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Andy Leonard

Andy Leonard is an author and engineer who enjoys building and automating data integration solutions. Andy is co-host of the Data Driven podcast. Andy is no longer updating this blog. His current blog is

SQLUniversity Professional Development Week: Learning To Fly


Clem and Jim Bob were out hunting the other day in the woods south of Farmville. As they crossed a ridge, they came upon a big ol' Momma Bear and her cub. The larger bear immediately started towards them. Jim Bob took off running as fast as he could. He stopped when he realized Clem wasn't with him. And when he saw Clem reaching into his pack, Jim Bob was incredulous: "Hurry Clem! That bar's comin' fast! You need to out run 'er!" Clem kicked off his boots and pulled running shoes out of his pack. "No Jim Bob, I just have to outrun you!"

People and Technology

Technology is a fun field. If you work in IT and don't believe that you may be in the wrong field. I'm not picking on you and I'm not saying there's something wrong with you. People change careers all the time and technology is a field people enter and leave with alacrity.

I'm simply stating this: If your job isn't fun anymore, that's a big clue right there.

As a trainer and consultant, I get to work with lots of technology professionals. As a former manager inside a large organization, I had the honor and opportunity to align people with technology needs and requirements. Sometimes this was easy, other times the choices were tough.

Ahead of the Pack

I'm often asked what it takes to succeed in technology - what it takes to stay ahead of the pack. I find the question interesting because I don't consider myself ahead of anyone. I consider myself learning like everyone else. But, as the story in the Introduction indicates, if you want to stay ahead of the pack you don't need to outrun everyone, just some.

The Truth About Knowledge

I've mentioned this several times since it happened. When I was at the 2010 SQL Saturday in Columbia SC, I met Julie Smith (Blog | @Datachix1). She did a great presentation on SSIS tips and tricks and I learned something: setting the MaximumErrorCount property to 0 is equivalent to telling the SSIS container to ignore errors. I did not know this. I learn stuff about SSIS all the time. Lord knows I don't know it all and I hope folks realize that. I don't like the word "expert" - I prefer the word "experienced."

Geeks notoriously undervalue the knowledge they possess. To make up for it, we overvalue the knowledge others possess - especially if it's an area we know nothing about. This is wrong on both ends. Everyone can teach everyone else something. And everyone can learn something from everyone else. That's the truth about knowledge.

So How Do You Learn?

Mistakes. Make mistakes. Lots of mistakes. The old saying is true: We learn from our mistakes. I know I do. I've made lots of mistakes and I will make more. It's how I learn. If you think for one minute that I popped open the SQL Server Denali CTP code and started succeeding, I have disappointing news for you.

Andy Warren (Blog | @sqlAndy) often writes about the value of failing fast. He's absolutely correct. The sooner you fail the faster you learn.


There's one other step you need to take after you've made a critical mass of mistakes, and thereby learned a bunch: You need to jump out of the nest. You will never learn to fly as long as others bring you food (knowledge) - you need to learn how to learn. In fact, nests are built to put up with only so much crap (literally) before becoming unstable. It's not just a good idea, it's science. If you stay there too long, the nest itself will let you down and throw you out.

It's best if you learn to fly by jumping. It's better for you, it's better for the nest.


If you haven't done it already, go download SQL Server Denali CTP1. Set up a virtual machine and install the bits. Start learning to fly.


Published Friday, February 25, 2011 8:00 AM by andyleonard

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Julie Smith said:

Shhhh Andy, now everyone will know !!! You are, as always, too kind.  

I love this post.  I've never heard of a better analogy for Career Stagnation than the "crappy nest".  (kind of like the Annie Hall "Dead Shark" metaphor--"you gotta keep swimming forward or you die, what we got here is a dead shark")  

Andy, Thank you for your openness and your generosity.

February 25, 2011 10:34 AM

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