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!


SQL Family in Action

ER Nurse:  “Who are those people on your laptop?   They are on video”
Me: “They are my family.  My SQL Family”

Earlier today, I fainted, tripped on the stairs, fell and sprained my ankle.   Being 10 days away from my marathon, I didn’t want to take any chance and want the ankle to get looked at (on top of the excruciating pain I experienced), so off to the ER we went.     We got there around 9:30am and pretty much in the exam room within 5 minutes, had 3 nurses around me.

Long story short, they wanted to make sure everything is in the up and up so on top of the foot xray, they ordered EKG and put a line on my arm so they can take blood and IV (if I needed one).   That really put me in a grouchy mood.   I have a race in 10 days and I was worry.   I need some company.   So I open my laptop and started Google Hangout and tweeted to others to join me and keep me company (Yes, I brought laptop to the ER, along with my iPad and my phone.  They have fabulous Wifi there, btw )

Before long, I have Karen Lopez (b|t), Rob Drysdale (b|t), Erin Stellato {b|t), Tamera Clark (b|t)  on the hangout!  We were all talking and laughing until the ER doctor came back with my xray result.   She started to show me the imaging and told me the medical term on what was going on, and pointed on the imaging on the same shaddy area that I have no idea what it was — that I fractured my ankle.   I got really quiet.   I was almost afraid to ask about the race, as I don’t really want to know the answer — but she went ahead and said it.   That the race is out of the question.   I started to feel my body shaken up, and my tear fell on my cheeks.   She went on and on about the detail, but I pretty much stop caring or even listen to her.   I broke down in tears.   Everybody got quiet.   I cried more.

When the doctor left the room, I looked at my laptop and I saw a handful concern faces.   I felt a huge comfort from this group of people almost immediately.   Then I realized that Tom LaRock (b|t) had joined the hangout while I was talking to the doctor.  He probably wondered what kind of hangout he entered, as I was on the hospital gown and probably cried my heart out!   I usually looked waaaay prettier on the hangout, Tom!  Thank you taking the time from your day for that!   We all chatted for a while, some of them even consult with Dr. Google as they heard the ER doctor talked to me (love technology!).

Allright – you probably ask what is so special about the whole thing right about now.

I’m telling you what.   These group of people – they are my professional peer.   They are not the friends I grew up, or my blood family.  We know each other because we have the same passion about the same technology and in this community, the SQL community, we took it to the next level.   We are not just ‘peer’.   We are family.   We helped each other in so many ways.   Today, a handful member of this community were there for me when I was told that I might not be able to run the marathon that I’ve been training for 4 months.   They were there when I broke down in tears, devastated and angry.    Yes, they were virtually there via my laptop – but they were there with me.   They took the time from their busy day, on this h0liday season to login to Google Hangout and be with me.

Now, THAT is what so special about it.

Since then, I’ve gotten many tweets, facebook message, emails, and texts from many of them, filled with encouraging message and prayer.   It really made my day.   I might not be able to run THIS race, but I have so many people that believe in me that I will get my 26.2 medal somehow.   If it’s not THIS race, it will be another one very soon.   Suddenly, things are not so sucks anymore.   It still is, but somehow, I managed to smiled, laughed and giggled.

Thank you.   For being there for me.   For being such an awesome bunch.


Meme Monday: #SQLFamily

Family-guy onion work


Thomas LaRock (t) assignment for Meme Monday November is about SQL Family.   When I saw the topic, I knew that I had to jump on the bandwagon and write something about this because this topic holds a dear place in my heart.

As most of you already know, I have had some health challenges in the past few years.   Earlier last year, I was starting to get more involved in the SQL community.  I joined Twitter and started to get to know people in the community, both virtually and in person.    I was amazed at how generous people in this community are with their time on helping others and sharing their knowledge!   I got hooked with #sqlhelp hash tag where I can pick a lot of smart peoples brains whenever I stumbled into a challenge and the highlight for me, was during summer 2010, when I attended the maiden voyage of SQL Cruise.    Not only did I learn a lot from that event, I made some really great friendships with some of the attendees.

