T-SQL Tuesday #122: Impostor Syndrome

T-SQL Tuesday #122: Impostor Syndrome

Time for another of those pieces that upon reading the subject, I had something to say.

This month’s topic comes from Jon Shaulis (b|g). Impostor syndrome is hard to bypass no matter your level of skill. I’ve been mindful of impostor syndrome as I have become more experienced and found myself in senior roles. I dealt with it unwittingly early in my career when I first got out of college. I currently deal with it as I’ve gradually waded into the speaker circuit and put a renewed focus on the blog.

The number of instances with impostor syndrome is countless; I am not sure the ranking of bouts versus others in the community, and there’s no real database to quantify this among people in the SQL Community, and tech in general. Naming all these moments would be difficult. For my take on the topic, I’m going to focus on two specific instances in my career as examples, at different points in life.

On the job when I started

My first permanent post-college gig was as an e-commerce analyst, where at least 40% of the job was glorified data entry. I got a chance to do some coding in SQL Server later into the gig (about one decade ago). Around this time, I learned that the two semesters of SQL coding or working with Access were only scratching the surface. Then I made it into a true data analyst job in 2011, after somehow showing the potential to do good things. I got to work with strong data analysts and developers, having moments where I fumbled around at first. One day, I had an SSIS package that I had taken responsibility for, but I had not accounted for a file name change, and was taking too many manual steps. It turns out a foreach loop was necessary, yet I was trying to force something that others in the company knew how to solve already. Having learned some SSIS basics, and being able to run those basic packages, but not knowing how to utilize the product in full, I was already an impostor, right?

Curing this bout: This is where I learned how important it was to learn stuff in my free time. I read up some more on not just foreach loop containers, but also all of SSIS to gain greater understanding of the product. I also finally checked out a fundamentals book by an author that I had not known of yet…and by the end of 2012, I discovered the existence of a group called TriPASS, and how it was part of a worldwide organization.

On the job today

Fast forward to 2019. I recently had the help of a fellow developer to tune a stored procedure to help with some timeout issues. We had stacked two CTE previously, and turned it into a temporary table. If I had to pick between temporary tables and table variables, my default preference has been table variables. I had asked him why this was a temporary table, and he had a great explanation, also demonstrated in the execution plan. He’s quite good at the performance aspect, and references the same SQL community resource that I will; it’s easy for me to take his explanations.

When I checked in my code for deployment, the DBA did ask about the temporary table use. I noted that my colleague had explained it well, but I could not repeat it. DBA approved it, yet also noted that as the lead, I should be able to explain the solution as well. Definitely an impostor moment, as “it depends” is a blanket term, but this was a specific instance.

Curing this bout: It was rather simple. I went back to the other developer to ask for a more thorough explanation, one which I could write down directly in the code. I then made a note about comparing execution plans. We can definitely learn from each other on the job, but we also need to see it in practice if we work with people outside of our teams or companies. Sort of like solving issues with #sqlhelp.

Sounds like I learned from each experience, so what does this mean?

I learned to embrace impostor syndrome by remembering that as long as we learn when we don’t know how to do something, we won’t be impostors anymore. We’re in an industry where it is important to keep learning, so we need to find what interests us, along with what we should know for our current roles or technologies we aspire to master. As it’s been mentioned multiple times over, we have to invest in ourselves in order to not be impostors. I’ve only started to figure out ways to be consistent with the investment and returns on it.

Tying the post back to this SQL Server community, and its major focus on sharing knowledge through writing and presentations, my realization was that I was afraid to speak because everyone knew more than me. If I tried to do the same, I would be exposed as someone who doesn’t belong. That could not be farther from the truth. If we teach others, we can have the confidence in what we are discussing, yet encourage the feedback from others in our blog posts or presentations. If there is a question I am unsure of, I have traded business cards and attempted to figure it out afterwards. Sometimes running through a talk at a user group can allow for someone with a good deal of knowledge to provide constructive feedback, and that person will not consider me an impostor just because I didn’t get more advanced or approached the topic differently.

