Oct 12 2014

Navel Gazing

I love negative feedback. Well, not really. I love constructive feedback. I love the feedback that gives me things to think about. Am I presenting the right material? Am I presenting it in the right way? Can I improve? But, in order to get constructive feedback, people have to tell you that something you’re doing, or not doing, isn’t working. That’s frequently taken as negative feedback, but it isn’t. Let’s explore this.

If there’s a feedback form for a session. It says that 1 is bad, 5 is great and you put a 1, or 2, you didn’t like the session. But, if you don’t leave a comment, that’s just negative feedback. If the comment is something along the lines of “You suck.” That again is negative feedback. But, if you say something like “You suck because I don’t like the way you were trying to teach/you had too much humor/your delivery was too dry/your slides were uninformative/all your demos failed” Something. A reason. Then, that’s constructive feedback. The speaker can then evaluate if there is room for improvement in their craft in order to address the needs expressed.

I recently received some feedback from someone who was quite unhappy with my teaching style. Seems I asked the audience too many questions, trying to prompt them to guide me down the path that I was going to take anyway. This person felt that was taking up too much time and assumed a level of knowledge that the audience didn’t have. That’s great feedback. It is something that I do. Instead of just telling you each step I’m going to take, especially in a pre-con, I’ll ask the audience to supply information, but, it’s based on all the things I’ve already taught, so I’m not exactly springing it on people out of the blue. However, I can see where too much of that, too often, or too early, could cause people to not like it. Also, since people will suggest solutions that might not be accurate, they could feel embarrassment from that. Got it.

Thank you anonymous individual who took the time and trouble to tell me why they didn’t like the presentation. I will try to adjust what I do and how I do it based on this good constructive feedback.

Please, take this into consideration when you fill out these eval forms. Heck, if you loved a session, tell the presenter why so they can continue doing the good things.

Oct 09 2014

Speaker of the Month: October 2014

I saw a whole bunch of great sessions last month. I was all over the place from Las Vegas to San Diego and then Antwerp and Utrecht at Connections, two different SQL Saturday events and SQL Server Days. The speakers just seem to keep getting better, making this more difficult. But, I was privileged to see someone’s very first time presenting and he did a great job. My speaker of the month is Enrico van de Laar (LinkedIn, Twitter) and his session No More Waiting – An introduction to SQL Server Wait Statistics.

Let me say up front, I messed up his plans when he asks right at the start “Is there anyone here who doesn’t speak Dutch?” and I was the lonely hand going up in a room of about 70 or so people. But, he bravely soldiered on and gave the presentation in English. And it was a good presentation. He had very good slides. I especially loved the triangle that showed the relationships between the generic types of waits. It really summarized the topic extremely well. His delivery was extremely clear. He used Zoomit appropriately. The demo’s were well constructed and really showed off the points he was driving home. And I was impressed with his approaches. Baselining in order to “know what’s normal” is exactly how I put it. The solution to parallel execution isn’t MAXDOP, but the Cost Threshold. It was an excellent presentation and I loved it. Even more so when you consider it was his very first time presenting.

Nothing is perfect, unfortunately. I talked to Enrico after the session and shared these critiques. First, it was short. He ended about 20 minutes early. Believe me, I know the feeling. I too ran out of material my first time presenting at the PASS Summit and had to spend 15 minutes making stuff up on the spot. We talked about it. Enrico has some great ideas for expanding the session out a bit. He also had some small fonts on a few of the slides, which made things hard to see, especially for old blind guys like me.

It was a very good session, again, doubly so because it was his first time presenting. I was quite blown away by Enrico and his presentation. Nicely done.

 

Oct 02 2014

The PASS Board: #passvotes

Ever been in a fight? Ever been in one that’s not completely going your way? I’ve done this and seen this in the martial arts and, unfortunately, on the street. As you start to lose the fight, you tend to fold in on yourself. It’s a natural reaction. You’re protecting the vital organs from injury. But, in a fight, it’s actually the wrong thing to do. This is referred to as the defensive crouch. Watch some videos of MMA or fights on the street, or even boxing matches. You’ll see it quick. I think the PASS Board is in a bit of a defensive crouch right now.

I am running for the board. And I have pledged myself, both to myself, and to the PASS organization, to run a positive campaign. So this post is not meant to tear anyone down. In fact, I’m hoping that it builds people up.  So please, bear with me a moment.

