On my trip to DC this week, I ran across a couple of Nintendo Wiis in stock at Target. For those of you who don’t follow video games, the Nintendo Wii is a notoriously hard-to-find game system. It’s been out for months, but you still can’t walk into a store and just buy one. Prospective customers learn through the grapevine when new shipments of Wiis will be delivered at local stores, and then patiently wait outside before the store opens in the hope that they’ll snag one. Some are bought just to make a profit – people resell them on Craigslist for $0-$200 more than their $250 sticker price.
The Wii’s selling point is the motion-sensing remote control. When playing the baseball game that comes with the Wii, you don’t push a series of buttons to swing when the baseball comes at you. Instead, you simply hold the remote control like a bat, and swing it. The better your swing, the better you hit the ball inside the game. Same with tennis: hold the controller like a tennis racket and put topspin on the ball, and presto, the virtual ball spins. It’s pretty impressive, and it’s playable by young and old alike. As long as you can wave the controller around, you can play.
This simple, intuitive control system makes the Wii a smash hit at parties. Anybody can grab the controller and play tennis, baseball, golf, whatever. No skills required. I’ve been wanting to throw myself a welcome-to-Houston party to get back in touch with our Texas friends, and I thought the Wii would be a great icebreaker. I’m not into video games – I haven’t owned a console in years – but when I saw the Wii in stock, I had to get it.
Then I started thinking – why not take it to Emily’s house and show it to her 4-year-old stepson? When we arrived, he had a friend over, and his friend recognized the Wii with wide eyes. They got all excited, and I had a great time watching them jumping around the living room swinging at virtual baseballs, swinging virtual golf clubs, and rolling virtual bowling balls. The other kid’s mom came over and went, “Wow, you have a Wii? How’d you get it?” She’d been dying to get one for her three kids.
It took me back to my childhood when one of our neighbors, Foster Cuthoff, had the coolest video game system on the block. We’d all go over to his basement and play Contra for hours and hours. Everybody thought it was so cool, and we would get all antsy over who would play next.
And then it happened. My feeble mind connected the dots, and I realized I’m the wrong owner for that Wii. It made so much more sense for Em to have it. I’d only dabble with it every now and then at parties, because to me games aren’t really any fun unless they’re shared. So, I gave it to Em. Her stepson was so excited that Em says he’s still going around saying how much he loves me.
Awesome. If that’s not success, I don’t know what is. Granted, I didn’t save anybody’s life or anything, but it’s a hell of a good feeling.
My blog has been quiet the last few days because I’ve been in Washington DC visiting my Mom and my sister Emily. I wanted to sneak in a quick visit between jobs. I took the opportunity to redo both of their wireless networks and achieved a 0% success rate – I had to get two new wireless routers for different reasons. As a reuslt, I haven’t had much connectivity, so no blogs for you.
Today, I’m flying to California to start work at Quest. I’ve got my laptop cellular card all rigged up, got my camera charged up, and got my game face on. Expect mucho bloggo.
I have a new job, and lemme just tell you, it feels like my whole career has prepared me for this one.
I spent several years at UniFocus, a hospitality software company that relied on SQL Server. I honed my SQL skills, but probably more importantly, I managed a small team of programmers. I worked with executives to find out what they wanted to build, and then I turned those visions into reality with the help of a fantastic team. I worked under tight budget and time constraints, and I knew firsthand the importance of getting software shipped in the best shape possible.
During that time, I became more and more interested in the art of industrial design. I love beautiful software and hardware, especially things that make my job as easy as possible. I bought a microwave that only had two buttons (add a minute and stop) simply because it had such an elegant user interface. When Erika and I visited New York City, the first museum I wanted to see was the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. I really appreciate the art of good design, and working for a software company, I tried to implement good visual and workflow design wherever possible. I wanted to build stuff that people could use without a manual, stuff that would make people say, “Of course, how else could it possibly work?”
After UniFocus, I moved to Southern Wine & Spirits, a seven billion dollar wholesale & distribution company. I faced the database challenges of a large enterprise like dealing with armies of consultants, planning for disaster recovery, multi-terabyte data warehouse maintenance, implementing storage area networks and building whole infrastructures from the ground up. After Southern, I felt perfectly comfortable saying I was a Senior DBA, and not just because I’ve got some gray hair.
In the last few years, I’ve been mesmerized by the concept of building online communities since I started beta testing Flock in 2005. Flock didn’t just have a great design that I could appreciate, it also had this buzz, this exciting feeling, and their company employees actively participated in jump-starting their online community. This was the first time I’d seen a company fervently tending to their users, building and nurturing relationships in a way that worked with the Internet’s strong points. I “got it” in a way I can’t explain, and I was so interested that I continue to follow some of the Flock community creators to this day, like Tara Hunt, Chris Messina and Will Pate, and they’ve gone on to do all kinds of exciting things.