Even those we look up to as “experts” have their moments of self-doubt, as not everyone arrives at the same solution. A novice in a particular area, or even someone with experience who was ignorant to a new way of solving a problem, is not an impostor, especially if the person stays humble and keeps learning.

Impostor syndrome can come at me; I’ll conquer it with competency.

Here is 2020. Let’s Blog Again.

Well, 2019 was a ridiculously busy year, and I definitely did not blog as a result. Granted, nothing else beats getting to celebrate your legal union to your significant other in front of many friends and family, so 2019 was already a winner. After spending time with family this Christmas, I am motivated to write a post and try to pick this up.

Stuff happened

I already covered the biggest event of the year: getting married this April and claiming a Trophy Wife (it’s a pun). We threw a ridiculous party at an old mill in Pittsboro to celebrate. We spent plenty of time with one another since then, continuing to figure out how to properly balance our lives for our friends who see us as a package unit, and for ourselves, likely over craft beers.

At the start of the year, a new job happened. I did not expect to leave for a new company after just under 1.5 years at my last two gigs. This transition came from a state of paranoia concerning layoffs after an org change, combined with the chance the work with Azure and to write some serious code again. The biggest smack to reality at this gig has been realizing that there was a lot I never figured out about proper source control. Took me a bit to figure out how to make the process more streamlined from a SQL developer standpoint.

I was even more engaged in the SQL Server Community than ever. Three talks given at related events, and two of those were new subjects which I want to write about on the site. Managed to hit my new talk and new group goals. Plus, it was great to return to PASS Summit for the first time since 2016.

I stayed involved with our ASNC Human Rights Committee, this time being promoted to Vice Chair at the beginning of 2019. The duties for plan reviews and site visits increased, but it’s a civic duty that I still enjoy.

My running stats took a hit this year. Not quite 1100 miles, and no personal bests to speak of, though I did hit my race restrictions. I felt a bit of a burnout, but began to pick things up after a strong performance at the Richmond Half without consistent training. Shout out to Orangetheory, though, for helping me with the cross training.

Yet…

Somehow I find myself in these identity crisis moments as the new year hits. Do you ever ask yourself what your role is supposed to be? Concerned that what you want to do is not favorable to others because it doesn’t fit what you perceive to be their image of you? Not sure if the things you wanted to do are actually things you wanted to do, and not because everyone hypes them up?

This may sound generic and rehashed, but I’m still figuring out that I can do all the things I want to do, while balancing interpersonal relationships. Often I think there is a way I’m supposed to act in front of certain audiences, and never want anyone to get too close to me because my interests are diverse…and not interesting to other people beyond certain sects (the tech one, the running one, the music one, the B-movies one, etc). I still like my bubble, and the last few years it has been deflating as I start focusing on certain groups and individuals. I am learning that the don’t expect you to be only devoted to what they want.

On the contrary from the individual, I do get concerned in my groups that there is a cult mentality (the hype part). We focus a lot on “looking to speak at our event” even more than attendance in my professional circles. We should focus on cultivating new people who can share knowledge, and I’m thankful for the help I received on my rise, but it makes me question if we are trying to get all our friends to come to our events, and forgetting how to advertise it for attendees. I want to ensure that we are helping ourselves get ahead, and that we aren’t a hype machine where it is merely a few “experts” who can speak on popular topics. Thankfully, I’ve had some moments in the last year which proved that these groups are like an online family. It’s expected to be a real thing.

It’s okay to want to belong with a group or person that will accept you. Your identity is whatever you want it to be. No good person will ever decide who you should or should not be; they just want to be a part of your life in some way, and you can allow them to be part of it by being the active one in the relationship (romantic, professional, friend). A group may get comfortable with its members, and have some people who are really close, but no respectable group will look down on someone who isn’t in “the club.” I associate with the individuals and groups that I do by choice, and while perception is important to me still, there is no “role” to play.

I had a lot to say there.

Image result for that was a lot gif

Continuing on…

So What About 2020?

