Dec 18 2015

Speaker of the Month: December 2015

The hardest presentations I’ve ever given in my life were not to large audiences or in big rooms. They weren’t even when I had to present in front of people that I respect and admire (although presenting in front of Paul Randal (b|t) & Kim Tripp (b|t) gives me pause every single time, not sure why). I don’t mind presenting all day sessions. In fact, I love the all day format. Nope, the hardest presentations for me are five minute lightning talks. They’re brutal. They’re unforgiving. You have to stop. You only get five minutes to tell people whatever it is you’re going to tell them. Then its over. I’ve done three lightning talks. One of them, a rant on backup testing, I’ve given four or five times. The others all died ugly.

I’m telling you all this because the Speaker of the Month for December 2015 is everyone who took part in Speaker Idol at the PASS Summit this year. This is the second year for Speaker Idol. Basically it’s a contest, organized and run by Denny Cherry (b|t). The winner gets a speaking slot at Summit. You’re required to present a five minute, tightly timed, presentation on a topic of your choice. You’ll have a set of experienced speakers acting as judges who will score your presentation based on the topic, the delivery, slides, theatre, everything I ever talk about in these blog posts.

The winner this year was David Maxwell (b|t) who writes about the experience here. Unfortunately, I was busy with Board Stuff(tm, or it should be), so I missed his presentation. However, I saw several of the others and if David beat them…. WOW! These were some of the most polished, professional, rock solid, presentations I’ve seen. These were master classes on presentations. If you are trying to polish your presentation skills, get your hands on the recordings and learn.

Dec 15 2015

Benefits from Data Lifecycle Management

I spend a lot of time talking about the need for automation within your databases, especially in support of development, deployment, and through process management. It’s because I learned the hard way just how important this stuff is. It took a pretty strong developer (in the sense of abilities, he didn’t beat me up) to convince me that I was doing database development the wrong way. However, once he made me see the light, I was like one of the Blues Brothers, on a mission.

However, I think this is one of the hardest parts to get people to understand. If you have a mostly, or completely, manual deployment process, you’re experiencing pain from the inefficiencies that causes. However, it’s a pain that’s just embedded into the organization so much, that you either don’t notice it any more, or you don’t believe that the pain can go away. It really can. But, don’t listen to me.

Here’s an excellent discussion about how a company went from deploying once every 4-6 weeks to 95 times a day. If you don’t think that radically reduces pain within the organization, let alone make them more agile in support of the business… well, you’re wrong.

But hey, that’s just me and one other organization… well, and these guys who are changing their deployments from a cycle of months to a cycle of days. As he says in the video, they’re moving at speed, they’re delivering software quickly for the business, and that’s what it’s all about.

Oh yeah, and these guys, who are talking about the time and money they’re saving because of their deployment automation.

In short, this is a thing that organization are doing, and you can as well.

Your manual processes are taking time, causing outages and preventing you from moving quickly in support of your business. You absolutely need to get on the Data Lifecycle Management/Application Lifecycle Management/DevOps band wagon. We’re changing how we develop and deploy databases and software in order to move with the business. Come on in, the water is fine.

Oh, and if you really do want to dive into DLM, I’m working on a new book that we’re delivering using an agile process. You can check it out here.

Dec 14 2015

One More PASS Board Update for 2015

Remember that post I wrote about taking on SQLSaturday events as my new PASS portfolio?

Emily-Litella

Never mind.*

Instead, it seems I’ll be involved with a completely different role. Starting on January 1, I’ll be moving onto the executive committee of the PASS Board and taking on the role of Executive Vice President. You can read the announcement here.

While this means that I won’t be directly involved in Chapters and SQLSaturday on a day to day basis, I will continue my engagement with Chapters until a new Director comes onboard and portfolio assignments are complete. As EVP, I want to stay engaged as possible in SQLSaturday in every way I can within my new role. I love SQLSaturday (and I don’t mind saying, I was excited to receive that portfolio and I’m a little sad to let it go). I’ll continue to support both from the new role. It’ll just be different.

As EVP, I intend to continue to blog about PASS’ priorities and my own. I am going to make the same request of you I’ve made before: let me know how we’re doing. I need the feedback more than ever. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me through this blog, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or one of my myriad email addresses. I want to hear from the people that make up this organization. Please, consider this a personal invitation.

In terms of my personal goals as EVP, I should have more to report after the January board meeting.

Before I go, I want to formally thank the Board for the trust they’ve put in me.


*For all you youngsters, that’s the character Emily Latella acted by the late Gilda Radner from the original cast of Saturday Night Live (you know, when they were funny). Here’s an example (possibly slightly NSFW because of a single word at the end).