The Board has made a number of decisions this year that have stirred up the more vocal part of the community. I agree with some of these decisions and disagree with others, but that’s not the point of this post. We’re talking about the defensive crouch. The Board made these decisions in full good faith. If you don’t believe that, why did you vote these people into office? I believe. They’re trying to do what’s right. Sometimes, they’re dead on. Other times, they’re way off. But what seems to be happening is that the pummeling for their decisions is starting to get the better of them. They’re pulling in, shutting down, protecting the vital organs. Wrong approach.

Come one guys. You believe in the decisions you made or you wouldn’t have made them that way. You think you’re doing what’s right for PASS. Whether or not we agree, instead of protecting your organs, stand up. Counter-punch. The Way of the Intercepting Fist. Don’t look at the finger or you’ll miss all that heavenly glory. In short, be proud of the decisions you’ve made, even if people disagree with them. You are absolutely doing your best, good faith effort for this community. I believe that. You believe it. So get out of the crouch and shout it from the heavens.

Yes, there may be outright mistakes made. Fine. Own them and move on. You’re doing great work. We actually have faith in you to do the right things.  Take that and run with it. Once you’re out of the defensive crouch, things will look better. You’ll feel better. You may still get your bottom kicked, but you’ll feel awesome about your own effort.

Everyone else, keep them honest. Hammer them when you think they’re wrong. But please, acknowledge that they’re trying their damnedest.

 

Sep 27 2014

PASS Votes… A little bit more #passvotes

I am putting up an abnormal Saturday morning blog post in support of the actions taken by the PASS Board last night.

The story so far…

In order to eliminate all the excess ballots (I received 5 one year although I only used one) being sent to eligible members of the PASS organization, a requirement to update your profiles in such a way as to firmly establish one each was implemented. Great idea. Unfortunately, somehow, the communication just didn’t make it out to everyone. And, some people didn’t quite get their profiles updated the right way. Suffice to say, when the ballots when out on the 24th, there were a lot of very disappointed and frustrated individuals, many of them long-time and dedicated members of the PASS community.

The Board then did the right thing. They gathered the information they had at hand. They investigated the situation in order to understand the possible solutions. They implemented a very substantial fix to the problem after they understood the issues they were dealing with  and the implications of the potential solutions. It’s almost like they’re DBAs or something. I’m extremely satisfied with the approach they took and the solution they have proposed. Further, I think you should take these positive and thoughtful actions taken by the board, and it’s existing membership, into consideration when you vote. These are capable and responsible people.

As for myself, as one of the people running for a position on the board, I could easily whine and complain about changing the rules right in the middle of the process. In fact, you do realize that making these changes actually has to be done, not in some arbitrary fashion, but following the laws of corporations as defined by the state of Illinois? Yeah. They can’t just do what they want. PASS is a legally incorporated entity that is required to obey the law in terms of its governance, which radically reduces the choices open to them. They must follow the law. I think a lot of the sturm and drang of the last few days didn’t take that into account in any way, shape, or form. I’ll tell you what I told members of the board:

I recognize that you are in a no-win situation. I will absolutely support any action you decide to take. Regardless of the outcome of the election, I will post no protest or complaint.

Go. Fill out your profile. Vote for the PASS Board.

Sep 26 2014

Development, Leadership, Age

While I was at the VMWare HQ getting some amazing training a few weeks ago, we had the opportunity to meet a large number of “C” level people from that organization and Pure Storage. In addition, they had multiple development and project management leads come and talk to us. All the attention was nice (but it was the information we were receiving that was truly awesome). But part way through the second day I realized something. I was sitting in Silicon Valley. I was talking to, effectively, the captains of industry and their chief lieutenants. And many, most, of them were at or near my age. Wait a second. I thought the Valley was run by teenagers?

I’m constantly told that older people are getting squeezed out of technology by magazine articles. Yet, most of my friends are well past 30 and none of them is hurting for work. I get it, the plural of anecdote is not data. Yet, the accumulation of anecdotes eventually leads to data. And the indications are, senior positions are held by senior people, and yeah, by senior, I mean “old.” Why is that?

Learning a development language is fairly hard work and requires quite a lot of time, way past your average work day. Most of the time, youngsters are doing this, not older people. So, when you’re looking to hire a hot new developer for the hot new language, are you likely to get the lady who is running kids to the ball park after work, or the lady who doesn’t have kids yet and is living, eating and breathing, SooprC00LanguageX? The latter. But, in a few years, you’re not looking at the newest coolest languages any more. You just want your stuff to work. And maybe the older languages are more stable. Now… who gets hired? That’s right, the lady with the kids and the grey hair. Not only is she GREAT at the language, but she’s not at all flighty, brings a lot of maturity and experience to the table, and can help your project move forward in a major way.

