Category Archives: Professional Development

Pragmatic Transition: Lighthouses and Shipwrecks

Sometimes your mistakes are the greatest lessons...

This is the next post in my series about transitioning from a DBA to a BI consultant for Pragmatic Works. This post is a particularly sensitive one as it pertains to a lesson I had to learn the hard way. My hopes are that by writing and publishing this maybe you can spare yourself or someone else from making the same mistakes. This post is basically to teach one thing: Sometimes you’re a lighthouse, shining your light and showing people the way to safety. The lighthouse is steady and helps others through with a clear message and action. The other half is the shipwreck. Sometimes seeing the wrecks on the rocks gives others a warning about what NOT to do in a given situation. Throughout your life you will probably play both roles many times. For me, in this particular situation, I’m playing the role of shipwreck.

Before I begin let me quickly set the stage for my current position in life. For the last few years I’ve been a SQL Server DBA in shops where I was pretty much the only one. Due to this, along with very lenient bosses, I was allowed to leverage social networking on a daily basis. If you follow me on Twitter then you know I tend to tweet more than any human being should a lot. I’ve come to think of the network of fellow SQL professionals on Twitter as my extended DBA team. I would consume tons of knowledge via conversations, monitoring (and participating) in the #sqlhelp channel, reading blog posts and checking out all the various webcasts and events. This was before taking on the role of a consultant.

As a consultant you have to remember one thing: you’re no longer on YOUR time, you’re on your CLIENT’S time. When someone hires you the expectation is that you’re there to do a job and focus on that job. When you deviate from that, especially on a public platform like social networking sites, the perception is that you’re using up their time. And by using up their time, I mean wasting it. While I may be working hard on whatever client work I’m doing, yet tweeting throughout the day, the perception is that I’m not really working and my focus isn’t where it should be. Even if I scheduled every single tweet throughout the day the perception is still the same, and this is the key: perception is reality. That being the case, the “reality” I was broadcasting by tweeting all the time (as a consultant) is that I was not busy, not focused and to some extent not caring about my client. While none of these are true the fact is I should’ve been more cognizant of the perception I put out to the public, and for that I apologize to the community as a whole.

So now what do we do? Well, we move forward and learn! I now understand a little better what’s expected of me in my new role. The beauty of mistakes is it gives us a chance to learn from them. The important part of mistakes is that you DO learn from them and most importantly: MOVE ON! Mistakes happen. Not only do they happen, they happen to everyone. What matters is how you deal with it and move forward. A really great example of a shipwreck-turned-lighthouse would be a recent situation with Brent Ozar (Blog | Twitter) and his business partnership at SQLSkills. You can read the saga here, here and here. Brent’s public dealing with his situation also helped inspire this post. He took what could have percieved as a terrible situation and turned around and made it a fantastic learning opportunity for anyone looking to pursue a similar partnership in the future. He turned a shipwreck into a lighthouse!

Just remember if you make a mistake that it’s okay. Stuff happens. It’s how we deal with those mistakes that matters in the end. How about you? Have you had a shipwreck/lighthouse moment? Share your stories in the comments!

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Tour de Career: Team Roles

In cycling each team is made up of nine riders. Each rider on a team can have a different specialization. A careful balance of skill sets on a team can determine if a team will stand triumphant on a champion’s podium at the end of the day or simply fade into obscurity. Today we’re going to talk about how a team works together to reach their final destination successfully.

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Tour de Career: Prologue

Tour de Career

It’s July and for some that means baseball and bar-b-ques. For me it means my birthday and Tour de France time. For those living in a cave, the Tour de France is the most prestigious professional bike race in the world lasting three weeks. Riders race all around France with the conclusion of the race occurring in the heart of Paris on the Champs-Élysées. Inspired by one of my mentors, Andy Leonard (Blog | Twitter); who wrote a fantastic series of articles about the software business, I have decided to write my own professional development series on career development. In this series of articles I’ll be discussing various parts of career and professional development and how it mirrors the journey of the Tour de France. So strap on your helmet, jump on your career bikes and let’s start pedaling!

Prologue

Since this race spans a three week period, the race itself is broken up into  stages which last one day. Each day the stage is made up of a different route which can vary in distance, difficulty and terrain (e.g. flat areas, mountain, rolling hills). The very first stage of a Tour is referred to as the prologue. This is a short trial which determines who will be the designated leader for the race and wear the coveted yellow jersey.

At the beginning of our professional journey we all sit there at the start line looking at the long road ahead with anxiety, excitement and maybe even some nervousness. That’s okay! The important thing to remember is that this journey is a long tour and there will be many peaks and valleys before you reach that podium in Paris. This first stage is not so much where you set your pace for the race (as you’ll have plenty of chances along the way to change your tempo) but rather where you want to position yourself for the coming stages.

Some of us start our journey slower than others and start off towards the back of the pack while others come bursting out of the gates looking to wear that yellow jersey first. The thing to remember during this time is that this is only the start and you have a lot of road ahead to make up any lost time. Again, it’s important to emphasize that this journey is not a sprint so don’t lose heart if you feel “you’re behind everyone else”. In fact, as we’ll cover later, that position can actually be beneficial!

In the coming weeks we’ll be talking about all sorts of things you’ll face on the your career Tour. Here’s a sneak peek at some of the coming stages:

  • Team Tactics – Cycling has many tactics and every member of a team has his role to play. Are you playing yours?
  • Cancer Stinks But Your Attitude is what Matters – Adversity comes along what do you? Take a page from Lance Armstrong’s playbook and kick it in the teeth. You can give up or forge ahead and win big, you decide.
  • The End of a Stage Isn’t the End of the Race – You can be proud of your accomplishments today but don’t forget that you have more riding to do tomorrow.
  • Crashes, Walls and Bad Days – Every day isn’t full of sunshine and smooth roads. Sometimes you’ll crash, sometimes the cobblestones make it a rough ride. It’s how you deal with these obstacles that matters most.

 

To keep up to date with our team’s progress for the race, subscribe to my blog’s team radio channel (aka RSS feed). Hope you enjoy the ride!

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