Shortly after the cruise, my health faced a new challenge and I had to undergo three weeks of hell difficult procedures. The support I received from this community was completely above and beyond any expectations.   I had constant emails, tweets and messages from many of people in the community that lifted my spirit, gave me hope, and helped me through some tough times.   They sent me jokes to cheer up my day, made me laugh and some of them (you know who you are) sent a broadcast of prayer requests on my behalf.   Please note – I never met some of these people, and some of them, I only met them once in person!

Earlier this year, I was blessed with good news in my health and I decided that I wanted to go back to my mountain.   I had a new goal and started to train for it.   I mentioned my goal of summiting Mt Rainier on Twitter and the support I had from the SQL community, again, was completely awesome and a little unexpected.   On the rough day that I just didn’t feel like doing my work out or hike, I had countless encouraging messages, tweets and even phone calls from people on this community!   They (again) lifted my spirit!   The day of my climb, I had so many people monitor my progress.   I carried a GPS that transmited my location on the mountain and marked the map so people can see where I was.   It was completely overwhelming the support that this community, this family gave me.

Then there’s my wedding.   I had special table (the Denali table) just for my SQL People during our reception.   Some of them flew across the country just to attend our wedding!  I was honored, and touched.

Then there’s Portland Half-Marathon.   I wrote a post on its own about this here and Karen Lopez (t) wrote a beautiful recap here.    It’s beautiful.   It’s awesome.  It’s very real.

To summarize — this community, this SQL community is more than just a community for me.  They are my extended family.   They are there for me, not just during a good times, but through my challenging times.  Not just when I can’t figure out which index is slowing down the site, but when I am struggling to live life.  I love these people.

Thank you.   Thank you for being such an awesome bunch.


I’m a Big (SQL) Sister!

Big Brother/Sister

I have recently joined the Orientation Committee for SQL PASS Summit 2011 and become a ‘big sister’ f0r eight first-timer attendees.    This is one of many ways of mine to give back to this awesome community that we have.   I have many big brother/sister in the community that help me tremendously even with their busy schedule and I am excited about the opportunity to give back.

This program launched last year and I heard a lot of great stories about it.  I wasn’t able to participate last year since I wasn’t attending the conference myself, even though I attended ‘after-session’ events and was able to be around most of my ‘SQL friends’ and put face to their twitter-handles.    When I saw the invitation to join the OC, I immediately sent them an email and expressed my interest.

This year would be my 4th year of attending SQL PASS and I wanted to help all the first-timer attendees out there to get more than just the sessions during PASS.    I work only a couple blocks away from the convention center in downtown Seattle and know my way around and been living here since 2002.    On top of that, I’m in twitter quite often and know (virtually) and personally a lot of cool kids awesome SQL peeps and in most cases, know where the after-sessions events are going to be.

If you are a first-timer, I strongly recommend you to join this program.   Send an email to newcomer@sqlpass.org and they will assign you to one of the ‘big brother/sister’ to show you around or give you the insight on what’s going on.    Never underestimate the value of the networking with other SQL Professional and after-sessions events are the best way to do that.

If you are attending the summit this year, and this is not your first time – please consider to join the Orientation Committee and send an email to OC_DL@sqlpass.org.   You might think it’s not going to make a difference, but it is.   Arnie Rowland (b | t) has a great post about it and uses an awesome analogy for it.

What’s Next

Well, I have sent my first email to my group and got a reply from almost all of them.  I get to learn who they are, where are they coming from and what they do for living.    I will send another email in a week or two, and share some information, events as I know them as well as giving them tips for places to see/go (even though in most cases – I always start with sharing Kendra Little (b | t) awesome post about Seattle 101 – thank you, Kendra!), what to bring, and answering any other questions they have.   In a way – I’m their personal concierge for this SQL PASS Summit.

It’s an awesome program and I’m excited to be in it!