I don’t like resolutions, but I do have goals. Some are still developing, including an entire post on technical skills I learned and hope to learn. In the meantime, below are some goals for running and technical posting.

  • Run 1300 miles: I’m not jumping to 1500 yet, but figure I can at least hit this mark. This will be helped by running Key West Half Marathon later this month, and Raleigh Half Marathon in February.
  • Hit at least two personal bests at races: This also carries over from 2019, but this time I am making it more flexible. I am hoping to hit the half PR at the aforementioned Raleigh Half. It’s a Sir Walter event, which is about attracting the elites.
  • One technical blog post every two months: Everyone has blogged on everything, right? Well, as it’s been addressed before, there are different takes on topics. I’m going through my notes and stacks of post drafts to figure out what I can address. A good bet is to turn the presentations into blog form as well.
  • Get together a Python post or presentation: I do enjoy Python, but use it very sporadically. I have toyed with Pandas a bit, but want to use the ML Services in SQL Server to get these together, without ripping anyone else’s talks off.
    • Now that I have the record collection database, I can do some data analysis there…or I can do some data analysis for races as I have wanted to a while back.
    • I guess this means I need to move on a personal GitHub for projects. Thank you Community Slack.
  • Take one weekend per quarter for a getaway with wifey: We see our friends a lot, but don’t always get the alone time we need, and still have more parks in NC to explore. We want to use this time to disconnect and see what there is to offer in driving distance.

Let’s bring on 2020. I’m still the same version of myself looking to get better, and hopefully you are too.

T-SQL Tuesday #111: Why I Do Things with Databases

Somehow these monthly posts continue motivating me to write abstract thoughts which allow for a modicum of reflection.

This month’s topic comes from Andy Leonard (b|t), who I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a few times whether in NC or VA. Why do we do the stuff we do? Why have we focused so much on our career development? Well, it may seem pretty standard, but there are multiple “why” questions that can be asked in a string.

Why did becoming a data professional become appealing?

In college, when I had a class introducing me to database concepts, I had the chance to think about more advanced features of Access from my high school days and how to query this data. The consumption of information and its interpretation goes a long way. There is a phrase I heard at one time: In God we trust; all others must bring data.

I do this because I showed an aptitude for this ability, and knew there could be a challenge learning how to move data from one place to another. I ended up working with Microsoft SQL Server by default at my places of employment, which obviously led to me building a resume on how to swing the hammer, but I then was able to see how it was more than just “SQL development” but actually analyzing and managing the data to solve problems.

The biggest aspect today which keeps me loving what I do is the evolution of analysis and automation to get this abundance of data managed more efficiently. With predictive analytics taking having taken off, I really get to see how consumers of the data can make informed decisions based on facts. I get to see at the end how the use of data can contribute to society.

Okay, why is this a good way to contribute to society?

For the majority of the last five years, the companies I have worked for are all in the healthcare industry. It’s an industry where the concern is the betterment of other humans’ lives. That alone is reason to like where I ended up when interviewing for different jobs, as I know the companies I am part of are about reaching a person in need.

On an individual level, I provide for the household, which is of utmost importance. However, treating this as a legit career is more motivation to really stretch the difference being made to allow for the level of security to stay in the industry. It doesn’t feel like “living to work” either, as taking lessons back makes the “job” aspect easier to manage.

Then why involve yourself in a professional association like PASS?

Naturally, this also comes back to this question and why I’m writing this post. Well, I first joined looking to get better at this job. I didn’t know much then, and there’s still more I don’t know versus what I do know with both changes in the platform and my struggles to apply lessons taking a while.

So why did you increase your involvement, from volunteering and periodic blog entries to throwing your hat in the tech speaker circuit?

