2011 in one word: AWESOME

I have read a lot of posts lately that talk about accomplishment or things you didn’t do last year, or even summaries about the whole year, and they were all interesting to read.   Those blogs really made me play the 2011 year in my head.   You know, like those old movie projectors (remember those?  before the HD video out of youtube? I don’t personally, but I have seen old movies that reference them…)

Anyway, I’m going to just list those here.   Both.  Things I did, and I didn’t do and hope that I can be better this year.  Better on things I did, and actually accomplish things that I didn’t.

Without further ado, here goes, in no specific order:

  •  Be more active, physically

Back in March when my health were improved, I made a vow to be more active, physically.   I started to hike more, and more and visit the gym more.   I gained more energy and actually able to chase my kiddos around.  I think I accomplished a lot on this front.  Note to self for this year is to be more active with my kiddos.   I want to engage them on different sports and the freedom for them to try variety of them.

  • Lost weight

As a result of being active, I dropped 28lbs pound.   Yes people, I actually weigh 28lbs heavier last year.   There.  I said it out loud.   Note to self for this year is to maintain them, which I believe is as hard as losing them.

  • Summit Mt. Rainier

I love the mountain.  I absolutely love it.  I love to be in the mountain.   Mt. Rainier hold a special place in my heart, not only because it absolutely gorgeous, but because I stood on it’s summit on August 2005.   Since then, I have many challenges in my life, health related and I always want to go back.   I tried, and gave it all, and more but I didn’t make it to the summit.   Note to self for this year is to try it again.   It’s the journey to get there that completely awesome.   Well, to be able to stand on its summit again won’t hurt either.

  • Half-Marathon

After the climb, I was dare challenged by Karen Lopez (t) to also run a half-marathon.   Looking back, I wasn’t sure why I actually agreed to this because running was never been my thing.   I actually tried NOT to do any run on my cardiovascular activity.  I did pretty much any cardio, other than running.    Long story short, I agreed.   Then I had to open my mouth and tell the whole internet my twitter friends and even blog them, so now I have public accountability to actually do it.   I finished upright and smiling.   It was the best dare challenge.   I fell in love with running and even want to do it more, hence the next bullet point

  • Run More

This is one of the goal that I made after I accomplished one.   Inspired by my half-marathon, I want to do more.  I want to run more so I decided to register myself to a full marathon.   Even though as I write this, I haven’t complete the race yet, I think I can proudly say that I did run more on 2011 than the rest of the previous years combine.  310 miles in 4 months.   I’m patting myself in the back with a cheek-to-cheek smile right now.  Note to self for this year is to run even more.  I am three days away from my first marathon.   That will put this year in a great start

  • Healthy lifestyle

While are at on the fitness theme, one of the thing that I accomplished last year is also have a healthy lifestyle.   That included the choice of food that I eat.  Late night donut binge is no longer in the agenda (occasionally cupcakes are okay).    I didn’t feel we accomplished a lot as we still ate out quite a bit, so note to self for this year is to cook more at home (Yes, I’m talking to you, John)   I am at fault on this more than anything because well, it took an effort to actually do this.   I can come up with ‘I’m tired after all day of work and climb/marathon training’ excuse but I’m not the only working mother out there.   So let just say, I’m going to be better this year.

  • Raising awareness about charity and fundraising

There are a few charities that have a special place in my heart and this year I did four different fundraising for them.   I was shameless and persistent and never hesitate to educate others about the organization that I believed in.   Some of my friends have no ideas on things they do.   I think I did an awesome job this year.   Total I raised on four different fundraising event were over $20,000.00 which was unbelievable.   I am surrounded by very, very generous friends and colleagues.  I even inspired others to start their first own fundraising for the charities they believe it and they did absolutely awesome!