#SQLHike – SQL Fun before Portland SQL Saturday

Karen Lopez (blog | twitter) started this event throwing an idea of having a bunch of SQL peeps to run a half-marathon together (or walk it) at Portland Marathon on Sunday October 9, 2011, which is a day after SQL Saturday Portland.   I’m not a runner, even though somehow I was dared talked into registering to the event and I know it will be a lot of fun and we can just walk it.   It’s an 8 hours event, so just like Karen said – you can walk it, run it, take a nap, do a little shopping and still finish the course  🙂

Snow Lake Trail

Snow Lake - One of the famous trail around

That’s a weekend activity.  There is still the Monday prior to SQL PASS that has no activity prior to the conference itself if you are not attending the pre-conference, so being a local and avid outdoor enthusiast, as well as a hiker – I would like to propose… a SQL Hike!  Well, you can call it whatever you want, but I would love to organize a hike to a local trail that is not too far, not too strenuous and will have an awesome view.   We are very blessed here at Pacific Northwest since there’s gazillion trails around.   We can do a little walking, a little picnic at the top/end, have a good outdoor’sy Pacific Northwest Experience, a little bonding, good work out and a good beverages and food for post-hike ot the chosen-joint afterwards.

I know October it still way away, and I probably need to re-post this later, but want to just get an idea if this is something that you guys are interested.   If so, leave me a comment and I’ll start thinking about the trail and location.

October will be a FUN month!


Open Box DBA

Keyboard - golden key Success

Success is Key

There are some (maybe “alot”) of perceptions that DBA’s work in a silo, or a black box. There are a lot of folks that don’t really know what exactly we do, well, until something goes wrong that is.   Then, all of a sudden, we suddenly have the spotlight on us, and a big red X in our back.  But when we work hard to be proactive and make everything “just work” (that is really possible, you know) somehow others question what we really do on daily basis.  Yes, it is true, you have done your work, the systems will alert you before the customers call and things are so quiet, that the people around you can’t help but wonder, what does that DBA do?  Careful, because when that happens it isn’t far from: hey our numbers are down and we need to make some cuts.  That DBA, they don’t really do a lot, maybe we can afford to let them go…  it is true, it can happen just because you not only do your job, you do your job well. Well, only if you forget how to show your real value; the bonus they got when they hired you and might not have even known it.

Here are a few tips to make yourself, your team, more visible to others:

1.  Make an effort to know your customers and educate them about what you do.  Keep in mind, your customers may be more diverse than you realize at first.

Some of your obvious customers:  The folks that develop and/or install applications that use SQL servers; people that use (users) the applications that the developers have made that use SQL servers; and the members of the group that administer the core systems your SQL server runs on, including network and storage.

Some not so obvious or customer “joins”:  Your peers, your boss, your bosses boss, and anyone that knows someone/anyone in a category above that may also know your peers/boss/bosses boss.

Here’s one example.  If your DB team is involved in code reviews for the developer teams before production changes are made, especially if you have a go/no go influence, when you are sending your feedback, don’t just say – “this code is bad; go rewrite this.”  Instead, help your customer understand why you’re pushing back by making an effort to help educate them on your decision.   I know, they are developers, they are supposed to know how to write a good code but hey, they are probably under a deadline, just need to make something work, and had no idea the global impact of their individual change.  Given infinite resources and time, they could probably have written it better.  But just like you, they don’t have that luxury.  Instead, you have the opportunity to train and coach your developers by sharing your knowledge and experience.  Partner with them, the effort you make here will go a long way to show your value and as a bonus, the next time the developer is working on a similar project, they will already come to you with code you know is pretty good because you coached them. How you communicate your feedback to them and make your points also equally important.  You should not be afraid to share with them your sources including sending them a blog post or including an example on how to write said query/code.   If you give them enough information to take action on and learn from without boiling the ocean by telling them to go read a book, they will see you as a huge value as opposed to being pain-in-the-you-know-what DBA who like to just criticize their work.  Time you invest in your developers here will reward you in the future and paint you as a positive DBA.  Don’t be surprised if you try this and they first are suspicious (to cover for their shock) and then transition to acceptance and finally will start coming to you for advice.  Talk about value!

2.  Automate your repeatable processes.  Document and publish them in the place that others can access easily.

Ok, automating the repeatable processes is pretty straightforward (right?)  But once you have automated it, document it.  First so you don’t have to reinvent it when it comes up again, but as equally important, to share with others.  If you document something that your going to share with others, you will probably do it a little different (better?) than you would if your were writing notes to yourself.  And since your writing this to benefit someone else, it makes sense to put it someplace where your audience can find it.  That blog your so proud of probably is easily findable and that is a good thing, right?

