About two years ago, I made the leap from working as a production DBA to working as a SQL Server expert for Quest Software. When I tell someone what I do for a living, they usually have the same reaction: “Wow, you’ve got a really cool job.” It has its ups and downs, but it definitely beats being a production DBA, and I never would have thought I’d end up in a job like this.
Recently Tom LaRock (Blog – @SQLRockstar) made the same jump. He left a database management position and went to work for Confio. I’m proud of Tom because ever since I’ve known him, I’ve told him that he’d be great for a job like mine. He liked doing presentations, blog posts, and helping the community – so why not work towards getting a full time job doing that stuff? He set goals for himself, worked hard at building the right relationships, and next thing you know, he’s livin’ the dream too.
But I know what you’re thinking – jobs like this happen to other people. They happen to people with deep industry connections, people who get elected to the PASS Board, people who know the secret handshake. Companies don’t just go out and post a job description that says something like:
Engaging directly with technical professionals from Microsoft’s top 50 Global ISV partners. Travel is required.
Mentoring and training ISV Performance Engineering and Development staff to ensure quality technical adoption of SQL Server technologies
Developing training content for ISV partner Sales professionals.
Community championship – driving best practices through blogs, discussion forums and key conferences.
Engaging directly with customers of our ISV partners. This includes using our MTC assets to prove SQL capabilities and direct on location customer QA and problem solving.
Training System Integrators, ISV Technical Staff and key implementers.
This position is ideally based in Redmond and requires some domestic and international travel.
Dress Blog for the Job You Want
Career books remind us that we need to dress for the job we want. If we aim to be CIOs, then we need to come to work wearing a suit so that the executives see us in the right light. If we look like DBAs, then executives believe that’s our chosen route in life, and that’s the end of the line for us.
Today, there’s a new guideline: build the web presence for the job you want. The first impression is made long before you step foot in someone’s office. People search the web for you to check out whether you’re qualified. Ideally, they approach you for the job before you even know there’s a job available – both Tom and I got our positions by working directly with companies before they’d even posted a job, and I know other expert DBAs doing that same thing as we speak.
When you see a job posting like the Microsoft one, it’s too late to start building your brand online. You need to start now to invest in your future career. More and more companies are hiring for evangelist positions – not just big companies, but small ones too. Two or three years from now, I can’t imagine an IT company of any sort (hardware, software, or services) competing without a credible community champion. Lots of these positions will be open, and companies will fight over the (very) few visible people with strong online presences and a history of community involvement.
Start building your history today:
- Blog once per week
- Embrace IT communities on Twitter and Facebook
- Get involved in answering questions on #SQLhelp, StackOverflow, and ServerFault
- Do at least one user group presentation per quarter
- Think hard about my post “Rock Stars, Normal People, and You”
None of this is hard – it just takes free time – but trust me, it pays off. You never know when a job like this will become available, and when it does, you want to be ready to click “Apply.” It worked for me, it worked for Tom, and now it’s going to work for someone who reads that Microsoft job description.