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The Rambling DBA: Jonathan Kehayias

The random ramblings and rantings of frazzled SQL Server DBA

SQL Quiz: The most influential people in your Technical Success?

Lately there have been a series of SQL Quizes that have circulated the blogging community.  Some of them are silly, like the Wordle one, and some have a purpose behind them, like the two greatest mistakes one.  I decided that since my nature is to give credit where it is due, I would be most interested in reading about the most influential people in the lives of successful SQL Server professionals. 

I have had a number of very influential people in my life along the way, but since I am starting this project, I guess I would have to pick:

Dave Weldy / Virginia Roberts / Marshall Sutherland

This treo of developers/DBA's are the group responsible for me being involved with SQL Server at all.  While I was attending college at the University of Florida, I worked for a natural gas company as a Applications and Business Analyst.  My primary job was working with the QA team researching bugs in the billing system and writing technical specifications for code fixes.  I realized pretty quickly that unless I was able to look at the data in the database, I wasn't going to be very effective at finding problems, and determining how/why they existed.  Dave loaned me a TSQL book and gave me a couple of basic SELECT statements to learn from in mid-2004.  Little did he know that he created a monster that would begin asking thousands of questions of not only him, but the other senior SQL Staff in the company as well.  Virginia and Marshall helped Dave answer countless questions along the way, and probably kept me from being the annoying new to SQL forums/newsgroup poster who failed to do any kind of Google search to find the solution to the problem.

As a group they helped provide the foundation that I have built upon over the years.  I like to learn by reading existing code, and these guys were very open to allowing me to see any and all of the code that was written in the database, and they were willing to help explain complex problems like NULL which was an impossible thing for me to understand what a NULL actually represented, or didn't represent. 

Arnie Rowland

This might seem kind of funny to some people, but one of the most influential people in my technical success and development as a SQL Server profession is actually someone that I have only had the pleasure of meeting face to face twice.  For those who know Arnie this won't be any sort of a surprise.  Arnie is a fellow MVP and Moderator on the MSDN Forums.  Last year Arnie personally took it upon himself to organize a group from the frequent contributors to the SQL Server Forums, to include MVP's, Moderators, and Answerers and create a email distribution list where we could communicate with each other when problems arise, or to get assistance on complex questions on the forums. 

When I was asked to join this list, I wasn't a Answerer, Moderator, or MVP.  Joining the list allowed me to learn from the group, and Arnie personally provided mentorship to develop me from  a contributor to an Answerer, and then up to Moderator.  The increased answer rate of posts on the SQL Server forums is a testament to the success that this kind of organization has had in improving the forums experience for people.  In addition to forming the email list, Arnie also created the SQL Examples site as a place for Answerers/Moderators/MVP's contributing to the forums to publish articles and content that answer common problems encountered on the forums.  For some of us, this was the first place that we were able to contribute/publish article content online, and was a stepping stone to other opportunities to publish information. 

I first happened to be able to meet Arnie at last years TechEd during the SQL Saturday between events where a group of forum members got together for dinner after the event.  It was a extremely fun time, and it was good to be able to put names to faces, not only with Arnie, but others as well.  The second opportunity was at PASS 2008, where I got to attend a few MVP events with Arnie.  One thing that Arnie did was make sure that new MVP's like Jacob Sebastian and myself, got introduced to other MVP's and members of the SQL Development team at Microsoft. Arnie also made sure that we were aware of events that were happening after hours during the Summit to ensure that we were able to maximize our visit to Seattle and have more opportunities to meet people face to face.

 

One thing that I tell people who ask questions online about how to become a good DBA or Developer is to find a good mentor locally, and get under their wing.  I certainly have had quite a few mentors in the last 4 years and I still try and get under the wing of industry experts and glean anything I can from them.  However, lately I have found that rather than being mentored, that I have slowly changed over to the role of being a mentor to others.  One thing I learned from my mentors is that there are times to give someone the answer and provide a in depth explanation along with it, and there are times to provide enough information to allow someone to find the solution themselves.  For example, I once asked Dave how do I use the output from one query to query another table.  Now he could have easily just typed out some code showing me how to do it, but instead he recommended that I look up what a JOIN was, or how to use a subquery with the IN operator.  These are fundamentals in TSQL development, so I feel that I was best served by having to go find this information on my own.  If you are a mentor, don't always give the answer to someone immediately, and if you are being mentored, be willing to take the information provided and do a little leg work.  In the end you'll be better for it.

So who was influential in your success as a SQL Server professional?  I am not going to call specific people out, but I am curious how people have influenced some of the current influencers in the community.