The reason is two-fold. The more selfish reason: it helps me raise my profile on my career track while motivating me to learn more. The less selfish reason: because I’m totally an expert in some areas who can talk down to others on how to do stuff better addressing how I have solved a problem will help someone looking for a solution. I soaked up knowledge for a while, but then gave my first talks on a professional level in late 2016-early 2017. I gained enough confidence to slowly become an okay public speaker who could then teach the next set of beginners a few things. As for the facilitation and assistance at events, volunteer work is a way to keep this outlet going to keep it alive. Another great thing about having a professional community is that it forces me to network with others. As a person on the spectrum, networking is a weaker suit but the ability to meet people who have all kinds of interests to bond over is key.

Autism? Why do you involve yourself there?

The spectrum is part of why I showed an aptitude for this subject area, with my compulsive abilities to sort. To get off data for a moment (somewhat), I volunteer with the Autism Society of North Carolina as someone hoping others sufficiently have their living standards improved. The chance to encourage kids on the spectrum to do programming, for instance, can tap into abilities that are often overlooked due to the social quotient.

With all that being said, WHAT is the message?

(What? This is asking why! I’ll let it go.)

Do what you love, and love what you do, and leave a positive impact.

That was 2018, So Here are Goals for 2019

Usually we here some degree of “the year was fun” or “screw this year, and next will be better.” On the surface, the engagement and the house made for a pretty outstanding year. Also, I got a volunteer promotion in the late fall as the Vice Chair of the ASNC Human Rights Committee, adding a little more responsibility on site visits and ensuring plan reviews are completed by the right members. However, this also took enough time that a lot of intended professional and running goals fell by the wayside.

Last time I wrote a blog for a T-SQL Tuesday concerning 2018 goals, it was a public goal accountability type of post in terms of learning. So what was accomplished (struck from the record)?

  • MBA Program and ITIL: finally graduated in December, and got a certification. Both check.
  • DBA fundamentals focus: well, this is subjective, but I think I reached this goal through some simple blog learning and shadowing some DBAs. I think I gained a better understanding on keeping backups and even temporal tables. I’ll call it a win for now.
  • Mid-level Python and mid-level R development: my focus was more on architecture, so this got scrapped.
  • Two new talks: I had one, though it will continue to mature. Got to discuss normalization and took it on the road (yet never published the blog, which I was terrible at this year). However, I didn’t devote time to consider a second to add to my rotation of…three. Still figuring out the presenting benchmarks.
  • Set up a true home lab and my own database: never got the data I wanted in full, and didn’t try. Or maybe I was afraid of all the XML files I created without trying JSON instead. Big miss anyway.
  • Get reacquainted with MySQL: I’ll call this one a win because of a server I dealt with that used MySQL. Very generalized, but I got to check the nuances between PL/SQL and T-SQL again.

So last year was unsurprisingly too ambitious on the professional front. However, it’s time to try 2019 again, even if I did not publish this post until February.

To start, my first goal is the most important: do well in year one as a first time husband. My start date is April 20. I hear the manager was also expecting a lifelong commitment to the craft. With that in mind, this means I want to be cautious as I continue in my career to not try for too much. I write this because data is more than a job to me, but there’s a matter of still enjoying it while making time for other fun things in life.

Now this year’s professional goals.

  • Actually make that custom database happen: I want to make my home lab actually look like something worth demoing, which means I should consider the test database I use needs to be a heck of a lot more robust, and I don’t want to be using World Wide Importers a ton. So that racing database which I want to more fully design is where I will start, which will require some creative thinking when I talk to the timers…or to the company behind the prediction algorithms.
  • One new talk to speak on: after not meeting last year’s goal of two, I would rather focus on tweaking the current ones when I have time in addition to adding a new topic for both my own growth and because I was told that my topic idea was rather good as many others have asked this same question in the early days of their jobs/assignments. May start that one with a blog post this time, so no more details…yet.
  • Speak to a new audience, whether it’s a specialized user group locally or even outside the Triangle: I’m hoping that any of those talks can be presented outside of my work environment or my SQL Server community, as I’d like to change up the audience for my own growth. It likely depends on the subject on if I can speak at a group with another language as the focus, whether it is a bunch of analysts who are beyond my pay grade when I was an analyst, or the .NET developers I yell at when they develop bad SQL code and haven’t learned from my own mistakes (I don’t yell; I just quietly facepalm).
  • Learn SQL to JSON integration techniques: so this is something I will need in my next adventure; I will get to that in a separate post. Considering that the only character that likes XML file imports is No One Ever, I think transitioning to JSON could be smoother, but someone will try to fight me over it.
  • (Re)start the MCSA certification exam (stretch – get the certification): time to get back to something I started and then let expire. The database development exam structure has changed since, and I feel more prepared for both exams. This does not mean I finish the exams and get my cert, but I officially train and possibly complete one exam with the intent of the next one not long after.

