Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

Over the last 6 months or so I have spent more time trying to find the cause of a problem more than anything else.  The results are interesting, and I am starting to see a pattern that is proving to be successful.  It doesn’t matter if I am working on a performance issue, or just trying to figure out why something is not working.  The most common problem that I see time and time again is performance. For the most part as soon as you get the system up and running or features configured, they pretty much stay that way.  However, with performance it changes. It changes when the data changes; new releases can be one cause; another common cause is business.  When I say business, I am referring to growing your data, or the changes in services your company is offering (say for example your company has decided to see to a new market share, and the sales doubled). The short of it is when a business is not growing and it is just staying static there isn’t much long term hope for it.  Stock prices alone take drastic up turns and down turns just based on growth percentages. 

So you have been presented with a problem, let’s say it is a performance problem and you are hearing about it from someone at the help desk.  The complaint in the ticket says that the database is not performing like it should.  The rest of the information you receive from the ticket is not very helpful.  You have not been given the complete picture, you don’t even know what part of the database is slow, so how do you treat it as professional you are?  I have a few tips for you that I hope will help.  I have developed these tips over years of learning the things the hard way.

  1. Always get the description of the problem from the source.   Skip the help desk and the ticket system. If you can, go sit down with the person who is reporting the problem.  Let them show you where they see the performance problem. Let them show you how this problem creates problems in their life. A query that takes 3 seconds to return to a customer service person may not be considered a big deal.  But wait until you are on the phone with a customer screaming their head off wanting to know why they were charged an extra $3.00.  The 3 seconds is pure hell for the person answering the phone.  If you can make this a lot faster, then you can make the job a bit easier. By learning what else can be done, and then fixing these problems you are now the hero.
  2. I think it was 6th or 7th grade where I learned all about the scientific process, the part where you hypothesize, then run your tests, document your results, and then draw your conclusion.  I remember when I was learning about this, thinking when the heck I am going to use this.  I had no plans on being a scientist, so I just didn’t see where this was relevant.  Now, my work does not include cutting up frogs, but I have found a way to use those old science class skills.  When you are troubleshooting a problem make sure that you know what you are testing, what you want to test, run your test, measure your test and then record it.  Once you are done document your results and determine if you were right or wrong.  If you’re wrong, start again.  But make sure that you are only testing one thing at a time.
  3. Remove many potential issues in a test as quickly as you can.  Let’s reflect back to poor performance –  you need to determine as quickly as you can if it is the database. If it is, then where is that problem in the database?  One of the first places that you are going to want to look is your wait times.  Run a query against the sys.dm_os_wait_stats DMV.  If you can isolate a process like returning a client, and you can isolate that on a specific server,  stop all the other traffic , measure the wait stats, record them, run your process and then run them again.  The delta between the two runs will give you a good head start on where you should look

One thing to keep in mind, when you use this method to eliminate many potential problems, or even identify problems, be sure that you understand the complete problem.  Let’s say you have a high number of disk waits. These could be caused by many reasons.  Many DBA’s may start to point at the storage as part of the problem; however you may be setting yourself up to fail.  A lot of disk reads could indicate poor indexing, or poorly written queries. 

The way that you trouble shoot problems is going to say a lot about you.  If you keep calm and document well developed thoughts, I think your problem will be behind you in no time!  But if you sit around pointing fingers at everyone else and then freaking out when it might be a database issue, then you are going to have a stress filled day.  If you don’t change your process, it will be filled with a lot of stress for your career.  I would love to hear what trouble shooting technics you use, drop one of two in the comments section for me.

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PASS Votes

Posted: December 11, 2011 in Interviews, News, SQLServerPedia Syndication

I always wonder how many people actually know who they are voting for.  I am sure you are really busy as am I.  So making sure that I keep up on everyone’s campaign is really difficult to do.  This year when I was thinking I would run for the Board of Directors for PASS, I decided I was going to make it very clear on not only the reasons that I was running, but the opinions that I had.  This way if someone voted for me, they would know where my mindset was and where I was coming from when I was representing them as I voted on issues.  A few months ago I decided that I could be more of an impact at this time on the SQL Server community if I worked on the local level or even an RM level than what I could on the Board of Directors.  Now this does not mean that I won’t ever run for the Board, it’s actually quite opposite; I do plan to run in the next few years.  But as for me today, I want to see how I can help the User Group Chapters because that is what I am the most passionate about.