Published Wednesday, February 18, 2009 6:06 AM by Jonathan Kehayias
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Comments

 

Jason said:

Good post. I remember reading through 'How to Become an Exceptional DBA' by Brad McGehee and thinking it would be great to have a PASS group locally or to find someone to mentor me in a sense. Brad's been a big influence for me through that one ebook.

Also, Louis Davidson and Andy Leonard for actually answering the emails of someone they didn't know and providing helpful guidance.

February 18, 2009 9:52 AM
 

Deepak said:

Jon,

I was moved by this post of yours. Its really great to know the people who groomed the so called 'monster'. I am really happy that you took time to mention the people involved in your success. I am sure Arnie does find a place in everyone's blog for mentoring people like you and me. Great work buddy.

- Deepak

February 18, 2009 12:33 PM
 

Deepak said:

Jon,

Another very excellent post of yours. Its great to know the people who groomed the so called 'monster'. I am sure Arnie does find a place in each of our blogs for mentoring many people like you and me. Great work buddy!!.

-Deepak

February 18, 2009 12:37 PM
 

Milla said:

Jon,

Great post, any advice on how to find a mentor?

As the only DBA in the company, I don't have the opportunity to be mentored. Have not had much luck at the local user group either.

How can I go around looking for a mentor without imposing on anyone?

Thank you,

Milla

February 18, 2009 8:11 PM
 

Jonathan Kehayias said:

Milla,

If you don't have any other SQL Developers/DBA's at your job to learn from, and your local SQL Server User Group is short as well, your two key locations for mentoring are not helping you.  There are plenty of other options though.  I almost wrote about one of my current mentor's, but since he is my boss, I chose not to do that.  He has been a DBA longer than I have been playing with computers and has worked on DB2 and now Oracle.  I learned a lot about SQL Server from the people mentioned above, but I learned a lot about being a DBA in general from someone who can't stand SQL Server.  If you want to learn about being a DBA, you could try out your local Oracle User Group as well.  We have Oracle Admins that attend our SQL user group here in Tampa regularly.  DBA's in general think alike, and we all follow a lot of common principles.  We go about implementing things in very different ways at times, but fundamentals are very closely the same.

Beyond that, your next place would be to start trying to follow and answer questions on the forums.  I started doing this in January 2008, and I learned more from giving back to the community and trying to answer questions than I did in any book, seminar, or classroom (well not quite, the Internals Books by Kalen Delaney are a common reference of mine online).  Don't be afraid to be wrong, we all are at times, and don't be afraid to ask someone to explain further, I do it all the time.  What will happen is, first you will find that you can answer a few simple questions, but you will happen on some that you know part but not everything for, or you miss the mark slightly.  This is where people like Arnie, Deepak, or any MVP come in and help out and post behind you more information or a correction to your mistake.  Take it as a learning experience and not a criticism.  This is still mentoring though it is not direct face to face.  I have only ever met Arnie Rowland twice in person, Paul Randal once, Adam Machanic once, but they have all helped mentor me through online interaction in the forums, with comments on blog posts, or even through email.  

In reality I have hundreds of mentors, most I have never met except online.  The people mentioned above all made a continued effort to develop my abilities directly and have been the most instrumental in my success in SQL Server.

February 18, 2009 9:41 PM
 

Jason said:

One of Gert Draper's SQL 2000 Precon internals session is what did it for me.

February 18, 2009 10:10 PM
 

Louis Davidson said:

Specifically, there are a few extremely notables:

Robert Crick, Michael Farmer, Don Plaster.  Three people that pushed me in my early career to be the best, either through great mentorship, or just for the pure competition of it. I don't see a couple of them anymore, which is lamentable.

Kalen Delaney, who is just a shining example of where I wanted to be. When I first knew of her, I was like wow, she must be some super genius wierdo.  When I first met her, I realized that she might be a super genius, but she was a real person who was learning like the rest of us (though she knows more about SQL Server than I have forgotten.)

Tony Davis, who took my first semi-adequate book and really helpd it turn a corner for 2005.  

If you own any of my books, you can look at my acknowledgements page for the "full" answer to this question.  It is a long list indeed, and I don't mind admitting that I wouldn't be where I am at without a very large number of people. I won't mention anyone else by name, because I don't want to leave anyone out. Plus, my acknowledgements are over two pages in my book, and even that is probably too short.

February 19, 2009 10:13 AM
 

The Rambling DBA: Jonathan Kehayias said:

While I was gone, I was tagged by a number of the chain Quizes that have been going around the SQL Server

May 5, 2009 10:26 AM
 

Virginia Roberts said:

Thank you, Jon.  I am honored. :)

May 5, 2009 1:57 PM
 

The Rambling DBA: Jonathan Kehayias said:

Thomas LaRock recently posted a blog post Luck, Preparation, and Opportunity on his blog that really

June 15, 2009 12:41 PM
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