Say what you want about older people not learning computers well (and gods above, you should meet my mother-in-law), there are still plenty out there with agile, flexible minds who also bring steadiness and maturity to the table. Yeah, their middle might be slightly expanded, but they’re pretty clearly up to the job. And, anecdote or not, it seemed clear to me that Silicon Valley companies recognized that.

Sep 24 2014

Thoughts on PASS Board Nomination Process: #passvotes

Having very recently gone through the nomination process for the PASS Board, I thought I would share a few things about it. Overall, it was a great experience. I feel that I really had to stretch to meet everything required of me. It was quite difficult to put together all the campaign material. Deciding on who to ask to give you recommendations was also very difficult. All, very much, as it should be. We’re talking about stepping up to run for the board of, essentially, a multi-million dollar corporation. It should be hard to do that. The interview process with the Nomination Committee was also no picnic. Most of these people had already served on the board, so they knew exactly what you, the nominee, was going to get into, so they asked about it. Heck, at the end of the interview process I was seriously questioning whether or not I should have run at all. Again, I think, as it should be. In all, I’m extremely impressed with the entire process, how the communications were done, the documentation, the nomination committee, all of it.

Well done PASS. And, special thank you to the Nomination Committee for all your hard work.

Now, i have a question, why didn’t more people do it?

It’s just me and three current members of the board running for reelection who have applied for the slate. Four people for three slots. Why not more? Are people just not aware of this? Or, are people intimidated by this process (not necessarily a bad thing)? Or, do people just not care? Maybe people think things are running swimmingly so don’t feel a need to rock the boat? I’m actually curious. Win or lose, I thought it was a great experience from which I think I learned a few things about myself. But I expected even more competition from a wider variety of people. I think there are a lot more of you that should be considering this. Next time, you need to run. Yes, you.

VOTING BEGINS TODAY!

Check your email for your ballot which will be emailed at 20:00 GMT.

For more information about me, why I’m running, etc., please check here. For more information about the PASS election, please go here.

Sep 23 2014

SQL Server Query Performance Tuning

The latest update to my book, SQL Server Query Performance Tuning was released last week. This is the fourth edition of the book, and the third edition that I’ve been responsible for. At the urging of my editor, Jonathan Gennick, I have completely restructured the book for this release. The chapters have been broken up and rearranged so that they’re smaller, more easily consumed. Yes, I’ve worked with my technical editor, Joe Sack, to add lots of new information and to ensure that the existing information is more accurate and more useful. But, we’ve also added new chapters on topics that weren’t given enough attention in the previous versions of the book, such as parameter sniffing. It can certainly seem like these book releases are just some incremental changes on top of existing information, but not this time. This is a new book, with a new structure and new material (almost 80 pages worth), but, hopefully, with all the usefulness of the old book fundamentally intact. Please check it out.

If reading books isn’t your thing, or, you just want some personal interaction to assist your learning, I’ll be doing an all day, pre-conference seminar on query tuning at the PASS Summit this year, 2014. Go here to register.

Sep 22 2014

Communication and the Board: #PASSVotes

The whole idea behind PASS is to build a community of people who can assist each other in their daily work lives. PASS succeeds at that wonderfully. Further, PASS, the organization, tries extremely hard to let you know what it’s doing and how it’s doing things. You can read the PASS Blog to get all sorts of good information. One of my recent favorites was this great summary of how the Summit speaker selection process was run. I think it’s a positive thing that the organization is so open. I intend to take it one more step.

If I get elected (huge “if”), I’m going to make a point of blogging about, well, the stuff I end up doing. No, I’m not going to be the official mouth-piece for the organization, and no, I don’t mean I’m going to tell you secrets or spread silly gossip. I mean I’m going to share my thoughts and processes on the stuff that I’m doing within the board so that you know what you got out of me. Casting your vote is an act of trust. I want to do what I can to show I’m worthy of that trust, so this is my plan.

My name is Grant Fritchey. I’m the Scary DBA. I’m running for the PASS Board.

For more information about me, why I’m running, etc., please check here. For more information about the PASS election, please go here.

Sep 19 2014

A Manager or a Community Person: #PASSVotes

I am running for the PASS Board. You can read more about what I’ve posted and what others have to say here on this page.

Today I want to ask you a question. Should someone on the board be a manger or should they be a community person? Let’s avoid the easy answer of both for a moment, not because that’s the wrong answer, but because it’s the right one. Clearly you need a mix of these skills to be on the board. But, where you fall on my simplistic question could determine the kind of person you want to vote for on the board. Let’s discuss it a bit.