Hopefully this is a bit more reasonable than the previous year, as now we’ve found a groove as homeowners. So now it’s time for my other major extracurricular activity outside of my career industry…the one where I use my feet a lot.

I did run more miles than the previous year, though it’s not because the last eight months were something outstanding. I had a goal of 1500 miles and missed even hitting 90% of that. My excuse is that I was burnt out after the Shamrock Marathon training cycle and subsequent race ended with a thud. The miles dropped because the desire was lacking, especially as a house and the final stretch of my MBA pursuit took priority. On the good side, I did have half marathon, 10k, and mile personal bests.

For 2019, I want to get back to a spot I was in when it came to endurance versus speed.

  • 1500 miles on the year: I’m going to start an actual training plan which uses some algorithms to create a plan. It’s less than $100 annually, so I can squeeze it in to personal expenses outside the household ones. I believe many of us hobbyists also have a similar mentality to pros and semi-pros that when it comes to miles, we wish to ensure that they count for something.
  • Run my third marathon and break 4:00 (stretch – 3:35): I had this goal for Shamrock and then mile 18 is where everything fell apart. I’m not at a Boston level as some of my friends are, but I think if I put in the work at something I love, this can work. Also not hoping to get a stomach bug in the days heading into the race; that would help.
  • Run a 5k at a consistent sub-6:40 pace (stretch – break 20 minutes): I am a sadist who likes to run fast (for me), though I am very mediocre at my fastest. After I smoked the Rocket Mile last year, however, I’ve found algorithms which predict 19:30 when running on an even course (a rarity). Again, the plan combined with the algorithms (and badgering their data scientists if I’m crazy) would tie into learning more data science techniques if I give myself free time.
  • Racing at least once every 8 weeks at a minimum, and four times in the same span as a maximum: this will be interesting, as that means I need to watch what summer races I select. Charity type is a priority, especially with my likely return as Triangle RunWalk for Autism competitive ambassador.

Data growth is important to me, as is my running stress therapy. So let’s see what 2019 brings after this stream of consciousness entry. Any tips on the realism of the goals or where to begin?

The Spectrum and #MeToo

Seeing all the #MeToo statuses through my social media feeds, which took off after those revelations about Harvey Weinstein, has me in the midst of a two-fold thought. As a male, and as an individual on the spectrum, what would I know and what actions should I take?

A concern I have for those on the spectrum is the influences and the culture giving us impressions that are not correct, or can be rooted in our own issues with relationships (there are many autistics who haven’t had a girlfriend by my age, and not by choice). Some behaviors are expected to be figured out and not literally explained as proper etiquette, including not encroaching on the space of someone else. However, it is no secret that we struggle with what behaviors should be explained.

A man on the spectrum may get some of their knowledge from sex education classes and discussions with their guardians, but they also get a bulk of knowledge of behavior from the media (television/internet) or peers. The former groups may not be sure how to explain the topic, so then outside sources take over. A man may see a behavior and not know at first that there’s a problem with what he has done.

Here is a theoretical. A man on the spectrum sees a girl he wants to get to know; he probably wants to flirt. he goes up and makes some conversation. She finds him to be friendly, and the two hit it off pretty well. Knowing what he’s seen in the past around acquaintances and media, he pulls the leg touch maneuver. Conversation starts to break down slightly, but he’s unaware as she’s still acting friendly even if she pulled back slightly. She says she has to meet with friends, and will come back. However, his first instinct is that she actually does want to come back, and that he has no idea that he was violating her space and that she’s not actually coming back because he was a creep.