 

Dec 10 2015

Promote Community

When I present at any given event, I generally assume that the people attending have heard of the event that I’m at. For example, I don’t need to ask people at SQL in the City, “Who here has heard of Redgate Software?” Same thing goes for a SQL Saturday event “Did anyone here know that there’s a local, free, event being held that provides free training and networking in your area?” seems like a waste of time while at the event. However, what about the rest of the community?

If you’re working on your presentation skills, I’d like you to add one more bit of work to everything else you’re doing (yes, yes, you’re welcome). I’d like you to get in the habit of taking 3-5 minutes prior to the start of your presentation to promote community. If you’re at a SQL Saturday event, talk about the local chapter and any other nearby upcoming SQL Saturday events. If you’re at a SQL Server event, mention the upcoming BA event. Cross-pollinate your communities as much as possible. Be respectful though. If you’re at a paying event, it’s not really good form to promote another, competing, paying event. However, passing along word of a meet-up or virtual chapter where people can get additional information on the topic you’re presenting, that’s fine.

Don’t assume that everyone knows what you do. I’ve made a habit of checking at the beginning of my sessions, “Who attends their local PASS Chapter? Who hasn’t heard of PASS? Anyone here who hasn’t heard of SQL Cruise? Who is going to PASS Summit this year? Let me tell you about PASS Summit…” I know I’m introducing people to the size and depth of the community that we all take part in because over and over, I get large sections of the room who haven’t heard of the different topics I bring up.

Talking to the people in your session like this serves a dual purpose. First, and I’d argue most important, you’re promoting the community. Second, you’re warming up and you’re warming up your audience. They’re getting used to you and you’re getting a sense of them. This will help you deliver your session because you’ll know better how the crowd is responding.

Dec 09 2015

PASS Board Update: First Year

This represents my 12th month on the board so I thought I would recap my time there so you know what I’ve done, haven’t done, etc.

A year ago I took over Chapters as my area of responsibility, what’s known as my Portfolio. Wendy Pastrick had been ably running it quite well, so I had big shoes to fill. The first thing I had to prepare was a set of goals for the Chapters. I’ve blogged about them and the process and I reported on my success in meeting them (mostly) at PASS Summit this year. Over the year I’ve welcomed a number of new leaders, new Regional Mentors and new chapters into the fold. I’ve worked with Carmen and Karla at HQ, and we’ve done a good job (in my opinion) in meeting the requirements of the Chapters. We put together some very useful meetings at Summit for the Chapter Leaders and Regional Mentors (even if I did scare the RMs, just a little).

I’ve put together 14 posts this year directly related to my time and work on the board. I’ve reported on the work I’ve been doing and my thoughts on various topics related to the organization and the community. One of my promises when I ran for the office was that I would be as open, as approachable, as communicative (without violating Board confidentiality) as I could be. I know that I’ve been pushed to be more communicative and I’ve tried to meet those challenges. I think I’m still probably a little overly conservative in what I say and share here, but I’m attempting to be as open as is appropriate. I’ll push myself on opening up more. Feel free to call me on this too.

I’ve been assigned a new portfolio for next year, SQL Saturday. I’m working with Tim Ford now to understand, in more detail, where everything is at, his current goals and status, and, frankly, create some goals of my own. I’ll gladly share what I’m thinking about. First, yes, we need to continue to improve the web site. There are a bunch of enhancements underway, but I’m not going to talk about any of that until it’s more under my control (and I know I’m not stepping on IT or HQ). Next, I’m thinking that, while completely and utterly protecting the brand, I’d like to find a way to increase the level at which we let people localize the event branding so that it feels more like their own. For example SQL Saturday in the local language instead of English. Possibly localizing the logo (again, we have to protect the brand and the trademark first, assume that). This comes out of the conversations I’ve had with people at Summit (I think those conversations, which I had last year and again this year, are the most useful thing I’ve done as a member of the Board. I’m going to continue doing that regardless of my role in the organization). I’ll be reviewing the notes I took from those conversations so that I can glean any other good goals from them.

We have another board meeting this week to round out the year. This makes 15 posts. I’ll continue to share next year, especially early on when addressing the goals, plans and delivery. As always, I’m actively soliciting your feedback. Let me know what you want done.

UPDATE: 16 posts for the year. I have an update to this post available here.

Dec 07 2015

Learning R: Foundations

Learning a programming language is largely an act of using that language to do stuff. Done.

However, the big thing about R is the mathematical and statistical analyses that can be easily run against your data sets. This means, part of learning this language is learning another, that of data science.

I’ll be posting about how I’m learning R, but I also should tell you how I’m picking up on Data Science. First and foremost, madman he may be, but one of the few sources of information that I simply trust is Buck Woody. He’s been running a series on Data Science. Here’s an excellent example on how to pick a particular algorithm. These are must reads.

