MCM Day 0: No More Cramming

Tomorrow is the first day of school.

I wasn’t all that fond of school, if I’m honest.  My most vivid recollection of high school is that I constantly forgot my locker combination.  I kept having to go to the office for them to remind me, and it got so bad that the secretary knew my combination by heart.  My memories of college consist of playing MUDs and writing English papers about how Metallica songs were a reflection of the Odyssey.  I’d tell you about my memories of the time I tried to go back to college, but I don’t really remember it.  I remember having an accounting class, never opening the book, and getting an A anyway because I’d already done that stuff in the real world by that point.

My home for the next 3 weeks
My home for the next 3 weeks

I didn’t like school because I wasn’t all that challenged, but that definitely isn’t the problem this time.  I’m completely positive I’ll be the least qualified, least experienced guy in the room.  It’s not that I think I’m stupid – I’m pretty darned quick, and I can figure things out with the best of ’em – but this isn’t the kind of place stupid people go.  Between the fees, airfare, hotel, meals, studying, and 3 weeks of downtime, it costs tens of thousands of dollars to get here.  I’m not a big fish in a small pond here – typical MCM rotations have 10-20 students.  I’ve corresponded with two of ’em, a production DBA at Microsoft, and an outsider who’s paying his own way.  I can’t imagine how nervous I’d be if I was forking out the money myself.  I keep thanking my lucky stars that I’m privileged to work for Quest Software and that they’re picking up the tab.  My coworkers say that they believe in me, but I warned ’em that I’ll be calling them in about a week, asking them to remind me how smart I am and how much they believe in me, heh.

I took last week off to finish my preparations – read the last of the prerequisite reading list, get to Inbox Zero, and take care of some tasks around the house.  I also wanted to ease my coworkers into what it’d be like to not have me around for a few weeks.  While I do like to say I have a fake job, I do still have a lot of people who depend on me, and I want this process to go as easy as possible for them.  With that in mind, I set my Out-of-Office reply to be:

I’m out of the office until April 5th attending Microsoft Certified Master training.  I won’t be responding to emails during this time due to the intensive nature of the training.  When I return, I’ll be deleting all of my emails, so if there’s something you still need from me upon my return, please let me know after April 5th.  I know this sounds hardcore, but during the first week of my absence there were already questions about which emails I still needed to address versus which ones were solved elsewhere, so this makes everything easier for all of us.

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For SQL Server questions, you can get very fast help at for DBA questions and for developer questions.

As Andy Leonard says, “For emergencies, please call 911, then leave me an email.  I’d love to read about it when I get back.”

Thanks, and wish me luck!

My office for the next 3 weeks - Microsoft Building 40
My office for the next 3 weeks - Microsoft Building 40

I had to add that deleting-all-emails stuff in that first paragraph after a few days because I was already starting to get a disturbing number of emails that said, “I got your message, but whenever you get back…”  People were taking the Out-of-Office message as an automatic acceptance of whatever tasks they wanted to send my way – computer questions, webcasts, meetings, etc – and the delete-all-emails puts the burden back on them.  No, that’s not something everybody can pull off, but I live by just saying no, and it’s gotten me this far.

I stocked up on cash because the food vendors on the Microsoft campus don’t take credit cards.  That seemed a little odd to me, so I asked a few of my Microsoft buddies.  Turns out there’s several reasons why you have to pay cash for your lunch:

  • Steve Ballmer insists on making a big show at lunchtime.  “Can anybody here break a $10,000 bill?  Anybody?  Damn, guess I’ll have to eat what Connie packed.  Beluga caviar AGAIN?”
  • They used to take credit cards, but the portable payment devices ran on Windows Mobile 6.  The cafeteria staff kept quitting in frustration.
  • Due to the recession, none of the employees have good enough credit to get cards.
  • The campus is run entirely on Microsoft technologies, and SQL Server isn’t secure enough yet for credit card numbers.
  • Microsoft’s cafeterias are actually a giant money-laundering operation for the mob.  Their biggest cash cow isn’t Office, if you get my drift.

I’m not entirely sure which one I believe, but there you have it.

Alright, no more funny business – time to get serious, because I’m starting class on the Ides of March.

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