You likely figured out this is the part where that man…was me. It took going into unnecessary detail with another friend many months later to get an explanation. Even then I wasn’t sure I understood until, well, hearing more about behaviors via the internet. Oh, I felt terrible about it, as I always believed myself to be better than a creep, and then realized I had these moments for years. We never pay attention to staring and stalking as we’re trying to get around social awkwardness (especially in high school or college). However, I know I’ve done these, and I know others like me who have as well without understanding that it’s not an innocent behavior.

There are instances where I didn’t help when a friend was trying to do his thing and refrained to stop him from backing off, not considering the context of his actions. Let’s not forget instances of “locker room talk” where all I did was act silent and didn’t speak up to say “dude, that’s too far” to the people around. At some moments, I had no idea how bad it truly was based on what I was told. At other moments, I did know and was a coward.

All of this can be independent of the spectrum, but what if an impressionable Aspie believes this is acceptable behavior and does not see the red flags? Or, that the Aspie does see it as bad but thinks they should stay quiet since unrelated behaviors have been ridiculed? Someone worse off than myself may not catch on and will only be enabled, even if it comes to the point that you have to explicitly ask the yes/no question, and ensuring a partner that you’re okay stopping once they say so to make up for the inability to recognize cues (if she says no, then it’s no…if she even says maybe, then it’s not yes). I’m not trying to extend this analogy to say I would believe someone claiming to be autistic and not knowing gang rape is wrong (I call bull). However, even the more seemingly innocent flirtatious behaviors are actually wrong, and those of us on the high end can still learn with the right influences.

Let’s not forget that it goes the other way as well. People on the autism spectrum are 66% more likely to be victims of sexual assault. I recall speaking with two women I know from the spectrum who alluded to these experiences. Their descriptions of sexual harassment had graphic moments, and thinking back to the conversations now is pretty harrowing even as someone who believed them from the start. Some autistic girls claim the #MeToo hashtag for the same reasons an autistic man may let bad behaviors slide.

I can’t, and shouldn’t, claim the whole “as someone with a niece/sister/daughter” thing, as I grew up around mostly males. My concern is the gap when an impressionable person on the spectrum may be a victim or the perpetrator. When we hear “see something, say something” are we going to know what the “something” is in our literal minds? Will we be able to call our male friends out when in action? I don’t see it much, but I worry about being in my own world and not catching creepers in action, or being said creeper. Unwittingly and not, I have been both. I’m thankful for times I’ve been called out, even if I got overly sensitive at the start. That is something we need, and it’s why I am participating in and creating a few forums within autistic groups to talk about what behaviors are permissible, what mistakes we’ve all made, and how to feel comfortable with our behaviors and to ensure others are comfortable too. We can’t use the spectrum as an excuse for improper behavior, and hopefully the internet can be a positive form of sex education with this movement.

Sexual assault is not an easy topic, but it’s on me to talk with others, to teach, and to learn. Feel free to shoot me a message if there is a desire to talk further. Let’s make sure those of us with autistic peers or children set good examples, and that we on the high functioning end of the spectrum can be better men who put an end to this stuff.

Time to Task

Sometimes I need to schedule time for dedicated scheduling time. It may sound odd, but it relates to my issues with time management, which have been inherent for years. In terms of what I do during the day (employment) it is very apparent.

With any job, one has to juggle multiple tasks and deadlines. Earlier this week I found out that a recurring task (which unfortunately calls on me patching a bug manually) did not succeed. I had a calendar event set up but wasn’t in front of the task in time because I miscalculated the reminder. So the vendor caught it first and I was stuck in reactive mode. I don’t like being reactive with the work I do, yet it is difficult for me to figure out proactive ways to get around this without someone else’s advisement.

