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Adam Machanic

Adam Machanic, Boston-based SQL Server developer, shares his experiences with programming, monitoring, and performance tuning SQL Server. And the occasional battle with the query optimizer.

Un-SQL Friday: Don't Be a Port in the Storm

My good friends Sean and Jen, the Midnight DBAs, have decided to blatantly copy me.

Un-SQL Friday is like T-SQL Tuesday, only it's not about SQL topics, it's not going to happen on a regular basis, it's not a revolving event, and it's not organized by me. So in short, they've created a chaotic, disorganized, and thoroughly downmarket twist on what I've done. How cool is that?


A Weather-Related Adage

The topic for this first event is branding, a theme near and dear to me. I've worked hard to build my personal brand and I like to think that I've done well. My basic methodology is quite simple: Don't be a port in the storm. Be the storm.


You Are Here.

What does branding mean to me? It means that you're reading my blog because you're interested in what I have to say. There are hundreds, maybe even thousands, of highly-skilled, top-level SQL Server professionals whose names you don't know. Some of them even have blogs. So why do you know my name and not theirs?

Let's take it from the other direction. Are you a highly-skilled, top-level SQL Server professional? Do I know your name? If not, consider your career. You're probably a fantastic problem solver. You're probably the go-to guy on your project. And you're probably in a comfortable, secure place in your career. Your co-workers love you and your manager wouldn't hesitate to give you a glowing reference. But here's the kicker: Doing all of that great work and failing to broadcast your successes to the world at large in an effective manner is getting you nowhere, from a branding point of view.

Branding is about getting noticed. This means making noise, taking risks, and stepping as far as possible outside of your comfort zone--on a very regular basis. It also means doing something to differentiate your brand from all of the others. This is not easy, but it can be incredibly rewarding if you're willing to make the leap of faith.


Why Me? And Why You?

The bigger question is whether you actually want or need to take the the plunge. In the prior section I used the word "comfortable" and that was no accident. Being comfortable is, generally speaking, a Good Thing. People like being comfortable, and maybe you like it too. Maybe you enjoy your job, your company, your home, your place in the world. Maybe you don't want to branch out. And that's perfectly fine in my book. Everyone's goals are different, and despite what some bloggers have said on this topic, I do not believe that everyone should bother putting in the work required to get their name on the radar. For many people the reward is simply not worth the investment.

Personally, I wanted to become a consultant. Consulting is a profession very well suited to people with strong brands. A strong brand opens doors and brings in business. So I started blogging. But merely blogging is not enough.

Again, you must differentiate yourself! A brand without something that makes it different from all of the other brands is just another generic product. How did I approach this problem? I tried to show personality in my posts, beyond the technical content; to reveal something about who I am and how I think. My goal was that after reading my blog, you would know exactly what you would get if I were to walk into your office to do some work. I've hidden nothing. My brand is me, and I am my brand.


Risk and Reward

For most people, sticking your head out is not a natural inclination. Putting material out for the world to look at (and criticize) can be painful and difficult. Showing the world your personality, including both its upsides and downsides, is a frightening proposition. But the upside is extreme. I'm happy to report that so far it's been a great ride.


Published Friday, November 19, 2010 11:25 AM by Adam Machanic
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Jen McCown said:

Wow, man.  That post is all I could ask for and more.  Excellent advice, EXCELLENT perspective.  Also, I'm using this in every future Un-SQL, ever:

"Un-SQL Friday is like T-SQL Tuesday, only it's not about SQL topics, ..... So in short, they've created a chaotic, disorganized, and thoroughly downmarket twist on what I've done. How cool is that?"

Thanks, sincerely.

(Also: Now I'm forever stuck with the image of you psyching yourself up for sessions and precons, "BE the storm, c'mon Adam, BE the STORM....")

November 19, 2010 12:06 PM

Adam Machanic said:


Thanks for the kind words :-)

And now you know why just before you went into your session last week at PASS, I told you to "rock it like a hurricane." I was trying to give you a piece of The Storm!

November 19, 2010 12:26 PM

mjswart said:

Inspiring Adam.

November 19, 2010 1:41 PM

Jack Corbett said:

Very good post.  I wouldn't say I'm comfortable, but I'm still deciding what I want my brand to be.

November 19, 2010 2:20 PM

Andy Warren said:

Nice post, and I agree that not everyone wants or needs to be 'well-known'. I think the part that gets lost in the noise is that we all have a brand, even if it's only within our company. For most of us our brands are decided by our actions and not a deliberate marketing effort. Nothing wrong with either approach.

November 19, 2010 9:36 PM

retracement said:

..and Andy, just building on what you have said, just to add a favorite saying that I picked up from the author Steven Chandler many years ago - "It's not who you know.....It's what YOU DO with who you know". Its a powerful concept and I never tire of repeating it :)

November 20, 2010 4:55 PM

Valentino Vranken said:

Interesting post Adam!  I especially like the part about stepping out of the comfort zone.  People do indeed enjoy being comfortable.  And I think this is even more so for people in our sector, IT people do have more autistic traits than in any other sector.  I'm not saying we're all autists though.  But it does mean that for us it takes extra effort to step out of that zone.  Generally speaking of course.

@Andy: would that be "brandwidth"?  The more people you reach, the higher your brandwidth?

December 9, 2010 2:43 AM

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About Adam Machanic

Adam Machanic is a Boston-based SQL Server developer, writer, and speaker. He focuses on large-scale data warehouse performance and development, and is author of the award-winning SQL Server monitoring stored procedure, sp_WhoIsActive. Adam has written for numerous web sites and magazines, including SQLblog, Simple Talk, Search SQL Server, SQL Server Professional, CoDe, and VSJ. He has also contributed to several books on SQL Server, including "SQL Server 2008 Internals" (Microsoft Press, 2009) and "Expert SQL Server 2005 Development" (Apress, 2007). Adam regularly speaks at conferences and training events on a variety of SQL Server topics. He is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) for SQL Server, a Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP), and an alumnus of the INETA North American Speakers Bureau.

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