According to Wikipedia (deal with it), a board of directors is “meant to oversee the activities of a company or organization.” Well, my question is answered then, a manager is what’s needed. We’re done. Boy that was a stupid question Grant. But hang on a second. Let’s take a look at the mission statement of the PASS organization:

Empower data professionals who leverage Microsoft technologies to connect, share, and learn through networking, knowledge sharing, and peer-based learning.

Now what do you think? Do you just want some manager type, or maybe, just maybe, having a data professional directly involved in peer-based learning, for example, answering questions on SQL Server Central. A person heavily involved with knowledge sharing, maybe, running a blog and presenting webinars.  As for networking, let’s talk at one of the live events where I’ll be presenting technical talks. In short, I think I’m well positioned to answer the PASS mission statement. I have team lead and project lead experience. I’ve also helped run volunteer organizations. But, what I really am is a community guy. My passion and my interests line up directly with the PASS mission statement. This is a large part of why I’m running for the board. I believe in what the organization does and I want to help it do more.

So, I’m pretty sure we need managers, but I really do think we need community people too. If you agree, please consider voting for me, Grant Fritchey, during the PASS Election between the 24th and the 29th of September. Keep on an eye on your inbox for your ballot and your chance to vote. For more information about the PASS election and information on the other candidates, go here.

Sep 17 2014

I Am Running For the PASS Board of Directors: #passvotes

This year, I submitted my application to run for the PASS Board and it was accepted. This then is my announcement to all of you and the beginning of my campaign for election. My name is Grant Fritchey and I’m running for the PASS Board.

It’s traditional to either make all sorts of promises for the things you’re going to do or to attack your opponents. I’m not going to do either. I don’t have any grand promises to make. I’m not going to attack my opponents because I know and respect them. I’m voting for James Rowland-Jones myself and so should you. Let’s do this instead. Let’s talk about PASS, you, me, your career, mine, and how PASS can change your life.

PASS changed my life for the better. Like many people, I’m constantly trying to learn how to do my job better. In 2005, I got the opportunity to go to the PASS Summit in Dallas. Just like many of you, I attended sessions and learned all sorts of things. It was great. Right there, PASS can change your life by teaching you more about SQL Server and related technologies. Not life changing enough? Not for me either. While there, I met some volunteers who were helping to run the organization, so I decided to volunteer too. One thing led to another and suddenly, I knew people from all over the country and our “family reunion” was at the PASS Summit. Yeah, a network. No, not to look for a new job. That’s not the primary reason for having a network. The primary reason for having a network is an extended set of knowledge. I know some things my friends don’t. They know some things I don’t. We can help each other. PASS supplies the medium through Summit, SQL Saturdays, the BA Conference, webinars and the local user groups it supports to provide you with the means to build your own network. That’s pretty life changing, right? Yeah, I’m somewhat underwhelmed too. I also started speaking at the local user group that we set up and I started submitting to speak at PASS and finally made the big stage. Oh boy, I get attention. Yeah, that’s one reason for doing it, but, at work I started presenting a lot more too. I was presenting stuff to my team, my boss, their boss, and ultimately to large sections of the organization. Yeah, PASS can help you there too, again through SQL Saturdays, your user group, and maybe, for a few, Summit. There are also opportunities for you to write, record videos, help run the program committee, all sorts of volunteer positions within the organization that will assist you in building your skill set and your presence which will all be completely applicable inside and outside work. I’ve done many of these and they lead me to becoming an MVP and getting a fantastic job for an amazing company. I absolutely attribute all that to PASS. PASS changed my life, and it can change yours.

So, back to this election business. Why am I running for the board? Because I want to do two things. First, I want to help keep the organization going strong and I think it’s time that I volunteered at a higher level to make this happen. Second, I want you to find and take advantage of the opportunities that PASS offers so that it can change your life too. We need to get the word out to a lot more people in order to show them what the organization can do for them. It’s about teaching technology, sure, but it’s also about networking and mentoring and personal growth. This organization can, and will, change your life. The structures are there. You just have to make the choice to reach out and grab those opportunities. I want to share this with others. Those are my reasons for running.

The only promise I’ll make is that if I get on the board, then the passion I bring to, well, everything, will be applied to whatever work I can do there to keep this organization running and get you the opportunities to change your life. Please vote for me. My name is Grant Fritchey and I’m running for the PASS Board.

For more information about the election, to see if you are eligible to vote, to see the other candidates and all the rest of the details, go here.