SQL Cruise – The good, the best and the awesome

In about a month, I’ll be joining a handful of data professionals to attend a wonderful event called SQL Cruise.   Yes, as you guessed from the name, this event is happening on board a cruise ship and not only we are going to enjoy the wonderful view of Alaska’s mountains, but we are also going to have excellent speakers with fabulous content, as well as fantastic networking opportunities between the attendees.

So what’s so special about this event that keeps me coming back every year?

Let start with the speakers AND the content.   Check out this list.  Go ahead.  I’ll wait.

Pretty awesome, huh?   Not only you will have top notch content from these speakers, you have their full attention in-between sessions for any issues/challenges you are currently have in your environment.  It is a ship, we are at sea, they can’t really get away from you :) It could be that performance issue you’ve been dealing with in the last few months, or some architecture challenge you are about to embark on, or even just a career advise.   There’s no rushing between one session to another.   The speakers are available to you in between sessions and that is so valuable.  Even if they duck out to the coffee shop, it is still on the ship.  Don’t tell them, but they are really trapped and you get to exploit that, in a good way!

Next are the attendees.  Check out the list for this upcoming cruise.   Pretty impressive list, yes?   I know, I am on that list but think about the variety of backgrounds these attendees come from and how awesome it is to be exchange experience, or discuss some challenge from someone that has been there and done that.   Real world problems, with real world answers.   I have to say, this my favorite part.   I made friends on a personal level from this event more than just a professional peer (Karen, Erin - I’m looking at both of you).   Now we run races together, discuss baseline performance collection or integrity of the data or just simply be there for each other.  You can come away from this cruise with new professional contacts and personal peers to bounce ideas off of.  It is phenomenal, and a networking opportunity that you really can find in no other venue compressed in a short cycle of time!

You might even see double rainbow!

Last but not least.  The cruise itself.   All you can eat buffet, phenomenal views of the Alaskan coast and mountains, never-ending entertainment (beyond your SQL peeps) and excursions while you are not soaking the knowledge or picking up some smarts from these speakers.   Do I need to say more?  Win win and win again.  Really, if you add it all up, the value of this cruise and what you can bring back from it are without comparison.

There is still room if you are interested.   It is very affordable considering the value that you are getting.   If you have a +1, start talking to your partner/spouse and pitch it to them, then pitch it to your boss.   If you solo, just run it up the flagpole with the boss.  If you need help of how to pitch it to your manager, Tim Ford has brochure/fliers and all the former attendee are a tweet away and I’m pretty sure you can gather many input from them.   If you are not in twitter — you have no idea what you are missing!

Managers – these section is for you.

I know you probably think – there’s NO WAY that I am sending my people to training in a cruise.  They won’t learn anything.  They will be out partying.   I’m not spending my training budget for THAT.   I know what you mean.   See – I’m in a management myself.   I have to be wise with my training budget on where I want it to go and how I think my team can benefit the most and what kind of value the company is going to get in return.   I’m accountable for that return on investment as I have to stand in front of my own  boss and set the expectation of what kind of value that we as a company will get by going to variety of these training/event and I choose very wisely.   There are many fantastic training opportunities throughout the year and this event absolutely high on my list.

My husband, John, wrote a post that went more detail about this two years ago.   He was an IT Managers for years and responsible of DBA team and training budget as well and if you still have doubt this event, go ahead and read it here.

If that still doesn’t convince you, and you still have doubts, please free to contact me directly and I am more than happy to share my experience to you.  Not just as a data processional, but from the management point of view.    No, I am not being paid by SQL Cruise to say and do this.   They still invoice me for the training and I have to pay the cruise just like anybody else.   If anything, I am doing it from my own benefit because the more people attend, the more *I* get to interact with them and exchange experience.

Lastly, this event is made possible for you  by some awesome sponsors.  They are the reason why it’s so affordable.   SQL Sentry, Brent Ozar PLF, Quest, Idera and Redgate – thank YOU for your continuous support to make this event possible for the community.   You. Are. Awesome.

The countdown has begun.   All aboard!

