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Kevin Kline

Things You Know Now

I was recently tagged by Chris Shaw, in his blog post Things You Know Now, with the thread started by Michelle Ufford (aka the SQLFool), in her blog post also entitled Things You Know Now.  In the original thread, Michelle asks "It doesn't have to be DBA skills, but what do you wish you knew when you were starting?"

Of course, I wish I knew the top and bottom value of a lot of stocks years before anyone else did.  That'd make Kevin a very wealthy dude.  It would also make Kevin a person who didn't care about IT at all.  (Gosh - that sounds wonderful!)  But that gets out of the realm of useful advice and into pure day dreaming.  On the other hand, when I think about useful advice that might benefit someone else, I can come up with a couple tidbits.

First, I am now a huge fan of the adage "The perfect is the enemy of the good" meaning that the search for getting everything just oh-so-perfect can prevent us from ever getting something that's a-okay for our needs.  I would now modify this in IT projects to "The new and unproven is the enemy of the old and solid."  I've always known how important education is for an IT professional in general and a database professional in particular.  Because of this, we're many times willing to support or were even an eager champion for a new and unproven technology.  Knowing what I know now, I would have, overall, done a better job of being a DBA and manager if I'd fought "the next best thing" more often in favor of better processes and better business practices that fed and supported the overall actions of the companies I worked in. Here's an example - when I was lead DBA in a previous job, we were talking into developing a huge knowledge management and collaboration system using the latest and greatest technologies in the Microsoft stack.  I knew that a reasonably effective solution could be built on top of the SQL Server relational engine, but I was lured by the glittering new technology and luster of the "new and improved".  Fast forward two years and, after millions of dollars in development costs plus more than one tarnished career, Microsoft decides that the core technologies of our project are going to be abandoned.  In retrospect, I should've stuck to my guns that a finished "good enough" solution is always, always, always better than an unfinishable "perfect solution".  A smooth running family sedan is much better than a hot rod that never gets out of the garage.

Second, job security is only ensured through success on the job, not through popularity, relationships with the boss, mad skills, knowledge or any other measurement.  Because of this, it's critical to understand what it is about the job that measures your success.  For many DBAs, keeping the SQL Server systems running smoothly and remedying/recovering from problems is "success".  I know of several extremely talented individuals who have written books and have had MVP status, but couldn't keep a job for long because they didn't focus being successful in their day-to-day job. 

Finally, plagiarise code freely.  Build a network of friends who don't mind sharing their hard work, such as good scripts and homegrown documentation, and then reciprocate in kind.  I developed a lot of code, techniques, and processes over the years that I probably could've gotten from others.  In this way, I could've leveraged the smarts of others to help me get more done during the working day, so that I could've spent more time at home with the family.

Well, those are my "Things I know now that I wish I knew then".  I'd love to hear your comments!

Best regards,

-Kevin

Published Tuesday, March 10, 2009 5:47 PM by KKline
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Michelle Ufford said:

Hi Kevin, great response!  Just one teeny, tiny correction: the "Things You Know Now" thread was actually started by Mike Walsh, http://www.straightpathsql.com/blog/2009/2/9/things-you-know-now.html.  :)

March 11, 2009 11:48 AM
 

Mike Walsh said:

Eh potato, potahto ;-)

Nice post, Kevin. I like the old adage (that I have never actually heard before though) "The perfect is the enemy of the good" I will likely use that one moving forward. Has a lot of truth in it.

March 12, 2009 4:47 PM
 

aspiringgeek said:

Kevin, it takes maturity, experience, & even  a little luck to determine "good enough".  My experience at so many of my former day jobs is that once something was implemented, inertia keeps it in place for a l-o-n-g time.  Just yesterday I made a post in which I mentioned a help desk app I created which is still in use after ten years.  At my former day job, the piece I wrote for compliance with CAN-SPAM is, the last I heard, still in use after several years.

I've also worked with way too much crappy code which was rushed to production by people who knew better, simply to meet deadlines.  This code caused problems time-after-time & was NOT "good enough".   I'm reminded of the adage "measure twice, saw once".

The lesson is, I think, when the goal is "good enough", is to be mindful of inevitable inertia & *always* implement best practices.

March 13, 2009 7:54 AM
 

KKline said:

It's definitely a spectrum, Jimmy.  On the one hand, you have "too fast" in which the IT person doesn't spend enough time doing the upfront design and analysis, and worst practices creep in.  On the other hand, you have "too new" in which the technology is too untested to yield an effective large-scale application.  The key word being large-scale.  Lesson learned for me is to always start small before taking on the world with a new technology.

And while I'm at it, I'd like to tag you, Joe Webb, and Jonathan Kehayias for your "Things You Know Now" thoughts!

-Kev

March 13, 2009 1:21 PM
 

alik levin said:

Kevin,

I came here via Jimmy's.

I loved this post so much i cannot express it...

It resonated w/me a lot.

- I'd love to know stocks game upfront.

- Tech religion often kills good projects. Never get into tech religion wars like Oracle vs SQL Server, Agile vs Waterfall, Java vs .Net

- Working code is better than brilliant idea. "The value of an idea lies in the using of it" - Thomas A. Edison.

- Loved job security... part. Get street creds, and that is done by solving problems and not prolonging it. It is done by getting your feet wet, or getting your hands dirty w/"grease".

- Become a copy-paster-the-greatest. Resonates a lot w/your "plagiarize code..."

Good stuff! A breath of fresh air... ;)

March 14, 2009 4:17 PM
 

Kevin Kline said:

Before I jump onto the Goals and Themeword meme started by my buddy, Thomas LaRock ( blog | twitter ),

January 5, 2010 11:42 PM

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About KKline

Kevin Kline is a well-known database industry expert, author, and speaker. Kevin is a long-time Microsoft MVP and was one of the founders of PASS, www.sqlpass.org.

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