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SQL Server DBA Tips & Tricks

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PowerShell: Giving in to the Inevitable?


Here’s a quick question posed to my technical brethren: Have you drank the PowerShell Kool-Aid yet?

I’ve sat back and tested the waters here and there and I see that you can do some pretty cool stuff with it but I’m an admitted GUI lover at the moment so what does this buy me? This topic comes on the heels of the Microsoft Tech-Ed keynote and the fact that PowerShell scripts will now be generated on-the-fly ala SQL Server Management Studio did for T-SQL (Thanks Brent Ozar for pointing this out). I’ll admit I have learned quite a lot just in T-SQL by using that Script To function but will having this power in PowerShell really do much for me? What are your thoughts? Comment your techy hearts out.

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SQL Quiz #4

Well Chris Shaw has continued his awesome SQL Quiz chain and I was lucky enough to get tagged down the line by none other than the SQLFool! Here’s the question on the table this week:

Who has been a great leader in your career and what made them a great leader?

Given the fact that I’m pretty young (26 for those curious) I’m only on my second manager in my true IT career. However with my first manager Jim, I spent almost 5 years under in varying stages of my career.

I first started my career at SWFWMD (Southwest Florida Water Management District) as an intern in their applications group as a web developer. My first experience with Jim was when I got in trouble because I brought in my laptop to do work and plugged in to the network and I went undetected for a few weeks before I got caught (whoops). Jim, at that time, was kind of shadowing our-then IT manager as Jim was slated to take her place after retirement. Jim scared the ever-living hell out of me. After graduation I came back to SWFWMD as a desktop technician and by that time Jim has ascended in to the manager role. Under Jim’s management he had very explicit plans for his section and wanted to make sure his people were up to snuff so to speak. Sometimes his ways were a bit strict but I’ll be damned if he didn’t back his people when it mattered. One of the strengths that Jim has is that he is a huge proponent of education and bettering yourself and strongly enourages his employees in that vein. A thing I liked is that he bought purchased an online training tool and sat down with each of us and laid out his expectations for us in terms of our position and customized a learning path for us in this tool.

At this point of the post you’re probably thinking “yeah, he was…managing, big whoop”. Yes, he was doing what a good manager does but it was the “other stuff” that made him a great leader. At a department retreat we had a consultant come in and do some team-building using the Kepner-Tregoe method. At one point she asked each section within IT who made the decisions in our group (or who was the leader, can’t recall exact phrasing) . Our section laughed when we heard that and all fingers pointed to Jim. This excercise was just an indicator of how strong a leader he was. The other thing I really liked about him was his ability to sit down with you and have a no-BS person-to-person talk. My personal situation at SWFWMD was complicated due to my mother being in a sensitive political position over there. Jim helped me throughout the years deal with the problems that caused every so often. He helped me out a few times when I really broke down and for that I’ll forever be grateful. Jim’s other strength was his ability to look beyond next week. He was always thinking 3 steps ahead in terms of personnel placement and technology adoption. This method has payed off well and to this day SWFWMD is one of the local businesses that is a technology innovator and leader. A testament to this is that Jim is the leader of the Tampa Area VMware User Group!

I’ve rambled enough so let’s see if we can’t get some others to spill their guts!

Chuck Boyce Jr. (aka chuckboycejr) – Works for Quest and got to spend some quality time with in chat during SSWUG Virtual conference
Ward Pond (aka sqltwit) – Another local guy (to me) and hopefully I’ll get to meet at next SSUG meeting
Andy Leonard - I’m not even sure if he has a blog but he just got promoted to managing his ETL team and I’d like to hear his story.

Just FYI, if I follow you on Twitter you’re pretty much in my pool of candidates for tagging in the future.

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Starting the SQL Journey: Part II

So in my last post I talked about my personal journey. In this post I’ll go step-by-step what I did to help along the path of learning all this SQL goodness. 

Tip 1 – Crawl Before You Walk…

Don’t know what a SQL statement is? Think T-SQL is an alternative to Coffee-SQL? Fear not, like everything else in this crazy world there’s tons of resources to learn from. One of the first places I learned anything from was W3 Schools website. The site is more aimed at web developers but they have a section for learning SQL (note: SQL is NOT SQL Server. SQL is a language, SQL Server is a product). There are also numerous other websites that teach SQL from the ground up such as SQL Tutorial or SQLCourse. A quick Google search will get you a plethora of options.

Tip 2 – Choose Thy Path!

Moving on from learning basic SQL syntax its time to learn your product. To learn by theory is one thing but its another to have hands on experience with the tools and actually see what a query result looks like and what not. Now I realize that I’m a SQL Server guy but I’ll be fair and list several vendor options. These are all the free editions of the respective platforms:
While I gave several options, this blog is SQL Server-centric so my examples and walk-throughs will keep within that realm. Which brings us to the next step…

Step 3 – Don’t Pigeon Hole Yourself, LEARN EVERYTHING!