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What gets measured, gets done

One of SQL Cruise sessions that I attended last week (I will have separate post for summary of the whole event) leave us with some homework to do.   We have to pick 12 books to read for a year that can enhance our career, read it once a month and post a review about it.   Buck Woody (blog | twitter) already post his, and even though I wasn’t tag by him – I’m going to publicly list mine and link back to his post and even tag a few cruisers so they can put their list as well

Here’s my list, in no particular order:

  1. First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently As someone that is new in a management role, I am facing challenge everyday.  This books will teach me a trick or two for being, not just a good manager, but a great one
  2. Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams   (Second Edition) This book talk about what define a success as a company, it’s not the technology, it’s the people.   This book also highly recommended by certain people that’s been in the management for a while
  3. IT’s hidden face: Everything you always wanted to know about Information Technology. A look behind the scenes Since my team is part of IT, I’m very intrigue on what this book is going to tell me.
  4. Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations Internet sociology always interest me.   I hear a lot of good thing about this book and been wanting to read it for a while
  5. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference Another book about social phenomena.   My good friend recommended this book to me, and I’m going to check it out
  6. The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains Internet is always fascinating to me and it impact our lives more than we want to admit.
  7. Adventures of an IT Leader I love to read this book since even though I’m not an IT leader just yet, I’m starting a journey to get there.
  8. The Little Black Book Of Leadership The title said it all.   Every leader need a black book, hot sheet or just a guidance.
  9. Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World Another internet sociology book.   Internet is changing our world and for the next generation, the world will look very different then
  10. Growing Software: Proven Strategies for Managing Software Engineers I’m not managing software engineers, but I think the concept is the same.   This book is on the recommended reading list by my former CTO
  11. Joel on Software: And on Diverse and Occasionally Related Matters That Will Prove of Interest to Software Developers, Designers, and Managers, and to Those Who, Whether by Good Fortune or Ill Luck, Work with Them in Some Capacity What can I say – I love his blog and this book is a collection of articles he ever written
  12. More Joel on Software: Further Thoughts on  Diverse and Occasionally Related Matters That Will Prove of Interest to Software Developers, Designers, … or Ill Luck, Work with Them in Some Capacity Again, just like the previous book – his blog is always full with fantastic insights and articles.

There it is.  It’s out there.   I’m ordering my first one today and will post a review by end of the month.   I’m quoting Buck here by saying ‘I reserve the right to change this list as I learn more‘.

I’m also going to tag a few cruisers here, so they can get their list going.

  1. Christina Leo (blog | twitter)
  2. Kendra Little (blog | twitter)
  3. Ryan Malcom (blog | twitter)
  4. Noel McKinney (blog | twitter)

So cruisers, you have been tag.  You’re it!

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Clip the coupon, Go on a cruise

So you still are not sure about broaching the SQL Cruises idea on the powers that be?  Let me offer one more way that you could try the big sell…

At my job we already have budget set aside for tools and licensing of Quest products, so for me the offer of free stuff was initially just a nice benefit.  Hey, maybe someone out there could use that to help him or her offset the costs of training I thought to myself (and wrote a blog about it.)

But then I had an idea.  I could still take advantage of this free licensing even though we already were going to purchase it.  I whipped out my fancy management calculator and crunched some number and confirmed it could be done.   Since both training and licensing are capitol purchases and come out of the same pool of money, why not move some around.  Bosses always like to see you move $ from one bucket to another if it saves on the bottom line and that is just what I did.

By leveraging the $8,000+ worth of software licensing being offered by Quest, I suggested that we move some capitol funds from the licensing bucket to the training bucket.  With an overall net savings, I was able to get another training under our belt this year, such as Immersion and SQL PASS since my SQL Cruise attendance already been approved.   Pretty awesome, eh?

So even if you already have budget for licensing, don’t take it for granted that it could not benefit you in other ways.  Always look for opportunities to bring something back from training to the company that sent you there.  It will help ensure the next time you ask for it, you are more likely to get it with less haggling.  Saving the company money is usually right up there with improving stability and performance as a priority.  The difference here is that you can show them real dollars upfront before they invest.

Quest has given you, and through you, the company that is paying for you, a coupon worth possibly more than $8,000.  Clip it, bring it, and use it.  Don’t turn the page, it is real money!

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So you want to go to SQLCruise?

… but not sure how to get your boss’s approval on that?

If you go to the SQL Cruise site, you’ll find tons of reasons on how to smooth your manager over.   Brent Ozar (blog | twitter) has various posts talking about that and my husband, John, actually wrote a post from a manager’s point of view that you can share with your manager.   He was not sure about the whole training on the cruise ship concept when I made him carry my bags asked him to join me on the train-cation last summer and he wrote about his experience.

If those posts still get a no-no from your manager, you are in-luck because the announcement just out today from SQL Cruise that all cruisers will get FREE All SQL tools from Quest.   Yes.  Free.  All.   You read right.    It’s Litespeed, Spotlight, Foglight (which by the way, the most awesome tools for diagnosed your wait stats), Toad, Benchmark.   You name it.   Go to their site here, and check out their collection of SQL Tools.   That is what you are going to get, on top of the many uber-cool swag that is going to be announced soon.