So last week when I came across the Forums where I could ask all the current candidates questions in a public forum I had to jump at the chance.  I believe that all the candidates are very well qualified for the role.  As a matter of fact this is the first year where I am really having a difficult time trying to decide who I am going to vote for.  I posted 4 questions to candidates and to my great surprise I have been getting answers from them.  In addition I believe all the candidates are either planning to answer or have already answered.  I thought I would take a few minutes to post the responses here on my blog.  Please remember my questions come from my paradigm, so these are directed to get the opinions of the candidates so when they are voting on a topic I know they know where they are coming from.  I have included comments below each question so that you might know where I was coming from when asking them.

  1. I am really passionate about the User Community of PASS, can you tell me what do you think can be done to build a strong relationship between PASS and the Chapters? How can PASS support the chapters and really help the chapters grow?

    In my humble opinion and take it for what it is worth, I think that SQL Server Professionals may not understand all that Pass does for us, and can do for us.  I have had a number of discussions with the Board of Directors and I think that they have the same goal for User Groups that I do.  Make the groups more productive for the current members, and help increase the outreach into the community.  There are a lot of business items that the BoD have to cover each time that they meet.  So I wanted to know if anyone has ideas to help the chapters grow, and are they as passionate about them as I am.

  2. What does PASS mean to you, and what do you think PASS should be? Is PASS living up to the potential that it has or is it doing well just the way that it is? If you had no obstacles how would PASS be different?

    For someone to be on the BoD I think they have to have a great understanding of what PASS is today. Even more important than that, I want to know where they want PASS to go.  I want to be very clear when I say I am not unhappy with PASS.  I think they are doing a good job in what they do.  At the same time I am a firm believer in the fact that PASS can do more.  Sure there are some areas where I think PASS has to change what they are doing, but I believe we have the same goals. 

  3. As a SQL Saturday organizer, my job would be easier if I had a pre-set list of sponsors that would be added to my events vendors list. I am thinking along the lines of a group sponsorship where small companies could be a vendor at many events with one cost, in addition smaller events would not have to fight with larger events for money, based on attendance. What do you think of this idea? Why would it or would it not work?

    When I am working on organizing a SQL Saturday event I feel like there are a number of tasks that need to be completed, one of the more difficult tasks is finding vendors for the event.  I firmly believe that PASS and Andy Warren have created a great base for us to spring off of as we organize our events.  But as we look at making sure there are events in many more towns around the country and around the world we need to make it easier for the people who are willing to help host these events.  The big question is: How do we do that?  I think if you have a dedicated volunteer, a supporting RM and people willing to go and speak at these events, then I think we need to help each event as much as we can. I may not understand the complexity of what I am asking, and I am sure there are a number of rules that need to be put in place, but I want to see if someone has addressed the idea.

  4. You are qualified and very capable of being on the Board for PASS, but so are the other 5 candidates. But the candidate that I vote for will represent me. Please tell me why I should trust you will represent me and what I can expect out of your term on the board? What ideas are you going to champion?

I think this question really explains itself.  I don’t want people trashing each other, that is not the goal. What I want to hear is what areas do they really have a draw to, do they like SQL Saturdays and want to make them bigger and better, or is their heart in working on a relationship with Microsoft?  One is no more important to the other, in the big picture.  But, if someone is going to represent me during a vote, and that is what I expect of a BoD that I am supporting then I want to know that they are aligned with what is important to me.  If they know where I am coming from, and they vote against something I would have voted for then this is exactly where my trust needs to come in.  I need to know that my BoD has my interest and my concerns in mind when they cast the vote.  They will have more information than I do, and they will have looked into it more than I have, so I need to believe they will make the decision that is right for the organization, even if that means it is not the same way I would vote.

I know there is a lot of information here.  This is a big responsibility for the people who are putting their beliefs out there for the community to review and scrutinize.  I know that I will make a good decision for me, but can I make a good decision for you?  I challenge you to read the answers,  and if you have a question make sure that you post it on there, and see what they have to say.  But no matter what you do, if you feel passion for your community and you feel passion for your work, make a stand and support someone.  Be informed on who you vote for.  For the answers to my questions, you can follow the thread here.  I was going to repost answers, and considered even asking them for an interview.  But I want you to see how they answered in words that they choose.

