The week of the 4th of July is a happy week for Americans. Most families get out for a parade, a fireworks display, a picnic in the park, a movie where Will Smith puts the beat down on a bunch of aliens, or an afternoon at the pool or lake. We celebrate the contributions of our service men and women. We honor veterans. We drink a lot of beer. We reflect on the founding of our nation and the meaning of “Independence Day”.
My own reflections over the Independence Day holiday took me in a new and rather unexpected direction. After ten-and-a-half immensely rewarding years at Quest Software, I have decided to seek new opportunities.
Today, I wanted to publicly reflect on my time at Quest Software, saving my next blog post for some thoughts about my new endeavors. I could probably write a short novel about all of the great experiences and learning opportunities I had over the last ten years. Part of the reason it might make a good novel is because my memory is notoriously weak and my creativity is equally strong. I might just make up details to fill in the fuzzy recollections. Just sayin'... But just to give you a taste, here’s a brief timeline of my ten years at Quest, highlighting some of my favorite experiences:
- I joined Quest on January 2nd of 2002 as Senior Product Architect to design the tools that would become Quest’s first foray into the SQL Server database market. Quest dominated the Oracle tools market but was at square one for tools in the SQL Server space. I’m grateful to Eyal Aronoff, CTO in those days, and Guy Harrison (blog | twitter), current leader of the Melbourne office, for mentoring me through the near-comically hard process of designing and building software products that can sell. Dax French, then product manager, taught me about the concept of salability. Oh, it’s easy to put requirements down on paper. But that’s about as close to a finished and sellable product as a laptop is to an abacus. I also learned a whole heck of a lot about software development from Patrick O'Keeffe, and about corporate politics in a worldwide development organization, especially from Julie Ackerman, then VP of Operations.
- In late 2003, I became the Director of Technology for the SQL Server Solutions Group. (Yeah! We had a team name and a few products!) Hiring your own team is a dream for many leaders in IT. And I have to say with more than a little pride that the organization we built included the most intelligent, energized, and fun people I’ve ever known. Being empowered to hire a team, set goals, and deliver on them was a fantastic, though demanding experience. . I’m thankful to the team for their incredibly hard work and unsinkable ethics: John Theron, Johnny Ortez, Lee Grisson, Joe Motley, Hassan Fahimi, Israel Kalush, and so many others. I’m grateful that my more experienced peers on the other major dev teams, Rony Lerner and Steve Rosenberg, enthusiastically taught me how to answer the needs of both a sales-driven corporation and a deadline-driven engineering process.
- Throughout this time, I experienced the full support of Quest’s executive leadership as a Microsoft MVP and, even more so, as a founder and eventual president of PASS. I can’t emphasize enough what a big deal this was. The leadership of PASS was an incredibly difficult workload to support, basically equivalent to a second full-time job, and also a difficult period in my life personally. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to fully thank the top leadership of Quest for allowing me, around 2006, to move some of those PASS hours into my day job at Quest. I literally could NOT have served two terms as president of PASS without this level of support. Yeah! Now I was back down to an acceptable number of hours per week, including the time spent on PASS, blogging, etc with my day job.
- In 2005, I again ventured into new territory and new experiences. I never in my wildest dreams anticipated that I’d someday learn about and actually work on M&A deals. I knew Quest did some M&A from our acquisition of Leccotech, bringing in the outstandingly talented Claudia Fernandez and Darren Mallette, among many others, and FastLane, where I learned a lot from David Waugh. But that’s exactly what happened when Quest finally acted on my advice to acquired Imceda, where I got to meet and work with the likes of Douglas Chrystall (twitter), Jason Hall (twitter), and David Gugick (twitter). During this time, I learned an amazing amount about executive leadership from some of the very best in the IT industry – Vinny Smith, Doug Garn, Charles Ramsey, Steve Dickson and John Newsome. I think they’d probably laugh to hear me say this, but I have confess that I was at the level of “barely able to hold my fudge” intimidation whenever I breathed the same air as these guys. But I also watched them closely, tried to absorb their wisdom, and emulate their behaviors that engendered the success of the company.