Ok maybe not everything but you get the gist. This tip not only applies to learning your specific product but pretty much anything. Just because you’re a DBA doesn’t mean you shouldn’t/can’t learn some basic web development so you know what’s going on on the other side of your queries and vice versa. One of the things that allowed me to reach my current position is that I was always looking to learn more, more, more. Yes, I’m a SQL Server guy but what’s Oracle? How’s it work? What are the differences between SQL Server and Oracle? What else is out there? Even within SQL Server you have so much to learn than just basic server setup. There’s not only the administration piece but there’s also performance tuning, all the business intelligence pieces and the wide world of development and much more. I personally ended up going down the DBA track myself but I still like to play around with the Business Intelligence pieces like Reporting Services and SSIS since they’re interesting pieces unto themselves and work-wise I’m a better employee and professional if I’m able to understand all the pieces of the puzzle.

Tip 4 – There’s a Community, Make Use of It

One of the best things I ever did was start attending user groups. My first experience with them was with the Tampa VMware User Group community. I lucked out since my manager volunteered to be the group’s leader so meetings were held in our offices. The meetings were useful since you got to meet others in the community who made use of the same technology in different ways. Getting to meet others and swap stories was a really cool experience. From there I learned about the local SQL user groups (SQL Server and the BI group) and started attending those. Lately I’ve been branching out more in to the community by making use of social networking tools such as LinkedIn and Twitter. I’ve also started contributing to the community by starting this blog. I can’t tell you how much more satisfying experience it has been, for me anyways, to really be actively involved in the technical community.

Tip 5 – That Guy Seems Smart, Let’s Ask Him!

Before I started getting actively involved with the community my primary objective was just to learn, learn, learn! In doing so one of the first things you’ll learn besides the topic you’re focusing on is who are the people in your field who are the respective experts. For instance it was a SQL Saturday event that I attended where I first learned about Brian Knight and how he was one of the best SSIS gurus around. So from then on whenever I needed to learn something related to SSIS I would defer to his blogs and his recommendations. I’m sure everyone has their own methods of learning from others but I just wanted to share my methodology. Another method that pays off is finding not only those guys who know their stuff but are also entertaining (that’s how I discovered Brent Ozar and SQLBatman).
 
Tip 6 – Never Stop Learning
This week is the SSWUG Virtual Conference and one of the great things that I’ve witnessed is that even the field experts are always learning something new from everyone else. In my opinion the one greatest thing to move forward is the willingness to always keep learning. And almost as important is this quote I heard once: “The ability to succeed is directly proportional to your ability to ask for help.”
 
So that’s pretty much all I can think of for now. Feel free to add your own tidbits and advice in comments below!

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Starting the SQL Journey: Part I

odysseus Recently at the VMware user group meeting I was approached by someone I used to work with. He worked in a non-IT role at my previous job and at his new job he was getting more involved in technical roles. He was attending the VMware meeting in order to understand virtualization better and expand his understanding of the technology. A question he posed to me was “So you’re the DBA at the hospital? How did you get started?”

So this entry will be two-parts, the first addressing how I personally got started and second will be a few tips for someone just starting on their path to follow.

Personally I fell into the database administration role due to my formal education background. In college I had taken some database courses. Originally I thought I would pursue a web development career so I was familiar with creating a web application with a database back-end. Fast forward post graduation and I had no .NET experience which was what the industry was calling for and I couldn’t find a job. Eventually I landed a role as a desktop technician for the Southwest Florida Water Management District. While in that position I learned that the one guy who held my position previously was the one doing the SQL Server administration and had a similar background to mine. Due to this fact I was named his secondary. It’s here that I got my first taste of the administrative side of SQL Server. I learned the basics of the SQL Server architecture,

As time passed my hunger to learn more than just how to do backups grew. Aside from asking questions of my fellow administrators I took to the web and read anything and everything I could. Another important step I took was joining up with the local SQL User Group. This allowed me to see not only what others were doing with SQL Server but it was my first experience with the SQL Community which was key in my journey. Attending the meetings grew into attending any event I could be it a paid training session my company allowed me to go to or any free event I could like SQL Saturday to help me expand my skills.

Eventually I moved on to my current position where I’ve managed to leverage some more advanced SQL DBA skills as well as taken on new challenges such as Sharepoint technologies.I continue using the same methods to learn and grow as I did when I started only now I’ve added some new tricks such as leveraging the power of social networks. In my next article I’ll go in to more detail about each step.

So how did you start your journey? I’ve never done this yet so I’ll try this calling out thing by tagging some of the people that have helped me out through their work. Everyone else feel free to leave your stories in comments!

Brent Ozar
SQLBatman
Pinal Dave
Jonathan Kehayias

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