On May 1st, I’ll leverage my SQL knowledge, my software business experience, my love of design and my community fetish when I start as a database domain expert for Quest Software.
I’m tasked with staying very technical, knowing SQL Server inside and out, knowing how Quest’s products fit in, helping to improve products and sharing my knowledge with the community.
I certainly have my work cut out for me: SQL Server expands in new directions with every release, and Quest has a big product line to fill SQL’s gaps. I’m a real believer in Quest’s ability to make a DBA more productive, more reliable and frankly, more valuable to their employer, and I haven’t even used half of their SQL Server products yet.
And probably my favorite responsibility is helping to support the SQL Server community. From the moment I got involved with Quest as a customer, they’ve proven to me time and again that they’re serious about nurturing the SQL Server community, helping their customers, and sharing the wealth of knowledge. I’m proud to be in a position where I’ll be able to contribute more to that community and represent a company that really believes in it. Just look at the list of Quest Experts like Kevin Kline and Bert Scalzo, and you can see why I’d be honored to going to work at Quest.
Working with a great line of SQL Server products, building communities around them, and interacting with impressive people – I truly have my own personal dream job.
Kinda makes you wanna break into song….
The new Caroline Collective space is bringing coworking to Houston, and if my job hunt works out the way I hope this week, I’ll be one of the anchor tenants.
People who telecommute can feel isolated without the fun personal interaction with creative, dynamic people. Coworking aims to solve that by offering desks and offices to people who would otherwise be parking their laptops at coffeeshops. I’m heartbroken since my favorite downtown coffeeshop, Kaveh Kanes, closed while I was living in Miami Beach, but it looks like the Caroline Collective will more than take its place.
I’ve already driven over to the building and checked it out from outside, but I’m excited to get over there this week and see the layout. I’m jumping right in to grab one of the offices because I do a lot of conference calls, and I’ll probably want to stash a couple of servers over there. Plus I just wanna decorate my office with a giant Penny Arcade mural.
Readers, I’ve heard your cries. You loved the job I did moderating the SQL Server 2008 webcast, and you’re dying to hear more of my sweet voice.
I’ve got great news: I’ll be doing another webcast with Quest this week. This one’s on rebuilding indexes in SQL Server.
It’s an episode of Quest’s Pain of the Week series, which presents a topic from two angles. First, I’ll talk about the difficulties of defragging indexes the normal way, and there are certainly plenty of challenges for me to discuss. Then, Quest will show how it’s easier with their tools.
The bad news – no webcams on this one. Sorry, ladies.
Joe Webb gave a presentation on “Tips & tricks for writing better queries” for the Nashville PASS chapter, and it’s a great read. Developers and DBAs should all read this for a clear, concise refresher.
A video of the presentation would be even better, but for the most part, the slide deck speaks for itself. Every bullet point is well-thought out – for example, “Be mindful of widely varying parameter inputs” – it doesn’t really explain why, but believe me – he’s right. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.
I’ve followed Amazon Web Services since its unveiling because I saw it as a really disruptive service that enabled startups to get off the ground for much less capital.
- “Dynamic webserving, with full support of common web technologies” – for now, the only language they support is Python.
- “Persistent storage (powered by Bigtable and GFS with queries, sorting, and transactions)”- Amazon came out of the gate without the querying, sorting and transactions, and it hurt them initially. Web apps need databases, period. I don’t just say that because I’m a DBA, I say that because I’ve also written (crappy) web apps. Google’s Bigtable is obviously proven, since they use it for web indexing, but there could be a learning curve for new developers.
- “Automatic scaling and load balancing” – to me, this is one of the two biggest feature advantages Google has over Amazon. Amazon’s EC2 will scale, but it’s manually done, and third party companies have built solutions just to handle the scaling & load balancing. This is the expensive part of building a .com – the infrastructure.
- “Google APIs for authenticating users and sending email” – whoa. Sure, this is cool from a developer perspective, but think about it from a business perspective. New web apps built on the Google App Engine will most likely use Google’s authentications, and at that point, people will be logging into the web app with Google usernames & passwords. That means Google suddenly has deep hooks into every new web app, because the web app’s authors will be very reluctant to move their apps elsewhere. The move would suddenly be obvious, because end users would have to log in with different usernames/passwords. Presto, lock-in. Brilliant move on Google’s part because they can say they’re just offering a service, and you don’t HAVE to use it. Everybody will, and everybody will hope their awesome App Engine web app gets bought out by Google.
- “Fully featured local development environment”
Humina humina humina – that’s a lot of power in five bullet points.