So here’s what you need to do:

Download those awesome tools, RIGHT now (if you haven’t already).   Do an eval against your own environment and write down a summary of the benefit of these tools (you can’t just make this one up, you actually need to sit down and install, and evaluate a lot of things).   Just use a couple of tools to start with.  I suggest Spotlight and Foglight.   Heck, throw Litespeed in there too.    Those are the three tools that I know has helped my team tremendously do our job and be aware of potential problems before they become one.

When you are done, present that document to your manager during your 1-on-1 (if you don’t have 1-on-1, you should set recurring one today) and do your sales pitch on how these tools can help your company.  If you peek her/his interest, the next question should be the cost, which you should already have it ready.    Yes, you might see a frowny face, since those tools are not cheap (which they shouldn’t be since they are pretty awesome), and that’s your cue to have this conversation:

You:
No worries, we can get these tools way cheaper

Manager:
Really?   How?

You:
By sending me to SQL Cruise!   See as an attendee – I will get all of these tools for free and that’s over $8000 on value, and if you send me to SQL Cruise – the training will cost only $895 for Alaska one, plus the cruise, which around $900 and travel to Seattle which will be around $400 (I’m just throwing the number here, you get the idea).   That’s like a quarter of the actual cost!  And we get all of these tools for free AND I get the knowledge to bring back and can share that to our entire development team, and don’t get me started with the networking benefit that WE (here’s the key, it’s the company and you, not just you) will gain from this event

Manager:
Speechless

You:
Here’s the paperwork for it, you can just sign it right here for me to expense all of this cost

There ya go.   Now get going and do your homework and hopefully I will see you at SQL Cruise Alaska!

PS.  A big shout out to Quest for their awesome-ness.   Thank you for supporting SQL Community!

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Free Conference at SQL PASS

I’ve been invited to this event coordinated by Brent Ozar (Blog | @BrentOzar) called Free-Con.   It is free (yes, really) and it is the most unique event I ever be part of.     I sat in the same room with 15 other people that I truly admired and adore.   You can read about the event itself on Brent’s post here so I won’t go over it in detail on what’s all about.    What I do want to mention here is what I personally get out of it.  

First of all, I feel honored.   Initially, I also felt very intimidated.   I looked around the room, and I saw an author of one of my favorite SQL books,  Grant Fritchey (Blog | @GFritchey).   I had to buy his book, SQL Server 2008 Query Performance Tuning Distilled (Expert’s Voice in SQL Server) twice since the pages on the first one got rip off from me flipping to that book so many times and I get to shake his hand today.     

So what do I get out of it?

See, I am a production DBA.   Well, I manage a small Production DBA team.  When I say small, it really is only one other DBA in my team so I still get to do all the dirty fun stuff us DBA have to do.    I’m not a consultant.   I do, however, want to be a Rockstar DBA and an expert within my own company.   Brent Ozar cover this very topic on one of his post here and Free-Con today gave me more ammo to achieve that.   One of the most important thing that I take home from it was  how to communicate like a consultant to the business as a production DBA.   Since I have no desire to be a consultant (at least right now), I need to be able to apply everything I learned today from the presentation and the discussion within the audience to my role and for me, that’s my missing piece of puzzle.  

Let me ask you something.   How many of you ever be in the situation that you were so frustated because you know what was the root cause of some major issue you had, but when you presented that to the business and made recommendation, they totally dismissed it.   The business went ahead and hire a consultant, an expert,  and they came back with the very same recommendation you have.    Sound familiar now?

I am very fortunate that my employer by far is the most awesome employer I ever have.   They supported me in any way that most of production DBA out there will drool and they actually respected me like I am an expert.   However, I’m still far from it and I still need a whole lot of learning  but I believe that I’m in the right track to get there.     I know what more I need to do such as  building my brand and be able to project everything that I do around that brand including how to communicate to the business owner within my company.   I need to do more product review or white paper, to promote myself  within my own employer, more than I already have.    

This present a huge challenge for me that I am happily accepting and looking forward to it.     Thank you, Brent, for letting me to be part of it.    It’s score 10 on my awesome scale, and yes, they are 1-10 scale.

 

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Inside SQL Immersion

With only one weekend in between, I came from attending SQL Cruise to another high-level SQL training.   Yes, you read right.   I went back-to-back technical training.   SQL Immersion was a one-week, high-level, in-depth SQL Training by the most respected SQL Professionals in the community, Paul Randal | @PaulRandal and Kimberly Tripp | @KimberlyLTripp

No, this training is not on any moving boat or has margaritas in between sessions (although, Paul and Kim bought the first round of happy hour on our first day) and there’s no ocean view in our window either.   This is the training that is structured in a certain way that you WILL have a better understanding on how SQL Server works from the inside out that can help you make a better decision on design, maintenance and general best practices.

