SQL Server DBA Interview: Kendal Van Dyke


Kendal Van Dyke is a Senior SQL Server DBA from Florida, and he’s been blogging since last year.  He’s syndicated at SQLServerPedia, and his recent series on RAID performance is a must-read.  I’ve talked back and forth with him a lot lately, and I figured I’d try something new: a virtual interview.  I emailed Kendal a list of questions, and here’s how it went down:

Kendal Van Dyke
Kendal Van Dyke

Brent: I think I recognize your avatar because you fragged me last night.  What made you decide to use your Xbox avatar as your online persona?

When I started getting really active in the online SQL community I didn’t have a decent headshot so I just used my avatar since I had already made one for XBox Live. It unintentionally turned into something recognizable since I used it everywhere. One of these days I really do need to take a good headshot though. I don’t think my avatar will be taken seriously by the PASS abstract selection committee, unless of course they think I really am a 6 foot tall cartoon.

Brent: I can tell by reading your series on RAID performance that you put a ton of work into it.  How many hours did the whole thing take, start to finish?

I didn’t keep track, to be honest! The testing was spread out over two months, with maybe 4-5 hours per week put into pushing buttons and rebuilding drives in different configurations. The hardest part was writing up the results. I put at least 4 hours of writing into each part of the series. All in all I probably put at least 50 hours into it, if not more. I’ve got more things in store that I hope to publish soon, too.

Brent: Blogging, when you do it right, is a part time job – if not a full time job.  It’s also the worst-paying job I’ve ever had, hahaha.  Why do you do it?

I gave a presentation at the first SQL Saturday in Orlando two years ago. As nerve racking as it was, I found that I really enjoyed sharing what I knew and I came to realize that I had more things to share that other people might be able to learn from. I also realized that there were a lot of one-off things that I wanted to document somewhere in case I ever ran into them again, and a blog seemed like the best way to kill two birds with one stone. I’ve had comments on some of my posts thanking me for helping solve a problem and that alone makes it worth it for me. It certainly isn’t for the money! haha

Brent: You got started blogging on your own web site.  If you’re trying to reach the most number of people, why do you blog on your own, instead of, say, using a popular group blogging site, writing magazine articles or writing books?

Bruce Campbell did a terrific commercial for Old Spice about experience that sums this up nicely. Although sites like SQL Server Central allow open submissions for articles, my impression is that writing for a magazine or a book – or even blogging on the bigger sites – is by invitation only. You don’t get an invitation unless people know who you are so you’ve got to build up your reputation somehow. Some people do that by answering forum posts. Others build up their social networks. I choose blogging and I ended up on Blogger because it was free, easy to get started, and I could figure out what to write about (and how) without any pressure. Now that I’ve got a year of experience I think I’ve gotten to the point where I can do those other things. Ironically, I don’t know that I want to blog on the bigger sites anymore – I worked hard to build up a personal brand and I don’t know that I’m ready to give up the control that I have over my own look and feel that having my own blog affords me. Instead, my next move is to take content that I would normally put on my blog, start publishing it in articles, and reference my blog if readers want to read more from me. That way I can maximize reach while still retaining the identity I built for myself. It’s a win-win for me. As for books, perhaps one day I’ll have gained enough recognition to be offered the chance to write something, but that’s still a long way out.

Brent: If you could give new bloggers any tips about the experience and how to get started, what would you say?

I’d start by reading your series on how to start a technical blog (I wish you had done that series before I got started, it would have really helped me!). Be patient because it’s going to take time to build a subscriber base and generate regular traffic. Having a pillar post really helps too. Before I wrote my disk performance series I was getting 10-12 visitors a day and now I’m over 100 per day just for that series. Also, don’t be afraid to ask other bloggers for feedback and help. I’ve found the blogging community to be very open when I’ve asked for advice.

Brent: You’re on Twitter as @SQLDBA.  How’d you find out about Twitter, and what made you start using it?

I’d heard bits and pieces about Twitter from news sites, blogs, etc, but I never paid much attention to it until the 2008 PASS summit. I didn’t get to go to the summit but I subscribed to the RSS feed for #sqlpass and got a kick out of what everyone was tweeting. That prompted me to sign up for an account and now I’m hooked!

Brent: The call to speakers is out for the PASS Summit in Seattle, and I know you’ve done some speaking.  Are you submitting any sessions this year?  I wanna encourage you since my favorite sessions always involve storage, heh.

Absolutely! One of my goals this year it to attend PASS as a speaker. And yes, the disk performance stuff will definitely be one of my abstracts. I haven’t submitted anything yet but when I do I’ll post the details on my blog.

Brent: Sounds good, looking forward to it!  Readers: swing by Kendal’s blog and check it out.

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