- 2006 marked another new adventure for me at Quest because, for the first time, I began to work more heavily on technology evangelism than on product development. We now had several products which needed more attention and focus on campaign-driven marketing efforts. Billy Bosworth joined as our new VP and General Manager. Christian Hasker (twitter) joined as our new Director for Product Marketing, while Heather Eichmann and Andy Grant joined the effort. This team rocked! We became a team of thought leaders that influenced the way the rest of the company did business. I learned an enormous amount from these folks about advertising, marketing, technology evangelism, and community building. I could easily write a book with anecdotes and lessons on how to be an effective technology evangelist. Charles Ramsey, president of Quest during those days, bestowed the title of “Technical Strategy Manager” upon me due to all of the time I was spending on a wide cross-section of activities for sales, marketing, R&D, as well as interfacing with Microsoft’s SQL Server team, to name a few, Paul Randal (blog | twitter), Kevin Farlee, Gert Drapers (blog), Joe Yong, Bob Ward (twitter), the late Ken Henderson, Jimmy May (blog | twitter), Mark Souza (twitter) and the Jedi of SQLCAT, and many others.
- I still remember fondly how a friend had forwarded a “tweet” from a certain Brent Ozar (blog | twitter) about him being excited to sit in my session at the PASS Summit in late 2007. My first thought was “What the heck is a tweet?!?” My second thought was "I should meet this guy!" Before long, though, I was working with Brent in his new role as our full-time technology evangelist whence I moved to Pre-Sales to work more directly with large customers and key accounts - and where I have been ever since (until now). During that time I learned how to give a really good product demo from Jason Hall, David Swanson, and Ari Weil (If you don’t already know how to give a good product demo, check out http://www.secondderivative.com/ and buy their book post-haste). It was also very education to learn from great Pre-Sales leaders like John Milburn and Robb Dunewood. I also learned a whole lot about the awesomeness of Camtasia – which you should buy right now if you ever do recorded presentations. Brent stayed with us for a couple years, teaching me an enormous amount about social media and, although I’d been blogging since 2004, a whole lot about how to be a better blogger. Someday, I hope to actually apply what I learned from Brent.
From that early team, we built a culture of trust with our customers, attempting at every turn to add value to what we built. And it shows. Our products have won a multitude of awards and plaudits. I’ve seen a host of product launches and major new releases. I cannot take nor deserve the credit for these great tools. I was merely a very small part of the team that brought them to life.
I’m so very proud of the full-stack monitoring and alerting in Spotlight, of the unmatched analytics in Foglight Performance Analysis, of the raw value of LiteSpeed. I’m also very proud of the evolution of Toad, from a small and practical aggregation of utilities, into a full suite for developers, data modelers, and data analysts. Add in the unique scalability testing features of Benchmark Factory and I can say without any apology that we built the definitive and comprehensive platform of tools for the database professional.
Working deep in technology has always been interesting and exciting. But my favorite part of the job has always been interacting with customers and partners. It’s an uplifting experience to share the ways in which the Quest tools empower customers to do things they’ve never been able to do before and to make their jobs and their lives better. Meeting our clients on four continents over the course of thousands of presentations and meetings has been a top highlight of my career. Whenever I interact with customers, I want the focus to be on mutual learning. Customers teach me as much as I’ve ever taught them.
As time advanced, though, I gained insight into why some periods at Quest were more enjoyable than others. The laser-sighted focus of our early, smaller organization was a definitely highlight. The rhythm of business travel also picked up dramatically in recent years, with a commensurate decline in my overall health and wellbeing. Clearly, I needed a change.
You might be asking “If it was so good, why are you changing things?” Well, I’m not leaving because of a negative of some kind. I can assure you that it is not because I’ve had some kind of personality conflict, disagreement over strategy, or that I’m otherwise unhappy with Quest. Quite the opposite, I’m leaving because I’ve been offered an new opportunity that is both very exciting and enormously reinvigorating.
To all of you that I’ve already mentioned mentioned by name, and to the multitude more whose name I wasn't able to record above, I owe a debt of gratitude. I wish you not goodbye, but the fondest of farewell.
Farewell is also in order because to you, my readers because, well, you’ll still be seeing me in all the old familiar places. So where am I off to? Tune in next Monday for that bit of news.
Until then. Enjoy!
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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.