How I Became Employee #2

Company News

Let’s get this out of the way: I’m every bit as surprised as you are that I’m going to work for Brent Ozar Unlimited®. Two months ago, I would not have believed it.

I saw the blog post, just as you did. And I dismissed it. I believed because it wasn’t a BI job, I wasn’t the right person for it. I told my wife, “That’s a great job, but not for me.” Then a funny thing happened. She said, “If it’s so great, go ahead and apply for it.”

At that moment, my thinking changed from “Why bother?” to…


I went back and re-read the blog post. I read over exactly what Kendra was asking for. I noticed there was nothing — nothing — about being a DBA. I read last year’s blog post for Employee #1 and saw it was markedly different. Employee #1 had to be a DBA; Employee #2 could be anyone.

I contemplated what working for them would be like. I’d travel infrequently and work from home. I’d get to do training work. I’d get to make videos (right in my wheelhouse; I went to college to be a screenwriter). I’d learn a metric ton about SQL Server from incredibly sharp and experienced people. (In a sense, I also was picking all my co-workers — four people I enjoy spending time with.) In short, they’d pay me to do what I already love doing and I’m doing for free. As if I needed further proof, I found a note I’d written to myself over a year ago that listed my dream job attributes.

One by one, I went down the list. One by one, they matched.

Time to get to work.


It was the perfect scenario. I love making videos and here I was applying to a company that (among other things) makes videos. Naturally, the only way I could possibly express interest in this job was a video. I got my hands on a trial version of Adobe Premiere, searched my mental movie library for funny clips to use, and 18 hours later I sent in the finished video. In a bit of subliminal sleight-of-hand, I titled it, “‘So You’re Hiring’ Doug Lane”.

Once I’d sent that in, I got to work positioning myself for the best possible shot at my dream job. I wanted to know what their customer experience was like, so I bought and completed Kendra’s DBA Job Interview Question and Answer Kit (I know! Too perfect!). I watched sample videos from Brent, Jeremiah, and Jes. I read the supplemental PDFs that go with the videos. I downloaded and ran sp_Blitz® on a couple of my own VMs. I wanted to be able to offer feedback on as many products as I could. I wanted them to know that I cared about their business.


I’d never interviewed with people I knew ahead of time, let alone people I considered friends. I wasn’t quite sure how to behave. I was trying to toe the line between casual banter and serious discussion. I figured I’d let them set the tone for what was appropriate. Fortunately, Brent, Kendra, and Jeremiah all put me at ease, and I simply stopped worrying about it after a while.

I thought I only really botched one question: “When was the last time you caused a production outage?” Now, I’ve brought down a production box through pure idiocy more times than I can count, but I’ve never brought my entire company to its knees. That’s how I interpreted the question and thus answered, “I don’t think I’ve ever done that.” YEAH, RIGHT. I did go back and clarify that later on, but still felt like an doofus on that one.

After the interview, I sent them a quick thank-you e-mail restating what I thought they were looking for and how I was a good fit, as well as a couple of changes I’d suggested for sp_Blitz®.


The tech interview was more challenging. In the first two minutes of poking around Brent’s VM, I had somehow destroyed it. I couldn’t right-click in Kendra’s VM so I had to ask her to do it. Every time. It didn’t help that the lighting in my house was terrible; I looked like one of those “Meth: NOT EVEN ONCE” poster guys on my webcam and it bugged the hell out of me.

I was slow to recognize certain symptoms, but ultimately found the problem. I told myself the whole interview was just okay, and didn’t feel too good about my chances. When Kendra asked, “How do you think you did?” my stomach filled with dread.


An hour later, I got another meeting request from the group. I couldn’t tell if it was to immediately disqualify me or to make an offer. I couldn’t resist screaming with joy when I found out.

And here we are.


It seems odd to make such a sharp career turn from BI to the database engine. In truth, this has been a long time coming. My favorite SQL Server BI product, Reporting Services, hasn’t had a major update since 2008. More and more BI functionality is ending up in Excel or SharePoint: two places I’m not all that interested in following. Plus, the DAX/Tabular/Power Everything revolution meant I was going to have to start over learning a new BI language, new model, and new tools. My heart just isn’t in that — not as much as I’d need it to be to continue down that path.

At the same time, I’m looking forward to contributing what BI knowledge I have that’s still valid and useful (one benefit of SSRS’s slow pace) to Brent Ozar Unlimited®. I expect Jes and I will put our heads together for some SSRS fun in the days to come.


Last year, I hit a wall…hard. I was overworked at work. I wasn’t doing anything fun or interesting with SQL Server. I plateaued as a speaker, doing my same stock SSRS talk for every presentation. I wasn’t blogging much. I got very sick right before the PASS Summit and had a miserable time there. 2012 was awful. I couldn’t wait for 2013 to arrive.

This year has been a different story. I got three new presentations off the ground, including a murder mystery session I’ve had percolating for two years. I presented to over 300 people on Reporting Services at the PASS Summit last month. And of course, I’ve somehow talked the very nice people sketched all over this site into hiring me. Even just two months ago, I never would have thought that was possible.

I was listening to Billy Joel (I love Billy Joel) at my desk a couple of weeks ago and in one of those transcendent moments where life compels you to pay attention, I stopped working and just listened to what I was hearing:

I survived all those long lonely days
When it seemed I did not have a friend
‘Cause all I needed was a little faith
So I could catch my breath and face the world again

Don’t forget your second wind
Sooner or later you’ll feel that momentum kick in

I leaned back in my chair and fought back tears, unsuccessfully. My second wind had come.

I can’t wait to see where it carries me.