As a technical person I recognize that my strengths are not in selling things, yet I know that when I am sending my resume into a company for review I am really just trying to sell myself.  My resume is a one page pamphlet that is all about me and the services that I offer.  The interview is the same thing. It is a sales call where I need to show the person that I am talking to all the benefits and the track record of my product.  That product is me.

So when we started to plan for SQL Saturday 104 we were talking about how we can have this event best help the community.  In my opinion SQL Saturdays should not just focus on learning new things about SQL Server (and there is a lot of that going on), but they should provide information that will help the database professional all around.  We determined that one thing that the database community may want is the opportunity for a Professional to review their resume.  This review is going to be supplied to the attendee free of charge, all you need to do is sign up, attend and then bring your resume with you.

The only catch is that we don’t have unlimited spots. These spots will be on a first come, first served basis, so be sure to register today to get your spot.

We have partnered with 2 Professional Resume Reviewers that have agreed to donate their time to help the attendees get the most out of their resumes.  The two people who will be joining us are:

Ruth Pankratz
is the owner of Gabby Communications, which was established in 2005. Her background includes expertise in résumé writing and career transition assistance. Ruth is dedicated to helping individuals reach their goals through résumé services and job search assistance. She has over four years of training on thousands of client résumés, cover letters, and job search strategy programs by two senior-level career counselors. Her résumés have also been published by JIST in the Fifth Edition of Gallery of Best Résumés.

With a Masters degree in Business Administration from Colorado State University, a Bachelor of Science degree in Communications from Kennesaw State University, and a Web Technologies certification from International Webmasters Association, Ruth understands the technology job market and employer needs.

Larry Gabbard INTP, M.A., M.S., Owner eLCie, Career Consultant, Organizational Development Specialist and Researcher. MBTI and Strong qualified. Recipient 2005 APTi National Merit Award. RMAPT Treasurer. Trainer Colorado 40 Plus. Studied, researched and taught the Enneagram. Authored Occupational Lists for Career Counseling Professionals and Enneagram Patterns in MBTIÒ Type Tables. His latest work Seven Dimensions of Career AwarenessTM allows students and clients to identify their unique occupational interests. Seasoned Presenter APTi., IEA, NCDA CCDA Conferences.  Retired Mechanical Engineer AT&T where he supervised engineering teams.

We are also in discussions with a few companies that can come and do an interview with attendees.  We look forward to making some additional announcements.

I had this whole blog post planned for the day,  I was going to talk about what happens after a conference, how do you start making changes, and was really curious on how many people are suffering what I call the Conference Hangover.  What is the Conference Hangover? Well it is that feeling that one gets when they learn about all the cool stuff that they want to implement back at the shop after visiting a conference.  There is the couple days where you look at your systems and can really see how many features you can use, but then reality sets in.  There is too much work to do, your week away has put you even more behind then where you started, so on and so forth.  If you stick to it, you should be able to implement everything you want to.

So I was sitting here at my desk and thinking about some changes that I would like to make when I got a twitter, and then an email. Now I know how to answer when someone asks me why I enjoy to speak, teach and blog. So if you would grant me the opportunity today to just sit back and enjoy the fact that I helped someone I will try to get back on track next week. Here is what I received:

