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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

Attitudes I Wish I Had Earlier

Mike Walsh (blog | @Mike_Walsh) tagged me in his post, 4 Attitudes I Wish I Had Earlier as a DBA. You should read Mike’s post, it’s filled with helpful and good advice and tells cool (and not-so-cool) stories. I admire Mike’s transparency.

I struggle with the four areas Mike already covered – Work/Life Balance, Empathy, Hero Syndrome, and Getting Things Done. I will not rehash his points. I’m less susceptible to hero syndrome, empathy, and getting things done, but I more than make up for them in work/life balance.

Here are a couple additional areas where I struggle:

Subtlety, Nuance, Communication

Do you remember this scene in the movie, Rain Man? Raymond, the character played by Dustin Hoffman believed both a candy bar and compact car cost about $100. I’m not autistic. I was recently diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyper-activity Disorder (ADHD). But, like Raymond in the linked scene, I tend to “flatten” things. One result is I miss some things completely and misinterpret other things. Being aware of it helps a lot. I still make mistakes, though not nearly as many as when I was younger.

There are upsides to the way my brain works. I’m slightly dyslexic. I can read mirrored text almost as fast as forward text. I think multi-dimensionally. A lot of the time my thoughts take the form of graphs. I have a good memory. I remember things from when I was 18 months old and every phone number I’ve ever memorized including the first phone number I memorized at age 5. 767-5580 was my grandmother’s phone number. Incidentally, when I recall that number, I see a graph with placeholders on the X-axis and telephone digits on the the Y-axis. It starts at 5, goes over to 5, then up to 8, then down to 0. But in my mind I remember the shape of the line starting at 5, +0, +3, –8. Weird, I know; but not nearly as weird as the graphs of non-numeric stuff…. I can hyper-focus, pretty much on demand. I have delivered a couple writing projects after ~40-hour-straight marathon editing/writing sessions. I consider these strengths – even the hyper-focus (once I learned to manage it). Dyslexia helps with game theory. It’s difficult to describe the value of looking at a “negative image” of a graph or inverting it. Bell curves? Pffft. Bell mountains. Now we’re talking. The memory helps me replay conversations, thinking about the words and body language. Hyper-focus allows me to isolate words, facial expressions, and body language. Multi-dimensional thinking allows me to re-construct these layers. Using these “strengths” together, I have learned to better comprehend what’s been said. It helps in other ways, too. I can teach you more about it using a game I like to call “Texas Hold’em.” Bring some money and meet me in the Sheraton lobby during the PASS Summit… ;{>

I think more before I speak (and write) these days. I have a standing policy to not use examples from work in blog posts until at least one calendar year has passed. I do that for perspective. I call a lot of smaller meetings after meetings in which I am challenged personally or professionally.

If I could back in time, I would tell Younger Andy to practice putting these quirky thinking methods to better use.

Lone Gun

Until I was older I did not fully appreciate the value of a team. I think this stems from being small and less coordinated as a child. I was usually picked last for sports activities and didn’t enjoy them that much. Who enjoys stuff they’re not good at?

Bennett McEwan (LinkedIn) taught me the value of teams when I worked for him at Unisys. He coached me to become a manager, against my will. During the interview process, Ben said, “I think you can become a good manager and that you will enjoy it.” My response? “I think you’re wrong on both counts.” Well, I was wrong and Ben was right. I approach management as a role on the team. I don’t look at it as “being in charge” or “giving orders.” I see it more as the person on the team who deals with members of other teams or management. Yes, there are times when someone needs to make a decision, that’s also part of the job. 99% of the time, we are a team of peers on a mission.

I now see the value of teamwork and firmly believe iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17).Proverbs27_17

If I could go back in time, I would tell Younger Andy “boss” is not a four-letter word.


We all have strengths and weaknesses. Part of the problem is our emotional attachment to weaknesses – we want to hide them instead of admitting vulnerability. I understand and recommend viewing Brené Brown’s TEDx presentation on the The Power of Vulnerability.


Published Thursday, August 28, 2014 6:00 AM by andyleonard

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