Previous Post
The Road to Employee #3: The Interview
Next Post
What You Can (and Can’t) Do With Filtered Indexes

28 Comments. Leave new

  • Congrats Doug. Well deserved.
    Great first post. I remember last year at SQL Saturday in Madison when you had a malfunction but everyone was talking about how you killed it by whiteboarding the session … that says a lot

  • Congrats Doug, looking forward to learning from you as I do from Brent, Kendra, Jes, and Jeremiah. Good luck with the new team!

  • Congratulations, Doug. You are an excellent fit. Look forward to learning from you as you leave from them.


  • Congrats Doug, You are part of a great team and looking forward to meet and talk to you sometime !

  • Todd Kleinhans
    November 8, 2013 2:29 pm

    Truth is stranger than fiction. Loved hearing about the highest of highs and lowest of lows- we all need to be ready for that second wind. And like kitesurfing, you’d be amazed how fast the right wind can pull you places- even up to the top of a mountain. Can’t wait to see what the Ozarians will do in 2014- I know you will help them to keep it real and keep it fun!

  • Doug, congratulations on the new job! Hopefully it makes you happy.
    What makes me write this comment is your hint about the dead-ended-ness of the BI. Maybe you are right; Microsoft has had quite some lousy years in quite a few aspects and especially when it comes to strategies and innovations. This is true. But if BI is half-dead, then administration is definitely not in a better shape.
    There is nothing who knows how exciting that has happened in SQL Server administration in the past few years, and the future does not seem too bright either. Maybe there are a few features worth paying for SQL Server licenses, but around here companies are trying to be more careful about expenses and are getting pickier and pickier about technology choices.
    The only real reasons why SQL Server is really worth the licensing costs are: the flexible concurrency and ACIDity, the parallelism and the Hash matching in memory. If the open source projects figure these ones out, the SQL Server era will be history.
    Anyway, I was at the SQL Rally Nordic the other day and absolutely nothing interesting happened, except for a Machanic / Kejser session on hacking your way through the silliness of the Query Optimizer. It still makes me think, though, how come MS has not figured out the Optimizer yet. Oracle is ahead on that one, for all I know. (Brent’s session was plain silly – what I don’t understand is ‘why travel half the world to present a 101 session to half-asleep people who are better than that anyway’).
    I felt bad for Kalen as well – presenting on Hekaton seemed tedious and the product itself seemed to be half-finished and I can see how it takes another few years before it becomes usable to some extent. I was going to ask “how come Hekaton is appearing only now and did not come up 5 years ago as part of SQL Server” but felt bad and I just left.
    Let me finish my rant with the following: I tend to think that the BI area is relatively the most stable and in demand part of the MS SQL Server related products, just because it is relatively cheap for the parallelism and hash matching boost in performance and its scalability. And if it wasn’t for the decent concurrency options, the relational db part would be on the way out quite soon too.

    Anyway, I did apply for this job as well, even though I knew very well that it will never happen (for various reasons), but I did ask Kendra a few times ‘what the long term plan of the company was’, as I was bearing in mind back then the thoughts I just spilled out here. I hope you got a better answer to this question than I did. (Personally, I always ask potential employers this question, and tend to not consider them if they are not serious about answering it).

    Good luck.


    • Thanks, Feodor. I don’t mean to suggest that BI is a dead end. What I mean is, the tools Microsoft offers for BI are changing in a way that interests me less. I think BI is still in its early years, with enormous potential both in adoption and innovation. While it’s true that Microsoft hasn’t been a leader in areas like mobile BI, they’re getting there slowly. I just think at this point, I would rather invest my time learning the database engine than DAX and Excel/SharePoint reporting. Abandoning BI is not my advice to BI professionals in general.

  • Congrats Doug,

    I see the Brent Ozar team as my on-line mentors and always read their posts (twice).

    BTW we will be moving our operational type reporting away from Crystal Enterprise over to SSRS due to more being cost effective (SSRS is free!) and more “off the shelve” products are incoporting SSRS reporting so we need to consolidate our systems as money is tight. With strategic reporting (higher level) we are using a product called “Qlikview”.

    Anyway once again congratulations from us DBA & SQL folk from Australia.

  • I’m very happy for you! This is the type of positive thing that keeps people starting off like me wanting to write, work on presentations and give back to the community. You seem to have a wonderful sense of humor and like a great fit. Congratulations!

  • Congrats Doug.

  • Congrats! I am so happy to have a kindred spirit in the group and look forward to watching your transition. I am finding myself in the same place with BI. I will be watching how you cope with it to help me learn. You are going to do awesome!

    • Thanks, Andrea! I’m hoping I don’t miss BI too much. I finished building a cube today and it was a little sad knowing I may not build another one for a long time, or ever again. Having said that, the months and years to come are going to be quite a ride.

  • Congrats Doug! Though, I think you should have kept the Obi Wan Kanobi look! 🙂 Wishing you much success! -Amy

  • Hey Doug, congratulations on the job!
    I enjoyed your video, it was a nice work.

    Please tell that HR intern of yours that he forgot to update the team page ( :D.

    Have a good day!

    • Thanks, Marian! I won’t be starting until December 9, so the team page will get updated sometime after that, I suspect.

  • Congrats and good luck Doug! Now we’ll have to start calling the Brent Ozar team the Fantastic Five which works great because the Fantastic Four is already taken apparently 🙂

    I’m looking forward to learning from you during the Tuesday Triage and of course through the blog. Wishing you all many years of success.

  • Mohammed Moinudheen
    November 18, 2013 9:30 pm

    Congrats Doug. Wish you all the best. Looking forward to learn from you 🙂


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.