  • Attend Technical Conferences and Training

Last year, I attended SQL Skills Immersion Performance Tuning Class, SQL Cruise Alaska, SQL Saturday Vancouver, SQL Saturday Olympia, SQL Saturday Chicago, SQL Saturday Portland and SQL PASS.   This list actually surpassed my expectation for technical conferences and training for a year.   I learned tremendously, made absolutely valuable professional contact, fabulous friends and really hit a jackpot with the combination of all.  This year, I want to even do more.   I don’t have a list yet, but I have a few SQL Saturday in mind on top of SQL PASS and another Immersion training.

  • Write More

When I was at SQL Saturday Chicago, I attended pre-conference hosted by Brent Ozar (t).  Since then, my blog went to a complete make-over and I vowed to write more.   Well, I kinda failed on this part.   I didn’t write a lot on the technical/technology front.   In fact, I was seriously lacking on this area.   I did, however, write more on my training, both before the climb and half-marathon (and now my marathon).   Those were more ‘notes’ for myself and I didn’t think anybody actually read them.  Note to myself for next year is to have more technical/technology content on my blog rather than just blabbering about my training

  • Presenting

Yeah.  Totally failed on this one.   Other than being on the panel for WIT Luncheon at SQL PASS, which I was still in awe that I was asked to sit on that panel next to others that I respect so much, I did not submit any abstract to any event.   A complete blow on this one.   I’m not so happy with myself on this end, but am making an effort, a lot effort to actually do it this year, not just talk about it.   Watch me community, I’ll be speaking (somewhere) this year.   There.  I open my big mouth again, now you can hold me accountable on this.

  • Be a mentor

I always considered myself to be a good teacher.  I have patience (yes, yes I know – some of you probably raised your eyebrow) when I shared my knowledge.   Early last year, I was asked to be a mentor to a group of young women in Indonesia.    I did a few talk with them remotely and they have full access to me for questions about technology, career, IT, etc.    It took me a while to made them comfortable to talk to me but I am proud to say that these young smart women are no longer in the dark when it comes to technology industry.   They have the awareness on what they can do and live up to their potential.  The hope is they will have enough confidence to go after their dream.   Note to self about this topic, I want to do the same locally here.   I have a few career day talk (almost) scheduled for this year at my neighborhood school district.   Just as Kendra Little (t) said during one of the WIT talk — We need smart people in this industry.  And women is as smart as men, and there are absolutely no reason why they shouldn’t be crowding the technology field.

  • Get a “board of director”

During SQL Cruise last summer, Buck Woody (t) told each one of the attendee to get a board of directors.   A group of people that you trusts, the one that you are going to consult and go to and help you made the good decision for your career.   Without naming names, I managed to get a bunch of great people to be my board of directors.  You know who you are, thank you from the bottom of my heart.    Note to self for this year is to sit on someone’s board of director and help them with their career.   Paying it forward

  • Read 12 books, and review them

I failed.   I did not read 12 books in 2011.   Let alone review them.   I did read 5 though but didn’t even write a review.   Note to self for this year is to actually write the review for the books I read and make an effort to read one book a month.

  • Never miss my children’s play/performance

Work-Life balance is absolutely important to me.  I am fortunate that my employer is very supportive with it and believe of the work-life balance.   I’m proud to say that I did not miss any of my kiddos play/performance last year and able to attend every one of their school events.   Note to self this year is to maintain that and to volunteer on their school to help out with an event.    Just one.  One event for a year shouldn’t be that hard, right?

  • Build at least one Lego set

I hate to even say it that I did not build any Lego set last year.   Yes.  365 days and not one set build.   I owned a lot of Lego Set.  Too many to count and some of them are still sealed and never open.   I absolutely love Lego and want to actually open those boxes and build something this year.

  • Call my grandmother at least every other week

My grandma is getting older.   I need to call and talk to her more often.   I have not been back to Jakarta, Indonesia since 1997 and that is a long time not to see your grandmother.   I need to communicate with her more.   I need to introduce her to Google hangout or Skype so she’s able to see my children.   Internet should shorten out the distance between me and her and I failed to do so

  • Meeting and (blasting) all my goals at work

I’m not going to list my work goals here, but I can proudly said that I met every single one of them, and more.   Note to self this year is to challenge myself more at work.   To think more outside the box and do everything that I can to ensure my team member will get what they need to be successful.   I want to be one of those ‘I wish my manager is like that’ kind of person.