Day 1 – the agenda was SQL Server Internals, which covered Database Structures, Logging/Recovery, Index Internals and Data Types.   Paul started the morning by diving straight to the overview of records, pages, extents, allocation bitmaps, IAM chains and allocations units.   Yes.  Sounds pretty intimidating.  I felt that way when I glanced over my training materials, but when Paul started to explain to us in great detail, a certain light bulb started to turn on.   The objectives of this module (quoted from the training module book) are to gain a lot of understanding on how data is stored, accessed and optimized at all levels because those are the key when architecting a system so that it will perform well and be more easily maintained.   Moving on from database structures, we dive into logging, recovery and log file maintenance.   For me personally, it was very interesting to learn on how the transaction log works.   It explained a lot of things when you understand how it works internally and it really will give me more tools in terms of knowledge to do my job better.  

After the afternoon break, Kimberly started her module and we went straight to Index Internals.   Wow.  If I can only choose one word to describe this topic, that would be it.   We learned more about how the index structure works internally, the difference between clustered and non-clustered in-depth and how are those created inside the pages.   Again, very in-depth session about the other part of the SQL Internals, which in this case, how the indexes works within SQL Server.  Bottom line – I found it very useful and very informative and I know that I will look my tables and indexes differently now and when I am involved on a project during the design phase, this knowledge will be handy to have.

Both Paul and Kimberly are a co-author for this book SQL Server 2008 Internals that covers a lot on what we talked about in module 1-4.   If you don’t have it yet, I suggested you to get one and start going through it. Kimberly even has a whole code for chapter-6post on her blog that has MORE than the book itself and it’s fantabulous!   I spent a couple hours the other day just to play around with the sample code

Day 2 and 3  – the agenda was Designing for Performance and Indexing for Performance.   We talked about choosing the right data type, table partitioning strategies, data access and indexing strategies.  To be honest, this is actually my favorite topic.   No, not because it’s sexy (Paul actually called this topic that.. haha), but it’s such an incredibly attractive subject for me.   I LOVE performance tuning and can’t seem to get enough learning and knowledge about it.   Whenever I tune a query, I end up learning something new.   Kimberly has an incredible in-depth knowledge about this topic and she’s a very interactive presenter.   We went through many demos, tips and tricks and better understanding of what to do to have optimal performance when it comes to design and indexes.   Oh, we had a surprise lecture from Brent Ozar | @BrentO about virtualization at the end of day 2.    We learned details about virtualization, what to ask to our sysadmin, what we need to be aware of, etc.   It was so awesome to see Brent again after SQL Cruise!

Day 4 – the agenda was supposed to be Database Maintenance but we spent 2/3 of the day still on the Indexing strategies topic.    Paul took over after the afternoon break and we started a discussion about the data file maintenance modules.   As a production DBA, this modules (as well as the other modules on database maintenance topics) are SO incredibly useful.   Paul also talked in-depth about the physical layout of the data files, the allocation algorithms, instant initialization and the inside-out of tempdb.  Last but not least, his favorite subject – shrink or to not shrink.   For those of you that still question this part, I suggested to read a whole series about this topic on Paul’s blog and understand the implications about these ‘features’.  

Day 5 – Database Maintenance, Part 2.   We talked about index maintenance, backup/restore, and consistency checking.   It is, again, very interesting to not just learn about this topic, but actually to see the demo of it.   It’s one thing to just ‘know’ the theory, but it’s another thing when you actually see that theory in action.   Paul demonstrated what happened with corrupted database and what we should do to prevent that from happening AND some cool tips and tricks on fixing them when you are one of unlucky enough to have one.

Overall, it was a LONG week and I was exhausted by the end of it.   The name of this training explain it all.   You WILL be immersed with SQL Server, from inside out.   I walked out from this class with more knowledge that I can imagine to have within this short period of time and I know this knowledge will help me tremendously to be a better DBA.

If you have a chance to choose one training a year, my advise, choose SQL Immersion and forego other training for that year.   The 5-days you spend with Paul and Kim will give you SO much more than ANY other training around.   Yes, you won’t get as much as the social-networking aspect as SQL Pass or SQL Cruise - but you get Paul and Kimberly’s insight on the topic that we all love.   SQL Server.   I think that itself, explain everything.

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