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 R is a language which no longer represents the future, but the present, and it’s something I look to improve upon as a senior member of our segment of the Business Intelligence department at my work.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.