What Changed Our Career Trajectories?

SQL Server
Jeremiah has coffee at the PASS Summit

We’re a group of specialists and teachers here at Brent Ozar Unlimited. But we didn’t start that way– we started out as engineers and developers.

So what was it that changed our career trajectories? For each of us, we had a lot of smaller factors along the way, but there have been one or two big game changers that have really made a difference.

Jeremiah: The PASS Summit

The first time I went to the PASS Summit, I attended at my own expense and used up half of my vacation time to attend. I’d been involved in the SQL Server community for a few short months, and I had been chatting via email with a goofy DBA named Brent Ozar.

Brent and I both attended pre-conference sessions, but we were in different ones. It happened that our speakers took breaks at same time, and I ended up running into Brent over on one of the breaks. We chatted and ended up eating lunch together.

I’m a shy person and a big conference can be daunting when you don’t know anybody, so I ended up tagging along with Brent throughout a lot of the conference. The upside of hanging out with Brent is that he’ll talk to anybody – speakers, Microsoft employees, or random attendees. The PASS Summit was my gateway into both the SQL Server community – I made a lot of friends that week – and into my current career.The connections I made at the PASS Summit that year planted the seeds for the rest of my career.

Kendra: Twitter

Someone helped me discover the typo and find it.
Kendra’s first tweet. #SQLHELP didn’t exist yet.

I never would have guessed that Twitter would change my life. And I’ve never been passionate or crazy about Twitter – I think it’s useful, but if I go a day or two without using it, I don’t mind.

But Twitter is the way that I started connecting to the larger SQL Server community. I started following people, then following their friends, and started tweeting about SQL Server. I asked and answered questions. Twitter gave me a sense of what other SQL Server developers and DBAs cared about, what problems they faced, and what they were interested in.

I’m a pretty naturally shy person, and I never knew what to talk to people about at conferences and events when I first met them. Twitter has helped me solve that problem: you can sense the mood of a conference while you’re there. You can tweet about it. You can talk about the tweets with people!

To get started with Twitter, check out our free eBook.

Jes: SQL Saturday

Jes at SQLSaturday Chicago
Jes at SQLSaturday Chicago

Specifically SQL Saturday Chicago 2010 – my first! I’d been attending my “local” user group for a few months, I’d been reading blogs, I was participating in forums, and I was even on Twitter before I went to this event. I knew I loved working with SQL Server, and I knew there were people that could help me when I had questions. But getting to attend an event – for free, nonetheless! – and getting to meet these people was amazing.

I remember attending a session by Brad McGeehee, who’d written “Brad’s Sure DBA Checklist”, which I kept in a binder at my desk. I remember getting to watch Chuck Heinzelman and Michael Steineke set up a cluster and test it. I even went to a session by one Brent Ozar about a script called sp_Blitz. At the end of the day, with a full brain, I went to the lobby and saw a group of the presenters sitting around chatting. I bravely approached and joined the circle, which included Brent and Jeremiah, and chatted with them. Had I not attended that event, had I not made the connections I did, I doubt I would be where I am in my career today!

Look for a SQL Saturday near you!


Dinner with Vikings
Doug as his true viking self

I’d recently presented at my first two SQL Saturdays when the opportunity came to go on SQL Cruise. A contest that for some cosmic reason I felt was begging me to enter — send in your story of victory with SQL Server and win a free spot on the cruise. I made a video about refactoring bad code with a magical hammer, and won the contest. But that was just the beginning.

During the cruise, I:

  • Had a dream about a murder mystery happening on the cruise, which led me to write and present my SQL Server Murder Mystery Hour session.
  • Got some phenomenal career advice from people like Brent, Tim Ford, and Buck Woody, that is still helping me to this day.
  • Became friends with the three people who ended up hiring me three years later for the best job I have ever had.

That’s my career adventure. What will yours be?

Brent: Meeting “Real” DBAs

In My Native Habitat
The DBAs told Brent this hat would make his code better.

I was a lead developer at a growing software business and I felt like I had no idea what was going on inside the database. Our company suddenly grew large enough to hire two “real” database people – Charaka and V. They were both incredibly friendly, fun, and helpful.

I was hooked. Who were these cool people? Where did they come from? How did they learn to do this stuff?

They both took time out of their busy jobs to answer whatever questions I had, and they never made me feel stupid. They loved sharing their knowledge. They weren’t paranoid about me taking their jobs or stealing their secrets – and looking back, they probably just wanted me to be a better developer.

They insisted that sure, I had what it took to be a database admin. I went for it, and it’s been a rocket ship ever since.

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4 Comments. Leave new

  • Love reading articles from you folks.

    My story? Like most of you guys I’m sure, I started off in Law Enforcement as a Correctional Officer 😉

    Good fortune knocked on my door, and here I am 16 years later as a Principal / Sr. SQL Server DBA for a great company.

    This site has been unbelievably useful and helpful for me throughout the years, hopefully one day I’ll be able to share a beer with you all.

    Eternal thanks 🙂

  • Just want to throw in another endorsement for the transformative power of attending conferences. I went to my first SQLSaturday last fall and was so happy to finally find people that care about the same things I care about (failing jobs, growing tlogs, performance) and that there are so many resources out there for us.
    Thanks for sharing your stories. It helps to realize that all gurus were newbies once.

  • I loved reading this article, as I love other articles from this site. But this one is special. To get to know the people I look up to and where they started is interesting. Thanks for sharing your stories. Hope to meet you someday at PASS!


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