Feb 242015
 

UPDATED: Don’t just take my word. Read the feedback from others.

I wish I could just re-post my article from last year about SQL Cruise and change the dates and pictures.The event is just that good.

I still believe this is one of the more premier training events offered for SQL Server. The amount of 1-on-1 time you get with the technical leads is absurd. You can get classroom time at any training conference, but what happens when the session is over? Most instructors head off to their next engagement and you never get a chance to speak with them. On SQL Cruise, that interaction continues well beyond the classroom session, beyond the next session, beyond the day, and even well beyond the week.

Last year I met Andrew Kelly (b|t) and Argenis Fernandez (b|t) aboard SQL Cruise. Andrew was one of the technical leads and Argenis was an attendee. To this day I correspond frequently with both of them about SQL Server as well as other stuff. Andrew has become a great mentor to me and has helped me develop my presentation skills. Argenis was instrumental in helping me decide if joining Microsoft was the right fit for my career goals. I will say that both of those individuals have had a lasting impression on my life. How many times has that happened to you at the PASS Summit? I’m guessing not too many.

This year I got to spend time with a few of the same technical leads from 2014, Grant Fritchey (b|t) and Kevin Kline (b|t), but I also got to meet and learn a lot from the new ones, Jes Borland (b|t), David Klee (b|t), and Jeff Lehmann (w). This year’s topics covered things such as query performance tuning, infrastructure optimization, virtualization, data recovery, PowerShell, and even cloud solutions. Every one of the sessions provided me with valuable information that I can use immediately upon return to work.

But I also got a chance to meet and hang out with a lot of the attendees. As it turns out they are just like me. They are passionate about SQL Server, they want to learn as much as possible, and they want to succeed in their career. That’s the cool thing about SQL Cruise; the attendees are dedicated to SQL Server and want to learn. This is not a vacation for them; it’s an educational experience above all else. The other great thing is all the attendees have a wide range of background, and of course issues to resolve. That’s a great combination for learning new tricks from each other.

 

Now of course the cruise and exotic islands are quite a lot of fun, but they are not a distraction from class. They actually help everyone relax and become more comfortable around each other, which leads to more open discussions in and out of the classroom. There really is no stress when this is the backdrop of a conversation.

Once again, a great conference always has great sponsors. This year the sponsors were Amazon Web Services, Red-Gate, SQL Sentry, and B-Side Consulting. All of these companies use and make products that enhance the SQL Server product. Being a sponsor of the conference shows their commitment to the product and the community. Of course, a great conference always has great organizers, so I have to thank Tim Ford (b|t) and his wife Amy for putting together another great conference. Their hard work and dedication has been a huge help to me and I know to a lot of others.

In the group picture below, almost half of the people are referred to as the “Plus Ones”. They are the family members and/or friends of the attendees and technical leads. SQL Cruise encourages the attendees to bring their family members, so they can enjoy the adventures on the ship as well as on the islands. The Plus Ones are invited to every group event, group dinner, and even are allowed to sit in on the classroom sessions. My wife absolutely loves being a Plus One. She has a bubbly personality and can quickly make friends, which turns her week of vacation into quite the adventure. So much so, that she has already made plans for SQL Cruise 2016 without even asking me if I plan to sign up.

This was my second SQL Cruise, and it sure won’t be the last. Now it’s your chance to become part of this elite group with the SQL Family. SQL Cruise 2016 will be setting sail in January 2016, so head on over to the site to learn more or sign up. If you need help convincing the boss, just let me know and I’ll put in a good word for you. And if you need help convincing your own Plus One, let me know, because my wife would be happy to explain all the advantages of attending.

Feb 032015
 
It’s been almost five months since I posted my last article, and so much has changed since then. I have a new job, a new house, a new address, and of course a new mortgage.
I had been working as a DBA for Wells Fargo Securities for nearly 15 years when I decided that I could no longer grow in that role. I had a lot of good years at the bank, and I will definitely miss all of my friends. But in order for me to be happy, I really needed a change. My decision to move was more about needing to break loose from the daily routine of checking error logs, backup jobs, and dashboards. I really needed a job that challenged me, so that I could gain even more knowledge about SQL Server. There was only one place I felt I could get that type of challenge in a job. So I decided to apply at Microsoft. I figured since I loved SQL Server so much, there was no better place to learn more about it than from the company that developed it.
After talking to a number of friends that already worked at Microsoft, I decided to focus on the Premier Field Engineer positions for SQL Server. A Premier Field Engineer, or PFE for short, is focused on directly supporting a customer whether it’s over the phone or being onsite with them. The type of tasks performed by a PFE can vary greatly. It could be simple performance troubleshooting, delivering training, or something more in-depth such debugging minidumps. Just the thought of not knowing what problems lay ahead, just sounded like so much fun.
The entire process took about six months, from the first day I submitted my resume to the day I was offered a job. This may sound strange, but I really enjoyed the interview questions, because I felt like it help validate my knowledge of SQL Server.
I have already been working onsite with customers, and so far, I have no plans to go back to a normal DBA job. I’m glad that I had the courage to leave such a good job and to challenge myself in my career goals. Most of all, I’m glad that I have a wife who is very supportive of such a gamble.
For those of you out there that might feel stuck in a boring DBA job, find a way to take a gamble. You don’t have to leave a great company, but you might be able to find a way to make your job more interesting. Start simple, such as learn more about SQL Server and then teach your coworkers. That’s how it all started for me. I started reading more and more about SQL Server, then I tried to pass that knowledge onto the junior DBAs on my team. From there, I got into public speaking at user groups and SQL Saturdays. I started small and with every win, I kept challenging myself to do more. So get out there and start challenging yourself, just as I did.