for everyone to read. The host sums up all the participant’s entries at the end of the week. If you are interested in hosting and are an active blogger than reach out to Adam and let him know of your interest.

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