Next, I’m starting a book called Data Science for Business: What you need to know about data mining and data analytic thinking. The title pretty much sums it up. It’s geared towards the business person who needs to understand this, not necessarily a computer nerd who is trying to learn it. However, if you’re anything like me, who went to film school for college (and dropped out of that), then some more introductory level knowledge is needed before we get into deep mathematics (as I’m constantly reminded when I get into discussions with the maths nerds here at Redgate Software).

This information is foundational to understanding what I’m attempting to do using R within SQL Server. Next I’ll detail some of the sources I’m using to get started within R itself.

Dec 03 2015

Changing Course On Learning

With all the new stuff on the Microsoft Data Platform, it’s really hard to keep up with it all. I had announced my plans to charge down the DocumentDB road to try to get the basics of that in my head along with learning some JSON so I could get what all the hoopla is about.

However, after a lot of thought and some extensive meetings at Redgate, I’m looking to shift my learning in a new direction.

First up. Arrrrrrrrr!

No, it’s not yet “Talk Like a Pirate Day.” I’m going to start learning the R language. It’s a language for statistical computing and is one of the many underpinnings for what’s going to be happening with a lot of the Machine Learning capabilities in the Data Platform. With Azure SQL Database, and soon, SQL Server 2016, this new language is going to be part of the query landscape. It’s going to cause performance issues and all kinds of wonderful opportunities. I need to know it.

I’m also looking to embrace and extend my knowledge into the Machine Learning area. I’m not sure exactly where that’s going to take me, but again, I’m pretty sure we’re going to see more and more of this within the systems we manage.

With so much of the data stack now available through Azure (Azure SQL Data Warehouse is a game changer and you should be looking at that right now, in your spare time) changing not only what we can do, but how we do it, it’s affecting directly SQL Server. It’s not enough to know and understand just the core engine (it never really was, but we could tell ourselves that). This doesn’t just affect queries and query tuning. It has impact into our Data Lifecycle Management, DevOps and development releases and methods. In short, all the stack is getting impacted by the expanding Data Platform and I intend to be on top of it.

Watch for the R posts coming up, and forgive me if I occasionally sound a little piratical (OK, a little MORE piratical). Also, don’t worry. You’re still going to see stuff on query tuning, execution plans and all the core engine stuff. Fact is, that doesn’t go away just because I’m looking at Azure SQL Database or Azure SQL Data Warehouse or attaching R to my T-SQL, because, under the covers, it’s still SQL Server.

Dec 01 2015

It’s Not Too Late

You know you want to go on the SQL Cruise. You can. You just have to convince the boss that it’s worth doing. It is. I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat it as necessary, SQL Cruise changes peoples lives. I’ve watched people go on the cruise with a job and come back with a career. People don’t just learn on the Cruise. They get energized. They get engaged with the data professional community.

How do I profit by promoting SQL Cruise?

I don’t.

Tim Ford is a friend and I’m supporting him. My company, Redgate Software, is a sponsor of the cruise, so I’m supporting them. I could just be doing the bare minimum in support of these parties. However, I’m not getting paid anything special by anyone for doing more. Instead, for me, personally, SQL Cruise is all about the ability to share.

Understand, I love my job. I spend a lot of time teaching about the Microsoft Data Platform, Azure SQL Database, SQL Server, deployments, development, automation, performance tuning and all of it from the perspective of Redgate Software. I get to share. A lot. However, I only get to share the way I do on SQL Cruise, on SQL Cruise. It’s intimate. It’s direct. It’s personal. I’m not standing in front of a group of 75 people with another 200-5000 waiting outside the door. It’s just 25-30 people, all the time. We get close. We talk. It’s the lowest level, most fundamental kind of interactions. I benefit from it personally, and I get the opportunity to share. This is why I love and support SQL Cruise.

And yeah, there’s classroom time. I’m really looking forward to learning from David Klee, Tim Ford, Jason Hall and Jes Borland. These are some of the most amazing people you’re ever going to meet and learn from.

I’m putting on a couple of classes too:

The Query Store and Query Tuning in SQL vNext

For the most part, query tuning in version of SQL Server is pretty much like query tuning in the next. SQL Server 2016 introduces a number of new functions and methods that directly impact how you’re going to do query tuning in the future. The most important change is the introduction of the Query Store. This session will explore how the Query Store works and how it’s going to change how you tune and troubleshoot performance. With the information in this session, not only will you understand how the Query Store works, but you’ll know everything you need to apply it to your own SQL Server 2016 tuning efforts as well as your Azure SQL Databases.

