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Performance tuning is a weird art to learn, because you do it in public. Sure, you may puzzle over a technical problem at your desk or revise code on your own– but when it comes to really tuning hard problems, 99% of the time you’re doing it with other people. That’s the nature of real performance tuning.

Just like learning to dance, it can be awkward to get into performance tuning. What if you miss something obvious? What if the idea you suggest is totally stupid? What if you try to do things that are, frankly, impossible?

You’re worried that they’re all gonna laugh at you.

Everyone has these fears at first. If you keep at it, you’ll get through it.

Stage 1 – The Kid’s Recital: Everyone starts out here. You’ve read some blog posts, you’ve done a little practicing, and now when things get tough, you say, “Hey, what about this!?!?”

People can tell that you’re a little new at this, and maybe you’re a little overeager, but you probably make up for it in excitement. Don’t get stage fright. You know that sometimes people don’t think you’re a total pro, but you’ve got to just keep practicing and getting out there and performing. Go out there and try to do your thing.

You secret power at this stage: Listen to other people. Learn from them as much as you can.

Stage 2 – The Rebecca Black: Eventually, you learn to sing a song that’s pretty catchy. You find a few ways to make something blazing faster. People start to listen to you more and more, and they come to you to ask your opinion more often.

At this stage you just know a few tricks, but they seem powerful. You feel like “This stuff wasn’t so hard! I know everything I need to know!”

The rush is blissful, but usually brief. Suddenly you’re rushing into trouble and trying to tackle too much alone. It turns out that you really know a few tricks, and soon enough you start to make mistakes. Hopefully, it humbles you. (If it doesn’t, well, bad news. Nobody’s gonna wanna work with you if you get stuck in this phase.)

You wonder if you’ll ever be more than a one-hit-wonder.

Stage 3 – The True Karaoke Star: If you keep at it, you’ll get comfortable, and you’ll learn to embrace what you don’t know. You’re used to solving performance problems. You’ve got not just one or two tricks in your bag, but many different techniques, and you know their limits. You’ve got good sources to go to, and you love to question your assumptions.

More importantly, you’ve made it to that golden place where you’re no longer embarrassed, but you’re not over-confident, either. You have your voice and you also listen to people. You don’t panic at the first sign of trouble, and you also know that the show doesn’t have to be all about you– other people can get on stage, too.

Sometimes it Takes a While. Finding the right job and lifestyle where you can grow and learn is the hard part. That probably won’t fall into your lap. It’s OK. Everyone has to start somewhere– and for some of us it takes volunteering, working nights, or taking risks on our career to try something new.

Whichever way you get there, don’t get discouraged. You can be a rock star, too.

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  1. Stage 4: Collaboration

    As your skills increase, and your comfort level expands, you’re going to find yourself working with like-minded professionals. Just like David Bowie and Queen, Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett, and Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder: the day will come when you’ll get a chance to share your performance tuning expertise with others and at the same time, learn new skills from them. It brings you to a whole new level.

    Stage 5: Collaboration

  2. Pingback: (SFTW) SQL Server Links 23/08/13 • John Sansom

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