There.   I could go on and on, but I think that’s a good list.   Here’s to a great start of 2012 and hope for a continuous success.


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!


Another Awesome Tools in my Toolbox


My Toolbox

No, this is not your everyday tools and your normal toolbox.   These awesome tools came from a week long training with SQL Skills on their Performance Tuning week.   I learned new shiny techniques to troubleshoot performance issues, different ways to look at problems and new approaches on how to prevent problems before they even become one.    These tools are extremely important to have in my toolbox and an awesome addition to the ones I have.   Soon, I might need a bigger toolbox!

I’m not going to go over each day on what we covered in this post.   Erin Stellato (b | t) and Klaus Aschenbrenner (b | t) did a wonderful job to recap day-to-day summaries on their blogs, however, I want to summarize my experience and hopefully encourage others to attend this event whenever you can (and no, I’m not getting any cut for writing this) and to give my perspective to other managers out there if you are not sure which training you need to send your direct reports and what kind of ROI you can expect from an investment like this.

The Instructors

Let me start by talking about the instructors.   Paul Randal (b | t), Kimberly Tripp (b | t) and Jonathan Kehayias (b | t) are very knowledgeable and each have a different areas of expertise.   When you attend SQL Skills training (I have attended two of them so far. You can read my experience from last year here), you are not just getting the valuable material, but you are getting that from three different experts.   They often talked about the same subject, but from different perspectives and used different analogies which I think it’s very unique and extremely valuable for the attendee.  It is like hearing a story from three different people, each tells it slightly different based on their perspective, audience, and experience.  Combined, you learn more than if you had only received the story from a single source.  They are all very interactive and passionate about the subjects that they were talking about and it somewhat contagious!

The Material

We were learning a lot of in-depth topics and each of the modules has clear objectives on what the student is going to get.   Unlike an hour or two presentations at some technical conferences, you are getting 8 hours of training material every day for 5 days.  You are learning about the ins and outs of certain subjects and you get various demo scripts that written by the instructor team, and can be use to against your environment (another set of awesome tools for your toolbox.)   You will get a clear understanding about how the internals of SQL Server works and how to utilize all the bells and whistles that come with it, and I’m not talking about some pretty wizard.   I’m talking about some undocumented function and command that you can use to see or identify certain things.   How awesome is that!  It is like having a personal SQL concierge take you one a personal back stage tour of what is under the hood in your database server.

The Attendees

Here’s what most of the manager didn’t see.   In the last two rounds of the training from SQL Skills that I experienced, we had 30 plus attendees from all over the world that have all kinds of background.   During the training, you developed a relationship with the other attendees, some more than others and exchange stories about the challenges, environments and even solutions.   Certain challenges that you are experiencing today, might be yesterday’s problem for others and they have found the solutions and sharing the stories during break or lunch (or happy hour) might give you the solutions you need for your challenges today.   In summary, being in the same room with over 30 intellectual people who want to learn about the same thing and work in the same area, is another valuable aspect of this training.

The Perks

Yes, there’s perks.  Last week, we had Robert Davis (b | t) and Connor Cunningham (b) stopped by and gave a little talk.   Robert Davis is a Program Manager for SQL MCM program and Connor Cunningham is the Architect for the Query Processor team at SQL Server Division.   We get to learn more about MCM Program and ask questions about that program and we get to hear some inside story from one of the people who wrote the code behind SQL Server Query Processor.   These two gentlemen are wicked smart and to be in the same room with them and hear their story always an a great experience on its own.