When you’re surrounded by workaholics, when the engineers you team with are workaholics, when your boss is a workaholic, then I figure you might want to own all your work to show them you’re as dedicated to the craft. Or at least that is my perception. So naturally I don’t want to hand tasks off to others as I see it as a sign of weakness that the Aspergian who can’t handle it. There’s a few tasks that have become actual deliverables, but others I could have delivered about three months ago, leaving stakeholders frustrated. My problem is knowing that I can do it, but I’m not always quick to the task because of a combination of 1) methodical approach to details and 2) various distractions in the open. How does the sensory overload spectrum person deal? Often with headphones. However, what I will also be trying is setting aside time at the start of the week and midweek to figure out what is on my plate, and then talking with my manager to ensure I have priorities right. For career purposes, I like to figure out the tasks myself as a way of understanding the pulse of the business. So my hope is that this will help my time management, which will in turn help me improve my technical chops and value as a senior member of my team.

The list? Has tasks from Team Services and random email requests, then categories of importance rank and completion rank, on a level of low-medium-high. This way I also have perspective on how long I think something will take. That last part will take time to figure out, but that’s also why as a unit we’re tracking the time to get tasks and large projects done.

I have often noticed that this sort of “soft skill” work, if you call it that, is tougher for the spectrum person. However, taking the time for the tasks will help, and I hope I stick with it for a long time.

2017 Public Goal Setting Post for Personal Accountability

I know what some of you are thinking: good riddance to 2016. Looking back on a personal level, it wasn’t so bad. A new half marathon PR, my first hackathon, a return to PASS Summit after a three-year absence, my first speaking engagement for a professional association, starting a new job more suited to my interests, closing the year by getting a promotion of sorts at said job, surviving cohabitation all year long, and actually buying this domain and starting a website! So in light of world turmoil, I think life was okay.

My motivations for creating a website are still related to my own attempt at branding…Which makes it all the more sad that I went long stretches without posts. However, the wrap up at the end of the year is as good a time as any. I have some goals related to my profession and passions and now I post them for my own record, to see if I keep growing and how it happens.

  • Restart on that MCSA certification (Database Development)
    I finished 70-461 back in 2014, near the end of the year. Then I didn’t touch the next two exams out of concern that everything would change with the upcoming SQL Server 2016 release. However, There are new exams which have started, with more specified tracks that only take two exams. While I can’t carry 70-461 to 70-761 (someone keep me honest on that factoid), that exam and 70-762 should be in reach this year, particularly the summer when I won’t be in grad school classes two nights a week.
  • Grasp more data science concepts and strengthen my R abilities
    At my gig in 2014 with a health analytics firm, I started to dabble in Python as part of  new initiative for an in-house statistical tool. Seeing the power of Python as a data extract tool had me intrigued and I began to use it more, especially after I started taking a class on Udemy to enhance my abilities in that realm. Naturally, the concurrent step is the R language. I’m still quite novice there, but started focusing some of my professional workshops on the integration of SQL Server with R, especially with Microsoft’s recent acquisition of Revolution leading to Microsoft R Server. R is a language which no longer represents the future, but the present, and it’s something I look to improve upon as a senior member of our segment of the Business Intelligence department at my work.
  • A SQL Saturday speaking engagement
    There has been some hints and persuasions for me to speak on two fronts. Those from the PASS community know of SQL Saturday quite well. Our chapter leader had noted after the completion of another successful event in the Triangle that he hoped for some of the younger pros in the organization to submit abstracts. Okay, it was multiple senior members of our chapter that I hold in high esteem. Well, this November I gave my first microsession to our local user group, and now I am working to expand on that with a professional development talk. I need to submit for Raleigh in the next ten days, and if I’m feeling confident and time permits, I may try for Baltimore next. As long as it doesn’t get in the way of my day job. Speaking of…
  • Stay at my current company all year
    I have changed jobs during the spring in 2014, 2015, and 2016 alike. I think my current gig is a keeper. I’m leaning back towards analyst versus developer in this gig, but with much more seniority as I’ve improved my technical chops this year as much as any other. The big difference now is that I’m doing a better job applying everything I have learned. The learning curve for the pharma industry has been a bit steep, but now everything is making more sense and I strive to make the lives of my colleagues easier.
  • Participate in one of the RDU civic hackathons
    I saw this on a partial level last year and continue to be fascinated by the potential with open data, but now I want to really immerse myself over the weekend at CityCampNC, Datapalooza, or another of the related events. I expect that developed R skills will come in handy once these events take place. Also, allow me to shout out PASS yet again for getting into this movement at last.
  • At least one technical blog post and one autism spectrum post per month
    Simple: there needs to be more blog entries. I’m underdelivering.
  • Do some further organization for the Run/Walk for Autism
    I didn’t get as involved this year as I hoped, and then we had a rainout. I’m hoping to do more for this, especially involving my tie-in with the Human Rights Committee. That will be a work in progress, as I hope to carve out more of a place in the HRC after I fell behind on cases somewhat in the second half of 2016.
  • Break the 1000 mile barrier and run my first marathon
    Naturally a running goal would be included. I had about 650 this year, which was a tad shorter than I expected due to various injuries. What hurt was that I still trained as if temperatures were normal in the summer (in NC it was quite hot) and pushed myself too much. I’m still learning how to recover, which will be crucial this year. I am eyeing Richmond in November for my marathon debut, so bring on the summer training regimen.