Amazon still has advantages because they’re more of a virtualization service provider than a shared web host provider. With Amazon EC2, the developer can run servers around the clock with running processes, whereas the Google App Engine specifies that:
“Application code only runs in response to a web request, and must return response data within a few seconds. A request handler cannot spawn a sub-process or execute code after the response has been sent.”
That’s probably due to their automatic scaling and load balancing stuff – they spin up web apps on demand, and they don’t want to leave the web server running for hours on a bunch of different boxes. Amazon has an edge here because developers can use background processes to churn through data or do queue-based stuff. Speaking of queues, Amazon has more features than just EC2: they have Mechanical Turk, Simple Queueing Service, and now their Fulfillment Service. They’re doing a lot more than just web hosting.
Building a pure web app? Use Google App Engine. Building a business with lots of moving parts? Amazon Web Services still probably makes more sense. Either way, it’s such an exciting time to be a developer.
The cost on all this: free for sites that host up to around 5 million page views per month. Free. Frrrrree. It rolls off the tongue.
Don’t forget – because frankly, we both know you’re not all that good at time management, especially since you spend all your time reading blogs – there’s a good SQL Server 2008 webcast coming up on Wednesday.
I’ll be the moderator, and I’ll be lucky enough to pick these very large brains:
- Kevin Kline – this guy’s written more SQL Server books than I’ve read, and I read a lot. He’s a former PASS President and a Microsoft MVP.
- Hilary Cotter – author of a book on SQL replication. He’s a Microsoft MVP who specializes in replication and text mining.
- Geoff Hiten – author of the blog “With CLUE as (Select * from Random_Thought ORDER BY Common_Sense DESC)“. He’s a Microsoft MVP who focuses on high performance and high availability.
I’ve seen the topics we’re covering, and it’s going to be good. We’ll be talking about policy-based management, the auditing & compliance features, datatype changes, LINQ, the resource governor, the performance data collection, and a rapid-fire group of questions where I’m going to get their gut reactions. It’s going to be hot, baby, and I’m not just saying that because I’ve seen Kevin Kline on his personal webcam. Woohoo!
You can register for the SQL Server 2008 webcast here.
When interviewing for a database administrator position, ask the manager for a list of database servers, the applications that rely on them, and who to contact when the server goes down.
(The manager may express concern about the secure nature of the list, and that’s fair – I would say the same thing. If they don’t want to hand over the list, then just ask them to put their hands on it and answer the rest of the questions for you.)
Count the number of servers. How many servers are missing contact names? Ask if the contact names are up-to-date. What’s the SLA for each server, and is it product, development or DR?
If there’s no document and the managers act as if creating something like this would require a Herculean amount of effort, then be aware that the new DBA will have no idea what she’s managing, what the expectations are for the job, or who to call when things break.
Ask if this list can be created by existing staff members before the start date. Managers might say that this list sounds like a good thing for the DBA to create when she starts, but the DBA won’t have the contacts, resources or knowledge to build the list. Danger! Danger! Secretarial work lies ahead!
An out-of-date list isn’t surprising if there hasn’t been much DBA turnover for a while.
A nonexistent list isn’t surprising either – but it’s a warning sign for the future DBA.
More DBA Career Articles
- Moving from Help Desk to DBA – a reader asked how to do it, and I gave a few ways to get started.
- Development DBA or Production DBA? – job duties are different for these two DBA roles. Developers become one kind of DBA, and network administrators or sysadmins become a different kind. I explain why.
- Recommended Books for DBAs – the books that should be on your shopping list.
- Ask for a List of Servers – DBA candidates need to ask as many questions as they answer during the interview.
- Are you a Junior or Senior DBA? – Sometimes it’s hard to tell, but I explain how to gauge DBA experience by the size of databases you’ve worked with.
- So You Wanna Be a Rock & Roll Star – Part 1 and Part 2 – wanna know what it takes to have “SQL Server Expert” on your business card? I explain.
- Becoming a DBA – my list of articles about database administration as a career.
A few weeks ago, I took a position at JPMorgan Chase as a SQL Server database administrator.
Today, I turned in my resignation, and my last day will be Friday the 18th.
I hate doing that. I reeeeeeally hate doing that. That is so not like me. I’m cringing at the thought of putting a one-month job stint on my resume, because that looks so shady. I’ll probably just leave it off altogether.
I look at this as a personal failure. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t fail at doing the job – quite the contrary – but I failed at asking enough questions during the interview process. Sounds crazy, especially for a guy who writes blog posts about interview questions, but that’s life.
In failure, we can succeed if we learn lessons. I learned a lot about more questions to ask, and I’ll definitely post those here.
We’ll start with a simple one: don’t accept a job position without getting a tour of the work space.