So, for the managers out there – here’s my message to you.   If you are sending your people to SQL Skills training, I can almost guarantee that your staff will have a great tools that they can use right away when they come back.   It’s not some tool that you have to sharpen or make it shiny first, but the knowledge they gain can be immediately used. You should expect your attendees to return able to either identify the pain-point of your challenges or preventing future challenges.  They will have a great understanding on how the internals of SQL Server work and variety of techniques and resources available to gather the information and creating baselines for performance improvement of your system or recognizing potential problems.    Not only that, your staff will have direct access to the instructors to ask questions for your specific problem during class and even have them look at it for you!   I think that alone is already worth the investment!

As for me, I have pages of notes that I need to go through, and when I get the demo scripts next week, I already have plans on things I want to look at based on those scripts that I know will help me identify our current challenges.   On top of that, I have a whole lab of virtual machines that they distributed during the class for further learning.   I’m excited.   I am always hungry for a new knowledge and I love to learn and I think I will always learning something new even on a subject that I think I already know.


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!


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


Secret to be a successful DBA


When you just start your career as a DBA, there’s a few things that I think are very fundamental to have so you can be a successful one.   This goes for pretty much every profession actually, but I’m focusing this post for DBAs, because, well, that’s what I’ve been doing in the last ten plus years.   I’m not talking about mastering T-SQL or being a PowerShell Guru or even knowing about SQL and Index Internals here, no I’m talking about basic, fundamental skills that will make you become a successful DBA.   Don’t get me wrong, those other skills will make you very successful (and are critical to get you through an interview or two) but there are some skills that are overlooked and can put you ahead of the competition.

1.  Know how to ask the right question

I mentioned this on yesterday MemeMonday post.    How many times have you heard your customer say ‘the web site/program abc is slow‘ ? One of the fundamental troubleshooting skill is the elimination process.  You need to be able to ask the right question to eliminate the area that is not the problem so you isolate the real issue.  Done well, and you may find out the problem isn’t even the SQL box, but that is a different post.

2.  Know where to get help

You don’t know everything about SQL Server.  I don’t think anybody does.  SQL Server is a huuuuge product that has many components in it and there will be a moment that you will face a challenge.  To know where to get help is one of the most important skills to have.   Sure, there’s tons of books out there and internet full with information but knowing where to get the help that you need is important.    One of the most helpful ways is to leveraging twitter #sqlhelp hashtag.   Brent Ozar (Blog | Twitter) have a whole section about Twitter here to get you started and he blogged about how to use the hashtag here.

3.  Know how to communicate to your customer

It never gets old, but you hear it all the time about the DBA versus Developer battle.    My developer is driving me crazy.   My developer is giving me attitude.  I can go on and on.  Having worked the other side of the fence in my past, I know the Developers have the same versions of the conversation about the DBA.    Well, let me start by saying as a DBA – your developer IS your customer. Sometimes an extra effort on your part by ensuring the good relationship between DBA and your customer can take you an extra mile.

4.  Status Report.  Top 3 things

Weekly one-on-one’s with your manager are important.   You need to solicit feedback and get some help to prioritize your tasks.  On top of that, what I personally find is very useful is to have a short status report.  I called it my Top 3 Things.   It contains the top three things that I did for the week before, top three things that I didn’t get to do, and the top three things that I want to do for the next week. For me, it’s extremely useful to keep me on track on the things that I have on my plate and to keep my manager informed on what I am doing, and things that I didn’t get to do because other things took precedence.   And those things come so handy during review time!

5.  Free Training – Teach Yourself!

There’s so many resources available to you, free.  Now, you have to actually make the time to get those information and utilize those free resources.   For those who are lucky enough that your company has a budget to send you to cool training like SQL Cruise, SQL PASS or SQL Immersion – congratulations, but there are many of us that can only live vicariously through twitter during those events.   My suggestion to you, make the time to train yourself.   Block a time on your calendar to read blog post or watch some webcast daily. If you can’t block a whole hour, block a half hour.  However you can manage your time within your 8 hour day, but make the time.   If there’s SQL Saturday within your driving distance, pack your car for a road trip and make the time to attend.   Those are free resources for you to advance yourself.   It’s yours to grab, but you have to come and get it.

These “secrets” are a small sample of what is out there.  Invest in your career, and your career will reward you.