That’s a lot of expectation for 2017 that will be paired with motivation. Now let’s get on to a new year.

The TRY Microsession: A T-SQL Tuesday Follow Up

Warning: contains expletives

Last month, I gave the talk first referenced in last month’s Tuesday blog festival, concerning conversion functions with TRY. I can’t say I wasn’t nervous about giving my first presentation to a professional organization, even as a 101-level lightning talk. I was concerned about my own abilities on that stage, being around a mix of developers who may not have been privy to TRY_CAST, TRY_CONVERT, or TRY_PARSE (oof), and people who know this already and were curious as to how I would fare on stage. For the latter group, it was like presenting a class project to the professors in my department. So how do I think it turned out?

It was a success, and not only based on feedback from others. It was a good chance to understand what is required of speaking and how I could break the ice with others who knew generally what I did, but wasn’t sure what I knew about.

With this in mind, I learned some lessons from the presentation.

  • Always bring cables, and backup cables. I did bring my work laptop as a backup computer when I had update issues with my affectionately-nicknamed “Shitty Toshiba”, but the HDMI connection is not the most modern…and I never thought to bring the cables for it. So we had a misadventure where I had to open my script on another computer. Originally, I had UPDATE and INSERT statements included, but I couldn’t risk that WideWorldImporters was in its original condition. Maybe the cables would have allowed me to continue with more than SELECT.
  • Even when carrying a note card, don’t go too off topic just to show you aren’t reading from the card. I’m not the most concise person, so it was easy for me to elaborate more than needed.
  • Know your room setup. This was my first chapter meeting since summer, and the meetings moved to a new office building of which I was unfamiliar.

There were also a few positives to take away.

  • Since I had to use a backup computer, one which I did not have WideWorldImporters as it was my work databases only, I was able to rely on agnostic SELECT statements to show the functions in action. It was the biggest key to recovery.
  • I kept a sense of calm despite the cable issue, and despite deep down thinking “they don’t think I’m prepared…fuck” while taking longer than necessary to set up. To take something in stride would not rattle my audience or allow me to come off nervous; I can be very expressive, so it did take some work to remain confident that a backup solution was in the works.
  • I was confident that I knew the basics of the subject, while not trying to act like I knew everything on the subject. There was a moment early on where I said I was a developer and immediately ducked, explaining next that I “didn’t want the DBAs to throw things at me. Wait until after.” Got a good laugh.
  • You know how I said I elaborated more than needed? I didn’t elaborate too much, as the two rehearsals of my talk seemed to keep me relatively constrained, even with my audibles.

The next phase? The submission for a Saturday event…a full-length presentation. Now here’s my chance to take advantage of the help that came from this forum! Thanks to everyone, especially Andy, for giving a platform for us noobs to join the speaker chapter.