Azure SQL Database for the Earthed DBA

Everyone knows that Azure SQL Database only supports a small subset of SQL Server functionality, small databases, and has really bad performance. Except, everyone is wrong. In fact, Azure SQL Server Database is ready to support many, if not most, databases within your enterprise. This session reintroduces Azure SQL Database and shows the high degree of functionality and improved performance that is now available. You’ll leave this session with a more thorough understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of Azure SQL Database so that you can make a more informed choice over when or if you should use it within your environment.

Go and have that chat with your boss. You won’t regret it. I promise, this experience will change your life.

And there’s rum.

Nov 05 2015

Speaker of the Month for November 2015

A great benefit that I get with my job is that I get to travel all over the place to see people present. This means I can expand out beyond my own country to see good speakers. That’s the case this month. My Speaker of the Month, with all the glory it entails, is Rob Sewell and his session “Using PowerBI With My DBA Database” delivered at SQL Relay Cardiff.

Rob delivered a very interesting, useful and entertaining session. It was all about how to gather data about your databases and their behavior and then put it into different types of reports in order to be proactive about stuff within your managed environment. I loved the way he put his slides together, the graphics and the lack of bullet points. His presentation style was awesome. He used Zoomit well enough (more on that in a moment). Some of his comments were fun too, “Sing Merry Christmas backwards” was one of my favorites. I also liked how, despite showing us a great set of scripts, he said, right out, “If you run these scripts without testing, it’s your fault.” Excellent stuff. I also appreciate his practical advice on setting up this type of monitoring, “Do what you need to do.” It was just an excellent presentation.

I talked to Rob about the one piece of advice I had for him. He asked repeatedly if we could see, and then would zoom in. He was clearly concerned, and did a good job. But after he asked a couple of times, I thought he should just assume that things were in fact a little hard to see and should just zoom. It’s a safe assumption a lot of the time. Nothing wrong with asking, but if you ask more than once, you have your answer.

This session was very useful. I strongly recommend it and Rob.

 

Nov 02 2015

PASS Summit 2015: Wrap-up

WHOOP!

Another PASS Summit is complete. This one was amazing. It’s my first time ever as a member of the Board of Directors of the PASS organization to attend the Summit and take part in the full process of making the sausage. It was hard. It was exhausting (more so than usual). It was one the most exhilarating, fascinating and wonderful experiences of my life.

First the sad news, Rimma Nehme and Dr. DeWitt have delivered their last presentation at the PASS Summit. It’s the end of an era. I was at the first session delivered by Dr. DeWitt. It was one of the most amazing technical keynotes I’d ever seen until the next one that he gave. The two of them became absolute rock stars in the SQL Server and PASS community because of their deep technical, hilarious, informative sessions. They will be missed. I think the Board has a challenge next year to attempt to match them. Just saying. Personally, I’m ecstatic that I’ve been lucky enough to attend every one of their keynotes. Just in case the two of you read this, thank you!

Thursday I attended my first Board Q&A. It was interesting. The recording of it will be published. I even got to answer a question on stage. I spent a lot of time in the Community Zone, any time I could between meetings, talking to people, anyone who would come up. I also had duties at the Redgate booth, but I was able to talk to people there as well about PASS. It was a great day.

Friday I spent even more time at the Community Zone. I’ve really tried to make every effort to be available to anyone who has anything to discuss about the organization. I took notes from a bunch of the conversations about issues people were having, suggestions for improvements and just general stuff about the organization, Chapters and SQL Saturday. I arrived late to the Speaker Idol finale (in a meeting), but I was able to see a session and see the winner crowned.

My biggest takeaways from the Summit were, first, that Christianson & Company, the management company for PASS, who runs the Summit (among a few thousand other things), does a fantastic job. It was pretty amazing watching them work. Second, my fellow board members are wonderful people. I’m learning so much from being able to work with them. Thomas LaRock… Hi Tom… is a rock (no pun intended, but hey) of stability. Adam Jorgensen, is a font of knowledge on technical topics and leadership that I wish I could just bring with me everywhere I go. James Rowland-Jones is the man who convinced me that I needed to run for the board and he continues to be an inspiration. Denise McInerney is gloriously brilliant, hilarious and fun to be around, and is helping me learn absolutely tons about the proper way to do marketing (and I want this information badly). Wendy Pastrick is a bundle of joy and passion who helps keep me in line and on target. Jenn Stirrup has a very quiet voice, but has huge ideas wrapped inside of it. Tim Ford is a great source of ideas and direction who can slice to the heart of a situation like a surgeon. Bill Graziano, our outgoing past-president, is not only a great guy, but acts as an excellent source of history and guidance.

Somehow, I’ve been lucky enough to get to sit in a room with these people and we do what’s necessary to create a space in which the SQL Family can realize the amazing results that it is capable of. I had a couple of moments this week where I just stopped for a second and looked around in amazement that I was able to be counted among them.