“I have worked for the same company for 12 years.  I started out in application support and remained in that role for 10 years.  Over those 10 years I worked with Novell, Microsoft, Citrix, IIS, SAN’s, MSSQL, etc.  As the economy started getting worse I started thinking about my career and how I knew a lot about many technologies but it was hard to become an expert in any of them.  The opportunity came up for me to join our DBA team and become a full time DBA about 2 1/2 years ago.  Shortly after joining the DBA team we had a lot of turnover within our IT division.  Several directors left including the CTO, my department has seen 12 dba’s come and go over the past two years.  Of course with the economy getting bad and working for a financial company would could easily get concerned.  Over the years I have had lots of people tell me I could get a job anywhere with my skill set.  Being told that is comforting but “could I really”?  I had not interviewed in over 12 years.  So here I am listening to a 24 Hours of PASS session when this guy (SQLSHAW) starts talking about warning signs of a company, things like pay raise freezes, layoffs, cutting expenses, posting quarterly losses and I start wondering if he is talking to me directly as this is describing my company.  Then a few sentences later he starts talking about the average tenure of a DBA is 18 months and that personally he feels that if you have been in the same job for 2 years and are not out interviewing then you are doing yourself an injustice.  The speaker was not advocating job hopping but mearly keeping up the skillset of the interview process.  Technology changes frequently and by interviewing regularly you get to keep up on the questions being asked and how to interview better.  I started thinking about this, 2 years, I haven’t interviewed in 12 years.  It is almost 2011 and my resume is still on a Word 95 template.  Hearing all this on the 24HOP session really got me thinking, I could not stop rehashing this session in my head.  Soon after hearing this session I was at a SQL Saturday and sat through Andy Warren’s building a professional development plan session, this reiterated, where do I want to be in 5 years, or 10 for that matter.  What am I doing to better myself right now.  What am I afraid of.  Well my fear was 1) If I submitted my resume could I get a call for an interview, 2) Going through the interview process, would I bomb it, 3) Could I get a job offer.

Being in IT I get cold calls from recruiters often.  A couple of weeks back I get a call from a company back in my home town (2 hours away) asking If I would consider relocating back.  This made me think, this could be my chance to get over my fears so I said yes.  I was instructed to apply online on their website for them to review my resume.  That meant I had to update mine, well basically create one.  It took a couple of days and then I submitted it online.  Two days later I get a call from HR setting up an interview.  The next day I get an email with my agenda, I will be interviewed by 4 different people and it will take 2 hours.  OMG.  I schedule a day off work and drive up for the interview.  Things went really well, I was very nervous by the way.  The 2 hours turned into 5 1/2.  I was pretty much told then that I would have a job offer.  Two days later I get the official offer.  Now bear in mind that I am not unhappy at my current job, actually I love it and would never consider leaving, my fear is the economy and the financial sector.  My fear is the “what ifs”.  I needed to prepare myself for the unknown.  The job offer was for a great deal more than I currently make so that kind of changed things for me.  I approached my boss and explained the reasoning for going on the job interview and asked if there was anything the company could do to get me more in line of what “others” think I am worth, sadly this was on a Friday before I was leaving for the PASS Summit.  That Monday I get a call from upper management giving me a 20% bump in pay. I am not promoting that everyone go out and try to find another job to exploit your current employer to get more money and that was not my intention with my employer, but I have to agree with SQLSHAW in saying that you need to be prepared.  I have grown and learned so much over the past two months with working on my professional development plan and that I encourage everyone to do.  Everyone should know what they are worth and everyone should be prepared in the event they get a pink slip.”

End result here is that as a speaker we don’t always see how we impact people, we hope to hear that we are doing a good job and that we are helping people, but when it comes down to it,  there is nothing like getting an email like this, months after an event such as the 24 Hours of Pass.  So I would like to wrap up today in asking you to do me a favor.  If there has been a speaker, a teacher, or even a peer that has helped you along the way, take some time today and send them a note.  Let them know that you appreciate what they did, and that it made an impact on you.

Last week I had the opportunity to speak at the 24 hours of PASS. My session was about getting ready to look for a new job. This is an event that is hosted online via Live Meeting to include audio over the internet. During the session I was asked a number of follow up questions. I figured I would answer the questions here as well as during the session, If you would like to listen to the session it is free of charge and can be found here, when they come available. I have altered the text of the questions a bit to add context to the questions.

  1. Are these suggestions valid for juniors or just experienced/senior people?

     

    This session is valid for all levels. No matter if we are talking about goals in your career or what you want in a position. The more senior of a DBA that you are you will find that each of your past positions will help you develop criteria for the rest of your career.

  2. Should a resume look different for a contracting vs. permanent position?

     

    Absolutely, history on permanent positions are going to be more task oriented and may have shorter periods of employment, you may want to make sure that you outline that you were a contractor at those times. A full time position or FTE should include information about how you assisted with the bigger picture or the long term goals of the company.

  3. How many pages should a resume be?

     

    Resumes in a soft copy should explain in detail your experience. Keep in mind the longer your resume is the less likely someone will read it. This is one of the reasons I am a big fan of Linkedin.com. Linkedin will allow you to list more details over your last couple of jobs while you can point them in the direction of your linkedin profile for a more descriptive history. At the same time this is not a substitute for having information on your resume itself.