Here is one example.  Say you have QA or Development environments that need data from your production environment.   You probably hear this quite often, especially if a new project is spooling up or reaching a milestone (hint, hint) ‘can you refresh my environment with prod data please?’ Because this was happening a lot, you had taken the time to exercise your crafty PowerShell or T-SQL magic and built a script that you could do this for you.  You tweaked it, tuned it, and were actually impressed by your own ability to make it work really well.  Every chance you got for a performance improvement or more automation, you took it.

Heck, it was your baby and you probably bragged about it in-between SQL Saturday sessions about how you made the thing scrub production data so only test data was transferred, the logins we synchronized and mapped to the appropriate test accounts, there was error checking and alerting built in if anything went awry.  Wow, you even realized that by running this auto-magic process, you were validating and testing you production backup, copy, restore process all while supporting the QA or Developer teams.  On the surface, your customer loves you because they have fresh data to test for every iteration they may ever need, on demand, when they need it. Maybe they can even do it themselves with the push of a button and you just get the report and put a check mark in your SarBox list that back-ups have been tested. You lean back in your chair, with a satisfied look on your face, knowing that you really are that good.

Hey, hey, before you put your feet up on the desk and wait for you nomination to the IT choice awards, your not done yet.  Why?  Because only YOU know what you did and how good it really is, no matter how many bragging sidebars you win at PASS, your not helping yourself unless your customers know what you did.  Before your feet approach the top of your desk, take the time to document what you did with the intention of showing people, who may not be as good as you, what it takes.  Your scripts and paths to them are good things, but they are not the only things.  Some of the folks that benefit from your work and what you did to make it happen are more inclined to understand a flow chart or diagram of your processes.  English may be widely spoken, but pictures still are more universally accepted and understood.  Simple flowcharts are an amazing communications mechanism to help other understand what it is that you really built for them and how it works.  Show of, but don’t became too enamored by your own work, let someone else do that for you.  Keep in mind that you should publish them on the place that your customer can access, like your team SharePoint page (if you have any), or just a simple document that you distribute that among your team and your customers.  Be open to going through it and ideas, comment, and even criticism, from those that view it.   In the end, the learning you gain and the doors that it opens will help ensure your known for not just building the button, but remembered for being open to and helping everyone understand what the button “is”.  Helping your customers know what you do is a good thing.

3.  Quarterly Report, before and after.

Before you are all thinking that I’m going bananas on you, please hear me out.   We DBA’s love performance tuning.   We like to keep making things perform better and faster, and if your shop is one of the shops that have a short iteration deployment cycle like, say, every two weeks – things are changing constantly.  This means, new code is introduced quite often and, if your data also changes a lot, you will have a never-ending performance-tuning task on your hands.   It’s fun and exciting but how do we make others see the difference?   Those 300,000 reads that now changed to 90 reads – how is that translate to the upper management?  They won’t see it the way you do, and this is why it’s important for you to do some sort of quarterly report.   Every beginning of quarter, capture a baseline of your database performance.   Erin Stellato (Blog | Twitter) has excellent resources and a strategy for how to use them here.  If you don’t have third party tools to build repository for you, I suggest you follow her suggestion and invest in building your own.   Then at the end of the next quarter, capture another baseline and so you have something to it compare with.  Bam!  You show improvement, well that is the goal, and even if you show the opposite, that can trigger actions for the next quarter with justification.  Oh, and maybe a review of the change management process, but that is a different story.  Oh, and some may think that creating a fancy graph is a waste of time, I would highly encourage you to spend to the time to learn how to turn your columns of data into a “fancy graph or pie chart.”  Why?  Take a look at an executives schedule in Outlook this week.  Do you see a lot of time open in there?  Probably not, it is far easier to quickly grasp what a graph or pie chart is trying to convey than it is to run through a laundry list of numbers and listen to you verbally explain what it means.  Again, the time you take to put a little extra effort in it will pay off.

Speak your customer’s language and you will not just be heard, you will be understood.  Speak techno gibberish to the wrong group, and you might as well offer to configure your execs VCR (iPad) while you’re at it.  It is an investment in yourself; just like reading this blog is an investment of your time in an effort to improve.  I hope that my sharing was worth your investment.

Make yourself, your team, visible; it will reward itself back to you, your career, and your customers