  4. Can a DBA include a skill set matrix and how long should that be?

     

    I recently reviewed a resume for a individual who attends the local user group that has changed my mind on this. I use to think that many of the skills that were included in a skill matrix were filler space, however this recent resume has a small skill matrix on the right hand margin. The resume looked professional and the smaller space made sure that the info was very specific. If you do put it on your resume make sure it does not look like you are trying to fill space where you could have more pertinent information about you.

  5. Can I present a smaller resume’ initially and follow it up with a bigger one detailing all my work?

    I actually recommend this. As a hiring manager it is always nice when a candidate brings a copy of their resume for me, and when it has added information on it, I can review it if they are a good candidate. It keeps the candidate in my mind. If you do pick this method, make sure your shortened resume is very focused on the job description that you are applying for.

  6. Am I allowed to ask for referrals on LinkedIn? Is it ok to ask anyone who asks you for a ‘return’ referral?

     

    You bet. Employers assume that you have not only asked but informed everyone that you have asked for a referral. That is why candidates look so bad when a referral does not give a referral in a positive light. At the same time remember that all referrals don’t have to say you are the best thing around, then they just sound fake all together.

  7. I live in a small community, how do I network for jobs and risk my employer or colleagues knowing about it?

     

    Honesty is always the best approach, this is a small community make sure that you don’t burn any bridges.

  8. How do I explain pay history to a prospective employer?

     

    Honesty is always the best approach, this is a small community make sure that you don’t burn any bridges.

  9. What are some valid reasons to state for leaving a job if you have been at it for 2 years or longer?

     

    Honesty is always the best approach, but make sure that if this is something that you are worried about that you try to paint everything in as positive light as you can. I will not talk bad about any of my past employers during an interview, but don’t let it fool you; I have wasted many a years at companies that were never going to go anywhere. This does not mean that it was all their fault, I am sure I has some of my own faults. This is why it is better to only look at positives of each company you have been to. In the Marine Corps as I was transferring from one duty station to the next I would ask other Marines what they thought. The reply was always the same… My favorite duty station is the one I am going to and the one that I am coming from.

Interview with Matt Masson

Posted: October 3, 2008 in Interviews

I had a chance a few weeks ago to sit and talk with Matt Masson and I can tell you that I was really impressed. Here is a person that is as down to earth as they get. Over dinner we talked about a number of games that we have played in the past and well how I got my rear-end kicked when I tried to play games with the big boys. The nicest thing about the talk with Matt was his ability to understand what I like and did not like about SSIS. He really took a look at what I was saying about how DBA’s use the tool and how we used DTS when it was still around. Matt is speaking at the SSWUG Conference in November. Here is Matt’s Bio.

Matt Masson – Matt has worked in the BI industry for the past seven years, and is now a developer on the SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) team. A experienced programmer with a strong customer focus, he provides a unique insider’s view to the SQL Server 2008 release. Prior to joining Microsoft in 2006, Matt was employed with Cognos Inc., where he worked on various BI and CPM products. He maintains an SSIS blog on MSDN.com, and can frequently be seen trolling the Integration Services support forums.

I sent Matt the same questions that I did with all the speakers and here is what Matt had to say. One of the Questions that I loved the answer to was number 4. I have never thought about the impact that each of these developers have and the stress that they must be under.

  1. If you were not doing anything with technology what would you be doing, what is your dream job?

    Professional gamer. It’s a route I tried, but I just didn’t have the reflexes (or time to dedicate) for it.

     

  2. Describe your worst day on the Job.

    The day I learned the importance of creating database backups… I forgot to include a WHERE clause in a DELETE statement, and ended up wiping out three months of customer feedback data. Oops.

     

     

  3. How did you get started along this career path?

    I wanted to be a game developer. After meeting some people who had worked in the industry, I decided I was better off keeping it as a hobby.

     

  4. What do you feel has been the biggest accomplishment in your career?

    Working for Microsoft, on software that is used on such a massive scale. It is daunting to think of how many people you can impact with a single line of bad code.

     

  5. In the past there has been a lot of discussion about Microsoft vs. UNIX based systems, now it seems that it is Microsoft is being attacked by Apple.  Where do you sit on this issue?

    I did a lot of work with Linux in the past (10 years ago I never would have imagined I’d be working for Microsoft), and always got frustrated with the people who felt you had to pick one OS or the other. I like to think of operating systems (or programming languages for that matter) as tools; each has their own strengths, and appropriate uses. People should pick what they are most productive with, and not worry so much when someone else doesn’t see it the same way.

    As a developer, I have always been more productive on windows, using Microsoft tools – even when I was developing *nix server applications.

  6. Do you have a hobby?  If so what is it?

    Various forms of gaming

     

Interview with Ben Hoelting

Posted: September 23, 2008 in Interviews

 

When I first talked to Julie Yack about hosting the .Net conference I knew that she would have some great speakers there. The people that she knows and works with on a day to day basis are what make her company great. There is no doubt about it when you put all these great minds in one arena there is going to be some awesome results. One of these people is Ben Hoelting. I have not met Ben face to face but I can tell you I am looking forward to it. He did respond to the interview questions that I sent him. Here is a little more info on Ben:


Ben Hoelting – Ben Hoelting: Software Developer, Colorado Technology Consultants, Inc. Graduated from Colorado State University in 1997 with a BS in Computer Information Systems and a Minor in Computer Science. Been in the IT industry since 1996. Worked for the Gates Corporation (formally the Gates Rubber Company) from 2000 – 2005. Left Gates to pursue a consulting career. Currently works for Colorado Technology Consultants, Inc. in Colorado Springs. Most recent projects include a Windows forms Smart Client that requires offline support, an ASP.Net tracking system for the floral industry and Microsoft CRM customizations using ASP.Net.  Ben is also a MCP, certified in both CRM Customizations and .NET Framework Application Development.

 

1.       Many technology people do many jobs, for example:  I know SQL Server DBA’s that also work with SharePoint.  What is the technology that you prefer and why?

I prefer C#.  Whether I’m doing ASP.NET, Winforms, WPF, Silverlight, class libraries, etc, it’s always behind the scenes to give me the flexibility and power to meet my requirements.

2.       If you were not doing anything with technology what would you be doing, what is your dream job?

This is easy.  I want to be Tiger Woods.  If I could do anything, I would be on tour with the PGA.

3.       Describe your worst day on the Job.

One word, documentation.  I hate writing documentation.  As if my code is not readable enough…

4.       Where do you see yourself going from here, or what do you think you will be doing 5 years from now.

I would like to become a CTO or CIO somewhere.  I’ve been involved with a few companies that have filled these positions with people that have no IT or coding experience.  Bean counters.  It has not gone well and I think I could do a good job.

5.       How did you get started along this career path?

Back in 1993 I started my first year at Colorado State University.  I took the class CI151 “Computers in Business” , which was taught by the head of the Computer Information Systems business college.  At one point he told me I was not smart enough to do computer programming.  That made me mad and I declared my major in Computer Information Systems with a minor in Computer Science the next day.  I had to prove him wrong.

6.       What do you feel has been the biggest accomplishment in your career?

I created a suite of Sales Force Automation tools.  The first CRM type application was built in VB 6.  We then migrated things to .NET as soon as it was available and developed many new features.  The system was used by over 400 sales force personal.

7.       What are you most excited about with the next release or most recent release of the software that you are working with.

To me XAML is the most promising thing coming.  Eventually you will be able to write the UI once and deploy via web or install

8.       In the past there has been a lot of discussion about Microsoft vs. UNIX based systems, now it seems that it is Microsoft is being attacked by Apple.  Where do you sit on this issue?

I agree that companies like Apple and Google are pressing MS in the consumer space but MS still has a huge foothold in the Enterprise space.  Windows, Office, Outlook and IE are still the most used business applications on the planet.  Seeing that replacing these application is very costly, it is not going to change anytime soon.

9.       Do you have a hobby?  If so what is it?

I already mentioned I love Golf.  I also enjoy a wide range of Sports, both watching and playing.  Living in Colorado I also enjoy some of the best fly fishing and snowboarding on the planet.

10.   If you were to be born in any year, what year would it be and why?

I’m not sure what year it will happen.  Perhaps it might still happen before I die, but I would love to experience space travel.  So, I’d like to be born in a year that is close to the commercialization of space travel.